Garage organizing is challenging because, by its very nature, the 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.
We see it only as we cruise through on the way from the car, usually shedding backpacks, shoes, and umbrellas in our wake. Oh, no problem, we think, we'll pick them up later. But we rarely make time to do that.
We don't really put things away in the garage. And kids are the worst offenders. They toss the soccer balls in the general direction of the corner. Oops!
They throw their bikes on top of the pile of clothes we're going to take to Goodwill ... sometime. Hey, clothing keeps. Several things are going on here - all of which can be addressed with garage organizing.
Several things are going on here.
First, because no one hangs out in the garage, garage organization is last on our list of priorities for keeping it tidy and clean.
Second, all sorts of different activities are going on here.
The garage is used as an entryway, for storage space for everything from kids' large toys to sports equipment to gardening tools, for working out, for workshops, for recycling, and the list goes on.
How much can one room do? (Oh, yeah, we'd like to park the car there too - if there's any floor space left over, There's nothing like leaving your second-biggest investment out to rust in the driveway!)
The good news is that if you organize your garage properly, it can meet most of your storage space needs. But that's if - and only if - you and the family organize your garage correctly.
And once a garage organization system is in place, everyone who sets foot in no-woman's-land should maintain that system.
Here's how to organize your garage.
To organize your garage, first, divide the garage into areas of use, just like rooms. Consider these options for your garage organization:
Wow! It's a wonder there's any floor space we can walk through there, let alone park. Of course, not everyone will have all these areas. And some will have all these - and more.
Most of us enter our homes through the garage. That's one reason why it's so junky. At the back door, we kick off our muddy shoes, throw down the umbrella, and toss in the ball we found outside the garage door.
Wherever your entry area is, it is essential to organize your garage to make it functional. Create a user-friendly entry area in your garage. Again, consider what you do and what you're carrying (and dropping) as you enter your home, and then organize your garage and design a place for it. Here's how to organize your garage:
Accessories: Whatever the season, we always need something. In the winter, it's gloves, hats, and scarves. In the summer, it's sunglasses, raincoats, and hats. Give each member of the family a small basket or bin to store the items that they always need as they go out the door. No more running back inside to track it down at the last minute.This is garage organization at its finest.
Backpacks: Those poor kids lug home large backpacks and, of course, they cannot possibly take them to their bedrooms, can they?
If the answer is no, as you organize your garage, find a temporary holding place for the backpacks in the garage. They're in the way inside, anyway. Options include:
Coats: We all have one favorite coat that we wear day in and day out each season. This garment never sees the inside of the closet because it's always at the ready. Hang favorite coats and rain gear on hooks near the kitchen door, or wherever your usual departure spot is.
Gear: Busy families need lots of stuff: saxophones, tennis rackets, swim goggles, etc. And they need a place to stash it till they need it again. You do not want this stuff sitting by the back door for Grandma Ellie or your 3-year-old to trip over.
Ideally, the kids would walk over to the garage wall pegboard wall that's there just for this purpose and hang the tennis rackets on the appropriate peg; then they would walk over to the bin that's there just for balls and insert the soccer ball. And yes, that is something to strive for.
But when they are going to be using the tennis racket again the next day, that might not happen. They're human. Avoid conflict and crashes and give them each a bin or storage space on the shelf that's just for their stuff. Consider making the space big enough for their backpacks, too.
Tell your kids they have to empty the bin or shelf once a week. But they do have that week's grace period. And Mom won't even look to see what's there.
Bikes: Bikes are so big, and they tip over so easily they require extra thought as you organize your garage. I have a rule that bikes always go in their prescribed "parking places."
A friend of mine marked parking lines on the floor of her garage, so her kids know exactly where to put their bikes. My friend never has to get out of her car to move a bike an inch.
Shoes: Many families have a no-shoes-inside policy. Most families have a no-muddy-shoes-inside policy. That means a lot of shoes piled beside the door. Here are some alternative places to put them to consider as you organize your garage:
The first challenge of using the garage for storage is that unlike most rooms, the garage is not exactly furnished. You will need a lot of storage "furniture" to make the garage work for your family.
The good news is that these catchall furnishings don't need to be attractive, just functional. And they don't have to be expensive, either.
Here are some systems to consider as you organize your garage. None of them are ideal for storing everything. You will probably need a combination to meet all your needs. These furnishing options are arranged from most to least expensive,
Floor-to-ceiling cabinets: This is one of the most attractive options, and it's also one of the most expensive. The advantage 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. For neatniks, this might be the right choice.
Counters and cabinets: Some people install counters and cabinets in their garage, just like you'd have in a kitchen. Of course this, too, is an expensive solution. You do have the convenience of drawers for small items. And you can keep things relatively clean. But it's obviously not for everyone.
Lofts: For the long-term storage items that you use only once in a blue moon, you might want to invest in lofts. 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.
Specialized racks: For just about anything that you want to hang or store3, there is a specialized rack explicitly designed for it. There are racks to store balls, bikes, tennis supplies; you name it. If you have a passion - biking, tennis, fishing, golf - and have expensive equipment, you might want to invest in proper storage for it.
Industrial shelving: These are the aluminum shelves you can get at hardware stores. They are 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 single hooks. Pegboards are convenient garage storage because everything is accessible and in plain view yet not on the floor. Pegboards are great for storing bikes, gardening tools, work tools, and sports equipment.
Plastic containers: Remember that a garage is a filthy place. Protect anything that's no sealed by storing it in plastic containers. Wheeled bins are great for toy pickup at the end of the day.