Garage Triage: Organize Your Garage for Maximum Chore and Storage Efficiency
If your garage, like so many others, has become an overflow storage area for sporting equipment, holiday decorations, and totes too numerous to mention, then it's time to reclaim some space. With winter just a few months away, now is the perfect time to clear the clutter, get organized, and make room for that car that's been kicked to the curb. After all, who wants to be chipping ice of the windshield while a perfectly good garage goes to waste? Here's how to get things in order with a little garage triage. (See also: How to Downsize and Declutter)
Clear the Clutter
First things first — hit the clicker, open the door, and start sorting. Getting a handle on what you've accumulated in the garage is the first step in getting organized. At this stage, don't worry about the grand vision of how you want the space to look, just focus on making room. Sort in piles — one pile for items that can be donated to charity, one for items that can be sold or passed on to friends, one for items to keep, and one for trash. (See also: 25 Things to Throw Out Today)
Make It Pretty
Once you've cut the clutter, it's time for cleaning and cosmetics. Does the floor need to be power washed or sealed? Could the interior walls use a fresh coat of paint? Are there cracked windows, burnt out bulbs, or shaky steps? A little TLC now will help the final product feel more complete and motivate the rest of the process.
Once you've spruced things up, it's time to get creative about storage. Start by looking up. The most important real estate in any garage is floor space, so make more of it by storing things vertically. The more you can get off the floor and out the way, the easier it will be to use your garage for it's primary purpose. Here are some ideas for vertical storage:
Shelving hung at shoulder height and going 4-5 feet up is perfect for storing cans of paint, small bins, seasonal yard supplies, and more. Start the shelving at shoulder height to retain floor space and avoid banged car doors and tight squeezes. Store a folding step stool under the shelving to reach items that are higher up.
Classic pegboard and hooks are still a perfect and cost-effective solution for organizing frequently-used tools and smaller items like tape, twine, and paint brushes. The pegboard solution keeps items in plain sight and easily accessible — no frustrated rummaging through boxes and bins.
Large hooks are a garage's best friend. Use them to hang rakes, snow shovels, clippers, hoses, and watering cans. Larger plastic-coated utility hooks are great for hanging bicycles, too. Getting bikes off the floor helps keep the space organized and prevents damage. To learn more on how to properly store bikes using hooks, check out this article on wikiHow. (See also: 15 Awesome Storage Solutions for Under $10)
Bins, boxes, and cans are ideal for storing larger items like holiday decorations, sporting equipment, bulk cleaning supplies, pet food, and more. Avoid the "I wonder what I put in that bin" phenomenon by color coding your storage. For example, use green bins or boxes for lawn and garden supplies, yellow for cleaning supplies, red for holiday decorations and other seasonal items, etc. Since these storage containers are accessed less frequently, a color-coded approach helps you immediately narrow the search when you need something. Post your color key on the wall for easy reference.
Create a Flexible Workstation
Creating a single flexible workstation in your garage can save space, time, and money. Make any work bench pull double or triple duty for automotive and household repair, woodworking, crafts, and small gardening projects. Equip the space with general tools and supplies, but organize project-specific materials in color-coded containers or small wheeled cabinets for quick cleanup and storage. (See also: Screwdrivers to Saws: Stocking Your First Toolbox)
Garages are where we drop at the end of the long day or where we try to pull ourselves together at the last minute before we start the day. A bench helps on both counts. Designate a spot to sit down, kick off your shoes, or decompress after a marathon day of lawn-mowing or car repair. Use under-bench storage for grimy utility boots, paper towels, or hand-sanitizer.
Designate a Go Station
Garages are most families' last stop in their mad dash out the door. Capitalize on this fact by designating a go station in your garage. Store last-minute grab-and-go items like energy bars, extra hats, gloves, reusable grocery bags, pet leashes, and other supplies on a bench or shelf. It'll help you stay organized during those last-minute morning rushes. Hang a whiteboard or chalkboard for reminders or to exchange quick family messages.
Though it's tempting to ignore our garages and keep them in a perpetual state of clutter-chaos, getting organized has its advantages. Garage clutter has a way of creeping into the rest of our homes, and the things we love have a way of getting lost, damaged, or tossed out when there's just too much stuff to deal with. In just one weekend of focused effort you can transform your garage from "eek!" to chic. Oh, and you might even get your car off the street in the process.
What's your garage like? What are your favorite garage organization hacks?