If you have space, the garage is an ideal storage space.
Not all storage space is created equal, however.
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 storage space in three distinct categories - short-term, mid-term, and long-term storage.
These garage storage solutions can help you get this useful room into storage shape.
This is the storage space you'll use 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.
These are things you don't really need but can't 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 items in the dark, back, inaccessible corners of the garage, in ceiling storage racks, or on overhead industrial shelving.
The first challenge of using the garage to store your stuff 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.
Here are some systems to consider; none of them are ideal for storing everything, however. You will probably need a combination to meet all your needs. These furnishing options are roughly 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.
The bad news is that floor-to-ceiling cabinets are not deep or large enough to store big box and bulky items such as luggage.
And small things can get lost within big cabinets unless you put boxes on the shelves to contain them.
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 smaller items, and you can keep things relatively clean. But it's obviously not for everyone.
Lofts: For long-term storage items that you use only once in a blue moon, you might want to invest in storage 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.
You can put things that you might need more often, such as luggage and pet carriers up on the loft, but store them at the front where they're pretty accessible.
Garage shelving: These are the aluminum shelves you can get at hardware and home improvement stores. They are inexpensive and light. They can hold everything from pantry items to sodas to boxes.
Capacity on these garage shelving units range from 50 pounds to more than 200 - so make sure you know how much weight yours can hold. This will be helpful when you're considering what to store where, but it's also essential that you know if the kids try to climb them.
For safety and a lot of practical reasons, make all your garage's storage units no-play zones. And if the kids don't comply, make the garage and all its contents off-limits for a day or two. You shouldn't have to tell the kids twice.
Specialized racks: For just about anything that you want to hang or store, there is a dedicated rack explicitly designed for it. There are racks to store balls, bikes, tennis supplies; you name it.
Most people would not need such costly solutions. However, if you have a passion - biking, tennis, fishing, golf - and have expensive equipment, you might want to invest in proper storage for it.
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 but not on the floor.
Pegboards are great for tool storage, storing bikes, gardening tools, and sports equipment.
A friend of mine, Rose, has a family that's really into sports. An entire wall of their garage is covered by a sturdy pegboard and even sturdier hooks.
Everything from bikes to skis to swimming goggles is hung on the pegboard. All balls are stashed in a series of bins at the bottom. Water bottles and energy bars are stored alongside the bins. Gym bags are on the counter, ready to go with fresh, clean towels.
Running shoes and hiking boots are in shoe cubbies at the bottom. A canoe and a rubber raft hang side by side from the ceiling. This is a family that's ready to play anytime. Tennis anyone?
Plastic containers: Remember that a garage is a filthy place. Protect anything that's not sealed by storing it in plastic containers. Wheeled bins are great for toy pickup at the end of the day.