Posted by: Debbie Abrams Kaplan | October 30, 2016

Cleaning out the Garage

When we lived in California, we actually parked one of our cars (the minivan) in the garage. That’s kind of a miracle, in retrospect. Our garage was also used for storage, as we had no basement or attic, and we had suitcases in there as well as a storage pantry (we learned what we could leave in there that the mice wouldn’t eat). I hate to think what it would be like to move back to that townhouse now, with everything we’ve accumulated.


We don’t park in our garage in NJ. While in theory that would be nice on heavy snow days, our driveway extends to behind the house –  a LONG way to plow or shovel (we haven’t yet succumbed to buying a snow blower) to get out – a lesson we learned the hard way our first season here. Now we park at the street side of the driveway in a storm – makes for a much easier getaway.

While here, we’ve accumulated a lot – but part of that is because we now care for a lawn, something we paid the homeowners association to do for us in California. Our 300 SF backyard didn’t need much equipment. It was mostly trees.

But when trying to get Sukkot things out of the garage this year, I got very frustrated. Weaving through the garage was not as bad as an episode of Hoarders, but it was close. Like many in Hoarders, we had mouse droppings everywhere (at least it was in the garage, and not inside the house). Between open bags of bird seed (the mice and squirrels love that stuff) and bags of dirt and grass seed also opened in several places by the mice, the garage floor was thick with detritus and dung. So on a gorgeous fall day, Mark and I pulled EVERYTHING out of the garage to sort and clean. I wish my friend June, a professional organizer,  was here to help us out, but in the end I think she’d be proud.

If only I took a BEFORE picture. What was I thinking?


Here’s what we pulled out:

-4 bikes (it should have been 5, but Dori’s was stolen downtown while locked, this summer).

-3 recycling containers (we still need them)

-3 trash bins (used for yard waste)

-wheelbarrow and several bags of dirt, seed, fertilizer, straw etc.

-tons of shovels, rakes and other equipment

-paint cans that preceded our home ownership

-a kazillion leaf bags (some new, some used)

-sand toys, because sometimes we go to the beach (they’re also useful for fossil hunting). We kept some, and tossed some.

-4 coolers

-2 camping tents and covers that no longer fit in the containers

-3 pairs of skis, 2 pairs of boots (keeping)

-2 pair of women’s ice skates. The mice chewed through the laces on one pair of them and the bag holding the skates had a lot of bird seed in it. ???? Will try on the skates to see what fits and what we’ll get rid of. The blades probably need sharpening.

-1 tent shelter using poles. We have no idea where it came from or whether it works. It went in the trash.

-$400 telescope we got as a gift and used twice. We’re now trying to sell it.


Want to buy a nice telescope?

-camping box exploding with supplies

-cushions for the picnic table (we kept those but put them on a shelf to keep them cleaner – they’re already in bags)

-spare roof shingles, backsplash tile, bathroom tile (for the bathroom we’ll be redoing), mortar and hinges/hardware for the dining room cabinets

-electric lawn mower (getting rid of the box, as we recently bought a new one), leaf blower, edger

-6 folding chairs for camping. One is broken – we threw it out. I had already thrown out 6 little folding chairs I got through Groupon, as they were buried in dirt and mouse poop. Yuck.

-auto supplies (antifreeze, car wash stuff, wheel shiner (you can laugh at that one, Elliot – it came with the house)

-about 25 bike lights and supplies scattered in various spots in garage

-10 bottles of insect killer and weed killer

-ratchet set that came with the house. We don’t even know how to use it.

-Dori’s old bike helmet that used to be gray, and is now green (?). Just to confirm our memory, the tag inside also says “grey.”



-beach wheelie overflowing with balls, mitts, bats, etc. Wheelie came with the house and is useful for storing those things (ironically, we don’t take it to the beach)

-flag pole with dirty and faded American flag. We’ll drop the flag off at the appropriate disposal spot downtown – pole isn’t in great shape, so it’s in the garbage. It came with the house – we just discovered it.

-A pedestal sink base with a chip in it. Hoping someone will take it for free. Otherwise, we’ll hold for bulk disposal next spring. Found it in the rafters. Great spot for it. Thanks!


What we got rid of:

-25 water guns and super soakers. Why did we have so many? I have no friggin idea. We never used them. They seemed like a good idea at the time (especially the nice ones we got from the neighbor).

-10 old paint cans from previous owners (drying them out first)

-2 booster seats I saved “just in case” someone visited and needed them. No one needed them. They are disgusting now and need a good cleaning

-metal trailer that can attach to the back of a car/truck and hold some bikes or boxes (a “gift” from the previous owners – left in the garage)


Came with the house. Three people want to buy it.

-a Tommy Bahama beach umbrella I bought at Costco. We used it once – it didn’t stay up well and we rarely go to the beach

-pop-up soccer nets that must have been left from previous owners. We didn’t know what was in the bag until we opened it. We thought it was left from when we stored Cub Scout camping gear in our garage years ago.


-A metal edging tool and post hole digger – left by previous owners and never used by us

-kid-size shovel and rakes we bought and used. Our kids are too big for them now.

-2 5o-pound bags of sand (which are surprisingly small – see below) that I bought for a patio project to keep out the moss. It didn’t work.

-firewood that needs to be split (we’re just not going to do it). I took the wood from a friend who cut a tree down and stored it in the garage for 3 years.

-a very nice metal firewood holder. It came with the house. We used it to hold some of the wood in the garage, but if we don’t have the wood, we don’t need the holder. Yes, Duraflame isn’t great for the environment, but it beats spending a lot of time trying to build a fire.


-3 Minwax spray bottles of lacquer and stain. From previous owners.

-3 tomato cages I don’t need. I have nicer ones, plus I’m a sucky tomato grower.

-A rabbit cage I got from bulk pick-up a few years ago. It’s huge. My kids wanted pets at the time. Finally got Zack gerbils, but this cage is way too big for them.

-2 boogie boards with no ropes. We go to the beach once a year, if that. And when we get a vacation home, they usually have boogie boards already. And we kept 2 nicer boogie boards that do have strings. Just in case we go to the beach.

-2 disgusting plastic pools (yes, from previous owners) – hopefully the garbage people will take them

-7 containers of chalk. Who needs this much chalk with two teens?


-We threw out about 10 partly deflated balls of various types, and a broken hula hoop.

Hooray for local Facebook group. I posted photos of everything we were getting rid of (for free) and almost everything is leaving our property today. We’re trying to sell 2 things (the trailer and telescope) and the trailer is spoken for. Otherwise, we’re just happy to get rid of the stuff and let someone else use it.

The garage now:



Look how neat those shelves are! They were a mess before. Also the shelves on the garage walls are finally organized.

We hung up the bikes on hooks already there. We installed more hooks to hang up all supplies that have handles, so they’re off the ground. Now we have so much more floor space.

We moved the scraper/brushes (we had new ones we forgot about) into the cars for winter.


We decorated the walls!


We now actually have room for a car (one), if we wanted to put one in. We’d just need to move some things to one side of the garage.

The remaining dirt/gardening supplies and bird seed are in buckets or the wheelbarrow, that will contain any mess should the mice get in there (which they will).

We feel like we should have been on a TV show, given how successfully our garage clean-out went. And we can’t wait to show it to our parents, who will be so proud of the change!


The trash. Hopefully the garbage company will take it all.


  1. I think you sent this to the wrong recepient. Although the house looked faniliar – I don’t think I know the residents.

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