Is too much stuff in your garage threatening to crowd out your car? You can take back control with the smart de-cluttering strategies rounded up here, culled from the country's top organizing experts. They’ve estimated the time required for each project and recommended supplies that can simplify the job. You’ll also find tips for organizing the food in a chest or stand-alone freezer, which frequently has a home in a garage.
“The first step is always to review what you have and decide what you no longer need, use, or love,” says Cary Prince, certified professional organizer and a board member of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO).
Then edit ruthlessly. Remove anything you haven’t touched in about a year: Trash what’s not useful to anyone and make plans to sell or donate the rest. You’ll be amazed how much space you can reclaim by finding a place for everything—and keeping everything in its place.
Crowded Garage or Shed
• Time required: 1 day
• Helpful supplies: Storage bins, baskets and shelves, tool chest, hooks and/or racks
Sort and Stow
Group storage items into general categories such as hardware and tools, household items, gardening, sports, and holiday decorations. Put smaller items in sturdy labeled boxes or bins (Weathertight Totes keep out moisture and pests, and stack neatly; $13 at The Container Store) and store them on wall shelving such as Uline’s, which comes in multiple configurations ($205 at Uline).
Organize by Size
If you’re a DIYer with lots of hand tools, a classic tool chest on wheels with multiple drawers (one example: the Craftsman 2000 Series 26.5-in. W x 34-in. H 5-Drawer Steel Rolling Tool Cabinet, $279 at Lowe’s) lets you store them efficiently and have a work surface, says Prince, founder of Cary Prince Organizing. Or install a pegboard (available at home centers) on a wall and hang tools from hooks. Get larger tools like shovels, rakes, and brooms off the floor with hooks or install a tool rack, such as the Walmann Wall Mounted Tool Organizer ($50 at Amazon), along a side wall.
Park All Your Wheels
Designate a “parking space” for heavy items, such as snow blowers and lawn mowers. Suspend bikes from joists, or use floor stands or wall racks like the Wallmaster Bike Rack ($20 for two at Amazon). Things like sleds, skis, and surfboards are light enough to hang from a side wall with other sporting gear.
Overflowing Stand-Alone or Chest Freezer
• Time required: 1 hour
• Helpful supplies: Wire freezer baskets, stackable clear storage containers, a permanent marker
Empty the freezer and throw away expired foods, then categorize what’s left by type: fruits, veggies, entrées, meat, dessert, pizzas, etc., suggests Amelia Meena of Appleshine Organization and Design.
Put each category back into the freezer’s compartments or shelves based on how often you consume it, taking the size of the items into account. Put things you use regularly, such as frozen veggies or pizza, where you can access them quickly; less-used items (extra bread or cuts of meat) don’t need to be as handy.
Repackage to Condense
“Lots of packaging is bigger than necessary,” says Meena, who takes individually wrapped frozen foods—pizzas, sandwiches—out of their boxes, writes reheating instructions directly onto the plastic with a permanent marker, and puts them into grab-and-go freezer bins. She also combines the contents of multiple boxes (“two boxes of chicken nuggets can likely be opened and repacked into just one”) and uses freezer-safe zip-seal bags to store leftovers. Label and date each bag, lay it flat to freeze, then stand each one upright to store.
Use Bins and Baskets
For a chest freezer, place stackable clear storage containers (such as the Lock & Lock Easy Essentials 22-piece Food Storage Container Set, $35 at Home Depot), labeled on top, along the bottom. On top of those, put easy-to-lift freezer storage baskets (such as Design Ideas Freezer Storage Baskets, $9 at The Container Store) so that you can easily look through the “category,” Meena says.
Some chest freezers, like the top-rated one from CR’s tests just below, make life easier by including smart storage features such as bins and dividers.
Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the May 2022 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.
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