By Julie Ryan Evans
If you have a garage, you know how handy all that extra storage space can be. The problem is it’s a little too convenient. Oftentimes our garages end up filled from floor to ceiling with piles of stuff that we certainly don’t need. In fact, a recent study found 25% of people can’t fit even one car in their garage, while one-third said they keep the garage door shut so others won’t see their mess!
If all that sounds like you, it’s time to start purging. Here are 10 no-brainer items to begin tossing so you can proudly open those garage doors.
1. Old paint
Did you know that old paint can spoil? Me neither. In fact it can, and if you use latex paint that has gone bad, it can make the room you paint flat-out stink. Not only that, the paint may look bumpy, and it can peel. While paint cans don’t have expiration dates, typically solvent-based paints are good for about 15 years, while latex paints are good for 10. If the paint has a rancid smell or doesn’t mix back together smoothly, it’s likely gone bad.
When it comes to disposing paint, don’t just toss it in the trash, which can pollute our waters. Contact your local waste management agency, aka the County Extension Home Economics Agent, for proper removal and pickup/drop-off spots. Certain paints like latex and acrylic can even be thrown out in solid form (just mix with cat litter).
2. Unused sporting equipment
Sure, taking up golf (and tennis and soccer and hang gliding) probably sounded great at the time. But if you haven’t hit the links since Tiger Woods was on top, it might be time to clear out your clubs. The same goes for all those cleats, bats, balls, bags, and other sporting crap you and your kids have collected and forgotten about over the years. Sporting consignment stores may give you some cash, or you can donate them to an organization like Sports Gift that helps supply kids around the world with athletic equipment.
3. Duplicate tools
How many screwdrivers can you really use? Most people need just a basic toolbox for simple DIY projects and repairs around the house. All those extra tools are just taking up space—and making you feel slovenly.
If they’re in the garage, chances are they’re not ones you want to display, and the odds of you rereading them are even slimmer. Besides, there’s always the library if you want to reread something. Speaking of which, the library is a great place to donate old books. First on the giveaway list should be old textbooks and reference manuals. If there’s really anything you think you might need to know, these days you can just Google it. And you might want to invest in a Kindle.
Old cellphones? Outdated laptops? Clear ’em out, but don’t just toss them in the trash. A recent study found that of the 48.1 million tons of e-waste produced in the U.S. per year, only 10% to 40% of it is disposed of correctly. Here’s the right way to get rid of e-waste.
True story: My husband’s Christmas list had one item on it: Get rid of that couch in the garage that had been in there for months. I kept meaning to, but I wasn’t sure how. After calling a few organizations that wouldn’t take it (it had a small tear in the fabric), I learned that our city trash would pick it up for free—I just had to schedule a day. So my husband got his wish, and now my car can be parked in the garage. Win-win! Not all cities will haul away furniture, but it’s worth looking into as are other charities that may be in need.
If more space doesn’t spur you into action, maybe the thought of mice and other pests that can infest furniture left in garages will. Eek!
7. Motor oil
Motor oil typically has a shelf life of up to five years, and just one gallon can contaminate millions of gallons of groundwater, so make sure you dispose of yours correctly. The simplest solution is to bring it to a gas station or auto shop that accepts oil for recycling. Earth 911 has a search tool to help find an oil collection site near you.
8. Unfinished projects
You were gung-ho when you embarked on that beekeeping/birdbath/ go-kart project, but it’s time to give it the heave ho if you haven’t worked on it in more than a year.
9. Newspapers, magazines, catalogs
Besides the fact you’re probably never going to look at them again, these items can be a fire danger, serving as kindling if there’s even a brief spark in your garage. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, garage fires do more damage and cause more injury than other house fires. Every year, there are 6,600 garage fires in the U.S. that result in an average of 30 deaths, 400 injuries, and $457 in property loss. Don’t put yours at risk.
10. Anything for which you have no clue what it is or how it got there
This charger charges what? Who the heck brought this thing home and how many years ago? This red-and-green something must be a … Christmas something? If you haven’t a clue nor needed it in the past year or so, chances are you never will.