How To KonMari Your Garage and (Finally!) Park Your Car Again

Cluttered garage? We'll help you get it organized with these tips inspired by the Marie Kondo method.

When you’re a kid, the space under your bed is the scariest part of the house. When you’re an adult, it’s your garage. It’s the catch-all room, where unfinished projects, baby clothes, and old appliances go to die. 

Since the publication of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, Marie Kondo’s style of “clean up time” has swept through North America, encouraging people to cut the clutter by only keeping items that spark joy. 

Yet even for the most organized people, the thought of cleaning this glorified storage locker is downright horrifying. We understand. That’s why we suggest taking a different approach by applying the famous KonMari method to your garage clean up.

Get it all done in one go

It’s tempting to stretch this out over several weekends, but the KonMari method calls for full commitment. Make a playlist, put on some coffee, and prepare for a full afternoon of cleaning. 

When you stretch out a big cleaning project, life gets in the way of messing up your progress. When you clean all in one go, it’s easier to maintain the space. 

Visualize the end result

Athletes and top executives use visualization exercises to win medals and increase profits. 

You’re going to use it to clean your garage. 

Visualization is a core tenet of the KonMari method. Picture opening your garage door, easily walking across the floor, and -- miracle to end all miracles -- actually being able to park your car inside. 

Plant this image firmly in your mind so that you persist through the second hour when all you want to do is call it quits.

Clean by category instead of sections

The KonMari method calls for categorizing your cleaning effort and then tackling these categories in the following order:

  1. Clothes

  2. Books

  3. Papers

  4. Miscellaneous Materials

  5. Sentimental Items

Most items in your garage will fall into the “Miscellaneous” category, so create subcategories like “Lawn Equipment”, “Home Improvement”, and “Arts & Crafts”. That said, don’t just skip straight to miscellaneous. You may have baby clothes, boxes of books, and stacks of your kids’ school assignments that fall into those earlier categories. 

To start, take everything out of your garage and put it on your driveway, so you have room to work within your garage. Wipe down any shelves you plan to use, and stack a few bins and boxes in the corner. 

Ask yourself if different items “spark joy” (aka “does this add value to my life?”)

Perhaps the most famous step in the Marie Kondo methodology is asking whether items spark joy

People have a really hard time letting go of things. We tend to imbue meaning in everything from mugs to broken lamps. To combat this, the KonMari method advocates holding each item and earnestly asking whether it sparks joy. 

If it does, keep it, no matter what the item is. 

If it doesn’t, toss it.

That said, if your problem is less about sentimentality and more about not knowing what’s worth keeping, ask yourself the following questions.

  • Do I already have several items like this? If you’re drowning in sports equipment you never use, consider donating them to kids who can’t play because of the cost of gear. Organizations like KidSport Canada take equipment donationsDitto for those three food processors. Unless you’re running a restaurant out of your home, it’s time to say bye. Donate or sell them. 
  • Will I ever fix this? If there’s an appliance you’ve been meaning to repair for over 6 months, throw it out and move on. We promise you won’t mourn it. 
  • Is it easy to rent or borrow this piece of equipment? If there’s a piece of equipment you rarely use and it’s taking up a lot of space, consider selling it and simply renting the equipment in the future. If you can’t rent or borrow, then keep it. 

Bonus: The use of categories makes it easy to identify when to take a break. Finished assessing which of your kids’ 500 kindergarten craft projects sparks joy? You deserve a 15-minute breather. 

Give your car (and your family) the gift of a clean garage 

The KonMari method has proven immensely popular. It’s led to several books and a popular Netflix show to boot, so there’s something there worth trying. But keep in mind: This method is meant to be a framework, not cleaning dogma. Let it help you structure your garage clean-up, but if you feel inspiration strike and you wind up on a tidying tear, throw the notion of categories to the wind and go off

Your car -- and your family -- will thank you. 

 

Have any more tips to help us clean our own garages? Let us know on Twitter @OnliaCA :)