Article Summary:Ten easy ideas to help you organize your garage.
According to the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), fifty percent of American homeowners surveyed state that their garage is disorganized and fully one-third call it the "messiest space" in their home. If your car has been banished to the driveway and the thought of just peeking into your garage makes you break out in a cold sweat, you're not alone. Here are ten tips to help you get motivated and tackle that very scary area of your life, get your car back under roof again and feel great about it.
1. Create a staging area.
If you can park at least one car in your garage, you can probably organize the entire space in a day. You'll need a staging area where you can put items as you remove them from the garage. A flat or gently sloping front lawn or driveway is the ideal option, but any large flat area will do. Watch the weather forecast in advance, so your items don't get soggy or blown down the street.
2. Enlist some help.
Your family is the first place to go for assistance. Just because you're the parent doesn't mean it's your job to do all the work. Teaching your kids organizing skills will help them later in life. Also, they'll be much more invested in keeping the space organized after the fact if they helped with the organizing process. It's just human nature to have a greater appreciation for the things we work for, and they don't want their hard work ruined any more than you do. Promise the family a reward after the project is over, which will help fuel their enthusiasm. If you don't have kids, invite a few friends over, put on some upbeat music, order pizza for lunch and make it a party. Organizing projects are always easier and faster when you have help. If all else fails, hire a Professional Organizer to come help you make decisions and tackle the space. It's an investment worth making.
3. Start early in the day.
Odds are the project will take longer than you imagine, so getting an early start will help you avoid working into the dark. Plus, starting early gives you a head start while it's still nice and cool outside.
4. Work outside in.
Open the garage door and start in a corner nearest the driveway, working your way in toward the house. Handle every item as you see it and as you handle each thing, make a decision right then whether it stays or goes. Remember… keeping everything and avoiding decisions is what you go into this mess in the first place, so strive to only keep the items that have real value in your life. Place the items to be trashed in a pile near the street and bag/box them up later for the trash service to take away.
5. Group by category.
For those important items you choose to keep, place them in your staging area, grouping them by category as you go. Warning: Do NOT just place everything into one giant "keep" pile because you'll just have to go back through it a second time to categorize the items, and that's double work. It's simpler and more effective to categorize each item the first time you handle it. Common categories include sports equipment, gardening tools and supplies, car care products, painting supplies, household tools and camping gear to name a few.
6. Add storage tools.
Once your garage is empty, you may need to add storage tools. Options include freestanding shelving units, built-in shelves, wall-mounted shelving systems, pegboard, and closed cabinetry systems. Research the options and pricing online to determine which products best fit your budget and storage requirements. Each has its own pros and cons. For example, freestanding open shelving tends to be inexpensive, quick to assemble, portable, and lets you see everything at once. Wall-mounted shelving systems vary in price, are a bit tougher to install and become part of your home's value if and when you sell it. Closed cabinetry systems are more expensive, however, they have the option of providing locking storage, and they keep everything hidden away, which looks really nice. Choose the product that will work best for your needs.
7. Put it away.
So you have your items grouped by category and it's time to put them back into the garage. First, get various size plastic bins with lids (clear ones work really well) to contain families of smaller items and keep them from migrating all over the shelves. Label each container clearly with a permanent marker or an adhesive label so you don’t have to guess at what each container holds. Store categories you access frequently on lower shelves and items you rarely use up higher. Label the fronts of the shelves or cabinet doors to remind yourself and family of the new homes for each category.
8. Be safe not sorry.
Store toxic substances and hazardous chemicals out of the reach of small children, either high up on open shelving or preferably, in a locking cabinet. Of course, along with this common sense tip, it's crucial to teach your kids how to identify and avoid dangerous materials and what to do if they find them. Place your large trashcan and recycling bins near the entrance to your home for easy access and keep the traffic path clear.
9. Move it out.
Now that you've pared down your possessions, it's time to get rid of those items that are no longer serving you and could be giving someone else value. Either haul the good, useable items to a Goodwill drop-off spot near you, or join your local Freecycle.org group to begin giving items away.
10. Sell it.
For items you wish to sell, hold a garage sale or use a free online classified such as Craigslist or Live Deal. If you prefer to do a garage sale, label a few boxes "hold for sale" and as you identify items you'd like to sell, place them in the sale boxes. Once your garage project is finished, you will likely find you've created free space in the garage to temporarily store the sale boxes. If not, choose an area of your home that is rarely used and store them until the sale.
Remember, the important part of getting rid of unused items is that you're giving them new life. They were dead before, because they weren't being used, but by giving them away or selling them, you reactivate their value with someone else. And if you're really feeling adventurous, add a fresh coat of paint to the walls and floor of the garage to give the space a whole new look and brighten it up. Why not be brave and step out of your comfort zone by choosing a paint color that's fun and bold? It's something different and unique, and you'll be more likely to maintain your newly organized space when you love the way it looks.
Monica Ricci has been an organizing and productivity specialist since 1999. She offers onsite consulting, as well as motivational seminars and workshops, which teach effective organizing and simplifying and effectiveness strategies for home and work. Reach Monica at www.Catalyst Organizing.com or ph: 770-569-2642.