How to use the KonMari method and organize your garage

How I Used the Konmari Method to Clean Up My Garage

I recently announced (to no one in particular) that going forward my makeup routine will consist of only mascara because “I just don’t have time to put it on.”

Also, I recently managed to binge watch the entire first season of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix in just 3 days.

Priorities.

If you watch the show, you know the gist. Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy has a new show on Netflix where she visits families and teaches them her methods to help them tidy up their homes. The family works together to discard items that do not “spark joy” and tidy and organize their remaining items that do.

Marie visits a diverse array of families and offers an interesting cultural commentary. But I was particularly interested in the two episodes that featured families in the same stage of life as me – the “life with young children stage.”

These families had the same struggles as me.

Ugh, the toys! Why are there so many toys?

Should I really get rid of this baby swing? What if I have another kid? I don’t want to buy everything again.

I want to keep this place tidy but I also want to spend time with my family! Ugh, I can’t spend all my time cleaning up!

And watching these families declutter gave me the motivation to tackle the most chaotic space in our house. Our garage.

Our Shabby, Muggle Room of Requirement

The Netflix show wasn’t my first experience with Marie Kondo and her tidying methods. Almost 3 years ago I read her books and decided to “Konmari” (that’s a verb, right?) my tiny townhome. I bought into most of her methods, kept what brought me joy, folded everything perfectly and found a home for every last item.

And then life happened.

We moved. We had another baby. My husband started working from home. We had Christmases. And birthdays.

My kids have 2 grandmothers and 3 great grandmothers. Do you know how much stuff 2 grandmothers and 3 great grandmothers can buy? 5 grandmothers worth of stuff!

The inside of my house is actually still “Konmari-ed.” I tidy daily. Clothes are folded. I get rid of stuff. I put stuff away.

But my garage. Oh, my garage is a different story.

Garage before using the KonMari method

I’m going to go a little Potterhead on you. Remember when Harry needed to hide the Half-Blood Prince’s potion book from Snape right after he hexed Draco with sectumsempra? The Room of Requirement opened up and provided him with a place where centuries of wizards had stashed their unwanted, discarded, broken, and “I just might need this later” stuff.

Yeah, my garage is basically a really shabby, muggle room of requirement.

My garage is full of my kids’ clothes that are too small for my oldest but still too big for my youngest. It is full of decorations and artwork from the old house that I “might” use in our new house. It has broken toys that I intend to fix and big toys that are too big to be in the house. I used to teach elementary school and I have all my classroom supplies stored there. Holiday decorations, kitchen appliances, party supplies, diaper stockpiles, you name it, it’s there.

The new show was the kick in the pants that I needed. It was finally time to tackle the garage.

Decluttering My Garage with the Konmari Method

Step 1: Review the Book

It had been nearly 3 years since I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up so I figured that a quick review was in order. There was just one problem.

I couldn’t find the book. It was buried somewhere in the garage.

One sheepish but quick trip to the bookstore and $16.99 later I was ready to go!

Yes, I recognize the irony of having to buy a second copy of the book because it’s lost in my clutter…

Step 2: What Was My “Vision” for My Garage?

While watching the show I noticed that Marie asks the homeowners to describe their vision for their home. So, I determined my vision for my garage –

  1. I want to open my car door without hitting a box and knocking it over.
  2. I want to group items together by category so that I can find them easily.
  3. I want to sell and donate items that do not and will not serve us any purpose.
  4. I want to accept that I am in a stage of life where I will need to store some items. I don’t need them right now but I might need them in the future (definitely not Konmari-ish, but my reality).
  5. I want my husband to be able to walk into the garage without sighing audibly. (In his defense, he tidies the garage a few times a year and I typically destroy it again a month later.)

With my vision in hand, I knew where I was headed.

Step 3: I Greeted My Garage.

After Marie has had the grand tour of a home she informs the homeowners that she likes to “greet the house.” Marie sits on the floor, pleated skirt splayed perfectly over her tiny legs and closes her eyes while some Zen music plays. She gently rakes her hands across the floor. You never get to hear what she is thinking, but you know it has to be deep and meaningful and amazingly powerful.

Not sure where to begin with this greeting, I plopped down in the middle of my garage.

Greeting the garage like Marie Kondo

“Oh, hey garage. Um, where do I start? Like, how does one talk to a garage?”

I pondered this for a moment. In the end, I decided to handle it like an intervention. This garage was obviously at rock bottom, so it seemed only appropriate.

“Garage, your messiness and disorganization have affected me negatively in the following ways…

  • Last fall I couldn’t find the hand me down pants in size 2T. I had to buy new ones, and then like 2 days later, after I cut off the tags, I found them and that really pissed me off.
  • Sometimes I can’t find the bottle of wine that I want because I put them on any random shelf where there is empty space. Oh, now don’t you turn this into MY intervention. No one wants to drink white when they want red!
  • You make me feel stuck. You’re full of stuff from my old house and I miss that house. I want to stop looking back at what we had and appreciate what we HAVE now.”

Standing up, I brushed off the dried leaves that were stuck to my butt. I was ready.

Step 4: Tidy by Category, Not by Room

Marie suggests tidying by category rather than room or section. According to her method, this will actually make decluttering faster and easier. So, I followed directions. I took all the stuff and put it all into very large piles.

1 – Clothing

This is anything that you wear including tops, bottoms, jackets, coats, suits, socks, underwear, bags, accessories, uniforms, swimsuits, shoes, etc.

Marie mentions that clothing is a good place to start for most people. It’s certainly an easy category for me. I am not really a clothes person and most days you could best describe my style as “she probably showered today.”

2 – Books

The book category includes any books that you read for pleasure, reference books, and magazines.

Marie Kondo keeps about 30 books in her home. I decided to keep about 300. Per family member. But who’s counting?

3 – Papers

This is ALL THE PAPER.

It includes bills, warranties, greeting cards, old notebooks, receipts, etc.

Marie recommends that the papers that you keep should fall into 3 categories; currently in use, needed for a limited period of time, and those that you must keep indefinitely.

4 – Komono (everything else)

Komono consists of toiletries, makeup, electronics, household items, kitchen items, valuables, etc.

My garage was mostly filled with komono items.

The fact that you possess a surplus of things that you can’t bring yourself to discard doesn’t mean you are taking good care of them. In fact, it is quite the opposite. – The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

I thought of this statement when I found some items that were mildewed and ruined.

Step 5: Keep Only What Brings You Joy

Marie Kondo says “We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.”

I love this perspective. Getting rid of things feels negative and like a task that I don’t want to complete. Deciding what to keep sounds pleasant and productive.

Take each item in one’s hand and ask, “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.

This is the part of the TV show where the homeowners stare at Marie desperately, not quite sure how to use this criterion. Marie typically suggests that they start with a simple item. It should be one that they wear or use all the time and that they already know brings you joy.

Hold the item and think about how it makes you feel. Remember what you felt and apply it the other items in your towering piles.

Some Items in My Garage That Brought Me Joy 

  • A box containing every single note that my friends and I wrote to each other in high school. Hours of entertainment!
  • My kids’ outgrown shoes. I distinctly remember wanting to be a mom so badly and the heartache I felt while looking at tiny shoes in Target. Every time I look at my kids’ shoes I am filled to the brim with joy.

Outgrown Elmo baby shoes

  • A framed painting from our old home. I was able to give away almost all my artwork, but I felt my heart leap when I looked at this one. I dusted it off and found a place to hang it.

Some Items in My Garage That Did NOT Bring Me Joy

  • Our home defense system

    A random stick that my great uncle made for my husband to use “in case anyone ever breaks into your house.” My husband claimed that it brought him joy, so we kept it!

  • My wedding dress. Gasp! Now, it had nothing to do with my marriage or the wedding itself. When I picked it up I didn’t feel joy, I felt frustrated. I didn’t want to store the giant thing or make anything from it, I just feel obligated to do that because that’s what other people do. It was time to say goodbye.
  • My quilting supplies. This one made me a bit sad. There was a lot of money and time devoted to that stockpile, but ultimately it is a hobby that I am no longer interested in. It can be really tough to get rid of things that you spent time and money on, but if they no longer serve you any purpose, it might be time to find them a new home.

Step 6: Discard Before You Put Away

As I sorted through the items in each category, I placed them in one of four corners in my garage. The garage looked like a total disaster, but I quickly reminded myself that Marie often tells homeowners that it will look worse before it looks better.

1 – Garbage / Recycling

This pile consisted of over 20 empty cardboard boxes that were just hanging out taking up space

2 – Donate / Give Away

I filled my trunk with some furniture, toys, books, and decorations. I also gave away some stuff using a Facebook “Buy Nothing” site for my community. Buy Nothing sites are my new favorite thing because you can gift and receive items to people who live in your own neighborhood.

Things to donate or giveaway after organizing the garage

3 – Sell

This is the category that usually keeps me in the clutter cycle.

Here is my usual process.

I have stuff that is nice but I have no use for it. So, I decide to sell it and put it in a pile in the garage. I never do anything with it. Garage starts to resemble an actual garbage dump.

I sold some kid’s items at a consignment store and my husband volunteered to sell a microwave and microwave cart on Facebook Marketplace. We made $62, which isn’t amazing, but it was enough to make me feel a bit better!

4 – Keep

I kept a ton. I’m joyful. Read on.

Step 7: Thank Your Items for Serving You Well

Yeah, I didn’t do this. Not my style. In fact, when I loaded some of the donation items into my car, I slammed the trunk and said: “See ya later, suckers.”

Sorry, Marie.

Step 8: Make Sure Every Item Has a Home

Marie says that every item should have a designated home. I like this concept.

She also says that you should have no need for commercial storage items. I do not like this concept.

I decided to compromise and label each of my storage bins. Whatever, it’s not like she is going to actually walk into my garage.

My KonMaried Garage

It might not be the most amazing “after” picture. It certainly wouldn’t earn a spot on Marie’s Netflix special. But I’m still happy with my improvements.

Before and after of konmari'ed garage Before and after of garage after using Marie Kondo method

Existing in the real world means I’m definitely more “Kondomari-ish” than a strict follower of the method. Yet, working through the steps gave me some incredible wins:

  • There’s less stuff in the garage.
  • I categorized the entire garage. Like items are together.
  • I labeled the boxes and all the items have homes. I can find them quickly.
  • My husband no longer sighs when he enters the garage.
  • I can find my wine.

Now, who has a new Netflix show for me to binge?!

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Cleaning is a never ending battle (especially with kids) but you can break it down into small daily steps with this schedule!

Using the Konmari Method to Tidy Up My Garage

7 thoughts on “How I Used the Konmari Method to Clean Up My Garage”

  1. This is hilarious and so relatable as someone else with a young kiddo at home. The idea of fully going Konmari would be awesome except for all the next size up clothes we keep on hand, among a million other little things.

    And the kiddo dumps everything out soon enough anyway 😅

  2. I don’t feel so bad about my garage now! When we moved in 2017 we put all of the boxes in the garage that wasn’t in dire need, I am still missing some baking dishes somewhere in the mess. It definitely needs to be cleaned out / donated / sold – whatever, but I am glad to know I am not the only one with a less than picture perfect garage!

  3. I love your writing style, it feels like we are old friends and you know me very well… have you been inside my garage by chance? LOL. So I have a 3 car garage and we only had a single file path in-and-out for about a year. My hubby is a saint because he never said a word, just every one in a while he ask if I was ready to tackle the garage yet. I’ve yet to watch an episode of the Konmari show (and I’ve got the book on a shelf in the living room, never read yet…) but you’ve inspired me to use some of the tactics here to work on it. I especially love the idea of focusing on what to keep instead of what to get rid of. I’m pretty sure I can do that. Thank you for opening up your garage to us today!

  4. I love this. This is my garage, but honestly I think mine is worse. I have almost done this method on my entire home and last thing us the garage. It’s so bad that I had no idea where or how to start, but this blog helped me know how to tackle this huge project.

  5. I’m reading Spark Joy this year to try to get my head in the game for another try at a tidying festival. This really touched my heart and helped me to keep the topic light.

  6. This is just what I needed to read- I also buried my Marie Kondo book and had to rebuy it! Now I just need to try not to buy so much new stuff so I don’t have to keep doing this every single year!

  7. You are hilarious! I love the approach you took to Marie’s method (especially the wine part, shh ;)) You have given me the motivation to tackle our garage with joy and laughter. Make it fun, not dreadful! Thank you for this great boost!! I now have to come back and read more of your blogs, funny stuff!

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