For many families, the end of summer means it's time to put away the inflatable kiddie pools, camping equipment and gardening tools for the season.
If you plan to shove this gear into arbitrary piles around the edge of the garage, you're not alone: Many Americans say the garage is the most disorganized room in their home, according to the International Association of Business Organizing.
But a messy garage is not just unsightly, it can cost you money. People with cluttered garages tend to waste time searching for misplaced items and end up re-buying things they already own, says Erica Ecker, a professional organizer in New York City.
They also risk injury. Garages often hold hedge trimmers, table saws, toxic chemicals and other dangerous items alongside children's scooters and bikes.
An overstuffed garage puts your vehicles at risk, too. When the car door can't swing open without hitting a wheelbarrow or workbench, it gets dented and dinged. Monica Ricci, a professional organizer who makes appearances on the HGTV show "Mission: Organization," says that in many homes, garages are so filled with clutter they stop serving their main purpose.
"When your garage is too full to park a car in, that expensive piece of machinery sits out in the elements every day and night while your clutter stays cozy and dry inside," Ricci says. "What kind of sense does that make?"
Whether your garage is slightly disheveled or looks more like an overstuffed storage unit, the changeover to fall is an ideal time to give it a tune-up using these steps from organizational experts:
1. PREPARE. Tackling a junk-filled garage is physically demanding. Ecker advises pacing yourself and setting a schedule in advance. Consider renting an outdoor storage container so your belongings aren't sitting in the driveway or in the house for a month while you finish reorganizing the garage.