For many South Florida families, fall is the time to put away the hurricane shutters and supplies and get out the gardening tools.
If you plan to shove gear into arbitrary piles around the edge of the garage, you’re not alone: Many Americans say the garage is the most disorganized room in their home, according to the International Association of Business Organizing.
But a messy garage is not just unsightly, it can cost you money. People with cluttered garages tend to waste time searching for misplaced items and end up re-buying things they already own, says Erica Ecker, a professional organizer in New York City.
They also risk injury. Garages often hold hedge trimmers, table saws, toxic chemicals and other dangerous items alongside children’s scooters and bikes.
An overstuffed garage puts your vehicles at risk, too. When the car door can’t swing open without hitting a wheelbarrow or workbench, it gets dented and dinged. Monica Ricci, a professional organizer who makes appearances on the HGTV show Mission: Organization, says that in many homes, garages are so filled with clutter they stop serving their main purpose.
“When your garage is too full to park a car in, that expensive piece of machinery sits out in the elements every day and night while your clutter stays cozy and dry inside,” Ricci says. “What kind of sense does that make?”
Whether your garage is slightly disheveled or looks more like an overstuffed storage unit, fall is an ideal time to give it a tune-up using these steps from organizational experts:
• Prepare. Tackling a junk-filled garage is physically demanding. Ecker advises pacing yourself and setting a schedule in advance. Consider renting an outdoor storage container so your belongings aren’t sitting in the driveway or in the house for a month while you finish reorganizing the garage.
• Enlist help. If you can’t afford a professional organizer, recruit relatives or offer to swap labor with a friend who is planning a similar household project. An assistant can help you move heavy objects, keep you motivated and ask objective questions (“Do you really use that?”), says Ellen Kutner, who runs the company Simply Organized in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
• Empty and sort. Empty the contents of the garage out into the driveway and begin sorting it into piles, grouping like things together. Categories will vary by household, but you may start with Sporting Equipment, Tools, Hardware, Car Care, Lawn Care, Seasonal, Toys and Household Goods.
• Purge. The next step — paring down your stuff — is the most important. First, toss anything broken or expired. Return borrowed items to their owners. If you own multiples of something, donate the duplicates or sell them. Analyze how often things get used. “Too often the garage can be like a time capsule,” Ricci says. Are you storing camping equipment from when your college-age kids were Cub Scouts? Time to get rid of it.
• Find ways to downsize bulky items. For example, Ecker says, rather than storing mostly-empty paint cans for future touch-up jobs, keep a mason jar-size container of each leftover paint, labeled with the brand, color name and finish. “Being organized is not about being neat and tidy, it’s about limits and boundaries,” Kutner says. “You don’t need to stock everything you might one day need. That’s why there are stores.”