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6 steps to a clean garage

You may dread it, but giving your garage a proper cleaning now can save you time and money for the summer.

Scott Gamm
by Scott Gamm, MainStreet contributor (@ScottGamm)

If there’s no room for your car in the garage, you know you have too much stuff (read: junk). The goal of any spring cleaning efforts is to carve out at least enough space for your car to fit, which means you’ll need to use every inch of the garage, including the walls and ceilings.

And since the weather is getting warmer and many people have goals of cleaning out their garages before summer starts, we’ve asked some experts to weigh in on how to make this painful cleaning experience a pleasant one.

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Get organized. Getting organized is easier said than done. But you may have to invest in sealed storage bins to properly organize all of what’s in your garage. After all, the temperature and humidity levels in the garage will vary throughout the year. Items you store in your garage that should ideally be stored in an attic (including family photo albums, clothing or electronics) need to be put in protective storage bins or they won’t last long.

“Have boxes and garbage bags available (and a small dumpster if needed) so you can place things in boxes for donation, trash or to be sent out for repair. Also, thick sharpies for labeling boxes, gloves and masks as needed,” suggests Denise Caron-Quinn, founder of the professional organizing firm In Order to Succeed.

Clear the garage. The first step: Simply take everything out of your garage and move it onto the driveway. It sounds like a daunting and exhausting task (it is!), but by going through every item in your garage, you’ll realize how much junk you have and how much stuff you can throw out. You may also find things you forgot about that you want to keep.

According to Andrew J. Mellon, life coach and CEO of VirgoMan, “As you start to dismantle the chaos that exists, you'll unload the entire garage into your driveway or on your front lawn. Do not try to organize the garage without doing this first. You'll end up chasing your tail and wasting time.”

Then you need to determine the usefulness of every item. Mellon suggests asking yourself, “How many hoses do you need? Does anyone still play badminton at your house? How about croquet?”

If there is no use for an item, it shouldn’t be wasting space in your garage. You may be able to sell a croquet set on eBay and make some money.

Before making any tough decisions, Ginny Snook Scott, the chief organization officer at California Closets, suggests measuring your car so you know how much room you will need and thus how many items to remove to make space.

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Use walls and ceilings. Instead of wasting vital floor space in your garage with bicycles, buy hooks to hang your rides on the ceiling. You read that right — the ceiling is a great way to maximize your garage space.

Consumer review website Angie’s List suggests a few ways to take advantage of wall space in your garage:

“By mapping out each wall in the garage, all the space is designated for something specific. One wall you could line with tall shelving and cabinets, the second could hold all hanging items and the third would hold all large items that take up floor space. And to get more hanging tools in a small area, hang wider ends so that they alternate up and down. For example, fan rake up; snow shovel down.”

Donate. While you may be inclined to simply trash all the stuff you don’t need in your garage, try to donate those items instead.

According to Matt Knox, CEO of home-improvement-specific classified ad website DiggersList.com, “If you don't want to sell your item, but you want it out of your garage, you can donate your item to more than 100 Habitat for Humanity ReStores around the country,” which you can do on DiggersList.

Of course, if you think any of it has real value, you can try listing your unwanted stuff on eBay.

Don’t clean alone. It’s always a wise idea to tackle this overwhelming task with the help of friends and family (though it may be tough to convince your friends to help you clean out the garage).

Take breaks and listen to music or the radio while cleaning. If you get discouraged, think of how a clean garage will make your life easier: the ability to protect your car from the snow and when it rains; and you won’t get wet when you get out of your car — at least for those garages that are attached to the home.

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And if your friends don’t want to help clean out the garage, see if they’ll help you paint it. Especially if you plan on selling your home, a garage with a fresh coat of paint on the walls and even on the floor will make a great impression on prospective buyers.

If you’re going to spend hours cleaning your garage, you might as well paint it too.

Hire a pro. If spending the entire weekend cleaning out (and painting?) your garage doesn’t sound terribly exciting, consider hiring a professional to get the job done right.

Barry J. Izsak, a certified professional organizer and author of Organize Your Garage in No Time, stresses the benefits of professional organizers:  “They offer a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective," he says.

A professional organizer will help you create a plan and a system you can stick to and guide you through the organizing process. Most importantly, professional organizers teach you skills that will work for you long after they’re gone.”