Experts estimate that only 30 percent of homeowners store their cars in the garage. The other 70 percent can’t because the garage has too much stuff. While you may have intended to keep the garage in your new Dakan home clean and organized, it’s easy for all the seasonal “stuff” required for a beach house to become unruly. Luckily, you can whip your garage back into shape with little time and attention.
Make a plan: Some manufacturers of garage-organizing systems offer free space planning services. Use their tools to determine how to store your gear. Before buying any storage items, write down your garage’s dimensions and note the size and location of windows, doors, switches and receptacles. Note how much space your car needs. If you typically store outdoor furniture in the garage during the off-season, dedicate ample room for those pieces so that when it’s time for them to come inside, there’s a space ready and waiting.
Here are tips for making the best use of your space:
- Store items you use together, such as garden hoses and rakes, close to one another.
- Put bulky equipment like beach carts in corners where they won’t get bumped or knocked over.
- Place frequently used items, like beach chairs and bikes, close to the garage door.
- Stash seasonal items (snow shovel) or rarely used items in the hardest-to-reach spots.
- Hang or store dangerous tools out of reach of small children (but not too high that they could fall on someone’s head).
Carve out time: Set aside a full day or weekend to complete the job.
Gather your tribe: Consider making decluttering a family project or invite over a few friends to pitch in. Many hands make light work.
Be prepared: One of the biggest mistakes is not having the right supplies. It’s easy to throw a bunch of things in a large bin to get the mess out of the way, but when you need to look for something, you’ll be frustrated. Buy or gather bins, baskets and trash bags beforehand.
Here are some supplies to consider:
- Clear jars in different sizes for sorting hardware and small items
- Stackable, clear plastic bins with lids
- A lockable cabinet for storing pool chemicals and other stuff you don’t want kids to get into
- A portable label maker so you’ll know exactly what’s in each bin
- Trash bags and recycling cans
- Basic cleaning supplies
- Empty boxes for collecting items for donation
Clearing, Sorting and Cleaning
Go through everything: Pull out and open every box, bin and bag, including things you didn’t unpack when you moved in.
Clean up the space: Once you’ve given yourself an empty space to work with, make sure it’s clean. Sweep the garage floor and address any spills. This is also a good time to consider an epoxy floor coating that resists oil stains and easily wipes clean. You can do it yourself or call in a professional.
Get to sorting: Sort all items into four piles: keep, donate, sell or garbage. Lay items on dedicated tarps or mark off areas in your driveway with chalk. Consider getting rid of outgrown toys, things that are broken beyond repair, expired household chemicals and anything you haven’t used in at least two years. If it’s difficult to let go of things that have sentimental value, take a picture to remember the item, then move on. Donate giveaways and schedule a yard sale before you change your mind.
Put like with like: Sort the keepers into broad categories, such as beach supplies, sports and recreational equipment, pool supplies, automotive supplies, seasonal decor and hand tools. Place them in well-marked cardboard boxes or, better yet, stackable clear-plastic bins you can use later. Put the keepers back in the garage for now.
Relocate some items: Evaluate things currently stored in your garage, like luggage and paint, and see if you can find a home for them inside. For safety reasons, don’t store these items in your garage:
- Paint: Extreme cold or heat can ruin paint, so tore cans in a more temperate area.
- Propane storage: A spark could ignite the fumes, so propane tanks should always be kept outdoors.
- Paper goods: They’re a magnet for roaches and other bugs, so consider moving them to your pantry.
- Refrigerator: Refrigerators are an energy drain when used in spaces that are not air-conditioned.
Go vertical: There are several types of vertical space organizing systems.
- Pegboards: The advantages of pegboards are that they’re widely available, easy to install, and can be cut to size and painted to customize the look. The disadvantages are that they often aren’t sturdy enough for hanging heavy objects like bicycles.
- Track-based systems: With these systems, shelf standards hang from a single track affixed to wall studs to bear the weight of heavier objects. It’s also easy to move hooks and shelves when needed. However, you must ensure the track is level so the standards hang straight.
- Panel systems: With this system, the entire wall is finished with slotted plastic panels that hold lock-in hooks, shelves and storage cabinets so every square inch of wall space can be used. Disadvantages include that some systems must be installed by trained professionals, which can add to the cost, and you’re limited to using only system-compatible organizing products.
Putting Everything Back
Put it where you’ll see it: Put the least used items on the top and bottom shelves, and store things you use frequently at eye level.
Look up: The garage ceiling is a great spot for hanging long, flat stuff you don’t use daily, such as ladders and seasonal sports gear, like boogie boards. Make sure that any shelves you hang from the ceiling don’t interfere with your garage door and that there’s enough clearance to avoid scraping the roof of your car.
Try magnets: If you have more tools than can fit on your pegboard or want to access your most-used tools easily, consider adding magnetic strips. This is a great way to store tools like wrenches, screwdrivers, chisels, scissors and hammers.
Everyone gets a space: Give each family member a space to drop off their beach bags, pickleball gear, beach toys, bikes and more. Consider creating cubbies for each person with hooks for hanging towels, benches for taking off sandy shoes and baskets for storing small things, like keys, goggles or sunscreen.
Creating a workspace: Add an organized station in the garage to stash tools and provide a workspace. Make sure to put the workstation near an electrical outlet, and if space is at a premium, consider a wall-mounted, fold-down work table that will provide a sturdy surface and tuck out of the way when not in use.
Curtain off unsightly areas: Curtains are an inexpensive way to hide clutter. Install a rod and curtain panels in a corner of your garage for a clean look.
Stay vigilant: At least once a year, weed through your belongings and sell, donate or toss what you don’t need.