No room to park in your own garage for the clutter and disorganization? Join the club, which by all rights should come with its own bumper sticker: Honk if you’re hoarding!

According to a recent SpareFoot Survey, nearly half (47%) of Americans who own a garage admit there have been times when they couldn’t squeeze their vehicle into it because there wasn’t room. The problem is even more pronounced for parents, 60% of whom admit they’ve been locked out of their own garage by runaway family clutter and disorganization.

While our garages would seem to prove the adage that nature abhors a vacuum, the space itself bears some of the blame, according to Certified Professional Organizer Cynthia Lindsey, president of Nashville-based Organizing Ease.

“It’s just one big, square, open space that lacks the storage closets, cupboards or even shelves of other rooms, and there’s no way to close it off,” she said. “And because most people enter their homes through the garage, it immediately becomes the family drop-off point.”

Car parked in front of a house

Cars Cast Out By Clutter

Ceci Garrett, a director of Lightening the Load, a Spokane, WA-based hoarding nonprofit, heartily agrees.

“If your garage is full, it’s not going to impact the majority of your living activities, so you can simply fill it up and walk away, where if you did the same to your living room or bedroom, you would be annoyed every single day,” she observed.

In fact, chief Clutter Cleaner Matt Paxton, whose popular TV series “Hoarders” enters its ninth season on A&E this fall, insists garages for vehicles have already gone the way of carriage houses for horses.

“Garages were built to hold fun, which includes cars. I have kids and I’m into paddleboarding, so ours is filled with four paddleboards and all my kids’ bikes and stuff. I enjoy that,” he said. “I honestly don’t count garages. A one-car garage? Forget it; a car’s not going to go in there. Maybe twice in my whole career have I seen two cars in a two-car garage. But on the hoarding side, if you’re just saving stuff for the future, that’s just dead space.”

Is your garage out of control? Take these 10 steps to create more breathing (and parking) space:

1. Face the Challenge

 Are you physically, mentally and emotionally ready to clear, sort and purge your garage?

“Most people are willing because the garage is not a super-personal space,” Lindsey said. “If you can get rid of half the contents, sometimes organizing and storing what stays can be much easier.”

Storage Pile

2. Draw a Line in the Sand

 “The key word is, are you ‘actively’ using it? If not, get rid of it,” Paxton said.

3. Create Your Zones

 Sort your garage contents by function: painting, lawn and garden, sports, tools, hobbies, kid toys, and so on.

4. Create Zone Storage

 “Once you identify the zones, address how you’ll store them,” Lindsey advised. “You can use hooks for grocery bags and dog leashes, cabinets for hardware and light bulbs, racks for bicycles and so on.”

assortment of working tools hanging in a wooden cupboard

5. Avoid Hurt Feelings

“Tools are very emotional for men; we got them from our dad or grandpa and we’ve had them since we were kids,” explained Paxton. “If you’re trying to push a guy to get rid of tools, you need a really good argument.”

6. Quiet the Visual Noise

 Clutter looks messy, especially in zones with lots of pieces. Solution? “Get the non-see-through bins,” Lindsey advised. “They’re sturdier, you can label them, and by containing things, it cuts down on the dust; to clean it, you just wipe off the bin instead of each item inside it.”

Organizer Cynthia Lindsey tackles a messy garage.
Organizer Cynthia Lindsey tackles a messy garage.

7. Contain Your Nostalgia

 One of your zones will doubtless be memorabilia. “Get real: one box of high school stuff, one box of college stuff. You don’t need all of your text books or baby clothes,” Paxton suggested.

8. Go Vertical

“All my paddleboards hang up high,” Paxton said. “If you’ve got any kind of athletic stuff, they’ve got racks for everything. Make sure you mount them securely and at the right height.”

"Garage workspace with cabinets, countertop and tools"

9. Now Keep It That Way

Paxton has the perfect four-word mantra. “I always do equal-in, equal out. If I’m bringing in a new paddleboard, great; what of the same size am I getting rid of? Personally, my garage is full on paddleboards and Christmas lights, so if I want one or more of either, I’ve got to give something up.”

10. Park with Pride

“You can see results in clearing garages pretty quickly. When you can all of a sudden park a car in a garage, the impact is pretty great,” Lindsey said. “You can have some instant gratification in one day by clearing things out and hauling it off instead of just putting them aside.”

Jay MacDonald