It's amazing how many people park their $20,000+ automobiles in the driveway, left to the mercy of the elements — while using their garage to store a couple hundred dollars worth of junk that they never touch! What you need is a system for setting up a functional garage that still leaves room for your car. By simply sorting, re-arranging, and containerizing, you can create new space in the garage that you never knew you had.
Few people use their garage for just parking a car. This has become one of the most multi-functional living spaces in the entire house. It's the spot where you work on home improvement and yard projects, it's a storage area for sports equipment, it's the off-season home for beach supplies and holiday decorations. Your garage might have as many personalities as you do, but you can keep your space from becoming schizophrenic by setting up a series of centers.
Whether each “center” involves just a few shelves and wall-pegs or an elaborate work area — the goal is to store everything you need for that activity in one place, along the perimeter of the garage, leaving room for your vehicle in the middle. Some examples of useful centers might include:
Another trick is to set up portable “kits” for each of your major garage activities (gardening, car care, etc.) Simply fill a bucket or basket with those items that you use most, label the container, and store it on the shelf. The next time you get ready to weed your flower bed or clean your vehicle, you won't waste half the day searching for all your tools and supplies. Everything is right at your fingertips — just grab and go!
The reason that your garage is such an organizing challenge has nothing to do with the space (after all, it's just a big room, like every other part of your home). The problem is the stuff stored within — so much of it is small and strangely-shaped, a bunch of miscellaneous “what-the-heck-do-I-do-with-this?” items that won't sit nicely on a shelf or in a drawer.
It's up to you to regain control by putting everything that is currently rolling around loose into containers. This serves two purposes — not only do plastic tubs with lids keep out dampness, dirt, and insects, but it will be a heck of a lot easier to find that one part or tool you need when it's stored together with all the other similar odds and ends.
Organize your containers into logical categories (tools, gardening gloves, paint brushes, etc.) and label them clearly. Then set each shelf aside for a different category of “stuff” — for example, one shelf might hold cleaning supplies, another could be designated for holiday decorations, and a third may be just for non-perishable grocery items you buy in bulk. Also label each shelf clearly so there is never any question about what gets stored where.
It's unfortunately that so much of your garage space is less than 100% accessible — especially if you have high ceilings that you can't reach without a ladder. I understand why most folks ignore storage above shoulder height, but these hard-to-reach areas are great for seasonal things you only need once or twice a year — like holiday decorations. Put in some high shelves and a few hanging racks — suddenly you have twice as much room, and you can save your more accessible storage for items you use all the time.
Also investigate the many specialty garage hanging racks available on the market — there are some really creative solutions for storing tubs, coolers, artificial Christmas trees, and even bikes from the ceiling. These organizers generally involve either a pulley system or some other mechanical method for raising and lowering the rack or platform, making it easy to both store and retrieve your “stuff.”
Of course, you can also go out and invest in those trendy garage organizers that are designed to store specific types of items — tools, sports equipment, gardening paraphernalia. But some of the best solutions can be created from items you already own. Large barrels and trash cans with lids are a great way to store things that normally sit around in opened bags — like potting soil, mulch, dog food, charcoal, etc. These containers prevent spills, keep out moisture and bugs, and line up nicely against the wall in your garage — just be sure to label them so you know what you have! Big open containers like these can also be used for those items that won't fit in a small tub on a shelf. I've made use of low wide-mouthed baskets for balls (soccer, basketball, kickball, football) or bulky sports equipment (gloves, pads, sparring equipment, you name it) — and tall trash bins for long-handled tools (rakes, mops, brooms, shovels) or long gangly sports items (bats, hockey sticks, ski poles, etc.) You can even turn discarded furniture into garage storage — a dresser with drawers for power tools, or an old armoire to store jackets, boots, and overshoes. Be creative!
Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream with The Husbert and two fur-babies. Learn more at GettingOrganizedAToZ.com and RamonaCreel.com.
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