9 Tips That Will Make Spring Cleaning Your Garage a Breeze

Experts share their top tips for creating—and maintaining—order in the garage.

Garages may be the designated home for our cars, but they can all too easily become a dumping ground for clothes the kids have outgrown, empty paint cans, and other items we just don't want to deal with. A day (or two) dedicated to spring cleaning your garage will help you start the season—and the year ahead—with a tidy, organized space. To help get you started, we asked experts to share their top tips for cleaning up this often-ignored space.

organized garage shed

Define Your Space

Over a long winter, garages tend to become a jumbled mess, so your first focus should be restoring order. To do so, start with a goal in mind, says Marty Basher, the home organization expert with ModularClosets.com. Are you an avid gardener? Do you need easy access to your favorite sports gear? Does your garage need to double as storage and a laundry room? "Having a plan for the final functionality of the space is key to achieving a successful spring cleaning," say Basher.

Create a List

Make a list of things that need to get done or sketch out a rough plan of the final result. Then open those doors, let some air and light in, back out your car, and begin. Putting on some inspiring tunes or an engaging podcast doesn't hurt either.

Pick Your Process

Tackling a space like the garage may seem daunting, so it's important to first figure out the best way to get the job done.

Do Easy Tasks First

Consider doing the easiest things first, like gathering up recyclables or tagging items you can donate or bring to the dump, says Maeve Richmond of Maeve's Method. Then, the goal is to empty the entire garage out and build it back up, piece by piece. It might take a day or two—or even a few weekends—so do your best to restore order at the end of each session. "If you can leave everything outside on the driveway or lawn, just cover them up with a tarp at night to fend off on-lookers and springtime rain," she says.

Work in Small Sections

If that seems too intense, pick a small section that's bothering you most and begin there, says Jeni Aron, the Clutter Cowgirl. "Try to detach from feeling guilty that you've let the garage get to this point and lead with the mindset of just getting started," she says. "Once you've tackled a hard area, the rest will be cake. Set another block of time for the following week and keep going in those short spurts until it's done."

Sift Through Unused Items

A common rule when cleaning out your closet is if you haven't worn it in over a year, it's time to say goodbye; the same guidelines can be applied to your garage. If no one has touched those rollerblades in over a decade, it's OK to let them go. If your family didn't take to Sunday croquet matches as you'd envisioned, don't beat yourself up about it. Donate them and they might end up getting some use instead of gathering dust. "Be honest about your hobbies, activities, possessions, and life," says Aron. "On the flip side, do you love skiing? Are you big into fixing things in your home? If so, the materials for these activities should be honored and given prime real estate."

Itemize Your Belongings

If you're having trouble letting things go, Basher suggests itemizing things into "use regularly," "use annually," "never use," and "sentimental storage" categories. Everything in "never use" can be donated or tossed. Check annual and regular-use items for signs of wear and tear, and replace or store them. When it comes to things that are purely sentimental, focus on what you really want to keep and what you actually have room to store safely.

Use Storage Shelving

If you don't already have a proper organizational system, now's your chance to get things in order. Richmond says the best type of garage storage is anything that goes up. If your shelving is wall or ceiling mounted, even better. "A garage with a parked car or two is tight, so use your walls, even ceilings, as best you can to maximize space," she says.

The ideal options are open metal or wire shelving systems, with tubs and bins for things like holiday decorations. "Don't forget lids for the top layer of bins," says Basher. "The dead space above your equipment storage system can function nicely as a place to store extra paper towels or water coolers in the offseason."

Hang Tools

If square footage is an issue, use a peg board with hooks for vertical wall hanging. Most gardening tools have handles, so try to hang shovels and trowels on the wall to save space and keep items off the floor. You can also hang golf bags, tennis rackets, and bikes if you're not using them on a daily basis (a floor parking rack is great if you're an avid biker). "Nothing makes for a more nerve-wracking parking experience than a bike leaning precariously against a garage wall," says Richmond.

Another solution: Use a stud finder and screw an S hook into the ceiling, then hang your bike by the tire. They're easier to take down like this and will be out of the way. It's also helpful to store balls and sports equipment in mesh bags hung at eye level so you can see what you're looking for—mesh storage bins work well, too.

Use Wheeled Storage

If you aren't blessed with a gardening shed, your garage is the next best thing. You can store soil, pots, and planters on a potting shelf, but another option is keeping your tools in a wheeled bucket or wheelbarrow so you can easily pull it out whenever you need to get to work on those weeds.

Create a Lean-To Shed

If your gardening equipment is just taking up too much space, Basher says another option is a lean-to shed attached to the exterior wall of your garage: "These small sheds can be built to suit your needs and can double as a gardening shed complete with potting table."

Find Alternative Storage

It's so easy for the garage to become a catch-all place, but we're not looking for a life-size junk drawer—and some things are just not suited for garage living. If you're using something on the regular, it should be kept in the house. A coat rack in the garage may seem like a good idea, but your clothes could be exposed to whatever critters are crawling around in there and the damp, cold, or humid conditions can lead to mold.

That goes for furniture, soft toys, and photo albums as well. And speaking of critters, avoid shelving dry goods or other food items in the garage. "If you store birdseed or other types of animal feed, a metal bin away from moisture is best," says Basher. He also says to use caution when storing fuels and flammable liquids, they should be kept separate in an area where they can't be knocked or spilled.

Consider Placement

A garage should operate similar to storage inside your home, so be thoughtful of placement and make sure the items you use more often are in accessible areas. "All of the tips in the world won't help if the job goes against your natural routine," says Basher. "Build an organizational system that accentuates your patterns. If you always kick off your shoes by the garage door, put a shoe basket there. If you need the hose every day on the patio, get hose storage out there to avoid hauling it back and forth or just leaving it in the grass."

Get the Whole Family Involved

A good way to get everybody in the family on board (and impressed) with your new organizational system, is to label everything from the hooks and pegboard stations to your storage bins. This will also ensure that items are put back in their proper place, and everyone will appreciate how easy it is to find their soccer gear in a rush to practice. "It will go a long way towards keeping your garage from cluttering up, and doorways and floors clean and clear year-round," says Richmond.

Organize in Sections

Another way Aron suggests getting your household involved is to give everyone a section of the garage to take care of. "Spring cleaning is not a one-and-done type of activity," she says. "Like going to the gym, you have to maintain the workout. Make sure everyone has a spot, or at least that they know where their favorite items live. When a kid (or a partner) is given responsibility and structure for their possessions, they'll take pride in maintaining the upkeep."

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