Garage Cleaning Tips for the Overwhelmed
Don’t let this catch-all space get the better of you. These baby steps and storage tips will set you on the right track
Check out these first steps to getting started, smart storage ideas and more. Before you know it, you’ll have transformed a chaotic free-for-all space into a functional, organised storage area.
If you stop thinking about cleaning out the garage as a big task that must be completed in one go, it takes a lot of the pressure off. Each step you take to clean out your space makes it measurably better than where you started, which is why I advise throwing perfection as a goal out the window – if it’s better than before, that’s a win. And by breaking your task down into manageable chunks, you can have a totally clean, clear garage eventually, and you can enjoy the small victories along the way.
Check out how to effortlessly declutter your home (without a big clear-out)
Take a deep breath, and go in. That’s step one. Don’t worry about sorting or removing anything yet, just have a good look around and note what you see. You might want to make a list, take some photographs or both; do whatever helps you feel more organised and in control.
On this first trip into the garage, take special note of any really big and bulky pieces. Are you ready to get rid of any of these items? If so, take some time today to research where to take them, or (if you intend to sell them) take photos and create an ad for Gumtree or another resource in your area.
Look over the notes or photos you made during your reconnaissance trip, and make a list of the types of items you plan to get rid of. Once you know what you have, you can begin to figure out where it will all go. Perhaps you need to rent a skip to collect genuine rubbish, find a second-hand shop to drop off clothes or schedule a pick-up of donations for a local charitable organisation. Having these details charted out in advance will make the rest of the process feel more straightforward.
Schedule a weekend to start sorting and purging
If your garage is very full, you will probably need to schedule multiple weekends to get through everything – but for now, just worry about the first one. During that first weekend of work, you will probably be amazed at the dent you make in the clutter. While you’re putting the great garage clean-up on your calendar, be sure to also schedule any pick-ups or rent a skip if you need it. Having other people counting on you to get the work done will help ensure you don’t procrastinate. Repeat this step as needed until you’ve reduced the clutter.
Do I need a skip for that? How to get rid of your unwanted bulky items
Once you’ve managed to sort through most of the items in your garage (and ideally have removed a lot of unwanted stuff), it’s time to assess what’s left and make a plan for what will go where. By keeping items in categories that make sense (for example, gardening, sports, holidays, tools) finding what you need will be much easier. Sort your remaining items into categories that make sense to you, and pile them neatly.
Dispose of hazardous items safely
If you have items such as pesticides or old motor oil, you will need to make a special trip to a hazardous waste facility (many local authority recycling centres will accept items like this). Collect these items in a central spot in the garage, and pencil in time to get that done. Paint, motor oil, fertilisers and pool chemicals should never be dumped down the drain or put out with regular domestic rubbish or recycling.
If you can, invest in some cabinets and wall-mounted storage – it will make a huge difference to how accessible your stored items are and may even help protect them over time. It’s also a good idea to begin transferring your stored items from old cardboard boxes into sturdier containers meant for long-term storage. Plastic bins work well for hard items (such as children’s toys and Christmas lights), but textiles and papers are best kept in archival containers designed for this purpose.
- Overhead If you have a lot to store and space is tight, consider using overhead space to stow away some of your least-frequently used items (such as Christmas decorations) in lidded bins. Overhead storage racks need to be securely mounted for safety, so it’s best to have a pro put them in.
- Wall-mounted Keeping gear and bins off the floor is one of the best ways to prevent moisture damage and save floor space.
- Locked cabinets These are essential for safely storing materials such as antifreeze, motor oil, pesticides and other chemicals that could harm children or pets if ingested.
If you ride bikes and play football every weekend, it doesn’t make sense to have to trek to the back of the garage to retrieve your gear each time you need it. Keep these items along a wall close to the entrance instead, and outfit it with storage that fits the purpose: bike hooks for bikes, wire mesh baskets for balls, shelves for gardening supplies and so on.
Have something unusually shaped? A quick search online or a trip to a storage shop will probably turn up multiple solutions. So just because you have something big and bulky, such as a kayak or surfboard collection, don’t let that be an excuse to put it down any old place. Long term, it’s much better to have a specific spot to stash each type of storage item you have.
The key to keeping your garage organised and clutter-free long-term is to view it as an important, useful space, not a dumping ground for random items you have no real use for. Clutter tends to breed more clutter, so remember that the next time you’re tempted to stash away a few more “good” cardboard boxes, that Christmas present you hate (but are afraid to get rid of) or the broken blender you might fix one day.
What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to cleaning out the garage? Post your experiences or before and afters in the Comments below.