Although summer technically doesn’t end until late September, for most of us August is our last chance to handle a big household project. It’s time to tackle one of my most requested organizing projects, the garage.

Although we’ve had a relatively mild summer so far, you’ll still want to prepare to sweat. Dress in layers you can peel as the day warms up and have plenty of water out there with you. Help yourself stay focused by gathering any supplies you will need in advance of the clean out day. Dust rags, broom and dust pan, a blower, a Shop-Vac if possible, spider web removal tools, spray surface and glass cleaners, heavy duty paper towels, trash bags, recycle bags and donation boxes are all items I use in almost every garage organization job.

Since if you usually store summer cushions and furniture in the garage they should still be out and in use, taking another big slice of work off your plate. You won’t have to lift and move or clean all that furniture until the end of the season when it’s time to put it back into your newly clean and organized garage. Keep in mind what will need to come back into the space to be stored for the cooler months as you organize so that you are not filling shelves and areas needed for various chairs, umbrellas and such.

If your garage organization project is too large to handle in one day, consider leaving a category like holiday decorations for future weekends, since it will be easier to move, examine and assess those items when you are ready to decorate for the various holidays. It is nice to get the garage completely cleaned out all at one time, but for many people that is not realistic.

Take a section of the garage and empty it out onto a tarp in the yard or the driveway outside of the garage itself. Don’t use the floor of the garage to do your sorting—you need to be able to move around in the space. If you know you are ready to part with some big bulky items, like a couch or mattress, make sure you’ve arranged in advance for a dumpster, pick-up or trailer or a hauling service so that you can get rid of it the day you are working. If all you do one weekend is have a bulky item taken away, consider that a big success. Removing those large, unwanted obstacles is often the key to finally getting a garage organized.

It may be obvious, but never try to organize around a vehicle parked in the space. Not only might you damage the vehicle when moving things around, but it adds an unnecessary level of frustration to the chore. I’ve worked in many garages that house cars that don’t start, so there needs to be a plan for moving the vehicle if this is the case at your house.

If you have shelving, I hope it is on wheels so that you can empty it, move it, and sweep or blow out the space behind it that is probably very dusty and full of cobwebs. The wire shelving I like (available at CostCo or the Container Store) is unfortunately a pain in the butt to clean. Every wire gets dusty. Still, I haven’t found anything I like better, so once a year I go in and thoroughly dust each shelf.

Now’s the time to sort. If you don’t yet have shelving, sort items like with like, decide what you are going to keep and whether or not it needs a container. Once you know the size and volume of what you’re keeping you can consider purchasing shelving.

If you do have shelving, sort, containerize if necessary, and put things back into the shelving, again, like with like. All gardening supplies together, all holiday decorations, all luggage, all camping gear, all household items (overflow paper goods and cleaning supplies, extra water) et cetera.

For summer cushions, which you might put away in a month or so, I have been using vacuum compression storage bags, although they can be maddening as one pinprick hole will cause them to expand back to full size, so you need to treat them gingerly.

If a whole day of garage organizing in the heat sounds like cruel and unusual punishment, just take a couple cool morning hours over several weekends and do a section at a time. Although the garage is often a dumping ground and sometimes not considered part of the home, once you’ve had a clean and organized garage, you’ll be amazed at how energizing an achievement it is. Something I hear from newly garage-giddy clients is, “I keep going back out to admire my tidy garage!”