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