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Main Content

Cut the Clutter

By T. L. Dew

To everything there is a season, and spring is the perfect time to clean and organize the garage.

The very idea may seem daunting to some homeowners, especially if the garage has become a catch-all for everything from old garden tools to children’s toys to boxes stuffed with who-knows-what.

But don’t despair, professional organizer Barry Izsak, says. You’re not alone and there really is a way to get control of the chaos.

“The average American two-car garage has become a no-car garage because it is filled with so much clutter,” Izsak says. “It is really ironic that the one room of our house where the door is opened daily for the whole world to see is the most unsightly, poorly neglected room of the home. Once the clutter starts accumulating, it multiplies.”

Izsak, the founder of “Arranging it All,” an Austin, Texas, professional organizing service, has been helping people get organized for 20 years. He also is the author of Organize Your Garage in No Time.

Clutter happens, Izsak says, because people avoid making decisions about what to do with items they no longer use.

“We end up keeping these things in our garage and delay that decision, and as soon as we start making those decisions then the clutter disappears,” Izsak says.

“One of the reasons that people don’t make these decisions is that they are so overwhelmed they don’t know where to start.”

Begin, Izsak says, by breaking the task into small manageable pieces.

“It’s not realistic to think that you’re going to be able to clear 10 to 15 years of clutter in one afternoon,” he says.

Izsak suggests that overwhelmed garage owners start by making the easy, non-emotional decisions.

“Don’t start sorting screws or going through family photos,” he says. “Start with the easy big decisions — the bike with the tires that are not pumped up or the training crate from your large dog from when they were a puppy.”

Remove as much as you can: toss, recycle, or give it away.

Then, divide the garage into zones. Everyone’s zones are different. You may have a zone for sporting goods, another for toys, and another for tools.

Put the items in their respective zones first. Once that’s done, then sort the items in the zones.

“That’s when you find out, ‘I’ve got five shovels or two (string trimmers),” Izsak says.

Now, start asking questions: When was the last time I used it? Is it still relevant to me? Does it work? Is it safe to keep?

For example, the broken cord on that old lamp. You’re probably not going to fix it, and if you’re not an electrician, you might not want to try. Get rid of it.

As your zones come together, you might need containers for storing smaller items.

“If you do a good job of containerizing then you’re going to have a better chance of keeping the stuff together and it not become that jumbled up mess again,” Izsak says, adding to be sure and label the containers.

Think about adding shelves or cabinets to get items off the floor. Peg boards are popular and convenient for hanging tools.

Once you have a place for everything and everything is in its place, keep it that way. If you use it, put it back.

“The best system in the world is not going to last,” Izsak says, “if you don’t stick to it.”