The cold weather in most parts of the country will make it impossible to work outside on the garage this winter. With a few focused hours before the cold weather sets in and maybe a little help from family and friends you can have a space that supports you. I deal with the garage in One Year to an Organized Life in detail. But this primer will help you get started.
1. Eliminate everything you don’t need, want or will use in this space. If you make it a dumping ground it will never ‘feel’ right or be easy or fun to use. Think toss, recycle, donate or give to a friend or family member. But do whittle down the contents. The garage is always difficult to deal with because in 90% of the homes I’ve organized it’s the repository for all those items no one wanted to make a decision about. “Oh, let’s just put it in the garage.” When you want to actually organize/use the garage you are overwhelmed by all those unmade decisions. It’s why it can be such a daunting task.
2. Divide the contents into related Categories. You’d most likely have some or all of the following categories: lawn equipment (mower, rake etc.); outdoor fun items (bicycles, canoes, balls for every sport, skateboards etc.); holiday ornaments and related decorative items; tools (can be a few or a lot depending on the family) and miscellaneous household. It isn’t until you see what you have to store that you can find the right solution. If you have a craft room the same guidelines apply. The items would just look very different for a quilter, a ‘scrapbooker’ or someone who makes all her own clothes.
3. Get the right container for the job. Don’t go shopping for containers that appeal to you visually before you have done steps 1 and 2. There’s a big chance you’ll be adding to the clutter. The minute you know what you have to organize, you can go shopping. Every hobby has newsletter, magazines and in some cases stores where you can find containers dedicated to the craft. For general organizing products I always head to The Container Store.
4. Think outside the box and utilize the entire space. In addition to cupboards and shelves consider literally flying some items or create a loft. Here’s a rule of thumb: keep as many items as you cab off the ground. Once you have debris scattered across the floor you are on the road to defeat. Who wants to climb over free weights, fallen bicycles, rakes or mops when you spy what you need across the room?
Here are some examples of creative use of space:
• Put bicycles in kickstands or hang them on the wall from specially designed hooks.
• Purchase containers on wheels so you can stack a category, push them against the wall and then pull all of them out in one motion. This works particularly well for holiday decorations.
• Be sure all of your containers are clearly labeled. You don’t want mystery boxes cluttering up your space. This will slow you down on a day you need a particular item.
• If you own your home consider having The Closet Factory come in and design a cabinet solution that’s tailored to your needs. This is costly but it adds to the resale potential of your home when it comes time for you to sell.
• Can’t afford a professional company? Go to any home store and purchase inexpensive shelving units.
• Depending on your needs and your budget you can put in a loft for storage or you can ‘fly’ some items with a pulley system.
• There are inexpensive units that hold all those items with handles that end up in the garage so they are not on the floor. Think: rake, broom, mops et al.
5. Be sure the space supports you.
• Is there a trash can in the garage that’s the correct size for your needs?
• Is the lighting adequate?
• If your garage isn’t insulated, do you have space heaters and fans available? Is the garage well ventilated?
• Many large families have an extra refrigerator or freezer out in the garage. Don’t pack mystery meats! Label the contents, date the packages and remember that food isn’t in a forever state when it’s frozen. Think 6 months max.
• Don’t overbuy. It’s great to have a shelving unit by the door that leads into the kitchen. This is an ideal place to store paper products and overflow canned goods. But remember canned goods have an expiration date as well so check your stash periodically otherwise in an emergency you won’t have anything safe to eat! Check water expiration dates as well.
These steps will help you get the garage space in order. And who knows? You might even be able to park the car inside this winter! Did you notice by the way that I was using The Magic Formula here? Eliminate, Categorize and then Organize will carry you across the finish line every time. If you aren’t familiar with it the garage is an excellent place to develop your skills.