- HARRIET SCHECHTER
Attacking garage clutter takes
nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be
So wrote the oft-quoted
19th-century designer William Morris. Notice he made no mention of
Perhaps the opposite rule
applies there: Have everything in your garages that you know to be useless
or believe to be ugly.
At least that’s what it
looks like in the majority of garages, which appear to be stuffed with
everything but cars. This is because the garage tends to become a dumping
ground for all the things we’re not quite sure what to do with: boxes of
old records (both vinyl and paper); infomercial, impulse-inspired exercise
equipment; small appliances that have outlived their usefulness yet are
somehow “too good to get rid of”; and the inevitable unopened cartons
of belongings from the last move.
Then there are all those
items that actually belong in the garage — if you can find them: tools,
gardening supplies, bicycles, camping gear and sporting goods. And (dare I
say it) maybe a car or two.
If your garage is overdue
for an overhaul, here’s a step-by-step plan to help you get the job
1. Focus. Think
about how you currently use your garage versus how you’d prefer to be
using it. For example, maybe you currently use it for “storage” (a
euphemism for “dump”) but you’d like to be able to do woodworking or
crafts projects there — or perhaps even park a vehicle inside. Decide
how you want to use the space, and then sketch out a rough plan.
2. Inventory. Make
a list of the general categories of stuff currently cluttering your
garage. Then go back through the list and put a check-mark by the
categories you plan on keeping in your newly organized space, and a big X
next to the ones you plan to eliminate.
(Note: My book “Let Go
of Clutter” includes a Garage Inventory Checklist to help you create a
before-and-after plan for the specific types of things you plan to keep or
Keep in mind that
“Miscellaneous” is not an effective category. If you can’t pinpoint
an item’s purpose or place, get rid of it.
3. Deadline. Set
a deadline for getting the job done, and block out time in your calendar
or planner for your garage project. Tip: If you tie your deadline to an
event such as a neighborhood yard sale, you’ll have a better shot at
achieving your goal.
4. Prepare. Assemble
any supplies you might need to make the decluttering go smoothly, such as
protective gloves, storage bins and containers, boxes, marking pens,
labels, trash bins and, if necessary, a Dumpster. (A bulldozer is
5. Dig In. Allocate
two holding areas (outside the garage, if necessary) designated for
“keep” and “don’t keep” items. (Suggestion: The area allocated
for “don’t keep” should be at least twice as large as the “keep”
area.) Your objective is to fill up the “don’t-keep” section. You
may want to divide up this section with three or more containers labeled
“trash,” “donate,” “sell,” or any other relevant
subcategories. But keep it as simple as possible — creating too many
options is counterproductive.
Next, choose a path: Decide
whether you want to work around the perimeters going clockwise or
counter-clockwise, saving the middle for last (the Hostess Cupcake
method), or if you prefer a top-to-bottom de-layering process (the Oreo
approach). Whichever way you choose, what really matters is that you plow
forward systematically instead of hopping back and forth from pile to pile
or from area to area.
Finally, set a ticking timer
for small increments (10 or 15 minutes) to remind you to keep moving
forward and not get sidetracked.
Even useful and/or beautiful
things become clutter when you have too many of them, or if they are kept
in a way that diminishes their value to you.
So here’s another good
rule to live by: Keep the best and let go of the rest.
HARRIET SCHECHTER is
founder of The Miracle Worker Organizing Service and author of three
books, including “Let Go of Clutter.” Her online advice column is at www.MiracleOrganizing.com.