According to an online survey by SpareFoot, an online broker for storage and moving companies, nearly half of Americans admitted to being unable to park their car in their garage. This likely sounds familiar to many of you and is the reason garages are one of my most requested organization and decluttering projects. The San Francisco Chronicle recently published an article honing in on this contradictory phenomenon that we leave our cars on the street (which are usually the second largest asset we own), yet fill our garage with items that have little or no monetary value. Building upon Peter Walsh’s recommendations mentioned in the article, below you’ll find some inspiration to declutter your garage and start using it for its intended purpose.

It’s a Full Day Project

– If you truly want to declutter your garage, you cannot do it piecemeal. I know it can be overwhelming, but you’ll need a good chunk of a day to pull all your items out, decided what is keep/donate/or trash/recycle, and then organize the stuff you put back in. If you try to declutter your garage in a couple of hours over a few days or weekends, you’ll never get ahead, the items you intend to get rid of may slowly filter back in, and every time you begin to decutter some more, you’ll likely have to start from scratch. Commit to a day and finish. The reward of more space and less stuff will be worth it. (Not sure where to begin, check out The Garage Organization Action Plan.)

Assess The Value

– There are some general rules and behaviors to follow to help you make decisions on what to keep:

  • Time – Haven’t used it in a year, get rid of it.
  • Low Value or Easily Replaceable – Think about the value of your space. Storing things you rarely use is just creating clutter. Get rid of the items and buy (or better yet borrow) them when needed.
  • Mementos – Many garages are filled with the belongings of others because they were passed down or appear to have meaning. Storing mementos in boxes buried in your garage does not honor the memories of your loved ones and you likely won’t even remember they are there. Rather than keeping everything, see if you can get the collection down to a few items. Can you take photos of some and get rid of the rest? Can you choose a few of the most meaningful items to display in  your home and then get rid of the rest? Having trouble deciding which ones to discard, use the Marie Kondo method of holding each item in your hand to determine those that “spark joy”.

Zone Your Stuff

– Besides decisions on what to keep or get rid of, a big portion of the process to declutter your garage is sorting your stuff into categories or zones, e.g. Christmas, Halloween, Camping, Cleaning, Kids’ Mementos, Gardening, etc. Walsh takes this one step further and recommends allocating a limited amount of space for each of your categories. That means creating enough space for the current inventory you have on hand and not going beyond that. When you bring in a new piece of camping equipment or another holiday decoration, it needs to fit in the current space allocated or you’ll have to get rid of something to make room for it.

Avoid Floor Creep

– This is another Peter Walsh recommendation. He states, “Flat surfaces such as the top of the desk, countertop, floor of the garage are not for storage.” He goes on further to emphasize the need to use vertical space well and wisely. When you are not taking advantage of the vertical space in your garage, you’re wasting it. Use tall shelving, hooks, and pegboards to keep stuff off the floor and where you need it. Store once a year items up high and out of the way, regularly accessed items at eye level, and less used and heavy items down below.

Make Time For Quick Realignments

– Once you go through the process of devoting time and attention to declutter your garage, you’re not done. New items will come in, a busy life will keep you from putting things away in a timely manner, or you may take up a new sport and accumulate the supplies that come with it. Your garage will not always be perfect, but if you plan for monthly or quarterly realignments, it will be easy to get it back to the organized space you love.