Is it any accident that only one letter separates the words "garage" and "garbage?"
One-quarter of garages are so stuffed with, well, stuff, there's no room to park even one car, according to a survey by Gladiator GarageWorks (a company that sells garage shelving). One in five couples admit to arguing about their garage, and one in three say they try to keep the garage door closed so the neighbors can't gawk at their clutter.
Messy garages are more than just embarrassing. They put one of your biggest investments – your car – at risk. Cars parked outside are vulnerable to break-ins, vandalism and theft. They're also more likely to rust, leak and get sun damage.
A packed garage also can hide problems like small leaks or become a home to insects or rodents.
Still, reclaiming your garage can seem overwhelming, especially if it's been years since you ventured into its farthest reaches. Remember, it didn't get that way overnight. And, realistically, you shouldn't expect to fix it overnight. Just start chipping away. These six tips can help:
1) Plan your attack.
Mentally stake out zones where you want to store things like camping gear, ski equipment, bikes, crafting supplies, holiday decorations and garden tools.
2) Remove things that shouldn't be there.
Exhaust fumes, temperature fluctuations, moisture and possible exposure to insects and rodents make the garage a poor choice for storing photos, books, financial records, clothing, food (even canned food), electronics, wood furniture and flammables like propane tanks and gasoline cans. Discard what's already spoiled and don't save a space to put whatever is salvageable back into the garage.
When it comes to paint, save a small amount for touch-ups (we love inexpensive storage applicators like these because you can buy one for every room, store it in a closet and just touch up whenever you notice a scrape). Recycle the bulky cans and remaining paint.
3) Divide and conquer.
Gather things into the zones you planned. Plus, have a pile for recycling, trash and selling. It's probably time to let something go when:
- You haven't used it in 12 months
- You might need it "someday," but you don't know when
- It's broken, but you don't have time or money to fix it
- It's a duplicate and you need only one
- You don't know what it is
- It would mean more to someone else than it does to you.
If there's room, clear out one half of the garage at a time so you can thoroughly clean the floor.
4) Don't get sidetracked.
Do sort through every box, but don't reminisce or pause to fix broken items. And here's a surprising derailer: Don't let that shockingly bare floor lure you into a project like applying a coating to the garage floor. Coatings make a garage look high-end and repel grime and fluid leaks. But they can be time-consuming and tricky for DIYers (think special floor prep, finicky application techniques, strong fumes and lengthy cure times).
Save it all for another day.
5) Prep for success.
Invest in ways to get things off the floor. At minimum, that means a trip to the hardware store for clear plastic bins and hooks. Pegboard for tools; wall-mounted racks for brooms, mops, rakes and shovels; ladders hung from the bottom of open shelving; extension cord reels and vertical bike racks also maximize your space. But one space to leave open? The area above your car. You don't want anything plummeting onto your hood.
Safety first. The less something is used, the higher it should go. Make sure every box is labeled and on a shelf. For safety, don't stack bins on top of each other, especially if you need a step ladder to reach them.
Next, fine tune specific areas like your workbench, sorting nails and screws into bins and hanging hand tools on hooks.
Finally, drive your cars into their safe, secure space in your garage. And hey, feel free to leave the door up for a while. You might even motivate the neighbors to tackle their own garages!
Touch up seasonally. Once you have everything in its place, don't fall back into chuck-and-run habits. With each seasonal storage change (spring, bringing out patio furniture; summer, hauling out sprinklers; fall, winterizing and storing the lawn mower; winter, putting up holiday decorations) make a sweep through the garage to properly store anything that has found its way onto the floor or been tossed on top of storage boxes. Apply the same test in No. 3 to help part with items you no longer need.