Our pit of despair, before and after

April 19, 2017

OK...you are all the sweetest for being so kind about the real life post earlier this week. Please stay friends with me after this one though. That was nothing. There is a "room" in our house that I organize every year or two, and then over time it becomes a total disaster again.

Over and over. This time...and I say this every time...but I mean it this time...is the last time. I swear. The last time we will ever let it get this bad. 

Since I purged our home a couple years ago the inside stays relatively picked up and organized. When you have less stuff it's so much easier to do that (sometimes I stray from that for reasons I explained in the post earlier this week). 

And most of the time our garage isn't too bad. We let stuff pile up on the work bench, but nothing too awful. I don't even know what it was this time -- I started putting stuff out there to sell/donate and just never got to it. And then the pile grew and grew...you know how it is right? What's one more thing when it's already a mess? Yep. Did that. A lot. 

So I'll show you the worst part in a minute, but let's start with the area that took the least time to organize. I shared how to make this SUPER inexpensive work bench years ago and I still love it. We are totally guilty of unloading stuff onto it though. It catches everything from our cars. 

Here's how it looked up till three days ago:
Cleaning and organizing a messy garage

When I'm working on a project it doesn't get this bad, but it's been awhile since I've had to use my saw for any length of time. So stuff piled up. You know what's funny? I set my timer for 20 minutes (it's what I do when I'm overwhelmed with messes) and I had the whole thing cleared off in that amount of time. That includes putting things back where they belong any everything. 

I find so often that we make it waaaay worse in our heads, right? It wasn't that bad! Now I did spend more time vacuuming the bench and getting the floor cleaned up, but getting it cleared off wasn't that bad at all.

This next area I just finished up this morning. (I'm saving the worst for last.) 😉

This is where we keep all of the lawn stuff and it wasn't quite as bad as it's been in the past:
How to organize a messy garage

I know that rug is gross, but it actually serves a purpose. It's an old outdoor rug and I laid it down in here to spray paint on. Now I don't have to worry about the floors getting paint on them. And we just pull in right over it. It's ugly but it's staying for right now. Someday I'd LOVE to do a nice new epoxy  floor in here. 

So before I show you the after photos, here's what the other side of the garage looked like till just two days ago: 
Pit of despair

Let's take a closer look, shall we? Or not? Do you still like me? 😂

So many issues here. Mostly laziness...that's the big one. But what's funny is we still both parked in the garage all this time. It cracks me up because we would pile this crap to the ceiling but we are adamant that we be able to park in the garage. Priorities people:
Purging and organizing a messy garage

See those balls piled up in the back there? We've used this for years and I thought it would be such a great idea:
Laundry sorter
We also put outdoor toys in it. I thought I was pretty smart using this thing but it doesn't work great, at least it didn't for us. Stuff piled up in there and when you wanted something from the bottom you had to dig everything else out. Everything got buried. I do think it would be great for laundry sorting though! I'll show you our solution in a bit. 

So here we go with the afters! Decluttering everything took no time at all -- because of the Konmari book I am now able to make pretty quick decisions on what to keep and not. Things I waffle on go and I feel immediate satisfaction when they're out of my hair. When in doubt, LET IT GO. Turn away and slam the door. ;)

Here's a reminder of the work bench before:
How to organize a messy garage

And here it is now:
DIY work bench area in garage

So one thing we had done in the garage years back was to have built in storage installed up high and from floor to ceiling. We have two long upper shelves like this one above the work bench and the garage door:
DIY work bench in garage

We had this all put in when we finished our basement and needed to get holiday storage out of there. I knew we could take better advantage of the height of our garage (it's probably 12 feet tall). These have been MAJOR life savers and they weren't that expensive at all -- they're made with plywood and 2x4s. 

Here's the side of the garage again as a reminder: 
Organizing lawn equipment in garage

And here it is now. This was mostly just putting things back where they belong. I got rid of a couple brooms but that's about it:
Storing lawn tools and equipment in garage

I wish we had painted the garage before we moved in 13 years ago. I think it makes SUCH a big difference in a garage but there's no way we're dealing with that now. The thought of taking all this stuff down gives me the shakes. 

And the piece de resistance...the bump out area before: 
Organizing a messy garage

And now, after a couple trips to Goodwill and some cleaning: 
Cleaning up a messy garage

I told you most of that stuff was going anyway, so why we let it just pile up I have no idea. 

We gave away most of what was over there. One biggie was the fridge -- we just didn't use it like we thought we would. I plan to add a smaller fridge in here for water and drinks for the kids when the play outside. We have one in the basement we're going to bring up, so no money spent. 

Did I mention I didn't spend a dime to organize all of this? I love it. We already had the new ball rack, but it had been sitting in the box for at least a year. The white Container Store caddy used to hold Legos in the basement (back when I thought I could keep them organized by color, hahahahahaha). I was going to get rid of it but realized it would be great for the smaller balls, water guns and tools. It holds a TON of stuff. I may move it over by the work bench to see if it fits there. 

Here is another area of floor to ceiling storage we had built: 
Built in plywood shelving in garage

I put the small shelves up years ago for odd and ends and I built the hanging wood storage back then too. It's great for long piece that used to take over the floor space. 

I still struggle with getting rid of extra trim and wood...I'm SO much better than I used to be. But so often I'll just need one piece and am thankful I keep the longer scraps. (I only keep leftovers longer than four feet now.) 

So remember the storage above the work bench? Well for at least four years now we've been getting up on ladders and risking our lives twice a year to get our 12 foot Christmas tree down from there and putting it back up. It scared me so much that I thought of a new solution this year. And it was one of those DUH moments when I realized we should have done this from the start. We put the lightweight bins up there that are MUCH easier to get down, and used the space where they used to sit on another built in to put the tree: 
Holiday bin storage in garage

We don't have most of it in bags because it is GINORMOUS and there aren't even bags that it fits in. Being down lower now we may have to shake it out a little bit to get any dust off each year, but this works eons better than what we were doing before. We don't have to risk our lives to get it down anymore and that's a good thing. :) 

Here's a side view of that storage -- I left a little bit open at the end so I could keep a trash can there. I've realized having that near my car helps me keep the car much cleaner: 
Floor to ceiling storage in garage

Some of you who have read this blog for years may remember my black garage door project
Black door in garage

That door gets beat up and it's held up pretty darn well. It's needs a new coat of paint someday, but that's low on the list. 

So there you go, our worst area, organized. Have I mentioned I'm not letting this happen again? Probably once or 20 times. But this time I mean it. Hold me to it! Feel free to rake me over the coals in two years if I share another post like this. :) 

Do you keep a clean and organized garage or do you let it go like we have? Do you always park in the garage no matter what too? 

Here are a few items that have helped in our garage organization over the years, in case you are interested (affiliate links for your convenience): 
  • We use these garage hooks all over the place -- you just screw them into a stud and they'll hold heavy duty stuff with ease. (I use them for everything from lawn equipment to tools to kid stuff.)
  • This is our ball storage rack but with three shelves instead of four. 
  • This hardware organizer is very similar to ours (on the work bench) and these are a life saver!! I shared my love of that here
  • If you don't have a lot of extra space in your garage these ceiling bike holders are awesome, especially for off seasons. You hoist them up and they stay up until you want them back down again. 
  • That contraption hanging above the work bench is a garage heater. My Dad got it for me years ago and I LOVE it. It's great when I work out here in the colder months. 

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  1. We have to clean out our garage every year, too! Just part of the spring cleaning. Most of the stuff doesn't get tossed out, but it does need to be organized and put away.
    One of these times, though, I'm going to have to donate that stroller the kids outgrew a few years ago...

  2. You really cleaned out the garage well. The end result is so different, it's amazing what a bit of cleaning and organising can do!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  3. Nice job! An idea for you...you could wrap an old sheet around the tree parts...just to keep the dust off.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Garages are the WORST! We are planning to insulate the rest of our garage this spring/summer so it will get a good cleaning again. About every 4 yrs we do it with it only to look the same within six months. So believe me, if your garage is a mess in six months or even two years, no judgment from me!! :)
    We almost always park our vehicles in the garage living in WI. Right now we have to do some rearranging now that boat is out of storage and in the garage.
    We have tools in our garage and basement and it's quite annoying. It's hard to know if we should put the toolchest downstairs or leave it.

    1. I used to do the same with the tools -- now most of them are out here. I keep a few of the more regularly used ones in the house though. :)

  5. Looks nice ~ and doesn't if feel, oh so good. :)

  6. Ummm...why not just tuck a small plastic tarp (or cheap shower curtain) over the exposed Christmas tree parts so they don't get dusty?

    1. They've never gotten dusty before and aren't yet. I'm not too worried about it. :)

  7. Do you regret painting your garage door black? My husband keeps talking me out of it because he says it will show all the sawdust and look dusty all the time.

    1. The door, no. The steps, yes. :) They show everything!

  8. My garage looks worse than your before pics! We simply have no idea how to organize all our junk. We've purged items several times and truly only have what we use but the layout, windows to the front, etc makes aesthetics impossible. Sigh.

  9. Hi Sarah! I've been reading since the very beginning and rarely comment, but I have to say I really appreciate your willingness to "keep it real"! I love your blog and enjoy your posts! One random question I have for you- your fridge looks perfect in every shot and mine is constantly a smudgy mess! What do you use to clean it?

    1. Thank you Pam! I use water, that's it! Just a wet rag and a dry one to wipe it off. :)

  10. Looks great! You could wrap old sheets around your Christmas tree to keep the dust off of it. I know in my garage it would be so dusty! We have even taken to closing the garage door while my husband mows the yard to reduce how much of that gets blown into the garage but still..... You do such a fabulous job with your home!

  11. Thank you for posting this and the one the other day. It's refreshing to know that everyone has their messes and it doesn't always look as perfect as those beautiful photos you share. Your house is beautiful and you have done such wonderful work making it look that way as well as comfortable.

  12. Good for you, Sarah! (The link to the hardware organizer isn't working, it seems.) I don't have a garage OR storage space in my Wee Abode, so I have to find 'secret' places to store my craft/diy tools & supplies in my home. It's tricky! But, I don't think most people would know. :-)

  13. I greatly admire your skills as a DIYer and a homemaker. I am totally disorganized and struggle not to hoard, so please believe me when I say I am not being judgmental or snippy about this in any way. However, I find it so amusing that you are a fearless Konmari-er and do so well at letting stuff go, yet you keep so many play balls for your son, probably a dozen of which are basketballs. In my house it is the opposite. I have talked to my son throughout his life about what a hard time I have hanging on to clutter, and so he has always been a purger, even as a small child. Thanks for inspiring me to try to organize and de-clutter.

    1. I pick my battles. :) He's actually really good at purging, I'm always impressed with what he's willing to let go. BUT he is passionate about basketball -- it's his "thing" and we allow that. He was allowed to keep what fit on the rack. If there's plenty of room for something and he LOVES it I have no problem keeping it. I think purging has to be a little different with kids -- I plan to touch on that in a post sometime. :)

  14. Here's a tip for the tree....get some 9x12 plastic from the dollar store and cover up the tree parts. It's cheap enough and it will keep a lot of dust off. Then, every year replace it.

    My single car garage is pretty organized. (as opposed to Mt. Basement. hahaha) It's not painted either...and half wasn't even insulated. We did that but are not drywalling anytime soon. The ceiling is drywalled and 3/4 of the inside wall is. We have 3 bikes suspended from the extra high ceiling, We have pegboard on the back wall...all the way across. Most of the smaller tools go there. We have a LOT. And above it we have a plastic gutter attached to hold packs of nails, screws, etc. We have a LOT of that, too. LOL Above that we added 2 rows high of shelving using MDF and heavy duty brackets. The brackets were not cheap. Plastic tubs are up there...all labeled so we can see what is in them. On the outside wall we have more pegboard (not much on that YET), another gutter with cans...spray can type. Above that more shelves...more tubs, coolers. Underneath the shelves we have the table saw, the miter saw on a stand, the portable A/C (covered up), the generator. Down near the garage door the yard tools are hung on the wall. On the inside wall we have yard tools also, and there are 2 rows of shelves on there as well. The freezer and big rubbermaid cabinet are underneath the shelves. We have an open space that could use some cabinets, but right now I have cardboard boxes and some extra big tubs there. We are a bit cluttered still, but working on it. WE have a riding mower and a push mower in there. We need a workbench.....getting to that...eventually.

  15. Organizational High! Seriously, it is so satisfying to look at these pictures. I love Konmari. Someday I will have a garage and it will be organized like this. I've always lived in the south, but for a couple of years we've been living in PA in a 100 year old victorian with no garage or driveway and I miss them terribly!

  16. I suggest tacking a sheet over those bottom shelves where the tree parts are. Then just lift it up and yank the tree out. I see others are on my same train. Sounds like it isn't needed in your garage though.
    My garage would stay a bit neater if my spouse was on the same page as I. To help us stay organized, I often imagine outlines painted where each item should go. (kind of like a crime scene outline...) Chrissy

  17. Keep posting the good work. Some really helpful information in there. Bookmarked. Nice to see your site. Thanks! lawn mower cheap

  18. Wow just some reorganizing and some purging can help so much!! Looks great now :D

  19. I love the ball idea! We have a little bump out like this in our garage and it desperately needs some help. We still have a makeshift workbench here from building the house and I would love it to all go back to the barn (where it BELONGS). But that takes work - and some help from Ryan.

    20 minute timer - trying it.


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