Taking Back Your Garage Space

Ah, the garage. The garage is a tricky space because it’s both a storage unit and a functional space to park your car. In order to maximize the garage’s storage capacities, and fit one or more cars, it’s important to organize the garage and keep it clean. The common problem with garages is that they become a catch-all space for anything that doesn’t fit somewhere else in the home. Here’s how you can take back your garage and return it to a functional space.


Before you do anything, take stock of everything in the garage and clear out all clutter. This would be a great time to hire a professional organizer. They can help you ascertain what to toss and what to keep, but also, what belongs in the garage or what you should move to the basement, attic, or another part of the home.

[Check out our services!] During this stage, you may need to hire a junk removal company to pick up your garage junk or find out if your city removes bulk items for free. Once everything is out, give it a good power clean. Sweep the floors, dust the crevices, it’s never going to be this empty again. Now you’re left with all the items you actually intend to store in the garage. The contents of your garage are completely up to you, but the garage is best for storing items like outdoor and sports equipment, heavy machinery, gardening items, fishing gear, and seasonal items like Christmas decorations.

Map Out the Space

Once you’ve cleaned the space and know what items you plan to store there, it’s easier to put everything back in the garage if you’ve mapped it out beforehand. Create a floor plan by dividing the garage into sections according to use or season. For example, reserve one wall for sports equipment, a cabinet for gardening tools, a section for laundry-related items, etc. If everything has a designated “home,” you won’t have to spend an hour trying to find the extra motor oil if you keep it in the section reserved for car maintenance and tools.

Consider Garage Flooring

Chances are your garage flooring is plain old concrete. If you want a more aesthetically pleasing option, consider installing garage flooring. The simplest version is simply painting the floor. Dust and dirt can hide in the crevices of regular cement floor, but a sleek floor with a fresh coat of paint is easier to clean, thereby reducing the amount of dirt you track into the house from the garage. Plastic garage floor tiles look just as polished and rubber mats prevent cement floor damage and also makes your floor less slippery.

Invest in Sturdy Storage Boxes

The garage is susceptible to the extreme elements, so cardboard moving boxes do not make ideal storage spaces. Invest in sturdy plastic crates and boxes with lids that fit. Climate resistance storage is most important for things that can spoil like clothing or paper-based sentimental items.

Build Vertically

The best storage hack for small spaces is to take advantage of walls and vertical space, i.e. build cabinets towards the ceiling. The garage isn’t that small, but there’s not a lot of storage real estate, especially if you use the garage to park the cars — so this advice still holds. Cabinets, modular storage, and shelving units look uniform and are great for storing miscellaneous items. Pegboards and wire grids work best to hang or mount bikes, shovels, rakes, and other gardening tools. You can also customize wire grids with hooks, baskets, or storage cubes, as needed. You can also install an overhead storage unit that attaches to the ceiling. Use the uppermost space to store items you don’t reach for that often, like winter clothes, holiday decorations, and sentimental items.

Organize Annually

Now that you’ve re-organized the garage, set a calendar reminder to do it again in a year (or even in six months). Your garage will morph as the seasons change, as your kids outgrow their strollers, and as the Christmas decorations go up and down.

Happy Organizing!

For more FREE ORGANIZING TIPS tune in to The Hoardganize Podcast every Sunday night at 6pm.

Proper Dishwasher Loading

Did you know that when you wash your dishes by hand you can use up to 27 gallons of water but an ENERGY STAR-rated dishwasher will only use about 3 gallons?1

But not only will you save close to 5000 gallons of water per year, you can also save 230 hours of your time by using the dishwasher effectively.2

To rinse or not to rinse

If you are loading your dishwasher the way you did as a child, you are likely doing it wrong. In the past we gave our dishes a full rinse before putting them in the dishwasher. With the technology in newer dishwashers, we simply need to scrape food waste into the compost bin/trash/garbage disposal. The built-in sensors in the dishwasher will determine the length and temperature of the cleaning cycle depending on the amount food particles it detects in the pre-wash cycle. In fact, if the sensors do not detect any food particles, it will run a short cycle and possibly leave some of your dishes dirty!3

Additionally, modern dishwasher detergents contain enzymatic cleaning agents that “digest” food particles. Without particles to attach to, the detergents do not clean as effectively.4 If you have ever wondered how dishwasher detergents do their job, check out this article on CNET.5

If you are not going to run the dishwasher within 24 hours, and the food residue might be more difficult to clean the longer it stays on the dishes you may wish to pre-rinse the dishes.6

Photo Credit: Ikea

How to load a dishwasher

Each make and model of dishwasher has a slightly different interior configuration. Some have two racks, some have three. Cutlery baskets could be on the side or center of the bottom rack whereas, some models have them on the door. There are models with optional folding tines and additional stemware holders.

The best place to find guidance on the best way to load your dishwasher is in the owner’s manual. Manufacturers provide diagrams on how dishes of all sorts can be loaded for the most efficient use of space and effective cleaning. If you no longer have your owner’s manual, check online or contact the manufacturer directly. Make a copy of the diagrams and attach them to the front of your dishwasher so that anyone loading your dishwasher will be able to see how best to do the job.

Here are some general dishwasher loading guidelines:7

  • Place small, light-weight plastics on the top shelf away from the heating element and secure them so they do not fly around inside the dishwasher.
  • Allow space between items so that water flows freely and can effectively clean them. Cramming dishes together can also lead to breakage — especially when the dishes get hot.
  • On the top rack place cups, glasses, small bowls, dishwasher-safe plastics, and long handled items.
  • On the bottom rack place plates and larger items. Oversized dishes such as cutting boards and casseroles should be put at the sides and back to allow water to move freely throughout dishwasher. The food covered side should face the center of the dishwasher sloping down towards spray arms so get full exposure to the water.
  • Most manufacturers suggest that forks and spoons should be placed in the cutlery basket with the handles pointing down so the top part can be easily cleaned while knives should be placed with the handles up so you don’t cut yourself. However, some people prefer that all cutlery should be place handles up so that when you are unloading the dishwasher, you do not touch the part of the fork/spoon/knife that people put in their mouths. The important thing is that the cutlery be placed so that the items do not stick together and that there is ample room for water to clean around each piece.

What NOT to put in the dishwasher

It is important to ensure that all your items are dishwasher-safe. Some plastic containers and non-stick pots & pans may indicate that they are dishwasher-safe but they will last longer if they are washed by hand. Chef knives should also be washed by hand as the hot water and harsh detergent can quickly dull the blade.

Items never to put in dishwasher include: brass, bronze, items with gold leaf, silver or silver plate cutlery, crystal, pewter, cast iron pans, and wood or items with wooden handles. Err on the side of caution with older dishware and heirloom items and wash those by hand.8

More dishwasher tips

Using a rinse agent helps your dishes dry faster and without water spots. (It really should be called a drying agent). It is especially helpful if you have water high in mineral content or use the “eco” cycle on your dishwasher which shortens drying time.9

Clean your dishwasher filters and traps regularly. If you are using your dishwasher daily (some big families use it more than once per day) then clean the filters and traps weekly. Check the manufacturer’s directions on how to do it.

Clean the inside of your dishwasher. Remove the debris around the door and the seals with a cloth or soft brush and some soapy water, rinsing well. Also, clean between the between door and bottom of the dishwasher where grunge can often collect. Once clean, pour one cup (8oz) of white vinegar in the bottom and run the empty dishwasher on the hottest cycle.10



  1. Postman, Andrew. “9 Tricks That Save Tons of Water.” NRDC, National Resources Defense Council, 5 Jan. 2016,
  2. “Dishwasher vs. Hand Washing Dishes.” Products | ENERGY STAR, Energy Star, 26 Nov. 2018,
  3. Locker, Melissa. “WATCH: Here’s Why You Can Stop Rinsing Your Dishes Before Loading the Dishwasher.” Southern Living, Meredith Home Group, 26 Nov. 2018,
  4. Byron, Ellen. “You’re Loading the Dishwasher Wrong: A Chore and a Power Struggle.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 30 June 2015,
  5. Baguley, Richard. “Appliance Science: How Dishwasher Detergents Digest Food Stains.” CNET, CNET, 16 Mar. 2016,
  6. Piro, Lauren. “Every Reason You Should Stop Pre-Rinsing Dishes.” Good Housekeeping, Good Housekeeping, 21 Mar. 2018,
  7. “How to Load a Dishwasher.” Product Reviews and Ratings, Consumer Reports, 5 June 2017,
  8. Thomson, Julie R. “11 Things You Should Never Put In The Dishwasher.” HuffPost Canada, HuffPost Canada, 3 Aug. 2015,
  9. Perratore, Ed. “If You Want Drier Dishes, Use Dishwasher Rinse Aid.” Product Reviews and Ratings, Consumer Reports, 20 Jan. 2016,
  10. “How to Clean a Dishwasher | Dishwasher Cleaning Tips.” The Home Depot, The Home Depot, 6 Jan. 2018,

Tips For Storing Christmas Decorations

Photo Credit: Unsplash

One of the best things about the holidays is decorating the house from the inside out. Every year, as soon as Thanksgiving comes to an end Christmas jolliness settles in. Whether your home décor includes a single mistletoe and garland, or a front yard filled with fake snow, these seasonal items can be a hassle to store when December 25th has passed.

Don’t let your fear of disorganization and clutter hold you back from going all out this Christmas. (And if it does, give us a call!) Here are some helpful tips on ways to store your holiday decorations when they aren’t in use. Follow these tips and keep your seasonal things out of sight, clean, and nicely organized until you need them again next year!

1. Use Plastic Bins

The bulk of your Christmas decorations can be kept in storage containers while they aren’t in use. We recommend using plastic bins instead of cardboard boxes as they are less likely to incur damage from water or pests. Plastic bins are also more durable and can be stacked, meaning they will take up less square footage in your home.

2. Clean Before You Pack

Before you put all of your decorations away for the season, give everything a fresh cleaning. Not only will this cut down your decorating time next year, it could help your decorations last longer. Indoor decor is likely to get dirty beyond accumulating a little dust, but outdoor decorations are at risk of collecting insect nests, which could be a major issue down the road. Avoid an infestation by giving everything a thorough wipe down before packing it away.

3. Wrap Everything Properly

Before putting all of your decorations away in bins, be sure to stuff tissue paper and bubble wrap between the items to keep everything safely stowed, and don’t forget to individually wrap fragile items to prevent them from breaking. This is especially important for tree ornaments made of glass. Do the same with any items that are made with plastic or paper so they aren’t damaged by condensation or bugs. If they aren’t fragile, Saran Wrap will do. Saran Wrap is also helpful for keeping your wreath snug until next season.

4. Label Everything

Not only is it important to label each bin with the contents inside i.e. “Christmas Decorations”, create an itemized list to affix to each bin before putting them away at the end of the season. This will make it easier for you next year in case you decide to pull out any decorations early or can’t remember which items you have.

5. Organize by Room

Another great way to keep track of which items are in which bin is to organize by room. This will help you next year when it comes time to decorate again as you won’t have to sort through everything and try to remember where each individual item goes.

6. Pack Wisely

Avoid taking up unnecessary space by packing smaller items inside of larger items. If you have large platters or jars for Christmas cookies, put smaller decor inside them before putting it all away in storage bins. Using this simple packing method will cut down the space you need and leave room for any new items you find on sale at the end of the season.

7. Dispose of Old Decorations or Your Tree

At the end of each holiday season, asses which decorations you didn’t use this year or are unlikely to use again next year. Avoid accumulating too much clutter by donating/throwing away any items you no longer need. If you buy a real tree each year, have a green disposal service eliminate the burden of heavy lifting by picking it up for you. This also ensures that the tree is disposed of properly.

Need help with other areas of organization? Find more tips here!
Or call 925-548-7750 and schedule one of our Professional Organizers to come help you put your decor away! We love organizing Christmas Decorations and helping you get your garage ready to store them.