Spring has finally sprung, and after a long winter indoors, it’s time to embrace the season and get out to enjoy some sunshine. Whether you’re a cyclist, gardener or a weekend warrior of another stripe, early spring is the perfect time to shift gears and get ready to take up all of your old outdoor hobbies again.
If you’re like most people, though, cleaning isn’t exactly one of the activities that you’ve been looking forward to. Still, spring cleaning is a time-honored tradition, and it really is the best time of year to tackle a home organization project. It’s also the best season in which to reorganize and get a new lease on life.
Not sure where to start? Clean out your garage. Here’s everything you need to know about maximizing your garage space with simple and creative organization tricks and tips that will help you get the most use out of this all-purpose space.
But first, a little history. Why is spring cleaning a thing, anyway?
The History of Spring Cleaning
Though nowadays the idea of spring cleaning has faded into a vague notion that everyone talks about but nobody really does, spring cleaning was crucial back when people relied on sootier forms of home heating. When all you had was an open hearth or a coal stove to heat your home, things got dirty pretty fast. All that fire made for a lot of soot, so by springtime everything you owned was pretty dingy. Back in the day, spring cleaning meant dragging every stick of furniture out of the house to scrub down the whole place. Airing out linens and upholstery was also important to get rid of bedbugs and germs, and many people refilled their mattresses with fresh straw.
Today, most Americans have bigger homes and way more stuff than their pioneering forebears, so the idea of emptying out your whole house is probably completely overwhelming. Still, you can take a page from those intrepid spring cleaners of yore by committing to emptying out a single room instead. By focusing on just one area, you can give it the top-to-bottom cleaning it deserves, while still having time left to enjoy the rest of the spring season.
Step One: Declutter Your Garage
If you’re like most people, your garage is the place where you tend to dump all the things you might need someday but just can’t bear to part with right now. The trouble with this line of thinking is that someday never arrives, and in the meantime, your garage has morphed into an unusable space thanks to all the stuff you’ve accumulated in there.
You can do this. The first step to cleaning out your garage is to throw open the doors and, well, clean it out. Pull every single item out into the fresh air, organizing them into thematic piles as you go: lawn and garden, sporting equipment, automotive supplies, etc.
Once your stuff is out of the garage and on your lawn where you can see it, it’s decision time. Start in one category, pick up an item and decide whether you will keep this item or get rid of it. Ask yourself these questions to help you decide:
- Is it in good working condition?
- Have I used it within the past year?
- Do I love this thing?
If you answer yes to all of these questions, keep it. If not, get rid of it. Though anything broken will go straight into the trash, other items may be something worth selling at a garage sale or donating to charity. Set these aside in another category to deal with later.
As you practice, you’ll get better at making quicker decisions about each of your items. It may be hard at first, but you can sort through all your junk in a weekend if you commit to the process!
Step Two: Make It Sparkle
Odds are that your garage hasn’t been cleaned in years. Once it’s empty, it’s much easier to tackle this task — especially if you enlist family members to help and assign each person a job. Start at the top and work your way down for best results:
- Take the cases off of any light fixtures and dust them inside and out, making sure to tighten and replace bulbs and get rid of insect carcasses.
- Use a Shop-Vac or the extension wand on your vacuum to clean cobwebs and dust out of the corners where walls meet the ceiling and floor.
- Use glass cleaner and old newspaper to get windows to sparkle.
- Soak up any oil stains with kitty litter; then mop the floor with detergent or concrete degreaser from the hardware store.
Step Three: Add Storage
The best garage storage will be customized to hold your stuff, so go back and look over the types of items you own. You’ll want to keep each category together as you store it, so you should be able to eyeball each group to figure out how much space you need. Not sure where to start? Here are some tried-and-true garage storage ideas that always do the trick:
- Keep things off the floor. Stacking items on the floor is just asking for your things to creep back into the space where your car belongs. Instead, invest in some utility shelves or cabinets to keep items neat. If you must use the floor, keep items in sturdy plastic bins to protect them from water and rodent damage.
- Make a spare pantry. If you buy in bulk, you probably have overflow items in your garage. Add a metal cabinet to store extra bottled items and dry goods while keeping out unwanted pests. You can also add bins to help sort trash and recycling before pick-up day.
- Hang your tools. Items with long handles like mops, rakes and shovels tip over easily, so keep them neat by hanging them on a dedicated tool rack. Smaller woodworking, gardening or mechanical tools can be hung from a pegboard wall that you can design to meet your specific needs.
- Go vertical. If your floor space isn’t allowing for enough storage once you add shelves and cabinets, look over your head. You can add some simple plywood shelves to the rafters to create a loft space for deep storage – a perfect space for your off-season sporting equipment and items that you only need once in a while.
- Consider the kids. Keep kids safe by storing any dangerous chemicals (think engine oil, fertilizers and pesticides) behind locked doors. You can also keep frequently used items on low shelves within easy reach of young hands.
Once your storage is in place, put everything away and take a deep breath. That lighter-than-air feeling? It’s the relief of tackling your spring cleaning and the freedom of having a spacious, well-organized garage that’s ready to hold all the gear you need to enjoy the rest of the spring and summer in style. Now get out there and enjoy it — you’ve earned it!