Two Christmases ago, my wife needed me to take my car out of the garage so we could get our holiday decorations down from the attic. After that Christmas, well, let’s just say we didn’t rush to get all the decorations back up there.Then spring rolled around and we needed to use the garage to house all the plants that were going into our new landscaping. Then summer came and I decided to design and build my own outdoor spa cover, definitely another story! Let me just say that although it never covered my pool, it did lean handsomely against the wall of my garage for the next six months before I dragged it to the curb in defeat.
Before I knew it, my car had been in the driveway for more than 14 months and the garage now looked like a war zone, albeit one with very nice bicycles and an overflow of decorations, books, CDs, and sports equipment. Something had to be done.
I needed to plan a garage makeover. And soon.
Here’s what I learned over my two-day project. I hope these tips help to make your project go smoothly.
1. Get Started
No, don’t run out to the garage and start flinging rakes, golf clubs, and unused paint into the yard! Set a date a couple weeks out to devote to this project from start to finish, no excuses. Clear this date with at least one other person who can help by acting as a runner for errands, items you forget from the hardware store, and beer. This last function is probably the most important.You’ll also need to purchase a few basic organizational systems like industrial shelving or storage bins with snap-tight lids (see the sidebar for more suggestions) before The Big Day.
Lastly, decide on a fun activity to do when the job is done. Our Family Game Night gave me something to focus on when realizing I had hundreds of Star Wars figures, 54 music posters, 23 garden tools, five different hammers, and four tennis racquets to organize neatly into only one garage.
But I did it. And you can too.
2. Beyond The Garage
Also before The Big Day, clear any additional storage space you might have. For me, this meant neatening the shed and stacking boxes more efficiently in our attic. These spaces will give you extra room so the garage can house items you use more frequently. This would also be a good use for the ’72 Ford Maverick up on blocks in the backyard!
3. Sorting Your Junk
OK, I know it’s not junk, but it’ll look like that when you get to the first step on The Big Day. But before you begin, get some music going that’ll make you work at a brisk pace. No NPR, no talk radio, no Mantovani’s Greatest Hits. I found that cool jazz and classic rock worked. Just don’t do what my neighbor did a few years ago when he cleaned out his garage. I don’t think the rest of the street ever forgave him for that high-decibel afternoon of Ozzy highlights.
Once the music’s going, establish three sorting areas in your driveway: Keep, Giveaway, and Trash. Your goal is to touch each item only once.
4. Trash Your Stash
This is no time to be meek. Anything you haven’t used in a year, have no idea what function it serves, or was last worn when MTV actually played music videos should go. Yes, this should probably end up being the largest pile.
For me, this meant tools that looked like something from The Liars’ Club — you know, the ‘70s TV game show where B-list celebrities made up uses for bizarre-looking gadgets? One of these tools in my garage resembled a medieval torture device and another looked like some kind of dentist’s clamp from the ‘50s — the 1750’s! They were both broken. I think.
5. Giving Away The Past
The next pile is for useful stuff that has no use to you anymore. Again, be ruthless here. Notice I say “give away” and not “keep so you can eventually have a yard sale.” The whole point is to clear away the clutter and local charities can really use your old stuff.
This time, I called Habitat For Humanity and arranged for a pick-up the next day, but I’ve used the Salvation Army and Goodwill before for similar projects. As long as everything’s neatly boxed and in good working order, they’ll come right to your house, load your old stuff in the truck, and give you receipts that will help lower your taxes next year if you itemize.
Save yourself the time and trouble of the yard sale and help a worthy cause. I felt great when the big truck eased out of my driveway with all that stuff that had been cluttering my life. Now it can help someone else’s.
6. Keeping What’s Important
The next pile is the stuff that will go back into your garage. It should be the smallest and if it’s not, consider each item again until it is. Once I got mine to this level, I quickly sorted the remaining items into logical “zones” for my new garage layout. For example, I made new zones for tools, sporting equipment, bikes, car supplies, decorations, and recycling. Your zones may be just like mine or totally different. There’s no right or wrong way to establish your garage plan as long as it works for you.
Why does this work? Simple. This is the hardest part of the job, so these zones break a big task into a series of smaller ones. Oh, one more thing — have a beer. You’ve earned it.
7. Zoning Out
Here’s where anything you purchased before The Big Day will be used. I got three basic organizers — heavy-duty metal shelving to line two walls, a pegboard sheet and tool holders, and quality plastic bins with locking tops. Yours may differ, but these simple, non-trendy organizers look good today and will last for decades to come. Why buy things more than once?
You may also consider hanging storage, a work bench, or recycling containers. Buy what works for you, but think twice about the most expensive items in the store. My shelves cost half the amount and provided twice as much storage as the fancier one next to it at Home Depot. My pegboard only cost $14 dollars for a 4-foot by 8-foot panel. The hardware was only another $30 for a good mix of holders.
Work methodically on this step. Finish one zone completely before starting another. This will let you see progress and will keep you motivated to finish. If anything doesn’t have space in your new zone, give it away or put it on the curb with the trash. Besides, that Yoda phone won’t fit in your new storage containers!
8. Add Some Personality
What does your garage say about you (aside from you now being a neat and orderly person)? Consider adding a nice portable stereo, a small TV, artificial plants, or movie posters to your garage. Whether you collect license plates, have dozens of old road signs, or have an affinity towards old sci-fi, put these items up for show. Treat the garage like another room of the house — your bank does!
For me, I discovered a dartboard that I got one year for Christmas and found a place for a large Atlanta Braves flag. As you’ve probably figured, I already had a nice stereo out there. Simply put, the more attractive you make your garage, the more likely you’re going to keep it neat.
9. Park The Car
This was probably your goal when you started this project anyway. But don’t just drive it into the garage — take it somewhere for a professional wash and wax, get some takeout, and then glide it into your newly clean garage. That feeling will make all your aches and pains melt away. I even cleaned my wife’s car!
10. Have A Beer
And this shouldn’t be your everyday brew. Buy something different, something to treat yourself. For me, this meant imported and expensive and it tasted great with our takeout food. Even better was the satisfied feeling of enjoying our Family Game Night as a result of two days’ hard work. We all won. Hopefully, now you can too.
Great Garage Gadgets
Long-Handle Tool Organizer:
$19, Black & Decker.
Gravity Bike Stand: