Attention cluttered-garage owners: Remember Snowmageddon? Remember when you had to dig your car out from under two feet of snow because your garage was too cluttered to park in? With the recent nip in the air, it’s time to take action now and clean up that garage.

Take inventory

In many cases, the things that people put in the garage are items they know they don’t want but just don’t have the time or energy to move out entirely. As you’re assessing what is taking up all that floor space, start dividing items into piles: to keep, to throw away, to donate and to give to a neighbor or relative.

If the items in your trash pile are things that are considered bulk trash, call your local government to set up a pickup time. If getting on the collection schedule is going to take longer than you would like, call one of the many junk collecting companies to make an appointment. The latter will cost some money, but the convenience can’t be beat.

No doubt some of the items you want to toss out are considered hazardous waste. People frequently get stuck when they find these things. They don’t know what to do with them, so they do nothing. Fortunately, disposing of paint, chemicals and old electronics has never been easier. All of our local jurisdictions have designated drop-off locations. For times of operations and a list of acceptable items, visit your local government’s Web site.

To donate unwanted items, take advantage of one of the many charities that has regular pickups in your town or make a run to a local Goodwill drop-off location.

When it comes to giving that toddler bike, old painting or power tool to a friend, do not decide to wait until the next time you see that person. Not only will you probably forget, but it can make for an uncomfortable situation if that person doesn’t actually want the item. A better plan is to call or e-mail to confirm they want what you have and to set up a time for an exchange.

Spruce up your space

Now that you have winnowed everything down to the essentials, take a critical look at the space to determine whether it could benefit from a coat of paint and additional lighting. I am not suggesting that you paint your garage like the Sistine Chapel, but if your budget allows, a little white paint for the walls and gray paint for the floor could make a huge impact. Likewise, if you have a lone light bulb dangling from the middle of the ceiling, it’s time for an upgrade.

Maximize your storage

Consider how much shelving can fit along the perimeter of your garage while still leaving room for your garbage cans and a vehicle. Sturdy shelving suited for a garage ranges in price from less than $100 to as much as several thousand dollars, but basic adjustable shelves are really all that is necessary to store overflow household goods, pet food, extra paint or items for outdoor entertaining. Take accurate measurements and save yourself that extra trip to the store.

Other available wall space can be used to hang hooks for bikes, tools and bags that can hold balls. Don’t be intimidated. These are not complicated, fussy “systems.” There are plenty of simple, versatile units that can be easily installed and designed to fit your specific needs. The Container Store’s Elfa line offers creative ways to hang everything from a lacrosse stick to a fishing rod to a skateboard.

Be realistic

A word of caution: Organizing a garage is a lot of work. Do not set yourself up for disappointment by thinking you can do it all in one day. It might take a couple of days or two weekends, but the work you do now will give you peace of mind as the cold approaches and the snowflakes start falling.

Anzia is a freelance writer and owner of Neatnik. She can be reached at nicole@neatnik.org.

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