The garage was originally created as the part of the home used to store a car or other vehicle. But over the years has yours become more of a catchall area for power tools, extra furniture, clothing and athletic equipment? Has the mess taken over so much space that you haven’t dreamed of parking a car in there in years? Time to get organized!

Take everything out of the garage

Hopefully in front of your garage you have a fairly empty driveway you can work with. If need be, park your vehicles in the yard or on the street temporarily. Of course, choose a day when it is relatively warm and unlikely to rain before you haul all of your stuff out into the open air

While you have your garage sitting empty, take a shop broom and sweep it out. Then get rid of any cobwebs that may have gathered along the ceiling or in the corners.

*if you have a door release handle for your garage, be sure to advise children and mischievous adults to stay away from it while you clean.

See what you can part with

Most likely there are a lot of things stored in your garage that you don’t need – and probably a few that you didn’t even know were in the garage in the first place: Halloween costumes from ten years ago, ski boots that no longer fit anyone in the family, expired cans of soup, etc. Sort these items into three piles: trash, give away and sell.

The trash pile, obviously, is for things that just need to be thrown out. If the items are small you can just put them out in the garbage can. However, larger items, like furniture or appliances, need to be taken to the landfill or left out for bulk pickup. Call the number for city services to see if you have bulk pickup in your area.

Next, move on to the giveaway pile. This pile is for items you would either like to give to friends and neighbors to clutter up their garages or would like to donate to charity. If a friend wants said items, tell him to come and get them immediately. You don’t want to put them back into the garage or leave them sitting in the driveway. For charity items, either drive to the donation center and drop them off or find a charity that will pick the items up if you leave them on the doorstep or curb. Many charities will agree to do this. In fact, you may have gotten phone calls or cards in the mail.

Lastly, you’ve made it to the sell pile. These items are ones that you can make some extra money from, such as children’s toys, house wares or collectibles. Either put them up on eBay or craigslist, or any other ecommerce site available to you, or start organizing a yard sale. Click here for an article on how to do this.

Add shelving if you need to

So, what do you have left to put back in your garage? Clothing? Tools? Bicycles? Depending on what you have, there are many storage options that you can consider. The main thing you should think about is whether or not you would like to have space for your car.

If so, unless you have an incredibly expansive garage, you will need to put the shelving tight against the wall. You may want to measure the width of the vehicle and then give yourself a two to four foot clearance around it (you do want room to get in and out of the car after all) before you start building anything. Mark it on the floor of the garage with chalk if necessary.

The simplest shelving can be built by using two by fours or similar sized pieces of wood and simply laying cut particle board on top of them. Alternately, you can buy readymade shelving or an organizer from your local home improvement store.

Hang things up

Some things, such as bikes, weren’t really made for shelves, but you can hang them on the wall of the garage and take them down as needed. This applies to seasonal items, like sleds and skis, as well. Check your local sporting goods store for appropriate hangers or simply put up some strong and sturdy nails. You can hang things from the ceiling as well. Just make sure they don’t get in the way of the garage door.

Put small items in bins

There isn’t a better garage organization tool than the sturdy plastic bin. You can use them for smaller items, such as soccer balls and extension cords, and either put them on a shelf or stack them neatly on top of each other against the wall. Label them with a piece of masking tape and you’ll know exactly where to find what you’re looking for and your items will be protected from dirt, dust and moisture.

*Be sure to get bins that are the right size to fit your shelves. Take measurements before you go. Never stack heavier bins on top of lighter bins. The weight could crush the bin on the bottom.

Put everything back

Once you’ve got your shelving in place and your nails or hangers on the walls, it’s time to restock your garage. If you find that you don’t have space for everything, recheck your inventory and see if there’s anything else you can get rid of or that you can store somewhere else in the house or in a shed. If that still doesn’t work, consider renting a storage unit.

Pull the car in

(optional) Now that your garage is all spic and span, pull your car in to make sure that it will fit properly – if that was your goal anyway. Make sure that not only will the car fit with room on the sides but also that you can actually close the door. If not, some reorganization is in order.

Keep the garage clean

Think about how your garage got to be a mess in the first place. It was most likely because it became a catch-all area for stuff you didn’t have a place for in the past. Change your mind set to this: If I don’t have a place for this item, do I really need to keep it? Taking a few minutes to consider this question could save you tons of room in the long run.

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