DIY Garage Organization: Clear Out, Clean Up, Optimize

    Rubbermaid Products/flickr

    Quick! What does the following quote refer to? Everybody complains about _____, but nobody does anything about it. If you guessed “the clutter in my garage,” you weren’t technically correct (the answer is actually “the weather”). However, you did succeed in bringing up an issue that touches a raw nerve for most American homeowners. If your garage is so cluttered you can’t even find your car, make this year the one you finally tame those mountains of mess.

    Sort Your Stuff

    Sort all the piles of junk … er … stuff that have somehow collected in your garage over this past winter. Set up 4 separate action categories:

    1. Donate or sell -- things which are still usable, just not by you.

    2. Recycle – old newspapers, plastic containers without lids … you get the picture.

    3. Toss – whatever’s not worth anything to anybody. Use caution when disposing of toxic or flammable items like paint, solvents, antifreeze, or fuel; handle with care and take them to your local hazardous waste center.

    4. Keep – what you really, really promise you need. Notice we strategically placed this one last, so you’d be less tempted to lump everything in here. This category can (should!) be broken down even further, into seasonal and regularly used.

    Clean And Brighten

    Once you finally get rid of the garage clutter and make some room in there, do a pre-spring cleanup. Wash your garage windows and floor; rent a hot water pressure washer if the floor is badly soiled. For safety’s sake: before you begin pressure washing, remove all flammable substances, and ensure that you have adequate ventilation and drainage.

    Wipe down the garage doors and walls, as well, to remove spider webs and general grime. While you’re at it, schedule an inspection of the garage doors to make sure they’re operating smoothly and safely. Next, why not freshen up your garage interior with a coat of paint? Exterior latex will be fine for the walls, but use hardwearing, durable 1-part epoxy paint on your floor.

    Plan Your Garage Space

    Now sit down, take a deep breath, and relax. You’re not done yet, but a brief time out will allow you to consider exactly how you’ll make optimal use of your newly cleared and cleaned garage. Take accurate measurements; then sketch as you plan, with either good old paper and pencil or high tech 3D modelling software.

    Remember that the main function of a garage is as a protected parking area. It may also be the only practical place for your washer and dryer, and possibly your freezer and water heater too. With that in mind, calculate how much room you need for your vehicle(s) and appliances before anything else. Then you can add in the extras, like workspace and storage.

    A Place For Everything

    If your garage will be multitasking, install a parking bumper or stop to keep your car where it belongs. This is actually required according to the building code in many localities.

    Optimize your “bonus” space by fitting in a convenient combination of work area and storage. Install a fold-down workbench, which can do double duty as a craft table. Those outdated cabinets you took down when you remodeled your kitchen? Repurpose them as no-cost storage units. Maximize your garage’s potential by building storage onto its walls … and even the ceiling! Shelves are practical and inexpensive, while pegboards are perfect for bicycles, tools, and other possessions you need easy access to. (Paint a silhouette of each item onto the board to clarify what goes where.) Belongings you don’t use often can be hoisted up, up, and away with the help of a simple pulley system.

    Laura Firszt writes for

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