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The garage. Everyone's ultimate catch-all room. Even the thought of decluttering the garage can intimidate and deter the most organized people. You may think it's best to save the garage clutter to end your decluttering journey; however, you'd be wrong.
I challenge the processes that guide us to do the easiest jobs first. When it comes to decluttering your garage, the idea should not make you want to declutter there last. Rather, I recommend STARTING with the garage. Sound backward? Find out why it makes the most sense.
Benefits of Starting in the Garage
Not only does it logically make sense to tackle the biggest decluttering jobs first, but hitting those areas first has ample benefits. If you've followed Boot Camp Mom for a long time, you know that I advocate that it doesn't matter where you start to declutter and organize as long as you begin the process. However, on the flip side, there are multiple benefits to going ahead and tackling the big jobs upfront. I am still all for just starting the process, but here are some added benefits for you to consider when starting your journey:
- Tackling big jobs initially ensures you have the energy to complete the job.
- Free up additional storage space.
- A tremendous sense of accomplishment when you complete a big job.
Many of us have difficulty finding the motivation to start our decluttering journey, so beginning on the seemingly impossible jobs can be a significant benefit. Why? Because when you finally decide to begin decluttering, you will have the most energy at the beginning. Don't save those big jobs for the end when you are “so done” with decluttering. You will also gain additional storage space when you declutter the rest of your home.
Lastly, the sense of pride you will have when you accomplish a garage declutter is something to look forward to. Think about it right now – how will you feel if you stand in your garage with your hands on your hips, take a deep breath and look at all you accomplished? I bet that will feel SO GOOD. So, if you need a big win in your decluttering journey or someone who typically doesn't finish what you start, go ahead and hit the big and scary areas of your home first!
The Woes of a Cluttered Garage
If your garage is a clutter trap, you know the woes associated with a cluttered garage. The ones where you can't park your car in the garage. Or, the ones where you have to put your secret-operative hat on and jump, step, or slide just the right way to get to the watering can. Having a cluttered garage has zero benefits. None. Not one. However, by conquering the clutter in your garage, you can again live a life of normalcy (or at least one step closer).
We will look at storage solutions and garage organization tips later, but first, we need to prepare for decluttering your garage and get a plan in action!
Prep Work for Decluttering Your Garage
Preparation is key to any big task that you plan to tackle. Decluttering your garage is no different. By gathering your supplies, mapping out a plan, and blocking out the needed time, you are setting yourself up for success. Do not be all willy-nilly with this process. If you are, you will quickly regret it.
Gather Your Supplies
Before decluttering a garage, there are some supplies you should have on hand to ensure that the job is completed as quickly and efficiently as possible. Here is what I suggest:
- Giant Trash Bags (if possible)
- If you only have regular bags, that's fine, but you might want to grab some of the heavy-duty ones for this job.
- Empty boxes/totes/bins
- The bigger, the better. These will be utilized to sort items to get rid of or dispose of.
- Step Ladder
- Note pad/note on your phone
- If you notice you have almost empty bottles of cleaners, you might want to note that you need to purchase more.
- Broom/Dust Pan
All supplies are just suggestions. However, the more prepared you are, the less you will have to break your decluttering stride when you start the garage.
Make a Plan
Before starting the garage decluttering, you will want to plan how you want the garage to look. If needed, map out your ideas on a piece of paper. You want to look around your garage and decide which areas will be dedicated to what type of items. Some areas to consider are:
- Yard Tools
- Paint/House Repair Supplies
- Seasonal Decor
- Overflow Items (extra dog food, bulk food storage, etc.)
- Camping Equipment
- Hunting Equipment
Keep in mind that you want to have the items you use the most in a place where they can be easily accessed. You don't want to have to grab a ladder to reach the dog food. That doesn't help out anyone. So take the time to logically lay out the garage before you start to declutter.
Block Out Time
Depending on what you have in your garage, you may need to find a time that your partner or a friend will be there to help. This could be because you have old workout equipment that needs to be moved or a dresser that finally needs to be discarded. Consider what you have in your garage and if you will need help to move those items. Then, schedule a time to tackle the garage. It shouldn't take more than 3 hours to go through a garage, as long as you have taken steps to be prepared for the work.
You want to ensure you don't start working on your garage when the kids are napping. If the kids wake up and you have half of your garage undone, you will add unneeded stress to the situation. Please plan accordingly, and don't allow yourself to move the date/time after setting it.
How to Declutter a Garage
You've done the prep work, the day is nearing, and now you need to know where to start to declutter your garage. Don't worry; I've got you!
Step 1 – Start with the Bulk
The first step is getting rid of the oversized items in your garage that you know you no longer need. Removing the bulky items first opens up floor space for you to use when you start on the next items. For these big items, consider the following when deciding how to discard them:
- If items are in good condition, consider selling them locally. There are lots of options out there!
- If the items are not in good condition, you can contact your local trash service to see if they have special days to pick up large items for you. You can also look at contacting a junk service.
- If you don't want to have to schedule any appointments, you can list them as “free” on Craigslist, and people will flock to your house.
Step 2 – Sort it Out
Now that you have room to work, set up your empty boxes/totes/bins where you can quickly put items in them. Ideally, you will have the following boxes:
- Items to Keep
- Things to Sell/Donate
- Items to Move
- Specialty Items to Discard
Pick a corner, any corner, and go through everything in that area. Every item you touch should be able to be sorted into one of the storage boxes you have set up. Don't be afraid to make a bigger mess at the start – its all part of the decluttering process.
If an item remains on the shelf/cabinet they are in; you can keep it there. However, it is important to take them down and clean the shelf before putting them back. Continue to work around the garage until you have sorted all the items.
Questions to Ask
For each item you sort through in your garage, ask yourself if you need the item. Is it something that you can not live without? When and where will you use it? How does it benefit your life?
I understand keeping emergency supplies – but even some of them aren't totally necessary. If you are reading this article, you WANT to get the clutter out of your garage. So, don't skimp on getting rid of things when you take the time to get your garage back in shape. If you have a treadmill that you are keeping for that one day when you start working out again, ask yourself how long you have been waiting for that day…
When decluttering, it is essential not to fall into the same “hoarding tendencies” you have allowed so far. If the same cabinet is in the same corner from the last time you went through your garage or for as long as you can remember, it's time to let it go. (I'm not calling you a hoarder, just pointing out the thought process you want to avoid.)
Step 3 – Put it Back Together
After you have sorted all the items in your garage, it's time to put them back in an orderly way. Any items you deem as trash or ones to sell/donate, go ahead and get those out of your way. Whether you load them in the back of your car or set them in the driveway doesn't matter. Just make sure you only have items that need to be put up in the garage. If you kept some things in their original spot, use this time to evaluate if their location makes the most sense.
You want to focus on putting items back based on TYPE. So, all the paint is together, and all the yard supplies are together, etc. Look back at the layout you originally completed and put it to use. Be prepared for something to not fit in a pre-determined area. This happens – but don't freak out. It can be fixed, but you must take the extra time to swap them out with another item in a different area.
Step 4 – Get Rid of the Clutter
Ok- you are in the final stages of decluttering your garage! Now we need to get rid of anything you decided you no longer needed or items that no longer required to be in the garage. Consider the following:
- Items that don't belong in the garage need to be dispersed in the house where you see fit. Do not just pile them up in the laundry room; instead, take a few minutes to put them where they should go.
- Anything you want to sell or donate needs to be prepped. While I know that having a garage sale seems like the easiest way to sell items, do not plan to have one if you have already been planning to have one. Are the items STILL in your garage from when you “planned” to have a sale? If so, then a garage sale is off the table for you. Use Craigslist or Facebook to sell anything you want to get some money back for. Items to donate should be loaded in your car, so you can take them to the donation location you've picked.
- Trash needs to be trashed. If they fit in your trash can, go ahead and put them there. If you need to schedule someone to come and pick them up, get it scheduled and stage the items until your pick-up date and time.
After you have taken care of the unneeded items, go ahead and sweep out the garage and wipe down any other surfaces. While you have the decluttering and cleaning bug, you may want to consider cleaning your deep freeze or garage fridge if you have one. And, just like that, your garage is decluttered, put back together, and clean. HOW DOES THAT FEEL? (go ahead, put your hands on your hips, take a deep breath, and marvel at all you've accomplished).
How to Discard Chemicals
It's important to remember that old paint and chemicals should not be put in the regular trash bin unless specific safety measures are taken. While all areas have different rules, you will want to check the Department of Natural Resources for your state to see what can and cannot be thrown in the trash.
Garage Organization Solutions
I plan to create an entire article about garage storage solutions; however, I am waiting until I can test them out to provide the most honest product reviews and tips that I can. With that said, you can always look at adding wall hooks to free up floor space, plastic totes to organize sports equipment and specialty holiday storage options for your holiday decorations. These items will help you organize your garage just how you want it to be! But ultimately, this article aims to get your garage decluttered, so that's what I'm focusing on.
Do not be afraid to tackle the garage. Essentially, the process of decluttering your garage is no different than any other room in your house. As long as you prepare for decluttering and get rid of the things cluttering your garage, you will succeed. The more prepared you are for decluttering and dispersing unwanted items, the easier getting your garage decluttered and put back together will be. You've got this! Woop Woop!
And, if you need a little help to start decluttering your home today, the Declutter Boot Camp can help get you going. We also have a checklist for decluttering your home if that will help you get the work done to get your home back in shape!