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Taking the Garage Challenge: Why Decluttering is Difficult and How to Simplify the Process

Ah, the garage, the catch-all space for stuff that you need to get out of the house, things you can’t bring yourself to throw away, things that don’t have a proper home or things that you don’t want to deal with-broken things, holiday things, things to be sold.  But these things accumulate and become clutter that builds and builds over time until the thought of having to declutter it becomes too overwhelming to even think about!  Unfortunately, this means that your garage becomes a black hole of clutter, making it difficult to find things that you need and shrinking any possibility of making the space useable.  While decluttering any space can be challenging, this blog will focus on why it’s so hard to clear out your garage and provide some easy tips to make the process easier and more manageable. So, bin bags and boxes for donate or sell items at the ready, and here we go!

1) Sheer Volume of Items

Garages are multi-purpose spaces, and this alone, means that they become the dumping ground for a variety of different items-indoor and outdoor, usually items that don’t have a designated spot anywhere else.  As a result, they tend to accumulate a huge amount of stuff, making decluttering them seem almost impossible.  The thought of even trying to sort through endless boxes, tools and miscellaneous items means that you are completely overwhelmed before you even get started, which means that you procrastinate and put it off as long as you can.


As with any decluttering job, to tackle the overwhelm, break the process down into small, bite-size amounts.  Garages can take a long time to sort out so set aside a day that you can dedicate completely to getting this mammoth job over and done with.  If you can, ask a family member (that doesn’t live in your home-think someone who has no attachment to anything hiding in your garage) to come and help you out for the day.  Once you’ve recruited some help, have a think about how you want this space to be used going forward.  Certain items may always need to be stored here so decide those ahead of time.  Next, start on the left of the garage and slowly work your way around the space in a clockwise direction.  Think about dividing your garage up into zones or sections that way you can work through in a set order so that you can keep up the motivation and momentum. 

2) Lack of Organisation

Let’s face it, most garages are a jumbled mess with no designated spaces for categories of items because often times, there is a complete lack of organising or sorting systems being used.  As a space that is multi-purpose, not having any organisation in place magnifies the problem, making it difficult to find things or to sort through the clutter.


Start off by sorting items into categories or other items that are similar such as tools, sporting equipment, gardening, or seasonal items.  Invest in some good shelving units, clear, plastic, stackable boxes, pegboards for hanging tools and special tool hanging hooks for things like brooms and rakes. Don’t forget to use the ceiling for storage, too.  This is often overlooked in garages and can be a great place to store things that are not used as often.  Any boxes should be labelled to make it easy to find things in the future.  This is NOT the time to be storing things in cardboard boxes or plastic bags.  Those items will fall apart over time, so they are not ideal for storing things that you want to use again. Once you have everything sorted, designate zones for different categories so that all similar things are stored together. Try and put items that are really heavy or that are used often near the bottom or more accessible areas.  This is also a great opportunity to create an inventory (paper and pen or there are apps you can use) of the items that will be stored in your garage to keep for future reference.

3) Emotional Attachment

Garages often house items with sentimental value or items that remind us of the past.  Whether it’s childhood memorabilia or items passed on from loved ones, the emotional attachment you feel towards these things will make them more difficult to let go.  Sentimental clutter presents one of the biggest challenges when decluttering because the decision to possible let go of these items can drain you emotionally. 


While it’s important to cherish memories, it’s also vital to think about the practical side of trying to keep everything.  Try and pick a few items that you can keep that best represent those memories, the ones that hold the deepest emotional importance.  Sort your sentimental items into categories for storage, too.  By allowing yourself the gift of keeping the most important items and letting the others go, you will be able to hang onto the memories without them overtaking your space.  That isn’t the point of them.  Remind yourself that there does need to be a balance between space and memories.  For those items that you do decide to let go of, consider donating them or passing them onto someone who will appreciate them.  By taking a bit of extra care to make sure that these items find new homes where they will be cherished can help with the guilt of saying goodbye.

4) Decision-Making Paralysis

When confronted with the sheer scale of items in your garage, it’s quite possible that decision-making paralysis can set in.  You may become overwhelmed with the thought of getting rid of things that you’ve owned for years.  It’s not just that though.  The task of deciding what to donate and what to keep can stop you completely in your tracks to success.  Sometimes it’s the fear of making the wrong decision but it can also be the fear of how to donate certain items. 


The truth is that you’re going to need to get really honest with yourself by asking some key questions.  When was the last time you used it?  Will you realistically need it again in the future? Does it serve a specific purpose or hold sentimental value?  Answering these simple questions honestly can help you decide which items to keep, donate or discard.  With sites such as Facebook Marketplace, Freecycle and Offer Up, it’s so much easier to give unwanted items away nowadays.  It’s also becoming so much easier to rent or borrow items that you rarely use instead of taking up space in your garage.  Local repair cafes are popping up more and more so for broken items, there’s a better chance you can get them fixed.  Give yourself a deadline though, otherwise the item has to go.  Remember, letting go of unused or unnecessary items is going to create a more organised, functional space to make your everyday life easier.  Isn’t that what everyone wants?

Decluttering a garage is a job that most people put off because it seems so daunting, but with the right approach, it is doable! Break the task down into small bits, be ready for the emotional decisions, invest in some kick-butt storage systems and get them installed and ask yourself some key questions to help the decision-making process to help you transform your cluttered, dumping ground of a garage into a clear, useable space.  So, roll up those sleeves, get some comfy clothes and shoes on, and let’s create a clear, useable space that you can access day-to-day.

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