For so many of us, the garage is a treasure trove of sorts. It's not only where we store our favorite recreational gear and gardening tools, but it's also a spot to stash items that just don't fit indoors anymore. With all the stuff we pack into this catchall area, it's understandable how the garage can so easily become cluttered and dirty.
Spring is a time of renewal and regeneration, which makes it a perfect opportunity to freshen up this space. With a little strategic cleaning and organization, you won't be digging through dusty, unlabeled boxes to find what you need anymore. Check out these five hot ways to kick off spring cleaning in your garage.
Get Organized with Good Gear
Keeping items organized will not only make them a breeze to locate, but you might even find they're more enjoyable to use when you can easily get to them.
Try grouping similar objects in one area, like sports equipment or automotive supplies. Keeping seasonal items all in one place can help, too. Plastic bins are an easy, inexpensive way to store all kinds of things. From pool towels and Christmas decorations to camping gear and previous years' tax records, almost all your storage needs can be met with these plastic bins.
Keep as much as you can off the floor to maximize square footage and order. If possible, install extra-deep shelves about 1 1/2 feet to 2 feet (18 inches to 24 inches) wide to get materials out from underfoot. If you're likely to overdo it and haphazardly cram rows of shelves with goods, perhaps vertical cabinets with doors would be a better option. Locker-style cabinets are widely available and relatively inexpensive. This way, you acquire storage space and avoid the eyesore of a mess. Pegboards let you hang relatively lightweight items, and screw-in hooks allow you to mount a bicycle and bigger items on a wall or ceiling.
Give the Garage a Good Scrubbing
Let's be realistic: A garage is a storage area for many things that are used exclusively outside. It's not supposed to be immaculately clean and 100 percent dust-free. It can, however, be a relatively clean area that feels good to use.
To achieve this state, sweep and (if possible) hose down the floor. Swat down any cobwebs you find. Use a clean rag and water to wipe down big surface areas to minimize fine dust that tends to settle on things. Spray down lawn furniture. Launder outdoor pillows, cushions or towels to get rid of mold or mildew (a washer's hot water setting is best).
If you're leery of using chemical cleaners for health reasons, try making your own eco-friendly multipurpose solution that's free of harmful chemicals or irritants. Simply mix water and vinegar together; the tougher the job, the more vinegar you should use (the odor will disappear when the solution dries). Use it to clean the inside and outside of windows and other surfaces.
If there isn't enough room to store all your household cleaners indoors, go ahead and keep them in the garage. Since you will probably access this collection regularly, keep these items together on a shelf or inside a cupboard or bin that's about waist-level for easy access.
Bring out Garden Supplies
Trees are budding and flowers are blooming -- your lawn is going to be growing in full force soon, too. It's time to dust off your lawnmower! Work through the manufacturer's checklist to prepare it for use after it's been winterized.
This is the time of year that many bulbs require planting. If you've kept these roots wrapped in newspaper indoors, inspect them for mold and overall health. Plant them when the climate is right, according to their instructions.
Gather planters and pots; plan what vegetation you want to put in the containers this season. If you're starting flowers or vegetables as seedlings on your own, rather than buying them at a nursery, try keeping them in your garage on a workbench under a lamp or on a windowsill until they're ready to be transplanted outdoors.
Bring all your gardening tools and yard equipment to the forefront, within easy reach. Conduct a quick quality check. Take note of any worn-out or broken items that need to be replaced.
Prepare Springtime Recreational Supplies for Use
Gray winter months draw us indoors, bundled away from the cold. Summers pull us outdoors, where warmer weather incites all kinds of recreation and activities. And sandwiched between these two seasons is spring, an important transition time. This is when we gear up for all the playtime ahead.
This means it's time to break out the toys! Do you really want to take a bicycle for a spin if it's mounted on a wall behind piles of odds and ends? Get it out, inflate the tires and keep it in an accessible place so you can easily hop on for a joyride.
Since you already have out the pump, inflate other things that will need a little air after sitting dormant for a season: soccer balls, basketballs, pool floats. Restring tennis rackets, mend your lucky badminton net and replace tennis balls that have lost their bounce and sidewalk chalk that's been reduced to nubs.
You'll also want to get ready for entertaining outdoors. Scrub down the grill so it's ready for the season's first cookout, and bring out the lawn furniture. Dust off or hose down outdoor tables and chairs.
Make Your Garage Safe
Since your family will be coming in and out of the garage more frequently as they grab recreational supplies, take the time to make this space a little safer. Place hazardous materials up high, away from children. Make sure your kids know what areas or items in the garage are off-limits and not to be touched. If there are sharp tools or potentially dangerous materials in there, draw boundaries. This means telling children (including curious young neighbors who might find their way into your garage) that they're not allowed in there and why. Make sure to enforce your rules so you're taken seriously and your family and neighbors stay safe.
Minimize risk by using nontoxic or green materials when possible, such as low-VOC paint. If you have to store gasoline for your lawnmower, for example, ensure it's kept in a properly sealed container.
Other risky items sometimes stored in the garage include guns for sport, such as hunting rifles. If you have a weapon like this that's stored in the garage, always keep it locked in a safe when not in use. Store it in a place that isn't easily accessible, especially to children.
Those worn but loved sneaks can look almost new with a few cleaning tips we got from a pro.
- "Preparing Bulbs for Winter: How to Store Bulbs for Winter." Gardening Know How. 2010. (April 15, 2010).http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/flower/preparing-bulbs-for-winter-how-to-store-bulbs-for-winter.htm
- "Starting Seeds Indoors." Garden Guides. 2010. (April 15, 2010).http://www.gardenguides.com/3021-starting-seeds-indoors.html
- "Vinegar and Baking Soda Cleaning Recipes." Natural Healthy Home Cleaning Tips.com. 2010. (April 15, 2010). http://www.natural-healthy-home-cleaning-tips.com/vinegar_baking_soda_cleaning_recipes.htm