Garage organizing is difficult because by its very nature, a garage is a no man's (or woman's) land.
Garages aren't exactly part of the house, but they're not outdoors, either. As a result, this transitional area can become junky in a heartbeat. Even when someone does take responsibility for the garage, it is out of sight, out of mind.
The good news is that the garage can meet most of our needs - if it's organized correctly. And once it's organized, everyone who sets foot in no-woman's-land should help maintain that system.
Garage Organizing: The Entryway
Most of us enter our homes through the garage - that's one reason why it's so junky. Create a user-friendly entry area in your garage for the family.
Consider what you do and what you're carrying as you enter your home, and then design a place for it.
Accessories: Whatever the season, we always need something. In the winter, it's gloves, hats, and scarves. In the the summer, it's sunglasses, raincoats, and hats.
Give each family member a small basket or bin to store the items that they always need as they go out the door. No more running bad inside to track it down at the last minute.
Backpacks: Those poor kids lug home monstrous backpacks and, of course, they cannot possibly take them all the way to their bedrooms, can they? If the answer is no, find a temporary holding place for the backpacks in the garage. They're in the way inside, anyway. Options include:
Bins and storage racks: Put big plastic bins of different colors near the door to capture backpacks. Assign one color for each child.
Hooks: Sturdy hooks on the wall are another good alternative.
Garage shelving: Keep them low and make sure they're deep enough to fit the whole massive backpack.
Organizing Garage Storage Items
Some things need to be accessible at all times; other things we see only every 10 years when we move, but we want to keep them anyway. Think of your garage storage in three distinct categories:
Short-term garage storage: This is for things you'll need in the next three months or things that you need intermittently, such as items you buy in bulk. Short-term storage also includes items that you don't use often but need to keep handy, such as boots, flashlights, and umbrellas.
Mid-term garage storage: These are things you use seasonally, such as Christmas trees, grills, hammocks, and skis. Put them in lofts or stack them in boxes, but don't push them all the way to the back of the garage.
Long-term garage storage: These are things you don't really need but can't really part with, either, such as old tax records, your daughter's first dress, your children's artwork, mementos, and family treasures that you can't stand but will pass down anyway. Put these at the dark back inaccessible corners of the garage.
Here are some systems to consider for your short-term, mid-term, and long-term garage organizing needs. None of them are ideal for storing everything.
You will probably need a combination to meet all your needs. These garage organizing systems are arranged from most to least expensive:
Floor-to-ceiling garage cabinets: This is one of the most attractive options, and it's also one of the most expensive. The advantages of this system is that all your unsightly items are out of sight. You can organize them well. And you can keep them relatively dust-free and clean. The disadvantages: they're usually not deep or large enough to store big boxes or bulky items such as luggage. And small items can get lost within big cabinets unless you put boxes on the shelves to contain them.
Lofts: For the long-term storage items that you use only once in a blue moon, lofts are a great choice. These are platforms suspended about 4 or 5 feet from the ceiling. They are great for storing mementos, old financial records, and other stuff you don't need but can't part with. It keeps them dry and out of harm's way. You can put things that you might need more often, such as luggage and pet carriers, up on the loft near the front where they're pretty accessible.
Specialized racks: For just about anything that you want to hang or store, there is a specialized rack designed specifically for it. There are racks to store balls, bikes, tennis supplies, you name it.
Industrial shelving: These are aluminum shelves; simple, inexpensive, and light. They can hold everything from pantry items to sodas and boxes.
Pegboards: These are boards filled with holes on which you hang things on special hooks. Pegboards are very handy for garage organizing because everything is accessible and in plain view yet not on the floor.
Plastic containers: The garage is a really dirty place. Protect anything that's not sealed by storing it in plastic containers.
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