For many homeowners, the garage is often the most disorganized “room” in the house. This has been true for every one of our organizing clients, and is likely true for many others who don’t need organizing services. No matter how organized you are in other areas, the garage just tends to be an easy dumping ground for clutter (ie: postponed decisions). So how to break this trend?
The trick to having the organized garage of your dreams is twofold.
Firstly, you must do the work of actually making those postponed decisions. For many, this means finally making the conscious decision to choose calm and serenity over *maybe* using an item someday. Fall is a great time of year to do that. The crisp, fresh promise of a new start is in the air, and the weather is conducive to being outside. As cold weather sets in, those postponed decisions will likely be put off for next year, so seize the day!
There are lots of great resources out there on what questions to ask, and how to avoid overwhelm. However, the most important question to ask as you declutter is this one: is this item worth keeping, considering the space / stress it requires to store?
As you do this work, keep a list of the sort of things you are finding, so that you can observe the pattern behind what is landing in the garage and why. This will be important later on, as you create space to anticipate incoming items and create a temporary home for them.
The key to getting – and staying – organized is coming up with a system.
Once you have made decisions and decluttered, the real organizing work comes in. This is where you will devise a system to 1.) maintain the new organization and 2.) prevent clutter from creeping back. The secret to completing this process successfully is to anticipate what might come back in, and create a home for it – even if it’s just an empty bin. Here are some of our favorite suggestions for creating a system in the garage that works into the future.
Establish a Donation Bin. Many households see items coming home on a daily basis, but have no established system for items going out. Creating a bin in the garage for donations is a great way to keep those items contained until further action can be taken. Bonus tip: line the bin with a black garbage bag so that when it gets full, you can simply pull it out and take it to the donation location of your choice. If you are in Portland, check out our list of donation resources.
Create an area for Items Requiring an Action. Similar to the donation bin, items requiring some kind of action need a home. That home may or may not be in the garage, but the key is to place it as close to the entry / exit as possible. Get into the habit of adding a sticky note with verb-centered directions as to what needs to be done with the item, such as “Take to Dry Cleaners” or “Return to Library.” This will keep those items from collecting in the garage and getting stuck there too long. Get in the habit of moving items to your car as you are ready to take action.
Utilize Vertical Storage. For those with a small garage (like me), vertical storage is key. Pegboards and wall-mounted shelving are wonderful and cost-effective ways of storing things. Hooks on the wall are also a great way to mount things like summer lawn chairs, parasols and other off-season items. Last summer, we installed this awesome folding work table in the garage using an old desktop and a bit of wood. It didn’t take long to set up, and has been a lifesaver.
Create Zones. Another great way to keep your garage organized on a more permanent basis
is to create zones, similar to what you would see in a preschool classroom. This allows the brain to remember where things belong and to put them away where they go – key for family members who did not spend the time investment to get the garage organized like YOU did, and may need a bit more direction. Some examples are: camping, emergency supplies, Costco overstocked supplies, sports gear, cleaning supplies, off-season items (example: fans in the winter, heaters in the summer), animal supplies, donations, outdoor kid gear, etc. Be sure to leave space for items in use that will return to the garage later, and clarify their location using signs or labels. Lastly, be sure to share the new system with your family.
The truth is that all garages get messy – that’s just life! Anticipating future to-do’s and transitory items will help contain the clutter and remind you to take action on them instead of letting them get stuck there. Getting rid of the dirty, dusty items that you’ve been hanging on to for years will help to create the space needed for those items that you use often and want to be able to find quickly.