Over the past year, homeowners have organized cabinets, closets, and pantries with gusto. In a small space, a little effort yields positive results.
The garage, however, is another story. No matter the size, this space often contains a mismatched assortment of items. (Indeed, there might be everything but a car.) Unfortunately, most of it falls into the out-of-sight-out-of-mind category.
The mess can mask problems, says home expert Ed Spicer, CEO of Pest Strategies, which provides information on extermination and removal products.
For one, it gives pests an easy place to hide, he explains. It also ups the risks of accidents, including the release of improperly stored chemicals.
Here are some tips to help make the task more manageable.
To start, Kirsten Fisher, founder and CEO of Imagine Home Organization, recommends taking everything out of the garage. “Every shelf should be emptied; every corner cleared.” The approach has an advantage. It lets you see how much room you have, and the garage is easier to clean.
Others start small. “Pick a category of like items to organize,” says Kris Arabia, resident trend-caster and senior vice president/chief merchant at mDesign, which makes organizing products.
Or start in one corner.
Grouping is a logical approach, even if you remove everything. Examples include sports paraphernalia, tools and gardening essentials. Then establish zones for each category in the garage.
“When things are organized in predictable places, they don’t get lost or forgotten,” Arabia says.
Plan on putting chemicals in a high, safe area, and store heavier items near the floor. Bikes, golf clubs, and other frequently used pieces should go near the door.
Use sticky notes to designate the planned zones and move as needed until you’re happy with the configuration.
TRASH, SELL, OR DONATE
Now assess each item, says Anthony Lee, founder of Yard Sale Radar, an online platform for posting yard, garage, and estate sales. Don’t put it back down until you’ve determined a proper place for it.
The “new residence” might be a trash can, a donation box, or a new shelf in the garage. “I ask myself these questions: ‘Is it useful? Is it of value? How likely am I to use it again?’” Arabia says. “If the answer is no, I donate it to a local charity or pitch it.”
You can also sell it, which means creating a resell zone. “Garage sales are great ways to get rid of things you don’t need, freeing up space and lining your pockets,” Lee maintains. Just don’t wait too long before putting the cache on the market.
DUST & SCRUB
Clean the vacated space or area before returning the items. Admittedly, it is a messy job.
Remember to look for signs of pest infestation, such as animal droppings, odd odors, and chewing. If you suspect you have pests, call a specialist, Spicer says. Then use a rodent-resistant silicone foam to seal openings.
In the future, store food or birdseed in rodent-resistant containers, and keep paper, such as books, inside the house. Mice use it for nesting.
USE A MIX OF STORAGE STYLES
As far as storage is concerned, cabinets are an option if they don’t impede access to a parked vehicle, says organizing expert Eileen Roth, author of “Organizing For Dummies.”
With or without cabinets, consider lining walls with shelves for stackable containers. Clear boxes have an advantage: you can quickly find what you need, says Roth. She recommends rectangular storage boxes — except if you’re storing balls. Drop them in a round plastic basket.
Adding a few opaque boxes can reduce the “visual noise,” Arabia says. They’re ideal for holiday décor or items you rarely need.
If you have an abundance of sporting equipment, purchase storage designed for each type, Roth adds. Don’t forget to label everything.
To increase floor space, hang bikes from ceiling hooks and install garage racks, which hang from the ceiling. Pegboards on the wall are ideal for tools.
In short, avoid putting items on the floor, Arabia notes. Not only will it prevent water damage, but it makes it easier to clean the garage. Simply break out the leaf-blower to chase debris back outside.
To be sure, stay on top of dirt and clutter. Says Fisher: “Once you put in the work in to create a system, it just takes a little bit of dedication to maintain your clear, organized space.”