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  • Mary Magness

Tips for cleaning out the forgotten and neglected realm called: The Garage (Dunt-Dunt-Dun!)

Ok, so I've lived in our new home for about 15 months now and everything that we didn't know what to do with, or that we wanted to store and "sort through later" lives in our garage. We actually have shelves, rafters, and quite a lot of workable space really. My laundry is out there, too. The problem is that everything is still where we threw it back on our move-in day. I see it every day when I change a load of laundry. And like my laundry loads, it's steadily growing.

As I go through the process of decluttering, organizing, and cleaning my forgotten and sadly neglected realm I wanted to share with you what I've learned. As well as some of the useful tips I've found out along the way.

Whether or not you are planning on selling your home any time soon and need to get this done, or if you are just like me and you’ve let it go for far too long so it’s nagging at your brain; here is some motivation and hope for you: it’s not a daunting task and can be fun.

Where to begin?!

Firstly, schedule a full day to start. Have some way to play the music that you love. Have plenty of water to drink. Get a phone charger and anything else you may need so you’re not running back and forth, anything that can keep you in the zone. The whole process may take you a few days depending on just how long you’ve let it go and just how much cleaning and organizing you are up for, but you’ll need that first day to really get in to it.

Second, clear the vehicles out of the driveway. Open up your garage and TAKE EVERYTHING OUT. I mean everything*. If it’s not bolted down, move it. It should look like it did before anyone lived in your home. You’re going to start plying stuff for keeping, selling, and throwing out.

*It is up to you whether or not to move appliances out if you have them. We have a washer, dryer, and fridge in ours. If you are planning on painting or surfacing the floor of your garage (I’ll get to that later) then they need to get out too.

What’s What

Once everything is outside you’ll need to take a good look at it all. Be ruthless! If it’s not something you’ve used in the last year, out it goes!

Unless it’s a priceless keepsake, but even those should be scrutinized over. Nana’s wedding dress (that really shouldn’t be stored in the garage anyways), your dad’s old fishing polls (are they broken? If so can they be fixed? Should they be? Are you or anyone in your family fishermen? If not would they sell for money?) Your kid’s old schoolwork, (Will anyone actually look at all your daughter’s homework from second grade when she’s grown up?) If you are like me and have kids you probably have plastic tote boxes full of your kid’s old schoolwork, baby cloths, handmade items. What I’m doing is just taking one or two key items from each year and throwing (or recycling) the rest away. If there is something I think my kid’s may want for their own place or their own kids I put that in a “give to ____ when they have their own place” box.

If it’s not a “keep” item. It goes in one of two other places. Sell, or throw away. Look at the item in question and think “Would someone pay money for this?” If yes, you can either sell it online somewhere like a Facebook buy and sell group, eBay, Poshmark, or Craigslist. Or you can have a good ol’ fashioned yard sale. I’m doing both. I’m also letting my neighbors know that I’m planning on having a yard sale on a set date to see if they want to get in on the action too. We’ll all make more because yard sailors like more in one area. ;) Now make sure the sell pile is put somewhere safe and out of the way to deal with after you’ve put the garage back together. The throw away is easy. Trash or recycle it there and then.

So fresh and so clean

Here comes the elbow grease part, and you may need to enlist a partner and/or children’s help for this bit. Now that you’ve got your piles and everything is out of the way it’s time to clean. Start from top to bottom. Get those cobwebs out from the ceiling and rafters. Check all of your fixtures (lights, garage door opener, windows) to make sure they are in good working order and clean. Wipe down the walls and shelves (I use car soap–just a little bit in a bucket of water with a large sponge). Then it’s floor time. Sweep out from back to front, then mop, scrubbing the stained areas. There are bound to be all kinds of things staining your garage floor. You may need a wire brush and possibly even specific stain removing cleaners depending on your situation. Once everything is dry, now is a good time if you’ve decided to paint or (re)finish your garage floor. (This would be one of the whole multiple day options).

Putting it all back the right way

Take a look at your clean and empty garage. Does it need any shelves or hooks? Can you mount anything to your ceiling? Now’s the time to run to the hardware store and get/install whatever extra storage items you can afford and find useful.

Once that’s done take a look at your keep pile. You are going to subdivide it. Keepsakes and things that you won’t need for over a year*, seasonal items* (holiday decorations, weather specific lawn & home tools), and then things that you would use at least monthly. The less you need it the further back or less accessible it needs to be. Put the long-term stuff back first, then the seasonal, then the frequently used.

*pack these items well and label them on the front of the boxes so you know what’s in each and won’t have to go digging through them later.

Now that it’s all back--well hopefully about ½ is all that’s back--you may even be able to park your car in there (!!!). Put it on your annual calendar to do it again. It will be a lot less next time because the keepsakes are all done and it’ll only have been a year since the last time. Best of luck to you and to me!

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