When it’s a squeeze to open the door of the one car you can fit into a two-car garage, it’s time to clean out the garage.

My wife and I recently began a garage cleanup and although we’re still at it, I can report progress and, more importantly, how we made that progress.

Cleaning out the garage is not just throwing junk in the trash and wheeling it to the curb on pickup day. You have to decide what to keep and what to throw away. Then you have to figure out where to dispose of the throwaways.

At the outset, you’ve got to assess what’s in your garage.

There are those chemicals that have, miraculously, not eaten through their containers in the years since they’ve been used. Light fixtures, window blinds and toilet parts that have been replaced over the years. Never-used carpet pieces that you were going to transform into throw rugs until you found out how much it cost to bind the edges. And those odds and ends that were pushed out of the house and into the garage.

OK, calm down. It can be done.

Garage Garbage?
First, there’s probably a place in your community that accepts hazardous chemicals—paint removers, pesticides and liquids of unknown provenance and purpose—for disposal. Check your city or county’s website. The hazardous waste center where I live has limited hours, but it’s worth taking time from work to get that stuff out of the garage, even if it’s not part of a general cleanup.

Then check to see whether your community has a Habitat for Humanity ReStore. The ReStore takes donations of old materials, spruces them up and resells them. Check with the ReStore before you haul your stuff over there, because it doesn’t take everything.

It took several hours for my wife and me to figure out which carpet pieces, blinds, fixtures, ceiling vents and towel bars could go to the ReStore—and could be jammed into our two-door car. Workers at the ReStore unloaded our stuff and gave us a receipt in a couple of minutes.

Even if the ReStore won’t resell all of the materials you donate, it knows how to get rid of that stuff better than you do.

Goodwill also will take some items, including electronics—even those in need of repair. The folks at Goodwill took off our hands an out-of-date printer and a nonfunctioning computer monitor.

To Keep or Not to Keep
Let’s move on to the stuff you can’t decide whether to keep or throw away.

If there are things you must keep and don’t have room for, figure out whether it’s worth renting a storage unit.

Here are my stay-or-go rules:

  • If you can’t remember what it is or what it does, out it goes.
  • If it’s something that was replaced two generations ago, out it goes.
  • If it has anything to do with 1970s or ’80s décor, out it goes.
  • If its category is “miscellaneous,” out it goes.
  • If it has sentimental value and is easily stored, it can stay. Like the surviving license plate from the car that was totaled in the accident that everyone walked away from without a scratch.

The real secret to a clean garage is to not clutter it up in the first place. When you stash something out there, think about it. Will there be a reason to bring it back in? Or should it go?

Final advice: Be ruthless.

By the way, can anyone use a 6×3 door with a few teeny holes in the screen? It’s one of the last things between me and a clean garage.

Garage Stuff

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