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Declutter Your Garage (and Make It Safer)

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Here is how you can use your time at home to declutter your garage and make it safer.

One of those projects you’ve probably been meaning to get to one day is probably to organize and declutter your garage.

Here’s some additional motivation: Decluttering and organizing your garage can also boost safety and security. Not only will you get more use out of your garage and be able to find things easily, but decluttering can also help protect you and your family from hazards and thieves.

This task also has the potential to help you avoid an insurance claim.

Here are some ideas to make your garage decluttering and organizing more productive.

Declutter First

It makes sense to get rid of the stuff you don’t want or need before trying to organize. Plus, sorting through everything will help you think about organizing what’s left.

If possible, set aside an entire day, or even a weekend, for the project. Making it a family project or involving relatives or close friends can help make the chore easier.

First, sort everything into four piles:

  • Keep
  • Donate
  • Sell
  • Toss

It’s easiest to pull everything out of the garage and sort it outside, such as in your driveway. Even emptying and sorting one section of the garage at a time is easier than trying to sort everything inside the garage. Start closest to the garage door(s) and work your way inward.

If you’re not sure about an item, ask yourself, “Have I used this in the past year?” If the answer is “no,” it’s probably time to get rid of it. The only exception is if it’s an item that you haven’t used, but when you need it, you really need it. There may not have been enough snow to break out that snow thrower last winter, but you could be happy you have it during the next winter season. Also, think about whether it’s an item that you can sell, and then rent if you need it later—particularly if it’s a large item. Be ruthless about items you’ve been “meaning to fix” but haven’t gotten around to yet.

To save time, have boxes or bags handy for items that you intend to donate, so you can box/bag them up as you sort and have them ready to be taken out right away. Research what items your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity and other agencies will accept. Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and Freecycle are also good outlets for items other folks can use (and they’ll generally come to your house to get them).

If you have many large items that you don’t want, it may make sense to rent a dumpster or a truck/trailer that you can use to haul these items to your local dump.

Organize and Store

Pinterest and other sites are filled with storage ideas, from raised platforms to wall- or ceiling-mounted bicycle racks. Getting larger items off the floor can clear a lot of room and make your garage much more useable.

Store items that are typically used together—such as athletic gear or gardening tools—in one spot. Home centers have many storage products, or you can build your own if you’re handy. Don’t feel limited by products designed specifically for garage storage; many closet-organizing products work equally well in a garage. Storage solutions for children’s rooms, such as toy organizers, may also work well in your garage. Hooks, shelves, storage chests, lockers and drawers all make good garage organizers. Even items not usually used for storage—such as a length of inexpensive rain gutter—can be mounted on a wall and used to store lightweight lumber, pipes, and other long, thin items.

As a general rule, the more items you can get off the floor and on shelves, hooks or platforms, the better. Look for storage solutions that can do double duty, such as a bench with a shelf underneath.

Garage Storage Safety

When organizing your “keep” pile, follow these safety tips:

  • If you have chemicals or flammable liquids stored in your garage, make sure they’re not accessible by children or pets.
  • Keep fuel containers less than 95% full, to allow for expansion in hot weather. Discard containers that no longer are 100% sealed. If vapors are escaping from a container, one spark can ignite them.
  • Never store gas cans or other flammable liquids in a spot that’s close to a heat source, such as your vehicle.
  • Put chemicals in a locked box or on a high shelf. This includes spray cans, paint, pest control products, and pool chemicals. Many are dangerous or poisonous.
  • Make sure lawn mowers and power tools have cooled down before storing
  • Store sharp tools should out of reach of children and pets, and organize these items so they don’t create tripping hazards.

Don’t Forget the Garage Door

Finally, this is also a good time to test and check your garage doors. Put a brick or block of wood in the door’s path and check that the motor reverses when hitting it. Use a broom or other long object to interrupt the electric eye while the door is closing to make sure the safety reverse works.

Once every six months, check the door thoroughly. Look for loose or missing bolts or brackets. Tighten/adjust chains. If the owner’s manual (usually available online if you’ve misplaced yours) recommends lubrication or other maintenance, this is a good time to do that as well. If a spring or bracket breaks, replace it immediately. Using the door with a broken part can cause damage.

Its Worth the Work to Declutter Your Garage

Not many people get excited about cleaning and decluttering the garage. But when you organize and declutter your garage, you might find things you didn’t know you had, make a little money selling unwanted items, and earn a tax donation and feel good about donating unwanted items. Don’t forget to update your home inventory while going through your garage. You’ll certainly be pleased when it’s done.

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