Cleaning and Organizing Basics for Your Garage

The garage is usually the last frontier when it comes to the cleaning territory.  Probably because half the battle of cleaning is first getting it organized.  More than any other space in the house, the garage is the place where stuff seems to accumulate the most.  It’s the default storage space for nearly everything we may want to keep but don’t necessarily use daily. To get the most out of the space, it’s important to keep it as uncluttered and as organized as possible.  With a little effort, the garage can actually become a functional extension of your home. There is a lot of wisdom out there on the best ways to accomplish this task so we’ve made it easy for you by compiling the key steps and list of action items we feel will help simplify the job.

Plan

  • Choose a weekend or time you know you can dedicate to the task.  Get an early start while you’ve got plenty of energy.  If possible, involve the kids to make it less of a chore and more of a family activity.  Let each person take ownership of his/her section of the space.
  • Make room for sorting things you’ll be removing from the garage.  It’s best to start by moving everything out so you can take stock of what you have and plan for the storage improvements you want to make.
  • Get an outside storage container if necessary to temporarily house all these items.  You don't want to have to move the larger things -- like a lawn mower -- into the house in order to have the needed space (and time) to sort through the clutter.

 Sort

  • Separate items into groups.  For example: power tools, toys, sports equipment, lawn care, auto care, camping gear, seasonal items, etc.  That way, they’ll find their way back to a place where you can easily locate them when you need them.
  • Label the location for each category before putting items back into the garage.  For example: Car Care, Sports Equipment, and so on.  Also label corresponding boxes and containers so they get put back in the right place.
  • Be prepared to dispose of obvious junk -- you’ll know which things qualify.  For items that are still useful but you no longer want, organize them into separate boxes or containers labeled for ‘recycle’, ‘donate’ and ‘garage sale’.  Rule of thumb: if an item hasn’t been used in a year, give it away or sell it.
  • Safely dispose of paint, solvents, motor oil and other harmful chemicals.  Your city sanitation department or refuse company can provide you with the proper disposal guidelines and may even collect these at their facility.

Clean

  • Sweep the garage floor.  Start by using an environmentally safe sweeping compound (available at hardware and home improvement stores) which will help control airborne dust particles.
  • Wash the floor by adding a little degreasing cleaner to a bucket of hot water and using an old mop or scrub broom.  Rinse thoroughly.
  • For oil stains on the floor, apply a laundry pre-spotter (like ‘Spray and Wash’).  Allow the solution to sit on the stain for at least 10 minutes.  Then sprinkle with laundry detergent and scrub with a stiff broom or brush.  Rinse the area thoroughly and the stain should be gone.  If it’s a stubborn stain, make a thick paste of hot water and powdered dishwasher detergent, scrub into the spot, then let it soak overnight.  Rinse thoroughly and let dry.
  •  A new coat of paint can help make the garage space like new.  Be sure to use exterior paint in order to withstand the fluctuations in temperature and humidity.

Organize

  • Add shelving or the type of portable storage containers that you can assemble yourself.  Whichever you choose, it’s best to plan for a little more space than you need right now. 
  • Bonus space can be found if you have crossbeams in your garage; consider using large sheets of plywood that can be placed across them to create a platform for storing lighter boxes of items you don’t need to access very often.
  • Use hooks for larger items that won’t fit into cabinets or boxes, like ladders, brooms and bikes, and hang them from the wall or rafters to get them off the floor.

For every other room in your house, call the cleaning experts!

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