Park it! De-cluttering and organizing your garage
By Jennifer Cox | The Suburban | March 17, 2010
Do you drive into your garage and close the door behind you as quickly as possible to avoid humiliation? Are you passing on physical activity for the simple fact that digging out your gear would mean digging through four feet of stuff and getting clobbered by an avalanche? It’s probably the most dreaded area of the home to tidy up: the garage. It’s the home’s junk drawer, with everything from lawn care tools to sports equipment, seasonal items, kid’s toys, car tires, accessories and oh-so-much more. However, when properly organized, the garage can be one of the most functional areas of a house. Below are practical tips to help get your garage in tip-top shape. And who knows – maybe you’ll proudly keep the garage door up when you’re done. Take inventory – The first step in organizing your garage is knowing exactly what it is you’re dealing with – what’s really in your garage? Despite the surface items you might see, there could be all kinds of stuff lurking behind it. So the easiest thing to do is pull absolutely everything out of your garage. This will help you itemize as well as see the actual workable space available. Sort through it all, grouping similar things to make reassembly that much easier. Then, you can start to purge – what items are old, broken, or no longer used? Create two additional piles: one for donations and one for garbage. Toys that are still in good conditions, as well as certain tools, old bikes, and even clothes can all be donated to charity. Meanwhile, trash can be brought to the local dump or you can call 1-800-GOT-JUNK to pick it up. Also, always remember to dispose of old paint, batteries, cleaners and other potentially harmful substances in a proper way. Your town or city can provide more info. Once your garage is completely empty, come up with an efficient spacial layout. Plan the space – Roberto Wilson is the president and co-owner of Espace Garage Plus, a company that specializes in organizing outdoor spaces like garages. He has a straightforward tried-and-true method of planning a garage to optimize the wide-open area. “Basically a garage is three surfaces – ceiling, walls and floor” he says. The object is to find “solutions for each surface and put them to better use while giving the homeowner a chance to reclaim the space for a healthy co-habitation between vehicles and items, sports gear, accessories and seasonal items”. Areas of the garage with lots of overhead space are ideal for things you don’t use that often, like that huge pinecone wreath. Install racks suspended from the ceiling to optimize head-space. If you have an unused wall, take advantage of the flat area and use hooks to hold awkward things such as rakes, shovels, a weed trimmer, and more. A corner of the room is an ideal spot to set up a small workbench with accompanying hand tools, power tools, and tool chests. If organized properly, it can be unobtrusive but also functional. “I recommend using cabinets with drawers and wall organizers” Wilson says. Instead of having one huge metal cabinet to pile all your tools, opt for a more shallow toolbox that is equipped with various-sized drawers underneath. Better yet, choose a unit on wheels to make it even more useful. “And anything that doesn’t fit in a cabinet should be organized on the wall with the proper system” says Wilson. This could mean any number of solutions, from wall-mounted shelving to free-standing durable shelves, pegboards, and even wall-mounted bins. Bells and whistles – Basic organization methods and products are the quickest and most inexpensive way of getting your garage in working order. But, as with any project, there are always those little “extras” you can indulge in, especially for modern garages where budget is less of an issue. Custom flooring is one of them. Wilson’s company offers an epoxy flooring that comes in various colours and is resistant to stains and chemicals. The ones with vinyl-flecks take a garage floor from industrial and utilitarian to attractive and even stylish. Other cool flooring options include interlocking tile or a wide range of epoxy or rustoleum paints, which add colour and panache to a dull space. Custom-made built-ins are the Ferraris of garage organization. If you can afford it, custom cabinetry is the way to go. Nothing optimizes a space more than built-ins. Because they take full advantage of the available space and can be made in almost any configuration, customized cabinets and workspaces are ideal for the loftiness of a garage. Don’t be ashamed to open your garage door and let the neighbours sneak a peek. When your garage is organized like every other room in your home, it becomes useful as well as stylish. Just beware. When you have an organized garage, you no longer have an excuse not to play shinny on the local rink or build that new bench for the hallway.