Clean Out Your Inner Garage

The garage is the greatest clutter magnet in the house. Most people are unhappy with their basements and garages because of over-accumulation and minimal storage. Why not turn one of your most used spaces into an organized and simple haven? Here are some ways to pare down and transform your garage into a functional and good-looking space.

Make your family help

For your next birthday, tell your family that you want their assistance for a big cleanout. Prepare by building up a supply of garbage bags, boxes, tape and marking pens. Neither the bags nor the boxes should be too large; the former will split and the latter will be too heavy to carry.

What are you going to do with your stuff?

  • Divide everything up into the following four categories: Give Away/Sell, Fix, Keep and Throw Away. Also create a section for any items you're not sure what to do with.
  • Deciding what to give away is extremely difficult. One of my tricks for completing this task is to put things that you might be willing to discard into a box, and seal it shut. Mark it with its eventual destination (for clothes, perhaps the Salvation Army; for kids' toys, a local hospital) and seal it shut. Date it and put it aside for a year. If, within a year, you haven't opened the box, do not unseal it. Instead, take it directly to the charity. (Otherwise you're likely to play the "maybe I could use this" game and nothing will never leave the house.)
  • To dispose of furniture and hazardous items such as car batteries, motor oil, pesticides and paint, you will have to make special arrangements with your local sanitation department or get information from Earth 911. For information regarding old appliance disposal, go to the Steel Recycling Institute.
  • Divide the keepers into categories like tools, garden equipment and sports equipment. Place the items from the category used most often in an accessible place, like near the door to the house or on lower shelves.
  • Make sure to mark storage cartons clearly and specifically. For example, label a box Tax Returns: 1998-2001 rather than just Business.

Create storage for the stuff you want to keep

  • Getting stuff off the ground is a big step toward making the garage look neater. Create storage room with industrial shelving and look for old bookcases at yard sales.
  • Use old cabinets with doors to store paints, solvents and cleaning supplies, which are dangerous for children. Consider locking these cabinets for safety.
  • Once you have pared down your items and know exactly what you need, check out Tidy Garage organizing systems. Tidy Garage is great because it provides numerous before-and-after photos of organized areas, as well as information on how to make the most of your space. Suncast offers beautiful accessories and organizing systems that can work for any home.

Organize your things by hanging them up

  • Add shelf space in a jiffy using just four lengths of chain and eight hooks. You need a plank, four equal lengths of chain and eight hooks. Fasten one hook to each corner of the plank and one hook to a corresponding spot in the ceiling or beam above, then slip the chains into place.
  • Keep tools organized by hanging them on a pegboard. You'll keep the area tidy if you have a specific location for each tool. Once this is done, paint a silhouette of the tool on the pegboard for other users to have a placement guide.
  • Ladders can be hung from rafters and bikes can be hung from the walls. (However, if you aren't the type to be bothered to lift your bike, see the next suggestion.)
  • Use electric tape or paint to mark off a "reserved parking" space for anything with wheels.
  • Use an old golf bag for long-handled tools such as shovels and rakes, or hang them individually from hooks or grabber holders. If the item doesn't have a hole in the handle, screw a cup hook into the tip. (A cup hook is a hook meant to hold a cup. One end is made of a screw, while the other end is shaped in a curve. Screw the screw end into a wall of shelf, and slip the handle of the cup onto the curved end of the hook. This is a standard item that can be found in any hardware department.)

Keep your floors tidy

  • To keep the garage floor looking clean, use a cement sealer to seal it after cleaning the floor. (Ask your local paint store for a brand recommendation.) Once the concrete is sealed, spills are much less problematic because they won't stain.
  • Put down a big piece of rubber-backed carpeting in the garage to pick up any debris that might otherwise be tracked inside.
  • Place a mat or shoe tray in the garage to hold muddy shoes so dirt doesn't get tracked inside.

Make storage accessible for you and your family

  • If you have young children with a lot of outdoor play equipment, buy a storage container on wheels. You can easily roll it around to gather up their toys at the end of the day. Tall laundry hampers and clean garbage pails also make good containers for outdoor toys and for bulky sports items.
  • Put gardening tools, such as trowels, gloves and kneepads, in a basket or wagon so that they are immediately accessible for use.

Organize the waste

  • Have a garbage pail in the garage for trash that accumulates in the car. Stow car care products such as paper towels and rags in a caddy or bucket.
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