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Do you have tips for organizing the garage?

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Though it may not seem like the best time to clean the garage, now is actually the perfect time to tidy up the structure that protects your vehicles and countless other items. There is no distracting yard work this time of year, and a clean, organized garage is a great way to start the new year.

A garage is indicative of a family’s dynamics and often serves as the catchall for busy lives. Its primary function should be to provide protection for automobiles. However, the convenient access, security and ease of concealment it offers make it an ideal storage space for a variety of other items.

During the warm season months when cars are often parked outside, it is easy to let miscellaneous items pile up in the garage. Garages often serve as a storage place for lawn and garden equipment, automotive and power tools, home repair and maintenance supplies, bicycles, household chemicals, engine fuel and lubricants. Many also include a freezer or second refrigerator, extra furniture and appliances, sports equipment, children’s toys, snow removal equipment, trash containers, wheelbarrows and ladders.

Depending on garage size, these items may be organized on shelves and suspended from the walls or ceiling to provide sufficient floor space for vehicles. Organizing the garage can be done in stages, which can significantly reduce the time and effort required. Consider these tips:

The first step is to reduce the number of items stored. Donate appropriate things to charity, sell items if possible, discard unnecessary materials and return borrowed items to their owners. If something has not been used in the last few years, consider getting rid of it. The second step is to relocate items to other storage areas. Where appropriate, move items to the basement, attic, closet or other areas. For safety reasons, gasoline powered equipment, petroleum products, flammable gasses, paint, bulk fertilizer, pesticides and cleaning chemicals should not be stored in the home. Small quantities of some chemicals can be stored indoors. The next step is to remove items from the garage floor. When feasible, items should be stored against the walls or hung from the ceiling. Some exceptions include equipment with wheels/tracks and an engine, larger recycling bins and trash containers. This step leaves floor space clear for vehicles. If further organization is needed in the garage, consider remodeling to accommodate modern storage systems. The remodeling step integrates storage techniques with components and containers sold at home improvement stores. Storage system components include shelves and cabinets mounted on walls; hooks and hangers attached to the ceiling and walls to store ladders, wheeled carts and odd-sized equipment; and ropes and pulleys to suspend bicycles, canoes and other lightweight items from the ceiling. Remodeling can be expensive and can require time and effort, but it is a viable option for increasing garage storage space. Regularly used hand tools can be displayed on a wall over a workbench with storage drawers underneath. Hand tools can also be stored in tool boxes. Long handled tools such as rakes and shovels can be hung on walls, placed in tall cabinets or stored in vertical storage racks. Small tools and similar materials can be kept in a portable container for ease when transporting.

If the garage has an attic or exposed ceiling joists, this space can be used to store seasonal decorations and other items that are accessed annually. Cargo nets can be suspended from the ceiling to store inflatable items, cushions for lawn furniture and other lightweight materials.

Possibly the most versatile accessories in modern storage systems are plastic storage containers with lids. These containers are stackable and available in a variety of sizes. Many commercial storage systems integrate plastic containers with shelves and mounting brackets. Clear plastic storage containers are especially helpful, and some storage containers are available with wheels.

Once the garage is organized, maintaining it should become a family affair. Setting rules will be helpful. Some might include that the parking area must stay open and that items removed from their new storage places be promptly returned.

For many people, automobiles are second only to the family home in value and should be protected. In addition, a garage without clutter offers a protected setting for weekend projects and an organized place where stored items can easily be found.

Posted on 10 Feb 2006

Richard Beard
Agricultural Systems Technology and Education Specialist

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