I’ve been mentioning it here and there for a while now, and I’ve been itching to chat about it, so let’s chat about it – the garage (cue the scary music)!!!  I’m not done nor near “reveal” status yet, but I’ve learned that you guys like the “get real” and “in progress” posts just as much as the ones chock full of pretty photos, so I wanted to give an update about where I started, where I’m at, and where I’m headed!

The garage has been THE problem area in this house pretty much since the day we moved in. For some reason, we I just couldn’t keep this space clean and tidy. In the two years we’ve been here, I think we have done an empty-it-all-and-clean-it-out 4 or 5 times; and each time it slowly slides back into a complete state of chaos. Add to our already messy garage my latest mission to purge our entire house of every last unnecessary item, and the garage had gotten completely out of control in recent weeks. For someone who hyperventilates at the site of clutter, it was a space I was embarrassed of, loathed being in, and even hated thinking about dealing with it. These horrible iPhone photos don’t really show how bad it was, as I stopped to take these after I had already been working in the garage for a few hours. Still, you can somewhat get a sense that our garage was a total mess, filthy, and completely dysfunctional and disorganized.

Garage Before-001

Garage Before-002

A few weeks ago, I had finally had enough. It had gotten so out of control that we couldn’t even move around in the space and it felt dirty and dangerous for all of us to even be in. Plus, I had purged and organized every other spot in this house, and the garage was last on the list. For someone who genuinely LOVES to organize and rarely gets overwhelmed by tackling clutter, this one had me stopped in my tracks. It took me a good few days to get up the energy and motivation to start…but once I did, I was off and running and I honestly wish I had done it sooner.

A lot of sorting, purging, sweeping, and re-organizing later, here’s where we are at now! I’m going to chat about all the organization systems I’ve used in here in some future posts, but the true turning point in getting this garage organized was applying the systems I use INSIDE our home to organized the OUTSIDE of our home. Inside our home, I utilize bins/baskets and wall storage like crazy in almost every room in our house. Bins and baskets keep like items corralled and easy to find, while wall storage keeps things off the floor so that there is free and open play/work space. Applying our inside systems to the outside seems like such a “duh” statement, but it really was a lightbulb moment for me. For the first time ever, I feel like we have a space we can and will maintain!

Garage Before-003

Garage Before-004

Garage Before-005

As I’ve been out working in the garage…sorting and organizing…pulling everything apart and putting everything back together…I’ve spent a lot of hours reflecting and thinking as I go (what else do you do as you sort through various-sized wood screws??)! As I thought through all my organization projects I’ve tackled, it occurred to me that I use the EXACT same process to organize every space I work on. This isn’t a system I sat down years ago and hashed out, it’s just a process that I follow time and time again and it just seems to work for me every time.

I know that getting started on big organization projects is one of the hardest things to do. So I thought this would be a good time to tell you a bit about how I go about organizing a big mess such as our garage. You can already see this process in action here, and if you go back through some of my other organization projects, you’ll see the same patterns emerge!

Garage Before-006

Every organizer I know, follow, and trust starts in the same place: empty it all out, sort and purge. I know it’s awful…and I know it means your big mess will get even bigger and messier, but you have to know what all you have, what all you need to store, and how it needs to be stored before you can go any further. By all means, work in manageable sections, creating piles and categories as you go, but the only way to get a space truly organized is to pull it all apart and get it all sorted into categories that make sense to YOU!

Once you’ve pulled everything out, purged items you no longer want/need, moved items to their rightful homes, and categorize/organized what is left, analyze the space, your budget, your current storage options and your emerging storage needs. Plan out how to move forward with the space, identify what items you need to make that happen and THEN GO SHOPPING for the exact items you need. Resist the urge to shop first. I know it’s fun to go out and find all new pretty storage systems, but you’ll have a much more efficient organizing project and better results if you sort/clean/analyze first and shop for just the right items next! In the case of my garage, I new I needed some sort of bins to hold like items. I needed the bins to be durable, inexpensive, and most of all, easy to hose down and clean up when necessary (this is the garage after all!). Old-school crates were the perfect solution! Second, I knew I also needed a better way to store our most-used tools and supplies–they get left laying out on the work benches way too much, leaving us with no work space. Our exposed beams and ample wall space made pegboard an obvious solution. For just about $30 total (bins and pegboard and hooks), I was able to get exactly what I needed to get this space functioning in a way that works for our family.

With your new supplies in hand, now it’s time to setup your space…put all those new bins or baskets or storage systems to use. Spend time finding the right homes for all the right things. Make sure things are easy to get to (and put away!) and things are placed in a location that makes sense (put the battery chargers near the outlets!). Move things around, experiment, and get creative until you have the space FUNCTIONING just as you need it to. This is where I’m at right now with our garage. I’ve done steps 1-4. After years of a poorly functioning space, it is now clean, organized and functioning just as we need it to. Now that the function is firmly established….it’s time to decorate!!!!

It’s really easy to get sidetracked with the fun and pretty stuff like labels and paint and pretty details, but I have found that it’s best to leave that to the very last step. It’s better to have a functioning space that’s not decorated than a still un-organized space with pretty labeled bins. Once the space is working right, then you can focus your energies on making it perfectly you! That’s what I’m going to be working on in the next week or so. All the hard work in the garage is now done, so now I can have fun playing with colors and design details that will make it a fun space for me to be in (and one I will want to keep clean!). Once I have those pretty details done, you can be sure I’ll be back here with all the final details for you! But just remember when you see the pretty end result, a ton of “ugly” time and effort and work went into getting it that way long before it was even close to pretty!

Oh! And you might notice that this is a “one sided” tale of my garage. Do you want to see the other side?

Garage Before-007

Gasp! That is my pile of “treasures” found all throughout our house during my Great House Purge. It looks better now as I’ve already sold off a lot of the furniture, but I’ve still got a long way to go in getting this pile gone. Lots of Craig’s Listing and garage sales in my future!

Alright – time for me to get back to the books! I’m sorry I have no pretty pinnable images for you today, but I hope there’s a few little good nuggets info here about how to tackle a big organizational project. It’s not fun or easy, but it sure is awesome when it’s all said and done!

Have a great Wednesday, friends!


See You Soon!