Clean Your Basement, Attic and Garage

Even if you don't consider yourself a pack rat, chances are you've held on to many items you no longer need — your second-grade fishing derby trophy, a kite that needs repair, boxes of clothes that should have been donated long ago. Sound familiar?

When it comes to cleaning your home, the storage areas aren't usually on the top of the list. After all, when you're cleaning, that's where you store all the unwanted or unused things. That's why it becomes a big job that you keep putting off. So, let's get started with these cleaning tips.

Plan Ahead

Scheduling a yard sale can be a great motivator for cleaning out a monster space. Check out the weather forecast and carve out a couple days for your project. Have tarps, storage boxes or bins and a variety of cleaning products on hand.

Ask for Cleaning Help

Before you even get started, try to enlist as much help as possible — family members, friends, your neighbors (have a neighborhood garage sale), a community charity for pickup.

Empty the Storage Space

The first step is to empty your space. You've seen it on TV — put tarps in the yard and begin your exposé. Remove everything except the shelving/storage units and large items you know you'll keep.

Cleaning Tips

Divide and conquer your tasks. Have some helpers on cleaning duty and some start on the sorting process. The cleaning crew should remove cobwebs, dust, dirt and stains. Kitty litter or sand absorb oil stains and can be swept out later. A shop vac can clean just about any surface and keeps excess dust to a minimum. Make sure light fixtures work properly and provide an adequate light

Sort Your Stuff

Sort all items into one of four categories — keep, sell, donate or purge. How do you decide?

  • Keep things with great sentimental value or that you used in the last month.
  • Sell things in good condition that you think you can get some money for it. (Try eBay or
  • Donate things in good condition but not worth much.
  • Thrown out anything that is irreparably broken or worn.
Before you move on, make some attempt to surface clean items that you will keep, donate or sell. Got a greasy grill? Use oven cleaner. Use baby wipes or disinfecting wipes for almost any other surface.


Start with the things you're getting rid of right away, to make more room to work.

Dispose of What You Don't Want

Check your town's website to find out what you can put out for weekly collection and then bag those up and tuck them out of site until trash night.

Find out where you can dispose of hazardous waste that cannot go in the regular trash. That group includes solvents such as paint thinner and remover; harsh liquid cleaning products such as ammonia, drain cleaners, oven cleaners and bleach; pest and weed killers; fuels and motor oil. It also includes computer equipment and other electronics — visit the manufacturer's website to see if they have a recycling program that lets you send them the product for a nominal fee.

Donate What You Can

Put items you're donating into bags or boxes, load them up and take them to the donation center. Better yet, have a friend do it for you. Another option is to list free items online; to find out where, visit

Sell If You Can

First, be realistic about what you can sell and whether you'll get around to listing them or holding a garage sale soon. If not, donate the items. If so, tag the items if you're having a garage sale. If you're listing them in the newspaper or online (try eBay and, write down a description and measurements for each item, and take a digital photo.

Store What's Left

As you return the remaining possessions to storage, organize them. Group similar things — sports equipment, tools, memorabilia, seasonal items and so on. Store smaller items in clear bins and label them well.

Plan a storage system that includes as much vertical space as possible. Keep frequently used items accessible and leave extra space for things that might need storage later. Help your things survive longer in storage by keeping them at least 4 inches off the floor and using plastic storage containers and shelving.

If you can manage to find a place for everything and keep everything in its place, this annual feat becomes less cumbersome each time you do it. And putting forth this much effort might even convince you to not acquire things you don't really need.

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