Get Your Garage in Gear

BY MARILYN KENNEDY MELIA ON FEBRUARY 24TH, 2016

When it comes to cleaning the house, many tools and sundry items wind up in the garage. If your garage, like many others, is not particularly organized, those items may never be found again.

In a survey of 1,000 U.S. adults, Lehigh Consumer Products LLC found that not only does garage clutter annoy homeowners, it is literally a pain: Thirty-nine percent of respondents said they tripped over garage items, and 27 percent had hit an object opening their car door.

The key to making the most of this space is to keep it clean and organized.

Time It Right

The changing of the seasons is a great time to look into your messy garage. Whether you roll the task into spring cleaning or use a fine autumn day when you put away lawn and garden tools, a scheduled once-over of this perennially disorganized space is due.

It takes at least a day, maybe more if you choose to paint or install shelves or other organizational systems, says Lisa Jacobs, New York-based professional organizer at Imagine It Done.

The garage and basement are usually the two biggest repositories of clutter in any home, Jacobs says. “Getting started is the worst part. It can feel very overwhelming.”

It may be tempting to browse the wide array of organization products (from specialized shelving to motorized lifts that store items close to the ceiling) before tackling the collected junk. But, experts say a sort-and-purge of existing clutter should be the first step.

Get Prepped

All it takes is one motivated person to tackle the job, but it’s probably better if two people can work together, says Denise Lee, National Association of Professional Organizers, St. Louis chapter president.

Heavy objects might require two lifters, plus, it helps to have a second opinion on sorting decisions, Lee explains.

Anyone pitching in should take safety precautions. Gloves with rubber or leather palms protect against cuts, and eye protection and breathing masks may be necessary if there’s lots of dirt and dust, Lee says.

An ample supply of contractor-quality trash bags (available at hardware stores) and empty boxes are also necessary for the organizing ahead.

Specialty storage is available for everything, from bike storage racks to tiny boxes for odds and ends.

 

Smart Sorting

“The aim is to touch each item in the garage just once as you’re clearing out everything,” says Scott Roewer, a Washington D.C.-based professional organizer at Solutions by Scott LLC.

Pick up and then deposit in bags or boxes labeled as “trash,” “donate,” “recycle” or “keep.” The “keep” pile can be divided into like categories, such as garden or sports equipment.

An “undecided” box as well as a “to be repaired” bin can be helpful, too, Roewer says.

Everything should go into a box or bag, and then set in one area of the garage or in the driveway.

Check the weather report before leaving things outside, cautions Lee.

The floor usually requires a washing down, and “you may want to brighten up everything with a paint specially made for garages,” Lee adds.

A New Plan

Now, the work switches from physical to cerebral. “Consider where you should place things,” Lee says.

Frequently used items should be accessible. Things that need to be loaded and unloaded into the trunk frequently, like sports equipment, Roewer says, should be near the car. Things that must remain out of reach from kids should be placed high.

For those who decide the garage could descend into clutter again without better storage, a bevy of do-it-yourself as well as professionally installed shelving, cabinets, tool tables and the like are available.

Among the favorites of professional organizers interviewed for this story: The Garage Zones by Closet Maid, HyLoft, Gladiator GarageWorks by Whirlpool Corp. and the elfa garage systems offered by The Container Store, all of which are available at retail locations throughout North America.

 

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