Guest Author - Emily Wilska
You've seen it before--if not at your own house, then at the home of a friend or neighbor: the garage is so full of stuff that the household's cars are relegated to the driveway or the street. And I'd bet good money that nine times out of ten, whatever's lurking in the garage is nowhere near as valuable as the vehicles forced to lurk outside.
We tend to fill our garages not only with things that probably belong there, such as tools and sporting equipment, but also with stuff we haven't been able to (or haven't wanted to) make decisions about. Garages are, in short, often the place things go to die, or at least to limp along clinging onto dear life for year after year.
Why not make this year the one in which you put that stuff out of its misery, reclaim your garage as usable space for the things you actually need, and bring a bit more order to your life? The longer, brighter, warmer days of spring are the perfect time to tackle a garage organizing project. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Create a staging area
Because much of what lands in the garage is big and bulky, it's important to give yourself enough space to work when sorting and weeding through the stuff here. Before you get things underway, decide on a staging area: a spot where you'll be able to gather things from your garage that you're throwing or giving away. Keeping this stuff separate from the things you want to keep will prevent unwanted stuff from being reabsorbed into the garage. A section of your driveway or yard can be a great staging area; another option is to use a specific corner of the garage (ideally one close to the door!). Subdivide your staging area into sections, one for stuff headed to the dump and another for things to be donated. You might also want to create a spot for "undecideds": items you can't quite make decisions on just yet.
Weed, weed, weed
With your staging area ready to go, start weeding. Depending on how full your garage is, you might choose weed area by area, or you might decide to gather all of one kind of thing--sporting goods, for example--from throughout the garage and then tackle the weeding. As always, remember that your goal here is to cull the stuff you no longer want, use, or need so it'll be easier to organize the stuff that's useful and necessary in your life as you're living it now. Challenge yourself to make decisions on as many things as you can, rather than delegating everything to the "undecideds" pile. Clutter, and especially garage clutter, is often the result of delayed decisions. Now's the time to make those decisions and clear out the clutter.
Take it away
Once you've decided what to toss or donate, make a real effort to get this stuff out of your staging area as soon as possible--and I don't mean back into the garage! If you think you'll have significant loads of stuff to get rid of, it's a good idea to arrange for a rental truck or a Dumpster, or to schedule a pick-up from a hauler, before you start working. Even if you only have small loads, though, getting them to their final destinations ASAP makes it much less likely that they'll find their way back into the garage.
Plan your storage systems
When you're through weeding and have bid your unwanted stuff a final goodbye, start planning storage systems for the stuff you plan to keep. As with storage systems anywhere else in the home or office, those you choose for the garage should make it easy to find what you need and put things away again. You don't need an elaborate built-in system to bring order to the garage (though such systems are certainly one option); even a few sets of sturdy, weatherproof shelves and a few simple wall hooks can do wonders. Before deciding on a system, be sure to measure the space in which you'll use it and do an inventory of the stuff it needs to hold (so you can be sure it's the right size).
Keep up the progress
Finally, commit to maintaining your garage organizing systems once they're in place: put things away when you're done with them, do a periodic sort-and-weed session to reconnect with the stuff you're storing, and don't let yourself fall prey to the temptation to stash things in the garage because you're not sure what else to do with them.
Once your garage is in order, park your car there as a reminder of what the garage is really meant to store. You'll protect one of your most valuable assets and will help keep the space from being overrun by clutter.