We moved into our home about a year and a half ago. We didn’t have a garage in our last home, so we were excited not only to have a place to park one of our cars, but to use the extra shelves on the back wall to store things, and have our garbage and recycling “live” somewhere.   We have a good plan for the garbage and recycling, but the shelves had become filled without too much thought.  We put things there “for now” as we moved in, and then found ourself kind of hating what had become of the space, all sorts of stuff, but no plan.  But it worked enough to get our car in there, and we have room for stuff, so, was it really worth doing anything different?

The other day, I’d said to my husband, “How are you feeling about our garage?”  And he instantly responded, “I hate it. I just want to clean it all out and start over.”  So, we did.  We found ourselves up against all the traps that storing things in garages has, and forced ourselves to stay focused on the end goal:  An organized space, where we can find everything we need, have space for something new if we need it, and use every inch of it as well as possible.

We took EVERYTHING out, and started to go through and figure out what we really need, and what we were keeping because we’d been sucked into garage traps.  Are you guilty of these traps in your garage?

  • I could use this for something else. Maybe?

  • I have to take this to _____.

  • It just needs to be fixed.

  • We *might* need it again?

  • Well, if we have a yard sale…

  • People borrow this all the time.

  • We just put it there because it fit. 

  • You can never have too much ____, right? 

1)  I could use this for something else.  I was going

to ___ with it.

This could be extra lumber or other materials, things we saved for craft projects, whatever. For us, a good example was these super durable cardboard corner protectors that must have come from a piece of furniture.  Sure, they were out of the way, but why do we have them?  Really, what will we do with them?   Recycle. Now.   Another thing we found was a box I’d used as a backdrop for some craft projects.  That totally worked, and, guess what? I’ll find something that will work again the next time I need to do something like that.

2) I have to take this to ____. I just haven’t done it yet.

Things for donation, things we borrow from people and have to return, things that just plain belong somewhere else.  My guilty stash?  Bags full of other grocery bags that I’m going to bring back to the grocery store. Someday.  Another part of this trap?  “It’.

3)  It’s broken. It needs to be fixed.

This one is similar to the second one, but it requires SOMEONE to have a skill set to fix things.  If you think you (or someone in the house) has the skill to fix the item, schedule when that will happen, and make sure that, when it’s fixed, it goes into its new home.  If it’s something that needs to be repaired professionally, schedule that, too, and put it aside with the things that need to be taken somewhere else.

We were lucky not to have anything in this category, but I know this one well from other parts of the home. Even the “I need to sew this back up” pile taunts me.

4) We’ve used it before. We might need it again?

We got these awesome cardboard bottle carriers from my husband’s beer-of-the-month club. They’re nice. They’re durable. We could definitely imagine them being useful some day.  But, three of them??  We found an instant use for one (organize the power washer attachments in a “carrying” case), decided to bring one that doesn’t have any writing on it back to the store for their re-use, and recycle the last one.  We don’t need a “someday, maybe” stash of these.

Paint cans are a great example of this category. Ask yourself how many cans of paint you have that require you to store the whole can, even though you won’t use it again? Or, better yet, any cans of paint for which you’ve long since painted over in another color?)  Go through your paint storage; see what you can consolidate into smaller storage options, what’s dried out and should be tossed, what no longer is a color living in your home.

5) But we might have a yard sale. This would be good to sell there.

We had some things stashed away for this kind of thinking.  Perfectly good things (a new-in-box wall sconce that we bought, um, for our last home?).  For us, the imaginary yard sale stash doesn’t make sense. We don’t keep stuff around long enough (we regularly donate things we no longer want in our home) to ever really need a yard sale.  But, if that’s not your case, maybe you need to think about designating a very specific. limited space in your garage or basement, if you can afford the real estate. You then need to commit to yourself that the yard sale isn’t a SOME day, it’s a PARTICULAR day.  If you can’t imagine committing to a yard sale in the next two months, it’s probably never going to happen.  Check in with yourself and be honest.

6) We don’t really use this, but others borrow it from us.

Fortunately, this isn’t something we came across this time, but it’s something we’ve struggled with in the past.  I love being a resourceful and helpful person, having  things that other people can borrow in a pinch.  We once got rid of a huge aerobed, after I finally realized that the only use it had gotten in the previous several years was being loaned to the same person twice.  After he asked to borrow it a third, I told him to keep it. I never used it, and I wanted the space back. (Also, it was a pain to load in the car and lug around; let that be HIS job now!)  I don’t need to be the person that makes other people’s lives easier, at the expense to myself.

7) Well, it fit there, so we just left it.

My husband has these car ramps (about three feet long, eight inches wide, heavy metal ramps to drive the car on to if you want to do work under the car).  It fit on the right hand side of the floor, and you could still drive the car in and out, so what was the problem?  For me, the problem was it got in the way of my rolling the garbage can in and out of the garage each week.  While that was something my husband normally does, he can lift over them; I can’t.   So we decided we needed to find another space for them that not only worked for the ramps, but worked for the rest of the house.

8) This is where I keep all my _____ .  You can never have too much _____.

Unless the blank is filled in with “twenty-dollar bills” (which would be silly in the garage), there really is almost nothing that having unlimited supplies outweighs the expense of valuable storage real estate in your garage.  We got rid of quite a few things. We really had enough of the extra grocery bags, the twist ties, t-shirts turned into rags, the flowerpots unused the past few seasons.  Just because they’re perfectly good things doesn’t mean that they’re worth keeping around in your limited and valuable space.

After we were done, and we swept out the whole place, and thought of the best way to put things BACK on the shelves, we were really relieved.  We’ve been able to put things that *I* need to access on shelves I can actually reach, and put the things only my husband would use (car equipment, for instance) out of the way, but easy for him to get to. We’re still amazed at what a change just moving those car ramps have made in the roominess of getting in and out of there.

As for the things that didn’t stay in the space anymore, we immediately recycled and trashed some things, and others are in a donation pile and set up an action plan, so that we could follow through on the great results and keep working toward the end vision.  I set up an appointment for  Vietnam Vets to come take the donations away this week, and the grocery bags are in the car, for my next drive past the grocery store.

I’m lucky we both had the same drive to get some order in our garage, and we had great results!

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