Garages may be for our cars, but they can all too easily become a home’s dumping ground for clothes the kids have grown out, empty paint cans, things that are broken or that you just don’t want to deal with. But it’s that time of year again, so as the temps begin to rise, blooms are sprouting, and we’re all coming out of our winter shells (hallelujah!). It’s finally time to hit the outdoors, that is if you can find your bike.
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A day (or two) dedicated to clearing out and organizing your garage will get you ready for all the warm-weather activities just around the corner. Doesn’t that sound nice? To help start this season on a clutter-free foot, we tapped a few experts to guide us through organizing this often-ignored space.
Like death and taxes, emptying, and then actually cleaning the garage is an inevitable part of life. Clutter in the garage tends to grow and expand until it fills all the space in the garage. Clutter tends to multiply and split like cells in the body splitting. Although in the case of a garage, the only thing that may split is the walls!
If you own a garage, the chances are that you store excess items there. This is a convenient arrangement to an extent, but it can also be a problem. Say you consistently lose things in there or you’ve bought a new riding mower that needs a place to live. Your stored clutter is now a nuisance. It might be time to empty, clean, and organize your garage to promote efficiency. This can sound like a daunting task, though. Here’s how to handle a garage cleanout.
Spring is the time for flowers to bloom while you enjoy the warm winds (finally!) and get ready for the summer vibe to set in. It’s also the time you need to get down to doing your annual garage organization planning and cleaning ritual. Cleaning your garage is not as bad as it seems. In fact, with some of our garage cleaning ideas, you could make it a fun family exercise!
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Tips on Spring Cleaning for Your Garage
If you’re wondering how to clean your garage fast, we’re here to help you! To put things in perspective, let’s start by understanding that organization is the key. And to get you organized, we have listed a step-by-step approach herein. Here are easy garage cleaning tips to get your garage sorted in a jiffy.
Start with a well-defined plan
What do you want to accomplish with this cleanout? Are you looking to gut out the garage completely, and start from scratch with a redesign and new storage systems? Maybe you’re just looking to remove excess junk and/or organize the stuff you already have. Spring cleaning? No matter the scale of the job, start by sitting down and spending a few minutes creating a plan of attack.
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Consider these things when creating your plan:
- Decide how big the project will be. Don’t start a project that you don’t think you can’t finish in a reasonable amount of time. For instance, don’t plan to do a complete reorganization, disposal, and new storage installation unless you have several weekends to get the job done. A job left unfinished defeats the whole purpose of the cleanup.
- Write down your plan and/or add it to your calendar to ensure you have a clear schedule to complete the project. Although it may seem inconsequential, this simple step helps hold you to the project and reduces the chance of putting it off another weekend, or two, or…
- Be detailed in creating your organizational and disposal plans. This may include design sketches in cases where a complete redesign is a goal and other details that can help keep the project on track and completed with efficiency.
Read the rest of the garage cleanout tips and tricks below before creating your garage organizational plan. You can use the information below to help formulate your plan of action.
Pull Out Everything
This is the first step to start garage spring cleaning. Emptying the entire floor space should be a yearly exercise you begin with. This will help you clear out what you don’t need and re-stock what’s replenishing.
Organize all that you need into three sections — keep, donate, dispose of. Wipe and sort the things to keep in one carton. The donation carton box can have things that you aren’t using anymore, but someone else could. And lastly, the dispose carton box is what you began cleaning the garage for in the first place.
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Be Mindful of How You Dispose
Before you upturn your to-be-disposed carton in a trash can or a rag to be thrown away, be mindful of how you do it. Some of the mess may involve chemicals and hazardous stuff that should be handled with care. Check for directions to dispose of the exterior of the pack and take adequate care in doing so.
An empty garage is the easiest to clean. Now that you have cleared out the entire space starts with a good thorough sweep of the floor—dust out shelves, cabins, crevices and every nook of the garage. Wipe the ceiling to remove smoke stains, greasy dirt, and cobwebs. Run a water hose to wash down the floor and drive all the dirt out to the outside of the garage.
Utilize Vertical Space
Most residential garages have an area large enough to shelter a couple of cars. That shouldn’t stop you from maximizing the space in your garage and storing your outdoor necessities.
Make use of its vertical height to set up hooks and shelves to lodge away garden equipment and sort your tools necessity wise. An empty garage is the best time to plan your vertical shelves and have them installed. Keep what you seldom need on the higher shelves to save space and double up your garage as outdoor storage.
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Organize Your Tools & Equipment
Dig into your to-keep carton and sort out its contents in order of usage. You want to stack the most used items in easily accessible places and toss the rarely used ones on the top rack of your shelves. This is one of the basic yet most useful garages organizing hack. Check if you need to re-stock some of your lubricants, oils and other equipment.
Get That Annual Maintenance Done
And lastly, after cleaning out the garage, get that annual maintenance done of your garage door and your door opener. Your garage has survived a harsh winter. There’s no saying the kind of damage it may have survived unless you have an expert over to check it.
This maintenance exercise is the last but most important step on your garage spring cleaning checklist before you load in all your stock into its rightful place. Check for any cracks or breakages in your garage, locking system or opener controls. Once you round-off the maintenance, you have covered all the steps on how to clean a garage.
How to Deep Clean Your Garage
Step 1: Remove Everything & Prepare your Supplies
Pick a day when the weather is on your side and pull everything out of your garage and into your driveway or yard. It can seem productive to tackle a corner at a time, but honestly? Just getting everything out will help you assess what you have, take note of the grime level, and stay motivated to keep too many things from returning to their old spots.
Gather a ready supply of towels, a bucket, a broom and cleaning spray. You may also want to keep a measuring tape handy and some big, strong garbage bags or bins for sorting items.
Start by wiping down or hosing off anything dirty or dusty.
Step 2: Sort, Eliminate, Donate or Sell
Once everything is out of the garage, it’s time to start sorting everything into piles: keep, donate/sell and eliminate. Purge once, then go back through the keep pile and purge again.
Ask yourself if the item is something you’ll use again or something you’ve used in the last year—be realistic and honest. Holding onto those roller blades because you think your kids might want to use them or that tennis racket that needs to be re-strung? These are the types of things that create clutter. Many sports stores will buy back equipment or sell it on consignment. You may even make a nice little profit that can be put towards something the whole family will like.
When it comes to tools, consider what you use frequently and what can be borrowed or rented. This is a difficult one because many of us (and many husbands) fancy ourselves to be “Bob the Builder” or “Rosie the Riveter” and tend to hoard tools. If your husband is indeed a handyman, and especially if it’s a hobby, then, by all means, let him keep a tool bench/workstation area, but keep it organized and useful.
Broken items or items rusted or past their prime can be tossed immediately. Give yourself permission to let go and stop keeping things in hopes that one day you’ll get around to repairing them.
If you’re a gardener, keep one, rust-free version of each tool you frequently use. Toss seeds over a year old (most will not grow past that time and pests LOVE them), and be sure all pots and planting items (including tomato cages, hoses and gardening decorations) are clean and free of dirt and moisture before storing.
Car repair items and cleaning supplies should be assessed for usefulness and potency. Some car fluids do expire, so keeping them might create a fire hazard. Always get rid of any oil rags and don’t allow them to pile up, as they’re combustible. Chemicals, paint and other items that have outlived their usefulness should be disposed of using the proper channels. Contact your local recycling and waste management or municipality to find out how to dispose of chemicals in your area safely.
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Step 3: Find Storage Solutions that Work for You
Depending on what you have in your garage and what you need to store, you may be facing some interesting storage dilemmas. It seems that nearly EVERYTHING in the garage is oddly shaped—it’s either very, very large and bulky (such as weed trimmers, chainsaws or sports equipment) or very, very small and easy to lose (like nails, screws, bits or gardening markers).
While working with the Closet Maid, we were introduced to their heavy-duty garage storage system, which is awesome! The wire shelves allow for airflow (important in Florida!), they are easy to install, and the shelves are adjustable so you can reconfigure them any way you want.
For tools, we have found that a collection of bins works well; many other organization experts recommend using a pegboard over a workbench. Small, clearly marked jars work well for sorting various odds and ends that go along with your tools. Larger items like saws and electrical tools can be stored in shelving. Toolboxes should be kept off the floor and away from moisture.
Baseball bats, rackets, balls and bulky sports items store well in ball bins, large totes or even repurposed trash cans. If you sort carefully to pare down to just the necessary items, you can arrange everything clearly on a shallow shelf. (Deep shelves tend to create a magical abyss where things just disappear.)
Get bikes, kayaks and other large items off the floor, so they’re protected from damage. Hang them up on ceiling hooks tightly fastened to support beams in the garage. Hanging large items such as ladders, shovels, rakes and other tools will also keep the ground free of clutter and provide each item with a safe place to rest. (We all want to prevent things from falling on kids or cars!)
Think about the storage options you’ll need and assess what you have on hand. Assemble all storage containers and hooks and get them ready to house your remaining, now-clean garage equipment.
Step 4: Seal Cracks and Repair Hazards
Garages bear the brunt of the harshest weather. Often they’re not heated or cooled, and temperature fluctuations and moisture tend to cause mildew, cracking leaks and other issues. Since most of us don’t spend ample amounts of time in the garage, many of these issues can go unnoticed until they’re difficult to repair.
With everything out of the garage, survey any areas that might need to be fixed or touched up. Seal any cracks with spray-in foam or sealant and consider spraying on a protective coat of LeakSeal or another flexible coating.
This is also the time to check out the wires around your garage and make sure nothing looks chewed on or presents a fire hazard. Look at anything that might be exposed and call a professional if needed.
Clean the gutters around your garage and be sure to look for signs of water damage. This is also a good time to check lighting, locks and seals around your windows. You want to ensure not only weather protection but protection from intruders.
Step 5: Dust, Wash, Clean and Paint
Put that broom to use! Put on a mask. (Garages can house mouse droppings, bugs, chemicals, and all sorts of things you don’t want to breathe in.) Thoroughly clean out all of the corners, wash down the walls, and make sure everything is dust-free. This will prevent all of that dirt from tracking into your house later.
Not all of us are ready to put in epoxy floor coating in the garage, but if you’re able, it’s an investment that will help make things feel more “finished.” If you have oil spills on the floor, kitty litter works wonders for soaking it up and keeping the floor looking its best. Consider putting down an inexpensive garage floor protector or even a piece of indoor/outdoor carpeting or rug to protect from future damage.
A simple coat of latex paint in white will keep things fresh and help prevent mildew as well. Caulk around the windows and caulk any cracked or leaking seals. You don’t have to sew curtains or put up wall decals, but if you feel inclined to add a simple decorative touch, it may help you feel more of that “extension of your home” mentality and keep things clean in the future.
Step 6: Reassemble and Re-commit
Now that you have a beautiful, clean and fresh garage put the necessities back in place and organize your areas—tools, sporting goods, car repair, storage (in a few marked bins) and gardening.
If you store your trash and recycling in your garage, be sure you keep things in bags, tightly sealed and closed to prevent odour and varmints. Keep a mat or paper under the can in case of spills. Hose out your trashcan monthly and sprinkle with baking soda to help prevent smells from wafting throughout the garage (or into your house).
As you return your items to the garage, keep purging and eliminating. Aim for a garage where things are easily accessible and organized. Again, consider if you’re truly using each item or simply storing it. (If it’s the latter, time to get rid of it!)
With a clean garage, you’ll find you may even start to enjoy doing things outdoors more often. You may revisit hobbies or feel more inspired to garden or work on projects. Deep cleaning your garage can be surprisingly inspiring and motivating! You may even be so excited that you want to make a video of parking your car in it for the first time in 11 years!
In the end, while the task may seem daunting, the rewards are well worth the effort. Not only will you save money and keep your house cleaner, you’ll also protect your investment in your car, bikes and other items because they’re stored in a clean, dry environment, and finally be able to work on new projects that you never had space for before.