Organizing 101: Garages
Wow, I thought, when I saw photos of Bill West's garage. Bikes and gardening tools hung on panelled walls, storage containers lined shelves, and the floor and walls were white. I thought about the clutter in my garage and decided to talk to the Colorado-based real estate agent and member of the National Association of Professional Organizers. Here's Bill's nine-step system for creating a "clean, functional and organized garage," which is also presented in his book, Your Garagenous Zone: Innovative Ideas for the Garage (Paragon Garage Company, $31).
1 When in doubt, throw it out. "Clutter really does block energy," says Bill. "Once you start throwing things out, you get energized." Go through the garage and identify items to throw or give away. Garage sales are great, but they can offer a pretty low return for the time and effort required. Sometimes it's faster and easier to give items to charity. And for a fee, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? (1800gotjunk.com), a Canadian company, will cart stuff away for you.
2 Categorize before you organize. Before buying cabinets, hooks or racks, separate items into categories like automotive, tools, gardening tools, sports equipment (which might be further broken down by type, season or family member), camping equipment and cleaning supplies. "When you store a category in a particular cabinet, it's easy to find what you need," says Bill.
3 Organize to visualize. "If you can see it, you can find it," says Bill. Make that your guiding principle when choosing organizing systems. Built-ins, such as cabinets and shelves, are especially helpful. Useful systems include a large, easily identifiable tool chest, see-through storage containers of every size (from tiny drawers for screws and nails to large-scale tubs for tents and sleeping bags), shelves for containers and racks that allow you to display frequently used items. Replace a single exposed lightbulb with track lights, and install task lights at your workbench.
4 If it's on the floor, it's time to store. Elevating everything makes cleaning the floor easier and reduces hiding spots where critters might make nests. Even Bill's tool chest is on casters so that he can wheel it out of the garage when it's time to mop. What's more, "The floor naturally slopes toward the garage door for drainage, so cabinets on the floor may never sit square, and then the doors don't open," he says.
In his garage, Bill installed a panel system that was designed for retail display (StoreWall, storewall.com for info). "The panels come in wood grains and colours and are easy to install on garage walls," he says. Big and small hooks, bins, shelves and more fit into the panel's grooves and can be moved around, maximizing the system's flexibility and eliminating the need to drill a new hole every time you buy a tool.
Photo courtesy of California Closets
The Dream Garage (thedreamgarage.net), a Markham, Ont.-based company, can also help you organize your garage with cabinetry, grid storage and more, all guaranteed for as long as you own your home. Individual lockers made of furniture-grade particleboard lockers and hung on a wall-mounted steel rail are also useful for storing sports equipment. I love this idea because even my son understands how to organize his belongings in his cubby at preschool.
5 Lateral thinking maximizes vertical storage. In other words, utilize every surface for storage, including the walls, support posts and ceiling. Bill boxed the posts in his garage with the panel system and used a ceiling-mounted shelf for storing off-season tires and other objects that aren't used regularly.
6 Keep it neat, treat the concrete. Coat the floor with white or light-colour epoxy paint. The idea, he says, is to create "a light, bright, inviting environment" that makes the garage feel like a multipurpose room that's part of the house. It will be obvious when the floor needs to be cleaned, and an epoxy coating makes it easy to mop.
7 Put it away and the garage will stay that way: organized. For every action of not putting an object in its place after using it, says Bill, there is an opposite and undesirable reaction when attempting to locate that object again, resulting in time wasted.
8 Your ride belongs inside. Once you organize your garage, you'll actually have room to park in it, too.
9 Don't be hasty, practise safety. Proper ventilation and locked, elevated storage of poisonous material and dangerous power tools are just a few ideas that should be part of your garage-organizing plan.
Photo courtesy of California Closets