Start the year off right by spring cleaning your garage, the most disorganized space in your home (according to the National Association of Professional Organizers.)
Why You Should Spring Clean your Garage
Spring is a time of fresh starts. Rain washes away the grit of a long winter, beautiful flowers replace sparse patches of dirt, and the animals wake from months-long hibernation. For us humans it’s a time to freshen up our home environment. Decluttering your garage will help you prevent the long-term build-up of dirt and grime, find long-lost items, make room for new arrivals, and improve the safety of your garage.
1. Get Rid of the Dust and Dirt
The first step to spring cleaning any room is to empty it out. Check the weather and pick a time when there will be a few dry days in a row. If you live in an unpredictable area, like South Florida, you may want to grab a tarp just in case. Carefully remove all the contents of your garage onto your driveway or alternative staging area. Don’t overthink this step. The goal is to get everything out. We’ll reminisce and clean everything a little later.
Now that it’s empty, keep the garage doors open and open any other windows to allow maximum airflow. If you have one, place a fan at the back of the garage facing out of the garage door or in the windows. This will help dry out any areas where moisture has accumulated and remove any of the nasty crap that might have escaped into the air now that it’s been exposed. Allow about 30 minutes to an hour for your garage to air out. Timing will depend on the amount of airflow you have. This is a good time to take a break and wash up a little.
Once you’ve given your garage a chance to air out it’s time to put the clean in spring cleaning. For safety, make sure to wear a mask and gloves when you’re working with disinfectants or in areas with heavy dust. Start cleaning from top to bottom using a shop vacuum and duster. Begin with the ceilings and exposed walls. Knockdown or suction any abandoned cobwebs and dust. Spiders don’t creep me out in the garage and they’re good for controlling insects, so I try not to kill them.
Next, use a mild all-purpose disinfectant and glass cleaner to wipe down all the surfaces. This includes shelving, windows, sills, garage doors, and any other permanent fixtures. When you’re finished, everything above the floor should be sparking.
The last step is cleaning the floors. Sweep and bag any large debris. Vacuum the floor thoroughly to remove any loose dirt. If your shelves are moveable, pull them out and clean behind them. Get as much loose dirt up as you can before you start washing them.
I prefer to wash the floors using a hose, mild detergent, a scrub brush with a long handle, and a large floor squeegee.
- Rince off any dirt you can. A good nozzle or pressure washers will both work.
- Scrub the floors with a stiff-bristled brush and some mild detergent.
- Use the hose to rinse out the detergent and additional loose dirt.
- Use a squeegee to remove excess water from the garage.
- Allow the floor to air dry or towel dry if time is short.
Now that your garage is clean, you may want to consider putting down a floor coating. There are many benefits to using a floor coating. It will make your floors easier to clean next time, provide a safer slip-free surface, and it just looks so good!
2. Deal With Your “Stuff”
“That’s all you need in life, a little place for your stuff. That’s all your house is- a place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house. You could just walk around all the time.”
George Carlin is being a bit cynical here, but he does make a good point. We all have “stuff” for different reasons. Whether your particular stuff is sentimental or practical it needs to be organized and properly cared for. There’s no point in letting things wither away on the vine. If you don’t use it and it’s not something you want to pass on to your children, you might want to consider re-homing it.
I like to start by spreading everything out so I can see it. Once that’s done, I’ll start sorting all my belongings. Do what works best for you. I like to start by making 3 piles:
- Trash or Recycle: This pile contains any items that are damaged and can’t be easily repaired. If it’s metal, plastic, etc., I’ll recycle it. Everything else goes in the trash.
- Keep: Anything I use all the time or will definitely use again. This is a fun time to discover long-lost treasures. Whenever I spring clean my garage I rediscover something cool that got lost in all my other stuff. Be honest about this step. Are you really going to use the treadmill/Flowbee/something people don’t use you bought in 2002? Letting go of things, especially things we spend a good deal of money on, can be hard. Spring Cleaning can be a difficult, but cathartic experience for some people. I love “throwing shit out”. If you need, take some time with each item, but put a time limit on yourself.
- Donate or Sell: This can be two piles but the results are the same. This is the stuff you can live without. Everything in this pile is in good to like-new condition, operates safely, and has value (just not to me).
Once I have everything sorted I’ll remove all of the trash and recycling. Then I make 3 lists to document the items I’m selling, donating, and keeping. This will help with online listings, taxes, and in the event of an insurance claim.
3. Create a Safe Environment
Before I start putting things away, I take some time to do a safety check. I inspect my fire extinguishers to make sure they are fully pressurized and have not expired. Next, I take a detailed look at the garage doors and the opening mechanism. Finally, I’ll replace the batteries in the carbon monoxide and smoke detector and make sure it is functioning properly. I also like to change the batteries in my garage door openers, radio, and emergency flashlight at the same time.
4. Organize Your Space, Put Things Away, and Consider Using Storage.
Now it’s finally time to put everything away. How you do this is going to vary greatly depending on how you use your garage. Is it a gym, a workshop, or simply a place to park the car and keep a few things?
Regardless of how you use it, you want to avoid overpacking it. The easiest way to avoid spring cleaning your garage again is to maintain a clean and organized environment, always. If your belongings won’t fit in the garage in a way that allows you to clean and access everything, then you won’t enjoy them, or worse, you’ll buy something you already have. In the event that you have more items to store than space in your garage, consider using a storage unit.
If you decide to use storage, determine if you need long-term or short-term storage. I like to use the pile system again. I split everything up based on how often I need access to them. Things I use more often can stay in the garage until I’ve filled the space, and my other belongings go to storage. In most cases, you can find a storage facility within 5 miles of your home.
I hope this guide to spring cleaning your garage gets you motivated to organize and get rid of some stuff so that you can just walk around all the time.