If you have space, the garage is a very good storage place. Not all storage space is created equal.
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 in three distinct categories - short-term, mid-term, and long-term storage.
These garage storage solutions can help get each type conveniently stashed away.
Short-term storage 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 storage is for 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 storage is for things you don't really need but really 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 at the dark back inaccessible corners of the 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 attractive, just functional. And they don't have to be expensive, either
Here are some systems that you might consider for your garage, depending on what you use it for. None of them are ideal for storing everything.
You will probably need a combination to meet all your needs. These furnishing options are roughly arranged from most to least expensive.
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. 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 boxes and bulky items such as luggage.
And small items can get lost within big cabinets unless you put boxes on the shelves to contain them.
Friends of mine, a retired couple, Pat and Sam, use their garage as a workspace for their hobbies. Sam likes to mount and frame artwork and prints. Pat likes to refinish old furniture.
Neither hobby is an indoor activity. So Pat and Sam keep their equipment and supplies along opposite walls of the garage. When they're ready to work, they just back the car out of the garage into the driveway, pull their tools up front and center, and get down to business.
Some people install counters and cabinets in their garage, just like you'd have in a kitchen. Some even have a sink in the garage. This is helpful to wash up after gardening or working on the car without messing up the sinks inside.
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.
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.
Instead of building them from wood, you can buy wire lofts that are about 4-by-4-feet that hang from the ceiling.
If you don't want to actually create a loft, you may be able to store large items such as rafts or tents in the rafters. You can even devise a pulley system to pull them up and down. The sky - or the roof anyway - is the limit.
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 shelves 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 essential that you know if the kids try to climb them.
For safety and a lot of other 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.
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.
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.
These are boards filled with holes on which you hang things on single hooks. Pegboards are very handy garage storage solutions 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.
A friend of mine, Kimberli, has a family that's really into sports. A sturdy pegboard covers an entire wall of their garage with even sturdier hooks.
Everything from bikes to skis to swim 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?
The garage is very enticing for storage. But there are certain things that don't belong there.
Finally, remember that the garage is a really dirty 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.