Organizing a garage is a simple, yet difficult project, mainly because your average garage is filled to the rafters with junk. Its the one room in the house where you are likely to find both a lawn mower and an authentic replica of the “Christmas Story” leg lamp. But your garage doesn’t have to be a catch-all room. With a little guidance, and a healthy dose of motivation, you can have a clean and organized garage within the span of an afternoon. With a little help from Ruth Soukup of Living Well, Spending Less, we’ll show you how to clean out and organize your garage easily.

Who knows, you might even be able to park your car in there afterwards!

Garage Cleaning 101:

Step #1: Pick the Right Weather

Look at the weekend forecast before you set your mind to cleaning the garage. You want to be able to fling open your garage Saturday morning without having to don rubber boots and a poncho. A nice warm day is ideal so you can set out all the junk in the driveway without having to worry about getting rained out.


Avoid rainy days to maintain a sunny disposition while cleaning out the garage.

Step #2: Find Some Idle Hands

A garage clean out is simple in theory, but can easily become overwhelming if you don’t have any helpers around. Make the garage clean out a family project, that way everyone gets a say in what gets kept, and the whole project gets done in the span of a day . You could also entice some of your friends over with promises of pizza and beer, just make sure its not too hoppy.

Step #3: Start Clearing Out the Garage

Once your crew is assembled you’ll want to start taking everything, and we mean everything, out of the garage and place it in your driveway. This will give you a near bird’s-eye view of all the clutter that’s been clogging your garage, allowing you to get a sense of how much stuff you’ll need to do away with once you start getting everything organized.

Little things like cardboard boxes, bugspray, and random 2x4s can quickly add up to a lot of clutter. Image: Joanna Burne CC by 2.0

Ruth_color“It can seem productive to tackle a corner at a time, but honestly? Just getting everything out will help you assess what you have, take note of the grime level, and stay motivated to keep too many things from returning to their old spots.”
Ruth Soukup, blogger, speaker entrepreneur, and author of Living Well, Spending Less.

Step #4: Sort, Store, and Swiftly Dispose of Everything

Once you’ve turned your driveway into a drive-by storage facility, you can start sorting everything into piles. One pile should be everything you want to keep, another for everything you want to sell or donate, and a final pile for everything you want to throw away. To expedite this step, a cheap dumpster rental is a great piece of equipment to have on hand. This will allow you to dispose of all the pool floaties, broken sports equipment, and assorted oddities you come across during your garage clean out, leaving more space in the driveway to sort through everything that’s staying.

This is the dream garage: plenty of space for your car, bins, sports equipment, and yard supplies. Image by Elisa Self CC by 2.0

Step #5: Start Organizing the Garage

Now that everything is outside, you can seize the opportunity to organize your garage in such a way that keeps the clutter from returning. Shelving units are the saviors of the garage cleaning world. A few wire-frame shelves on the walls will enable you to get super-organized, super-quick.

While practical in a pinch, using unsecured wood and cinderblocks for shelving is not recommended. Image: Trenttsd CC by 2.0

For hand tools, the best storage option is to use a pegboard. Not only does it make easier to find the tool you are looking for, you will always know where to put it back. As for screws, nails, and other handyman essentials, these are best stored in a separate shelving unit with small individual drawers so you can organize them according to type and size. If you are a hobbyist, consider setting up a work table in front of your pegboard. Everything should have its own individual corner of the garage, with handyman essentials in one place and car supplies in another. This will make it immensely easier to stay organized and keep your garage clean in the future.

Ruth_color“Baseball bats, rackets, balls and bulky sports items store well in ball bins, large totes or even repurposed trash cans. If you sort carefully to pare down to just the necessary items, you can arrange everything clearly on a shallow shelf. (Deep shelves tend to create a magical abyss where things just disappear.)”
Ruth Soukup, blogger, speaker entrepreneur, and author of Living Well, Spending Less.

Step #6: Wash, Rinse, and Return Everything

After the dust has settled, its time to dust! Sweep out the garage floor to tidy everything up and wash down the walls to make the space look clean and vibrant. You should also consider sealing any cracks in the floor that might have popped up while the floor was covered in clutter. This will minimize the damage from any future spills or flooding, as well as make the whole space feel a bit more finished.

Once you’ve spruced up, its time to move everything back in. Yard equipment, car supplies, cleaning products, and all the tools & hardware that will now adorn your pegboard/workspace should be placed exactly where you want them to be. At the same time, you can call up your local dumpster rental company and have them pickup the dumpster in your driveway. And once everything is put away, you can back your car into the garage and let that immense feeling of space envelope you!

Ruth_color“As you return your items to the garage, keep purging and eliminating. Really aim for a garage where things are easily accessible and organized. Again, consider if you’re truly using each item or simply storing it. (If it’s the latter, time to get rid of it!)”

Ruth Soukup, blogger, speaker entrepreneur, and author of Living Well, Spending Less.

Additional Safety Tips for a Clean Garage:

Keep a Fire Extinguisher Handy

We don’t expect your garage to go up in flames while your cleaning it. But its a good thing to stock in the garage because of the fuels and other flammable substances you keep in the garage.

Lockup Your Hazardous Chemicals

Speaking of flammable substances, its also a good idea to keep fertilizers, paints, and fuels inside a lockable cabinet. This will keep prying hands away, as well as provide some protection in the event of a fire.

Move the Propane Outside

According to Hank Hill, propane makes a mean steak. But when your not hosting a neighborhood barbecue, that propane should be kept out of your garage. Instead, store your tanks in a detached shed or in a designated spot in the backyard away from the home. This will mitigate the (relatively low) risk of fire, or even explosion, that can occur if the tanks are punctured.

Featured Image: Rubbermaid Products CC by 2.0