I love a clean garage. I just don’t make the time to clean ours very often.
This is ironic, because I value good health, and I’ve found the healthiest way to clean your garage is to simply clean it more often. For those of you who, like me, spend most of my time at home yet only clean the garage about once per year, it’s quite the project. On top of that, it can make you sick and sore. More about that later.
Everyone thinks that people who have a home business or who frequently work at home have all sorts of extra time that other people don’t. While it’s true that we don’t have a schedule set by someone else, we still keep a schedule, however flexible. Like everyone else, free time is usually filled with things we actually like to do.
Cleaning the garage doesn’t fall too high up on my list. If I have extra wiggle room, I’m probably carting the kids to their various activities, reading, or cooking a nice dinner. So here are some tips for tackling a dirty garage with love and without too much trauma, especially if you work from home, and you’ve let it go for too long.
Just get started!
See, I didn’t really plan on doing it, but I had some extra hours on Sunday. Without even intending to, I found myself dragging a ton of stuff out to the driveway, dusting and scrubbing it down, sweeping the garage floors (even the corners), throwing things out, and putting everything back in its place.
Deep cleaning is a little gift I give myself (and the house) when I have unconstructed time — usually a holiday weekend. This weekend it was the Fourth of July. It fell on a Saturday, and Sunday was, well, either a recovery day (you know who you are) or a bonus day. Even though I had a little bit to drink; and stayed up too late watching my kid blow things up; and ate one or two ridiculously sweet blondies, I was up and ready for church by 8:00. When I got home, I realized I had a full day with NOTHING TO DO.
Sometimes, on these rare unconstructed days, I paint, or sew, or read, or write all day long. But this past Sunday I cleaned the garage.
Now, I don’t exactly hate cleaning the garage. I might even go so far as to say I enjoy it, for it’s an act that requires no forethought; you just need to start. It’s work that perfectly “FLOWs,” beginning with a small act, like putting away a screwdriver, or washing the dog crate pillow. Magically, without any motivation on my part, I wind up going whole hog, cleaning and organizing everything. It’s the “If You Give A Mouse a Cookie” syndrome, where you get caught up in the adventure of completing unforeseen tasks, one right after another.
On Sunday it started with cleaning up the fireworks debris in the street. I enlisted the boys’ help of course. Then, one thing led to another and, viola, a clean garage!
At the end of the day (if you’ve ever had a day like this, you know what I mean) you experience the results, good and bad. Let me explain.
Three Cool Things About Cleaning the Garage:
It doesn’t take a master plan.
Are you one of those people who writes “Clean the Garage” on your calendar? If you are, then you probably even gather supplies, extra organizational bins, cleaning tools, maybe even some new shelving, etc. But if you’re a reluctant garage cleaner (like me), then it’s always a happy surprise when the day is done and you’ve spent it getting the garage in ship shape. You find yourself working with what you’ve got and it’s good enough.
You get to organize all your stuff. There are two kinds of people in the world; Those who love to organize stuff, and those who’d just as soon toss everything in one pile and sort things out later. I’m of the former group.
- I found stuff, forgotten little things left here and there in random spots by various family members.
- I gathered a pile of deflated balls from soccer and volleyball seasons past.
- I discovered a use for a strong peg holder that had been in an awkward spot on a wall for over a decade.
- I made a pile of things to toss and things to take to the Goodwill. I even found some good stuff to sell in our local Facebook swap page.
- I pulled several toxic products off the shelves to take to a recycling center.
- I even surveyed the tool chest and decided that it wouldn’t bee too big a job to organize screws, Dremel bits, and screwdrivers into drawers. I even designated on drawer for my son’s skateboard hardware and tools. He’ll love that, although he may not actually put things away, since he’s 14.
Now that everything is clean and easy-to-locate, I can now find things. This Eureka moment may even set off a flurry of projects I’ve been meaning to fix around the house. Sooner better than later. Just remember; YOU can find things, but everyone else in the house may wonder where you put everything. Labeling the newly sorted drawers and boxes is a nice idea.
You get to clean all your stuff.
You bring it out to your driveway, fill buckets with cleaning solutions and put a shine on the sawhorses, and garden tools, and bicycles. This is one of the most satisfying parts of the job, removing cobwebs and dust from old paint jars, sports equipment and tool chests. Now you can actually touch your stuff without getting dirty. Lovely.
You have new spaces and new vision.
The garage is where many of us enter the house. If the garage is a shambles, it’s really hard to enjoy your indoor living space, even if it’s as clean and tidy as an army barracks, and as welcoming as any interior you’ve ever pinned. I told you about the new skateboard drawer. Now here’s my real pipedream: I can never clean the garage without envisioning a new garage floor and a new paintjob. I picture everything up off the floor, from bicycles to reloading supplies, to scrap lumber, which I have difficulty understanding why we keep until, as soon as I discard an 8-ft 2 x 4, I suddenly need one; so I bite the impulse to toss it, and put it back in the corner.
Someday, I want one of those speckled, stain resistant, washable epoxy jobs on the floor. I’d say goodbye to the permanent marks left by the tempura paints my kids spilled at an easel when they were much younger, and the worn rounded edge from my sons’ skateboarding tricks on the one cement ledge inside the garage. Ahh, I can dream.
The only new thing that came from this fastidious flurry of cleanliness was a new crate bed for my beloved Rosie. She totally deserves it, for being such a good and faithful guardian.
And now for some tips on how to feel great after your day of hard work…
The Healthy Way To Clean Your Garage
While I can’t get super excited about cleaning the garage, I do feel passionate about staying healthy while you’re doing it. Your body takes the wear and tear of a full day of some pretty heavy physical labor.
For example, while my garage looked terrific (well, better) at the end of the day, my shoes, socks and feet were soggy, my back ached, my lungs were filled with dust, I had cobwebs in my hair, and my finger was pinched from lifting identical metal grids and setting them down, back to back, in a not-so-identical way. Ouch!
Some of the following tips are things I did that worked. But some are words of caution brought on by my oversight.
Use nontoxic cleaning supplies:
Thieves™ in a bucket of water is better for your eyes, hands, lungs and skin than anything I’ve ever used. If you are a frequent cleaner of things around the house, I highly recommend this stuff. I didn’t believe until I tried this stuff.
Be safe and smart when lifting and climbing:
I got a pretty good scare as I lifted some heavy folding chairs above my head while standing on the third ladder rung. I didn’t fall, but after regaining my balance, I admitted I was no spring chicken anymore. It only takes one small slip to change your life forever. Even if you’re young and in perfectly good health, get a spotter for high-up jobs; and at least make sure someone else is home if you’re doing anything even remotely dangerous. Farmers can testify to this. They always say, “It was stupid… everyone knows you don’t [fill in the blank].” And yet they did – and lost fingers, legs, suffered brain injuries, or were killed. Don’t risk your life for your garage. Just sayin’.
Tend to those sore muscles:
I’m not sure why it is, but I can work out at the gym for hours every week, and still, when I do yard work or housecleaning, my muscles are so sore afterward. I massaged some Aroma Seize™ and Deep Relief™ on my shoulders and neck, and rested all evening.
A nice hot bath is also soothing after bending, lifting and reaching, etc.
Watch out for stinging insects:
The mud dauber nests were too high up to remove. They’re just part of the scenery for now. As annoying as the flying insects are, going in and out of the garage as if they owned the place; it’s the spiders and scorpions you have to watch out for. (In Texas, all the stinging, prickly stuff hugs the ground.) I managed to spot the scorpion curled under a bag of potting soil, but I never saw the spider that stung me behind my right knee. The itching and swelling began suddenly, so I went in search of some Lavender. It eased the itching immediately, and I’ve been re-applying it regularly for the past couple of days. I’m not sure spiders avoid bug sprays (either over the counter or one of the excellent home-made insect repellent essential oil blends), but the mosquitos and chiggers do.
Protect your lungs and membranes from dust and other contaminants:
I always forget how dust affects me until it’s too late. I’m still feeling that tightness in my throat when I swallow (two days later), and I know it’s from exposure to dust and cobwebs. Remember that any powdered substance will irritate your nasal membranes and your internal organs and tissues. Sweeping up sawdust, handling old ant poison powders (even with gloves), and general disturbance of dust and dirt; is the height of nasty to your lungs and eyes. The next time I’m at the store I’m picking up some dust masks to have on hand for projects like this.
If you make the same mistake of NOT wearing a dust mask, you can always flush your sinuses with some warm salt water infused with Lavender (there it is again) and/or Neroli essential oils, poured through a Neti pot for instant relief.
Enjoy your clean garage while it lasts.
Now that the garage is clean, I actually enjoy the trip from the door to the car. I’m sure there are plenty of other dirty jobs that are worth the sore muscles to accomplish, but I’m enjoying the moment this week.
Maybe I’ll tackle the attic next Labor Day weekend.