How to Clean and Organize Your Garage

I don’t know about your garage, but ours is the home of things we don’t quite know what to do with—half completed projects, holiday decorations that haven’t been placed back in storage, boxes of stuff meant to go to charity. Tools, bikes, gardening supplies and sports equipment.

It’s the one space in our home that we just shut the door and forget about. But the mess is always there, lurking in the background and haunting us.  And as much as we want to ignore it, a messy garage can be a huge source of stress.

Ours certainly has!

In fact, after years of struggling with it, hiding it, fighting ver it complaining about it and pretending it didn’t exist—we finally decided to do something about it. And you know what? Getting it clean wasn’t as bad as we anticipated it to be. And it didn’t take as long we thought it would. Organizing and deep cleaning your garage may seem overwhelming, but if you make a plan, you can probably do the majority of the job in just a day or a two.

Here’s how you can get it done.

1. Remove Everything and Gather Your Supplies
Pick a day when the weather is favorable and pull everything out of your garage and place it into your driveway or yard. It may seem more productive to tackle each corner at a time, but getting everything out will help you access what you have and stay motivated to get rid of more instead of moving them back to their old spots.

Gather a supply of a towels, a bucket, a broom and cleaning spray. You may also to have some strong garbage bags or bins for sorting items.

Start by wiping down anything that’s dirty or dusty.

2. Sort, Toss, Sell or Donate
One you get everything out of the garage, start sorting everything into piles to either keep, toss or donate/sell. Purge once, then go back again through the keep pile and purge again until every item is in a pile.

For each item, ask yourself if it’s something you’ll use again or something you used in the last year—and be honest and realistic. Holding onto those roller skates because you think your kids might want to use them or the tennis racket that need to be re-strung? These are the types of items that create clutter. There are several sporting goods stores that will buy equipment or sell it on consignment.

With the tools, look at which ones are used frequently and what can be borrowed or rented. This can be a difficult one because many of us are into DIY and interested in trying out ourselves what we see on the home improvement shows and videos. If your husband is indeed a handyman and it’s a hobby for him, then by all means, let him keep his workstation area, but keep it organized.

Any broken or rusted items or past their prime can be tossed immediately. Give yourself permission to let them go and stop keeping things in hopes that you’ll get around to repairing them someday.

If you’re a gardener, keep just one version of each tool that’s in good shape that you frequently use. Toss any seeds that are over a year old —most seeds will not grow past that time and pests love them. Make sure all pots and planting items, including hoses, tomato cages and gardening decorations are clean and free of dirt and moisture before storing them.

Cleaning supplies and car repair items should be checked for usefulness and potency. Some car fluids do expire, so keeping them may create a fire hazard. Always get rid of any oil rags and don’t allow them to pile up, as they’re combustible. Chemicals, paint and other items that have outlived their usefulness should be disposed of using the proper channels. Contact your local recycling and waste management  program or municipality to find out how to safely dispose of chemicals in your area.

3. Find Storage Solutions that Work for You
Depending what you have in your garage and what you need to store, you may face some interesting storage challenges. It seems that almost every item in the garage is oddly shaped—it’s very large and bulky, such as weed trimmers, chainsaws or sports equipment or very small and easy to lose, such as nails, scews, bits or gardening markers.

I find wire shelves to be easy to install and the shelves are adjustable so you can reconfigure them any way you want.

For tools, we found that a collection of bins works well; organization experts recommend using a pegboard over a workbench. Small, marked jars work well for sorting various odds and ends that go along with your tools. Larger items like saws and electrical tools can be stored in shelving. You should keep toolboxes off the floor and away from moisture.

Baseball bats, rackets, balls and bulky sports items store well in large tote bags, ball bins and even repurposed trash cans. If you carefully sort to pare down to just the necessary items, you can probably arrange everything clearly on a shallow shelves. (Deep shelves tend to create an abyss where things just disappear.)

Hang bikes, kayaks and other large items so they’re off the floor and protected from damaged. Hang them on ceiling hooks tightly fastened to beams in the garage. You can also hang large items such as ladders, shovels, rakes and other tools will keep the floor free of clutter and provide each item with a safe place to keep.

Think about the storage options you’ll need and assess how you can use what you have on hand. Assemble your storage containers and hooks and get them ready to store your remaining garage equipment.

4. Repair Hazards and Seal Cracks
Garages bear the brunt of harsh weather. Since they’re not heated or cooled, temperature fluctuations and moisture tends to cause mildew, cracking leaks and other issues. Since we don’t spend ample amounts of time in the garage, many of these issues may go unnoticed until they’re difficult to repair.

With everything cleared out of the garage, take the time to survey any areas that might need o be fixed or touched up. Seal any cracks with sealant or spray-in foam and consider spraying on a protective coat of LeakSeal or other flexible coating.

You should also check out the wires around your garage and make sure nothing looks chewed on or may present a fire hazard. Check anything that might be exposed and a professional if needed.

Clean the gutters around the garage and be sure to check for signs of water damage. You can also check lighting, locks and seals around your windows. You not only want to ensure weather protection but protection from intruders.

5. Dust, Wash, Clean and Paint
Use that broom! Put on a mask. Garages can house mouse droppings, bugs, chemicals and all sorts of things you don’t want to breathe in. Thoroughly clean all the corners, wash down the walls and make sure everything is free of dust. This will prevent dirt from being tracked into your house later.

If you’ve ever considered epoxy floor coating in the garage, it’s an investment that will really help make things feel more “finished.” Another option is putting down an inexpensive garage floor protector or even some indoor/outdoor carpeting or rug to protect from future damage. If you have oil spills on the floor, you can use kitty litter to soak it up and keeping the floor looking its best.

Using a coat of white latex paint will keep things fresh and help prevent mildew as well. Put caulk around the windows and caulk any cracked or leaking seals. You don’t have to put up curtains or wall decals, but if you feel inclined to add a decorative touch, it may help make it feel like an extension of your home and keep things clean in the future.

6. Re-assemble and Re-commit
Now that garage is clean, fresh and looking good again, put all the necessities back in their place and organize all the areas—tools, storage—in a few marked bins—car repair, gardening and sporting goods.

If you keep your trash and recycling in your garage, be sure that you keep things in closed and tightly sealed bags to prevent odor and varmints. Keep a mat or paper under the cans in case of spills. Hose out your trash can each month and sprinkle baking soda to help prevent smells from wafting throughout the garage or into your house.

As you return items to the garage, continue purging and eliminating. while considering if you’re truly using each item or simply storing it. If it’s the latter, it’s time to get rid of it. Try to keep things organized and easily accessible.

Deep cleaning your garage may seem daunting, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Not only will it help save you money and keep your house cleaner, you’ll also protect your investments in your cars, bikes and other items because they’re stored in a clean, dry environment, and you’ll finally be able to work on projects that you never had the space before.

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