If your garage has turned into the glorified dumping ground for anything that doesn’t fit in your house or that you’re just not quite ready to get rid of, it’s time to get a garbage bag and a donations box and tackle the task. Your garage is a great place to store cars, bikes, lawn tractors and garden tools — but it isn’t the place for broken-down tools, electronics or that hideous lime-green paint that you’re never going to use again. Here’s some help identifying the items that need to go, and a list of the most common garage offenders.
1. Newspapers, magazines and catalogs
“You’re not going to read these again,” says organizing and storing expert Emma Gordon of Clutter.com. “If they’ve been banished from the house to the garage they need to go.” If you can’t part with all of them, allow yourself to keep a few special editions or issues. Donate or recycle the rest.
2. Old electronics
Chances are you have no use for that old clunky computer printer and fax machine from the early ’90s. “If it’s in the garage, there’s a 90% chance that your old CPU is not worth the time it would take you to bring it back up to speed for day-to-day use,” says Gordon. “It’s better to find a recycling program that can take it off your hands.”
3. Broken or duplicate tools
You probably don’t need five hammers, and that broken drill is just collecting dust on a shelf. Take stock of your tool collection and consolidate, so you don’t have an overflowing toolbox (or too many bulky bins filled with tools).
4. Plastic planter trays
“It’s tempting to keep the trays after popping our spring blooms,” says Gordon. “Unless you’re a regular gardener, there’s no reason to keep these trays after transplanting. Clear them out so you don’t have to deal with spiders or other garage critters that will make a home in them.”
5. Old paint cans
Face it: You’re not going to use that hideous color of paint anywhere in your house. (Plus, if it’s been through a few freeze-thaw cycles in your garage, it might not even be good any longer.) If you think you might need to touch up any of the rooms in your house, figure out which can of paint goes with which room and label it with the room (dining room) and color (linen white). Remember that you can’t throw away full (or partially full) paint cans, so you’ll either need to find a hazardous-waste collection site, or pour clean kitty litter in the can to dry up any remaining paint before disposing of the kitty litter and paint before recycling the can.
6. Unused DIY project materials
While you’re clearing cans from old home improvement projects, toss out old materials from DIY projects. “Almost every garage in America has a flimsy aluminum paint tray coated in house paint, with a matching roller in a crumpled grocery bag,” Gordon says. “As homeowners, we like to think we’re going to get more than one use out of our paint brushes, trays and other DIY tools, but it’s more likely we’ll forget and buy these items again anyway. The only reason to save otherwise disposable DIY tools would be if you have a project in mind that you plan to tackle soon.”
7. Old sports equipment
“Toss out balls if they don’t hold air anymore,” says Gordon. Same goes for broken tennis rackets, skis, helmets and more. If one of your kids no longer plays a sport, donate the used gear to a thrift store that accepts sports equipment.
8. Old shoes and clothes
“I promise you won’t miss the clothes and shoes you’re storing in the garage,” says Gordon. “These are the items that you don’t even have in your weekly outfit rotation, and if they haven’t been kept in an airtight container, they will require a lot of laundering to nix the garage fumes and dust.”
9. Tapes, DVDs, VCRs or other outdated tech
Sadly, your beloved tape collection is now obsolete. “Remember the static or flipping over to the ‘B-side’? Compared to streaming services, these outdated forms of entertainment require a lot of fussing,” says Gordon. “Make a quick list of the albums and movies you consider staples for your household, and plan to purchase in digital format.”
10. Unused decor
Bring that old chair you’ve been meaning to reupholster for years, or those old and outdated holiday decorations to the thrift store or a donation center. If you can’t imagine placing them back inside your house anytime soon, you should say goodbye to those pieces.
(Real Simple magazine provides smart, realistic solutions to everyday challenges. Online at www.realsimple.com.)