How to Declutter a Messy Garage

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Originally published October 7, 2019 and updated February 22, 2023.

If you need to declutter your garage, your messy garage, you are not alone. This is a common decluttering challenge for families. It doesn’t have to be a daunting task when you use the free printable checklist below and follow these 40+ tips. These tips also the best way for decluttering a storage unit.

woman and man decluttering a messy garage

A messy garage didn’t develop overnight, so it will take time and effort to declutter your garage. But don’t be discouraged, when you know the simple steps to walk through sorting garage clutter, you can create a neat, clean, organized garage.

How to Declutter a Messy Garage

Assess Your Goals & Your Space

Garage Goals

Determine your goals for your garage. You have unique goals based on your life and your needs.

  • Has your garage become a dumping ground and you’re tired of having too much stuff in your way?
  • Do you want to be able to park two cars in your two car garage?
  • Do you want to be able to have a clear play space for your children over the winter?
  • Are you moving soon and need to get rid of unwanted items?
  • Do want to make your garage usable by setting up a garage storage solution that will actually work?
  • You want a clean garage or it’s time for a deep clean of the space.

You need to first establish your goals for the space so you know how much you need to declutter and later organize to make your goals a reality.

Your Garage Space

You also need to assess your unique garage space. Is there realistically enough space in your garage for you to do everything you want in the space? Assessing your space allows you to realistically declutter and organize your garage. Consider:

  • Clear as much floor space as possible, especially in the center of the garage.
  • Utilize wall space for vertical storage. You need clear garage floor space to walk through, to park a car and for projects. The vertical space is otherwise unused and is perfect for storage solutions. Consider:
    • Hanging garden tools and lawn equipment
    • Storing sports equipment and sporting goods
    • Wall-mounted bike racks
    • Storing big items that take up too much floor space
  • Use the space above the garage door for storage. This is also otherwise wasted space. Store items that are rarely used:
    • Decorations
    • Seasonal items, like lawn care or snow removal items
    • Sentimental items that you don’t need to access often
      • Be careful in storing these items in the garage because they can be damaged by the changes in temperature and humidity and by pests
      • Always store them in plastic containers to protect them if they’re small items.

The free Declutter Your Garage Checklist below contains a worksheet to help you asses your goals and space before you get started.

Choose an Approach that Will Work for You

Decluttering the garage is usually a big project. You should choose how you tackle your cluttered project by considering:

  • The size of the project
    • A bigger mess will take longer.
  • How much space you have to work in
    • You’ll need to be able to open storage boxes and sort the variety of items in to different piles.
    • If you don’t have much room to work in, the project will take longer.
  • The weather and temperatures
    • Consider how extreme temperatures will impact you when you declutter the garage.
    • If you don’t have a dedicated space in the garage, you’ll need space outside to sort items.
  • Your own schedule
  • Your energy level
    • Some people prefer to declutter the entire garage in one marathon session.
    • Other people need to work at it in smaller, easy steps.
  • Any pending deadlines
    • Whether you work on the cluttered garage all at once or in smaller amounts over time, will be influenced by whether you’re moving, selling the house or scheduling a yard sale.

Tips

If possible, declutter your garage all at once. It’s a big task, but it really is easier to make decisions if you pull everything out at one time. Because you have to pull everything out of your garage, you can’t secure or protect your items from the weather if you don’t complete the task in one day.

Get help because when decluttering your garage it is a very physical and dirty job. Plus, the more help you have, the more likely you are to be able to complete the job in one day.

If there is absolutely no way to complete the job in one day, then work on one half or one corner of the garage at a time. If you declutter your garage this way, you’ll have to be diligent about grouping like items together from different sections of the garage as you come to them when you get to the sorting step below.

Pull Everything Out

Yes, pull absolutely everything out of your garage. You need to do this so that you can more easily sort items into categories and assess them.

You also need to pull everything out because you’ll be surprised at items that are hidden or have fallen behind shelves and other items. You’ll only find those lost items when you pull everything out.

This also allows you to fully clean the garage before you put things back. It also allows you to assess your garage and whether there are pest infestations, leaks or other issues you need to address.

If you’re not able to pull everything out at once, the pull everything out of one area at at time. This allows you to still do the assessment and a good cleaning of the area before you move on.

Use the Declutter Your Garage Checklist

Get your free copy of the17-page Declutter Your Garage Checklist now when you sign up for our free newsletter. Use it to guide your garage assessment and decluttering process.

31 Days of 
10-Minute Decluttering 
Declutter 31 spaces in your home in one month.
Pop over to the private Simple Organization Tips and Ideas Facebook group so that you can interact with me and other motivated participants and view the videos that go along with the challenge.
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overhead view of purple and blue checklists and signs.

Sort Items Into Categories

Grab a trash bag and use the signs in the Declutter Your Garage Checklist to help you sort your items. The signs are particularly useful when you have helpers so that sorted items are placed in the correct areas.

garage items sorted into categories

Two Sorting Options

As you remove items, you will place in the in groups of similar items. This allows you to:

  • To clearly see how many you have of each item.
    • When you see how many you have, it’s the easiest way to make decisions about how many to keep and to let go.
    • You can then choose to keep the ones in the best condition.
    • You can pick out the ones you prefer.
  • Decide how many you can keep based on the space you have.
  • Make plans for creating a logical storage system and the organization tools you need.
  • Don’t purchase organizing tools until after you’ve decluttered.
    • It’s the best way to determine how much storage space you now have so you can determine the garage storage ideas that will work for you.
    • It’s the easy way to determine the products you will need to buy and the best ones for your garage because you can measure the space and the items you need to store.
  1. You can sort into general categories that make sense for you. For example, yard care, tools, bikes, sporting equipment, etc.
  2. You can also sort items by how frequently items are used. For example, with the yard care category, you may have items that you use:
  • Daily – Garden Hose
  • Weekly – Lawn Mower
  • Seasonally – Pruning Shears
  • Seldom – Chainsaw

I prefer to sort by how often the items are used because this helps you decide how to organize and where to place items when you put them back into your garage after you’ve decluttered. You’ll put the daily use items in the front where they are easy to access and the seldom use items in a less convenient location.

You choose which sorting option works best for you.

4 Images of signs to help declutter the garage

Declutter Ruthlessly

Be ruthless in your decluttering. Most of us keep too many items in our garage not because we’ve made a conscious decision to keep the items, but simply because we’ve delayed the decision about what should be done.

Make the tough decisions this time in decluttering your garage. Keep only items in good condition and let the unnecessary things go. If you’re having difficulty with letting go of a lot of clutter, refer back to your goals for your garage. When you have a clear vision of why you’re decluttering, it makes the decisions easier.

How to Declutter a Messy Garage
Sign up for our newsletter and get this free 17-page decluttering printable.
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Declutter:

  • Empty boxes
    • The cardboard ones attract bugs and pests.
    • Empty storage bins can be clutter. Only keep empty bins if you have a planned use for them.
  • Paint – the changes in temperatures cause paint to separate and dry out quickly. Check each can of paint and properly dispose of old paint that cannot be used.
  • Chemical and Yard Care Products – These products break down when stored in extreme temperatures. The changes in temps can also cause the bottle or container to degrade and breakdown causing spills and leaks. Keep only the products that you use frequently and dispose of older and not needed products properly.
  • Broken Items – Toys, tools, etc. If it’s broken, it needs to go.
  • Rusted Items – Tools and metal items can easily rust due to the humidity in the garage.
  • Excessive Multiples of Items – How many rakes do you really need? How many baseballs? How many medium-sized flat head screwdrivers? Only keep the number of items you really need. You want to make more space in your garage and the only way to do that is to declutter and get rid of items.
  • Outgrown Toys and Items – If the kids have outgrown the item, pass them along to another child that will thoroughly enjoy the item rather than just warehouse it in your garage.
  • Equipment from Bygone Sports and Activities – If you haven’t used it in a year, it needs to be passed on to someone who will put it to use. Life changes. Interests change. You don’t need to hold onto equipment and items for activities that don’t fit in your current lifestyle.
  • Items that You Can Borrow – Do you have a friend or neighbor that you could share equipment with? Why not each keep half of the shared items and gain extra space in the garage?
  • Items that Should Not Be Stored in the Garage – Move items in the list below to a safer or climate controlled area.

The Next Step

Take items immediately to be donated. Don’t let donations sit around or they will quickly become clutter.

Offer up items on free websites. It’s a good idea to prioritize the soonest pick ups so that items don’t get in the way of setting up your garage storage solution.

Set up your garage organization. I recommend planning it out and using the 50+ tips in Garage Storage Ideas.

What Should Not Be Stored in a Garage

  1. Keepsakes – extremes in temperatures and humidity can damage these items
    1. Photos
    2. Film
    3. Wedding Dress and Baptism Gowns – not only are these damaged by the temps and humidity, they attract pests.
  2. Temperature Sensitive Items
    1. Canned Food
    2. Paint
    3. Holiday Decorations
    4. Vinyl Records
    5. Candles
    6. Electronics
  3. Items that Attract Pests
    1. Books
    2. Clothing
    3. Cardboard
    4. Backstock of Paper Goods
    5. Dog Food
    6. Fire Wood
    7. Sleeping Bags & Bedding
  4. Flammable Items and Hazardous Materials
    1. Propane Tanks
    2. Gas
    3. Oily Rags
    4. Chemicals – this can include some cleaning supplies
  5. Furniture – the humidity and changes in temperatures can damage furniture

Resources for Creating and Using Your Printables

More Garage Organizing Ideas

Garage Storage Ideas – Organize your garage and make it work perfectly for your unique needs with these 50+ garage storage ideas, tips and products.

Neatly organized garage storage with text overlay

Outdoor Shoe Storage Ideas – More than 100 tips, products and DIY projects for outdoor shoe storage ideas. There’s something for every need, budget & DIY skill level.

rows of shoes on shelf outside.

How to Start Decluttering When You’re Overwhelmed – These 40+ tips will help you know how to start decluttering when you’re overwhelmed. Simple tips that work from a professional organizer.

papers scattered on desktop with pair of black glasses and computer keyboard

Find all my decluttering tips, printables and challenges in the table below. You can scroll though the table and look for ideas or search for specific ideas with the magnifying glass in the upper right-hand corner (on desktop). Click on the topic and then click through the specific article.

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2 Comments

  1. We’re trying to help my parents out with cleaning out their home of 52 years. You would not believe how big of a train wreck their garage is, I don’t think they’ve been able to park a car in there since the 90’s at least. I scheduled them a dumpster rental and I’m going to make my mom read through these tips to see how she wants it to be organized. Thank you so much for these tips!

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