Regain the Garage – A Client Experience

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Do you need to regain the garage? Winter is the most important time to park your car inside. What? Your car won’t fit!

One fascinating University of California Los Angeles study of middle-class American families found that three in four garages are so packed with stuff that there is no room for a vehicle. Click To Tweet

One of the most basic rules of clutter is “You fill the space you have”. It’s so easy to leave your car outside during nice weather so that you can work on a project under a roof. But, oftentimes you don’t finish that project, so the car stays outside. Then the kids park their bikes in the middle of the space. Maybe you’ve left some items in the space that you need to return to a store or take for recycling. Does it sound like I’ve seen this before? I have. The garage is generally the place where good intentions go to die.

What’s happened is you had an assigned purpose for the space – to park your car. Then you overrode that purpose. All of a sudden you have a big space with no assigned purpose and things tend to collect there. Since all these things are only temporarily living here the space losses its functionality. You get busy, your project gets left. Stuff starts to multiply and now you can’t get your car inside.

This happened a lot during the pandemic and I’d like to tell you a story about how you can regain your garage.

The Beginning

Recently we helped a young couple reimagine their garage. They live in a fairly rural part of Northern Virginia, on a few acres of land. They even have a pond and chickens in their backyard! So they required storage for equipment used to maintain their land and animals. He is also a hunter and has equipment for his hobby. So their garage required a lot of storage, to say the least.

Then the pandemic hit. He is an elementary school physical education teacher, so he needed space to set up his zoom lessons and unlike most teachers, he needed a lot of space to move around. and like us all, he was strategic about what the camera saw while he was teaching. This meant a lot of moving around of the items that were cluttering up the space “Pre-Covid” since he was thrown into teaching from home and had to make it work.

Needless to say, their cars spent a year and a half outside on the driveway. At the end of the 2020-2021 school year, they contacted us for some expert help. The lovely wife of this couple was tired of the mess and concerned for the safety of their soon-to-be-walking baby. She wanted the garage to be functional again, so since the necessity of teaching space was ending for the summer, it was time to regain the garage!

At the assessment, I estimated that decluttering and organizing their space would take 3 appointments with two organizers. We usually keep appointments to 3 – 4 hours for jobs like this. We love to tag-team when working on large jobs like this. This allows the clients to contrate on decision-making while we are facilitating the organization.

Of those surveyed, 27% of people use the garage for hobbies, while others use it to work on cars (23%), do projects such as woodworking or carpentry (19%), or as an area for exercise or sports (13%). - from Gladiator GarageWorks 2015 Click To Tweet

The Middle

They had a lot of storage, to begin with, in the form of old kitchen cabinets, but they weren’t using them efficiently. Like a lot of people, they hadn’t ventured into the cabinets in a while, so it was a treasure hunt of a project. But the counters on top of the cabinets were a dumping ground of items. This goes to show that maintenance in any space is required to keep it organized.

Like any organizing project with any organizing client, the first step is to pull everything out and review it. Is it still in good working order? Is it still necessary to keep it? These clients were troopers. They hung in there, working alongside us, making all the decisions. Just this part of the process took most of the first two appointments. But once this was over they were able to reimagine their space.

How do they want to use this newfound space? How will it support their work and play?


The End

In the end, these clients have a lot of clear space on the floor and on the countertops. They have assigned homes for many different types of items in the cabinets. The bikes are up. The hazardous chemicals are out of reach of small hands. Even the shelves have some breathing room! It is not the most beautiful space you’ve ever seen, but it worlds better in functionality than it used to be.

This gave them the opportunity to work further after we left. A few weeks later I got an email from them with photos of more ways they regained the garage space. Now that it wasn’t so overwhelming to be in the garage, they could imagine ways they wanted to use the space and were making it their own.

We love it when clients see what’s possible after all their hard work!

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Janet Schiesl

Janet has been organizing since 2005. She is a Certified Professional Organizer and the owner of Basic Organization. She loves using her background as a space planner to challenge her clients to look at their space differently. She leads the team in large projects and works one-on-one with clients to help the process move quickly and comfortably. Call her crazy, but she loves to work with paper, to purge what is not needed and to create filing systems that work for each individual client. Janet is a Past President of the Washington DC Chapter of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and was voted 2016 Organizer of the Year by the Washington DC Chapter of NAPO.


  1. Seana Turner on December 20, 2021 at 8:41 am

    Organizing a garage is such a smart project. Not only does it free up needed space (especially up here in the Northeast, where it is 22 degrees this morning), but having space in the garage creates an opportunity for an “exit zone” as you organize other spaces in the home. What a blessing to provide this gift to a family right before the holidays!

    • Janet Schiesl on December 20, 2021 at 8:59 am

      Thanks Seana. We love organizing garages. You are right it frees up so much space!

  2. Linda Samuels on December 20, 2021 at 10:48 am

    What a wonderful success story! I love what your client said about how your team accomplished in a few sessions what they couldn’t do in four years. That expresses the power of reaching out for help and hiring professionals. So often, we struggle and continue to do so because we think we should figure it out on our own. And maybe we can. But when we’re willing to connect with people who “get it” and “get us,” movement happens more quickly.

    • Janet Schiesl on December 21, 2021 at 6:13 am

      I love when clients are ready to react and get the work done. Working with us just makes it easier and more efficient.

  3. Sabrina Quairoli on December 20, 2021 at 11:31 am

    What a great story! Thanks for sharing it. I love that you mentioned putting away hazardous waste items. It is critical to do this when you have little ones or pets going in and out of the garage. The pandemic gave POs a new opportunity to learn how people live and work from home 24/7. It is so lovely to see that clients appreciated your service to reconnect with you after your sessions.

    • Janet Schiesl on December 21, 2021 at 6:15 am

      Yes. This client was teaching online PE classes in the cluttered garage. I bet he wished that he worked with us at the beginning of the pandemic.

  4. Julie Bestry on December 20, 2021 at 2:30 pm

    What a fabulous success story to give prospective clients insight into what you can accomplish for them. Garages are easy to clutter because we spend so little “quality” time in them; instead, we’re there in transit, entering or leaving, and it’s easy to forget whatever desires we have to improve them once we’re inside or on our way. I am sure this case study will motivate many more people!

    • Janet Schiesl on December 21, 2021 at 6:17 am

      Thanks Julie. I agree that the garage becomes a dumping ground for all the stuff you don’t want inside, but aren’t ready to get rid of. But it’s soon forgotten and becomes clutter.

  5. Diane N Quintana on December 21, 2021 at 8:40 am

    This is a fabulous story! I love that the couple was so involved and inspired to carry what you helped them with in the garage to the inside of their home. Congratulations, Janet!

    • Janet Schiesl on December 21, 2021 at 3:48 pm

      Thanks Diane. We loved working with these clients.

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