Enlist help. If you can't afford a professional organizer, recruit relatives or offer to swap labor with a friend who is planning a similar household project. An assistant can help you move heavy objects, keep you motivated and ask objective questions ("Do you really use that?"), says Ellen Kutner, who runs the company Simply Organized in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
2. EMPTY AND SORT. Empty the contents of the garage out into the driveway and begin sorting it into piles, grouping like things together. Categories will vary by household, but you may start with Sporting Equipment, Tools, Hardware, Car Care, Lawn Care, Seasonal, Toys and Household Goods.
3. PURGE. The next step — paring down your stuff — is the most important. First, toss anything broken or expired. Return borrowed items to their owners. If you own multiples of something, donate the duplicates or sell them. Analyze how often things get used. "Too often the garage can be like a time capsule," Ricci says. Are you storing camping equipment from when your college-age kids were Cub Scouts? Time to get rid of it.
Find ways to downsize bulky items. For example, Ecker says, rather than storing mostly-empty paint cans for future touch-up jobs, keep a mason jar-size container of each leftover paint, labeled with the brand, color name and finish. "Being organized is not about being neat and tidy, it's about limits and boundaries," Kutner says. "You don't need to stock everything you might one day need. That's why there are stores."
4. SPRUCE UP THE SPACE. While the garage is bare, give it a thorough cleaning. Kristin Long, who owns the company The Organizational Specialists, recommends adding durable floor tiles or a fresh coat of paint. Making the garage more visually appealing will inspire you to keep it tidy. While you're at it, wipe down all the warm-weather gear that is going to get stashed for the next eight months.