Al Bsharah Business Minded, Technically Inclined

How to Organize Your Garage in Three Steps

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ClutterI recently had the pleasure gutting and organizing my garage a couple weeks back, and thought I would share my story.  In speaking with friends, family, and strangers about my adventure, I know I’m not the only one out there who’s collected far too much stuff to keep organized.

When I started, I had waist-to-chest high stuff all over the place and had to jump over items to get from one end of the garage to another.  When all was said and done, I gave away three truckloads of household stuff, another truckload of automotive parts, and filled up a 4’ H x 4’ W x 6’ L dumpster…to the rim.  I could have sold two or three of those truckloads (garage sale, Craig’s List, eBay, etc), but chose to give them away as I knew they were going to a good cause.

STEP 1 – Acquire Tools

  1. Rent a dumpster.  Yes, you heard me.  Rent a dumpster.  You’ll be amazed at the motivation a big green dumpster in your driveway can deliver.  I kept mine for a week.  I used Dumpster.com (a Waste Management company).
  2. Purchase storage shelves.  There is a lots of stuff available for cheap on-line…or you can do what I did.  I purchased plastic shelving stand-alone units that’re easy to assemble and move if necessary (note these are not the ones I bought, but they’re very similar).  I got a couple from Lowe’s (or try Home Depot, etc), and also got some freebee’s from a friend.
  3. Acquire small storage boxes to go on the shelves (plastic bins, cardboard boxes, whatever works for you).  Since I was unloading so much stuff, I was able to re-usable bins and boxes that were made available.  You may find as you unload stuff, you free up a number of boxes for re-use.
  4. Acquire a permanent marker.
  5. Build a spreadsheet in Excel or Google Apps Spreadsheet (or use an old fashioned pen and paper if that works for you!)  More on this later…

STEP 2 – Categorize

Empty your garage.  Put everything out on the driveway / yard so you can work with a clean slate.  You’ll likely have to move them in and out a couple times if this isn’t a one-day job (mine took about 4 days at a fairly relaxed pace).

Categorize your stuff into four piles:

  1. Stuff to sell
  2. Stuff to donate / give-away
  3. Stuff to throw away
  4. Stuff to keep

STEP 3 – Downsize

Start throwing stuff away, start giving stuff away, start selling stuff, and start putting things away you’d really like to keep!

Use the permanent marker to put a number on each box.  Use your spreadsheet to keep track of what each number represents.  For example, the box with a “1” on it contains your high-school keepsakes.  The box with the “2” on it has your important documents.  When you move something from one box to another, you don’t have to actually re-write anything on the container…you simply change your spreadsheet.

Additional Tips for Success:

Have a friend come over and evaluate what you plan on keeping.  It’s in your best interest to pick a friend who’s actually well organized and lives a clutter-free existence!  Don’t cheat and ask the friend who has more stuff than you do!  This person will help put a non-biased opinion on what you should keep or get rid of.

Take photos of memorabilia you are struggling to throw away but can’t really see the need to keep them in a box.  For example, I took photos of all my old trophies as a kid and they now rotate in my screensaver with all my other photos.  It’s a nice reminder, and a kept memory…but without the clutter!

Tell all your friends you’re undertaking this project.  There’s nothing like a little peer pressure to keep you motivated to complete your project.

I’m living in glee right now, by the way.  There’s nothing like reclaiming what’s rightfully yours (your garage) so that you can actually use it for something beneficial…you know, like your CAR.  This was an immensely gratifying project for me, and well worth the time spent on it.

Good luck!

About the author

Al Bsharah

Al’s been involved in multiple San Diego startups since 1999 after leaving the Detroit auto industry as an electrical engineer. He's started two of his own companies where he's raised capital from both VCs and angels, and sold one of them to both Seismic and Return Path. He resides on the board of Startup San Diego, is a Tech Coast Angels member, and has graduated both Techstars and Founder Institute accelerator programs where he now mentors. Al is currently the Vice President of Product Strategy at Seismic and in his free time he manages to play a little beach volleyball, trade stocks, and camp with his wife, son, dog, and friends.

By Al Bsharah
Al Bsharah Business Minded, Technically Inclined