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The "Time on your Hands" Garage Project Part 1: Clean it!

How long has a garage make-over been on your to-do list? Now might be an ideal time to get in there and begin. In this article, part 1 of a 3-part series, we walk you through tackling the big cleanout.

We know that many of you who are CARiD's customer base are enthusiasts at heart, and enthusiasts want their rides to be the best they can, AND want their garages and workshops to be that way too.

Many of us are home, perhaps working from home, or maybe home and not working at present. Either way, you may find yourself with some extra time on your hands. These may be uncertain times, but that doesn't mean we can't think positive thoughts. One way to stay positive is to stay engaged, and one way to do that is by diving into a project.

We thought it would be constructive to share some ideas about tackling that garage project which has been on your to-do list for, like, forever. This is NOT some mega-dollar, multi-month, 12-subcontractor rebuild like you might see on reality TV. Instead, our focus here is on a budget-conscious, mostly DIY approach which for some can be accomplished in a long weekend, and for others, could be spread out over a few weeks.

What's important to remember right now is that you have some time, you have the desire, and you have our guidance! This will be a 3-part series of articles: Part 1 is "Clean it!"; Part 2 is "Design it!" and Part 3 is "Organize it!". Here, we present Part 1.

Clean it!

I've seen inside enough garages to be convinced that an alien from outer space would presume that garages are SUPPOSED to be filled with outdated furniture, last year's Christmas tree, broken lawn equipment, and enough cardboard boxes to build a 20 ft. high wall. Our initial challenge might be the toughest: sorting through and tossing out all the crap that doesn't belong there.

Garage Mess
What a mess!

The best approach is to break this down into manageable chunks. We've all heard the expression "one person's junk is another person's treasure". And what I think of as "junk" might be precious memories to you, so you won't be reading any advice from us along the lines of "that old baby book from 1954?!? Toss it!" Instead, we offer this generic approach: everything currently in the garage should be divided into 3 major categories:

  • Stuff that belongs in the trash
  • Stuff to keep that belongs elsewhere
  • Stuff to keep that will stay in the garage

Stuff that belongs in the trash

Some people say that the best time to throw away stuff is when you're in the mood to do that. How do you get yourself in the mood? By picturing the end result. You're embarking on this garage project because you want to recapture the space for yourself, your cars, your workshop, whatever. With that in mind, we suggest that you pick up each item ONCE, and without lingering, decide, does it stay or does it go?

If it's going, the sooner it leaves your hands and finds its way into a trash receptacle, the better. Large plastic garbage bags work well, or if you want something a bit studier than plastic bags or bins, consider an all-metal trash can, which can handle a lot more abuse in a workshop environment. Large, bulky trash like Aunt Martha's old sofa may require you to order a dumpster. It's simply unproductive to move trash from one corner of the garage to another. Speaking from experience, I can state with confidence that if you have a dedicated trash bin for the junk, the more likely the junk will end up there! (This is also a good time to re-read that Marie Kondo book your spouse gave you for your birthday.)

Pit Pal's Sturdy Metal Garbage Bins  In Medium And Large Sizes
Pit Pal's sturdy metal garbage bins are available in medium and large sizes.

Stuff to keep that belongs elsewhere

Garages are magnets for all kinds of household stuff that isn't trash: bicycles, lawn mowers, holiday decorations, and seasonal patio furniture are some common examples. Auto enthusiasts have long resigned themselves to the conclusion that this stuff takes storage precedence over their precious vehicles, except, it doesn't have to be that way.

First, double check any basement or attic space to see what might be relocated there. One danger is that THOSE spaces may need their own cleanout first before anything additional is added!

Second, consider purchasing some extra storage room. You can go the route of one of those self-storage facilities, but they come with their own set of drawbacks: a never-ending monthly rental fee, and time-consuming access because of their remote locations. A better choice is to buy a storage shed for your yard. We have them, and some of these units start under $200. There's an almost infinite selection of sizes and styles, and most can be assembled by you on-site. The cost of a shed is equal to what you would pay for several months' rental at a self-storage place, and, you get to keep everything at home.

Shed From Arrow Storage Holds A Lot Of Garden Equipment
This 8' x 3' shed from Arrow Storage costs under $400 and holds a lot of garden equipment.

However, don't turn that new shed into a downsized version of your messy garage. To provide just one example of getting that new storage spot off to a good start, consider this folding bicycle rack from CargoLoc. It holds 2 bikes, gets them off the floor, and folds out of the way when not in use. You get the idea. Relocating items OUT of the garage is not an excuse for recreating a mess elsewhere. Whether it's shelves, hooks, racks, or bins, investigate ways to keep your attic, basement, and storage shed as organized as possible.

Stuff to keep that will stay in the garage

We're getting to the fun stuff now. Gather into one general place all the automotive, garage, and workshop items which are probably scattered to the four corners. I'm talking about that half-empty container of wax, the packet of #8 wood screws, the bottle of 10W-30 oil, the old t-shirts you cut up into rags, the multi-pack assortment of sandpaper, and that beginner tool kit which you promised yourself would find its way into a tool chest someday.

We are a long way away from a proper organization of these items, but for right now, once you've gathered them into the same area, keep them together. These tools, supplies, and precious fluids belong in the garage!

After all this work, you should be looking at a fairly empty space: junk gone, household (but non-garage essential) items moved elsewhere, and finally, some room to move. What's left? You may have literally nothing else in the garage, or, you might have a workbench, some shelves, a storage cabinet or two, perhaps a backup refrigerator. That's ok, because next, you should clean up this bare or mostly bare area the best you can.

If you don't own one already, a wet-dry shop vacuum is an invaluable early purchase. I've had my 16-gallon unit for over 20 years, and it has cleaned up all kinds of messes, from sawdust to minor flooding mishaps. Canister vacuums offer the best bang for the buck in a workshop/garage environment, and start at well under $100.

Shop-Vac Brand Unit
This Shop-vac brand unit holds 8 gallons in its stainless steel tank, and is under $100.

If you're dealing with a particularly murky mess, a pressure washing may be called for. A pressure washer will clean an oil-stained encrusted floor in a way that a shop vac cannot. Take your pick between electric and gas power, with units again starting under $100. And please don't think of shop vacs and pressure washers as single-use purchases. You will find that both of them have multiple uses around the house and yard, and will serve you for years to come.

If you've gotten this far, congratulate yourself, because the hard part is over. In Part 2, Design it!, the real fun begins, as we walk you through the steps to lay out the garage of your dreams.

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