by Debbie Lillard
Spring has arrived and lawn work and gardening won’t be far behind. As the weather warms, it’s a great time to organize your garage and create a lawn/gardening hub for all of your supplies. As a Professional Organizer I have organized a few garages of all sizes and styles (both attached and stand alone buildings) in my day.
I think there are some common problems with garages that people share no matter where they live.
- A garage is not just for keeping cars. Many people use their garage to store bikes, lawn equipment, sports equipment, wood for fireplaces, tools, and all kinds of bulky equipment. All these extras can turn into clutter if you don’t store them properly.
- The garage is an entrance way into the house for a lot of families, so you might keep shoes, recycles, and trash there. This might be your motivation for trying to keep it organized, because you walk through it all the time and don’t want to look at a mess!
- A garage is usually one big room, which makes it hard to organize because there’s no pre-determined place to put things. You have to create a system from scratch.
If you’ve decided it’s time to tackle the garage, you can follow my CPR process that I discuss in my book Absolutely Organized: A Mom’s Guide to a No-Stress Schedule and Clutter-Free Home. (This process will work for any room you want to organize.)
You’ve got to plan the time to do it and solicit some help either from your family or a friend. It’s not a one-person job and it’s going to take anywhere from 3 to 6 hours the first time you do it. To make it fun, put on some music, give the kids a reward afterwards or promise your friend a meal that evening. As I always say, if you don’t plan it, it’s not going to happen.
- CATEGORIZE. Take everything out of the garage and put it in piles in your driveway or on your lawn. Categories can be: sports equipment, lawn & garden, tools, bikes. And if one of those categories is really big: break it down further.
- PURGE. As you pull things out start to purge whatever is broken or disgusting, or anything you don’t use anymore. For items you want to give away, I suggest you look online for places to donate, or give to a friend or just put at the end of your driveway and let people take it. For chemicals or gasoline, call your township and find out about hazardous waste collections.
- RE-ARRANGE. Now that you have piles of everything you’re keeping, start to think about what you use most often and make it accessible. For the kids’ toys and sports equipment, use colorful plastic tubs on the floor. For lawn chemicals, put them in plastic bins up on a shelf. Keep things in their categories and create zones. Even if you don’t have the right containers or shelves right now, put things back in temporary containers where you want them by the end of your organizing session.
Now you can go shopping for what you need like industrial shelves, wall cabinets, racks, etc. There’s a range of products for garages and you can spend thousands of dollars on a complete makeover, but you want to make sure it’s organized first, so you can measure the space for exactly what you need. Rubbermaid has an inexpensive Track system if you want to do it yourself or you can go high-end to places like GarageTek. I’ve even seen people put up old kitchen cabinets in their garage for storage. Whatever works!
To keep your garage organized, you have to straighten on a weekly basis. I suggest you teach your kids where things go and ask them to put things back to normal on Sunday. Then get the whole family in the habit of cleaning it out on a seasonal basis. Our family has a pool so we do a Saturday clean out once in the late spring to get the pool/beach stuff out and then another clean out in the fall to put the pool stuff away and get the winter supplies out. Because we do this twice a year I am proud to say we do it now in less than 2 hours, so it’s not an all-day hassle anymore.
Debbie Lillard is the author of Absolutely Organized: A Mom’s Guide to a No-Stress Schedule and Clutter-Free Home and Absolutely Organize Your Family: Simple Solutions to Control Clutter, Schedules and Spaces.