Cristal's Blog

A Practical Guide to Cleaning Out a Garage

April 8, 2021

Back to Articles


The lower carport area of a Montecito home for sale shows how a clean garage area can help clinch a sale

The garage is one of those spaces homeowners can easily put off organizing for years or even decades. Many wait for a big move or major life change to force facing the clutter, which by that point may be taking over the space. Sure, cleaning out a garage is a time-consuming chore. But once you're done, you’ll feel better. Really. Studies show that clutter, even in the garage, can play a significant role in how we feel about our homes; leaving us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed. Even worse, when it comes time to sell, a garage full of old tools, dusty bikes and miscellaneous junk could drive away buyers.

READ: How to Declutter Your Home: Tips From a Luxury Realtor

Check out the luxury lower carport of my Extraordinary Modernist Masterpiece listing pictured above. Doesn’t the sleek cleanliness of this captivating modernist motor court speak volumes? With an area like that, potential buyers know the entire estate is well taken care of.

Couple cleaning cluttered garage

Prepare for the Purge

Preparation is key to success when cleaning out a garage. Start by setting aside a block of time that will allow you to make progress so that the momentum keeps going. You can get a lot done with just an hour every week. Knowing you have enough time to make a dent in your garage decluttering project will help you stay motivated to keep going.

Put together your decluttering uniform: a working pair of jeans, a t-shirt or sweatshirt, and a good pair of working shoes will suffice. You’ll also need to prepare a decluttering kit with all of the supplies that you’ll need for the project. By having all the tools at hand, you will not have to worry about getting distracted looking for that missing organizing tool.

Decluttering Kit Tools

  • Boxes
  • Bags
  • Markers
  • Bins
  • Baskets
  • Tape
  • Label maker
  • Rubber bands, paper clips, zip ties, baggies

Core Steps

When cleaning out a garage, begin by removing any trash. Just arm yourself with a bag and walk the space looking for anything that can be thrown away. Next, remove any recyclables. Again, arm yourself with a bag and walk the space looking for anything that can be recycled. Third, gather up and put away any items that belong somewhere else, using a sturdy box or laundry basket. You are looking for things that simply need to be put away.

READ: The Feng Shui House: Creating Balance and Flow in Your Santa Barbara Home

Set Up a Sorting Area

Before you actually begin decluttering, it is best to have a designated sorting area set up and ready to go. Your sorting area should have separate places for each of the following categories for your garage junk:

  • Keep
  • Toss
  • Donate
  • Giveaway

Let The Purge Begin!

Now it’s time to purge, sort, and declutter. Here are seven items to trash or donate right away. I promise, you won't miss them!

  • Old Paint Cans
    Do you know that once opened, a can of paint generally only lasts for about two years? Especially when stored in a garage where the temperature fluctuations can cause the paint to go bad rather quickly. If you open a can of paint and it has a sour smell or has thickened, toss it.
  • Outgrown Sports Equipment
    If you have kids, there may be some old sports equipment collecting dust in the garage. If the gear is in good condition, consider donating it to your favorite local charity.

READ: Tidying Up with Marie Kondo: It’s All About Choosing Joy

  • Baby Gear
    Getting rid of a bassinet, baby clothes, or changing table can be difficult for sentimental reasons. Giving these items to a friend, family member, or charity that can use them may make it easier to let go. One caveat: check that gear like strollers and cribs don't have any recalls (search for recalls here) and ditch older items that might not be up to modern safety standards.
  • Holiday Decor You Haven't Touched in 2 Years
    As you collect new decorations each holiday season, it can be easy to amass more than you use. Look through your holiday stash, and if you haven't touched that garland or tablecloth in the past two years, it may be time to pass it on.
  • Ancient Electronics
    Take a look for old electronics you may have stored in the garage. I’m talking record players, stereos, TVs, old computer parts. Ask yourself if you will ever use the items again. If the answer is a firm “NO,” don’t throw these in the regular trash! When old electronics are thrown into a landfill, there’s a chance of pollution from toxic materials like lead, mercury, cadmium, and beryllium. Instead, check Earth911 for a list of retailers or recycling centers that will take them.
  • Never-Used Kitchen Appliances
    If the unused appliances you’ve stored in your garage are still in working condition, consider donating them to the local Goodwill. If not, some appliances may actually be recyclable.
  • Unfinished Projects
    The garage is a likely spot to store those projects you never seem to finish. When decluttering, it's a good time to let go of those projects you don't intend (be honest!) to complete.

Your Montecito garage is worthy of some TLC. After all, today’s luxury garages are more than just a place to store vehicles. They have become lavish palaces where homeowners can showcase prized collections, entertain friends and watch football with the guys. Once begin cleaning out a garage, finish it! You can make it a vital part of your home.

If you’re cleaning out a garage in preparation for selling your home in Montecito, Hope Ranch or any of Santa Barbara’s upscale communities, call me at (805) 886-9378 or email me at I’ll happily add your listing to my portfolio of fine homes in the area and find your new dream home simultaneously!

Back to Articles

Client Reviews

“It was an emotional experience selling our mother’s home in Montecito that we all loved so much but Cristal made the process easier on our whole family by guiding us through the transaction every step of the way. She knows the market so well and everything she recommended was on point including the asking price, painting, and staging the home, which looked beautiful and helped the buyer envision her new home. We sold it the first day it hit the market with an offer above asking! Cristal did an incredible job communicating with us and the buyer to ensure that the transaction would run smoothly. We highly recommend using Cristal, she was a pleasure to work with! ”

- J & A

“Cristal is a pleasure to work with! Her knowledge of the local real estate market coupled with her amazing listening skills resulted in her showing us an array of homes that were all excellent choices. Her low-pressure patient attitude made us feel extremely comfortable with the whole process. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch