Most homes today have at least a two-car garage – many have three or more spots for cars. Yet a very small percentage of these garages will hold even ONE car. It’s all too common for the garage to turn into your home’s storage closet!

Often, people stash something in the garage because they can’t decide what else to do with it. Frequently, these stashed items are rarely used. In some cases, they’re never used. Isn’t it a shame to have to dash to your car in the rain simply because you have too much “stuff” in the garage? Thanks to an article from Houzz, here are some great ideas for turning your garage back into a place to store your cars!

What to Do Before You Start

Schedule time on your calendar. Put a specific time on your calendar to attack this assignment. Getting rid of belongings in the garage is a time-consuming job, it is recommend you think in terms of days rather than hours.

Assess your resources. What resources do you need accomplish this task? For your first step, you might look into ordering a dumpster from your local waste management company to dispose of unwanted items and trash. Also, consider researching charitable organizations that can pick up belongings you decide to donate. A list of consignment stores to sell household items to is another great option. If you have more time and are comfortable doing so, you might consider selling more expensive items on Craigslist or eBay. Finally, you might research a local resource where you can dispose of old paint, pesticides, motor oil and other toxic substances as well as electronic waste. These items cannot be placed in a trash or recycling container.

Collect boxes, packing supplies and large trash bags. A local grocery store or pharmacy is a good place to find free cardboard boxes, and many stores are happy to part with them. Craigslist can be another source for used boxes; people often give boxes away for free after they’ve moved. If you prefer new moving boxes, you can purchase them at a local home improvement store or order them online.

How to Run Your Garage Purging Session

Clear some space and mark off zones. To keep your job organized, you might want to create as much empty space as possible in the middle of the garage floor. Consider moving the car and other large, bulky items, such as the lawn mower and bicycles, out of the garage. I suggest dividing the garage into six sections: donate, sell, toss, keep, return to someone else, and undecided. You can mark off each section with blue painter’s tape or colored chalk. It is helpful to save room on the floor for a staging area where you can place all items from one category before you make any decisions.

Work on one category at a time. I recommend picking a category, perhaps holiday decor, and then pulling every item from that category out of hiding and placing it in the staging area. Don’t forget about belongings stored in the rafters. Try to make a decision on each item in your category before moving on to the next one. If you really can’t decide, place the item in the “undecided” pile. However, try not to put too much in this pile, because it will only delay the decluttering process. 

Expect sorting of family members’ items to go slower. Children who are grown and have permanently moved out of the house often think of their parents’ home as a storage unit. Unfortunately, dealing with other family members can sometimes be emotionally taxing. Because of that, I recommend you tackle these items last. That way, you can plow full steam ahead on culling your own belongings and not let any potentially difficult conversations slow you down. 

Keep your goals in mind. If you have trouble making decisions to let go of some items, it can sometimes be helpful to envision your new uncluttered space. To quote Marie Kondo’s best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, only keep items that “spark joy.” If you don’t truly love something or actually need it, it’s time to bid it goodbye. 

Below are some common categories you might be tackling, as well as suggestions on what to keep and what to let go.

Sports equipment, camping gear, beach chairs and old bikes. Move all sports-related items into your staging area and take a serious look at the things in this category, considering whether you will ever use them again. Yes, it was fun to go camping when the kids were young, but do you really plan to go again? Although I love to be outdoors in a beautiful natural setting, at this stage of my life I also love to retreat to a comfortable bed at night. The same goes for bikes, beach chairs, golf clubs, tennis rackets and ski equipment. Try to remember the last time you used each item. If you golf twice a month, then by all means keep your golf clubs. If the last time you used your clubs was in the late 1980s, it might be time to let them go.

Sports equipment, bikes and camping gear are popular items left behind by family members who have moved out. If that’s the case in your home, take all these items and move them to the “return to someone else” section of your garage. Set a time when the belongings can be retrieved. If family members live out of the area, send pictures of the items and ask them whether you can get rid of them. Consider setting a date for the family members to pick up their belongings they decide to keep.

Holiday decor. Many of us have collected multiple boxes of holiday decor over the years. This is especially true for people who have raised a family in a large home. Fortunately, holiday decor is often relatively easy to part with since it is in storage much of the year anyway. 

Consider decorations for holidays such as Easter, Independence Day and Halloween. If your kids are grown, do you still decorate for these holidays? 

I encourage people to free themselves first of large, bulky items that are difficult to store. Then think in terms of duplicates. For instance, do you really need five manger scenes or six menorahs? This may be the time to free yourself of an overabundance of ornaments and only keep the ones you really love. For those you decide to keep, I recommend purchasing an ornament storage box at a local home store. As you sort, you can place the keeper ornaments in the box (or boxes) so that they’ll be ready for the next holiday season.

Gardening supplies. Ask yourself the following questions when deciding which gardening tools to keep: 
Do you even like gardening?

Do you often hire a gardener?

If someone else will be doing your yard work for you, feel free to donate your gardening supplies and lawn mower. If you have a small balcony or patio where you can have containers, consider keeping a few small items such as a trowel, weeder and gardening gloves.

Unwanted household items. Unused furniture, out-of-date framed prints, abandoned craft projects and grandma’s china are all items that can be unearthed in the dark recesses of garages. Placing these items in the garage may be a way of putting off the decision to get rid of them. To discard these items, I suggest bringing them to a local home consignment store or, if you have more time, attempting to sell them on eBay or Craigslist. If you are in a time crunch, you may want to call a charity that can send a truck to pick up your unwanted belongings. Do keep a receipt and an itemized record of your donations for tax purposes. Goods donated to charity are tax-deductible.

Warehouse-size household products. Think about whether you want to stop buying toilet tissue, paper towels, laundry soap and cleaning products at warehouse stores. Products from these stores come in large sizes that take up an inordinate amount of garage real estate. 

If your children have moved out, you probably don’t go through as much laundry soap and toilet tissue as you used to anyway. Consider using up your stash, then buying normal-size products moving forward.

Old paint, motor oil, other hazardous waste and electronic waste. These items can’t be tossed in the garbage can, so check with your local waste management or trash service to see where you can dispose of these products. Some companies offer a once-a-year pickup of toxic and electronic waste, while others allow you to schedule a pickup. Some counties have a hazardous waste drop-off location where you can bring these toxic products. High schools and middle schools sometimes host electronic waste drives as fundraisers as well.

Purging your garage will not be an easy or quick task, but once it’s done, you will be amazed at how good it feels to have it clean again!