Whether you can’t fit your car in the garage or you can’t find your car in the garage, either of these can cause problems. First off, let’s face it, cars aren’t cheap and having to go buy another one because you can’t find yours in the garage is a bit embarrassing, not to mention expensive. Secondly, if you can’t get your car into the garage because of the clutter, then you and your car and anything that you have in your car has to suffer through the heat, cold, wind, rain, snow, sleet, ice and other natural disasters while your clutter sits nice and comfortably in your garage. It just doesn’t sound fair. I know life isn’t always fair, but you should at least be able to put your car in the garage. In order to find a way to do just that, let’s learn how to organize your garage.
I have been in my share of garages, some were so full that you couldn’t turn around without falling over something, some were completely empty (ok, it was a house that had just been built), and then there is my dad’s garage. He has an amazing garage. First off, it is big, then there is the way that everything has a place. His garage is so organized that it is truly a marvel. Did he do it overnight? Of course not, in fact he didn’t even have a garage for a long time, but once he built it, he organized it.
You don’t have to have a lot of space to have an organized garage. Your first question should be – what is my garage for? (no this isn’t a — gee, what is this toothbrush for?, kind of question). When I say this I mean, do you want to put cars (or boats) in your garage? Is it going to be used as a workshop? Do you need space for outdoor equipment (lawn mower, rakes, shovels, etc.
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)? After you purpose (yes, purpose is being used as a verb here – when you purpose a room, you are deciding what to do with your room) your garage, you start up the “Steps to Organization” to learn how to organize.
NOTE: If you have read any of my other articles, this next section my seem a bit redundant. It seems that way because it is. I am including the Steps to Organization in each of my articles so that they will work as stand alone articles. If you already know the steps to organization from reading another of my articles on how to organize then skip ahead to the example.
The Steps to Organization are fairly straight forward. Imagine you are putting together a puzzle. What do you do first? (Well, first you open the box, but I am figuring we got past that part.) So what do you second? Depending on the kind of person you are, you start by sorting the pieces. The pieces with the straight edges go into one pile and the pieces without the straight edges go back into the bottom of the box. So our first step is:
STEP 1 — SORTING (woo hoo, yeah, think trumpets and fanfare — this is exciting, we know where to start)
After you are done sorting your pieces, we move on to step two. (I know, I know – I didn’t tell you how to sort or what to sort – that comes later in the article. Just hang in there.) So what is the next thing that you do when building a puzzle? Do we sort it out and then just walk away? Do we put all the middle (i.e. pieces without the straight edge) together first? No, first we build a border for our pieces. So step two is:
STEP 2 — BUILDING A BORDER (more fanfare, sounds of cheering)
The border is now built, but we are not done yet. If you left the puzzle with just a border you never get to enjoy the beauty of it. The same goes for organizing. Building a border is great, but now you have to use it. How do you use a border? I am glad that you asked (ok, I am glad that I asked, but if you were here I am sure you would have asked.) We use a puzzle border to give us information about the puzzle. The border tells us how big the final product will be. It helps us to determine where the interior pieces should go and it also lets us see a light at the end of the tunnel. (I went from puzzles to trains, and soon I will go back again. It’s a mixed metaphor, but I digress.) So step three is:
STEP 3 — FILLING IN THE PIECES
This makes sense when you are thinking about a puzzle, after all you have this pile of non-straight-edge pieces just sitting there and waiting. How does this work with organizing? Do you recall way back in step one where we were sorting? Those are our missing pieces, so filling in the pieces means that you are now putting stuff away. (Yes, another light at the end of the tunnel.) So that’s it we are done, right? After all, we sorted the pieces, we built the border, we filled in the pieces, our puzzle is done. Right? Wrong! Sorry, but there is one more step. (Actually, I am not sorry, but it sounds nicer to say it that way rather than – tough luck bucko, quit being a whiner.) So then what is the last step? Take a minute and think about it – when you are done with a puzzle what do you do? Do you leave it where you built it? Do you take it all apart so you can do it again another time? Do you smear goo on it so that is will become a work of art for you to hang on the wall? For the purposes of our analogy (i.e. comparing building a puzzle with learning how to organize a closet) We are going to so no, no, yes. No, we don’t just leave it where it is – that just adds to the clutter. No, we don’t take it apart (What? Are you crazy? We just did all this work, for goodness sake, don’t take it apart.) Yes, we smear goo on it so it is a work of art. Now, before you go get actual goo and really make a mess of things remember – this is an analogy. The goo is basically the stuff that holds the puzzle together and keeps it looking nice. That is what we need – we want our newly organized area to look nice. So the final step is:
STEP 4 — THE FINAL STEP – KEEP IT ORGANIZED (I forgot the fanfare for step three so let’s just add it in here – fanfare, fireworks and a laser light show, just for fun.)
Now that we have climbed the “Steps of Organization” together, let’s look at an example.
Note: if you have only short periods of time to work on your organizing project then still work your way through the steps, however do it in small sections.
Step 1: Sorting
Because the garage can become a dumping ground, this can take some time. If you live in a neighborhood or near a main road and you want it to go faster, the just open up your garage door on a warm spring Saturday morning and put a garage sale sign in your front yard. If you open it, they will come, yard-salers that is. As you are working on sorting, random people will come into your garage and offer you money for your clutter. This is when you decide if something is worth keeping. If you want to keep something, say, I’m sorry that’s not for sale and direct them to the pile of things you have decided to part with. If you live in Minnesota and it is the middle of winter, this may not be a good option for you.
Back to sorting, begin by making piles — you may need to open a door or move a vehicle (once you find your car) to have the space to sort. You should have at minimum a pile for trash, a pile for donate or yard sale, a pile for keep in the garage and a pile for keep, but not in the garage. (The “keep, but not in the garage pile can be in the garage for now, but it will have to leave sometime.) Be careful with this last pile, as you don’t want to clutter up the inside of your home, just to empty out your garage. Once you have your basic piles, look through your two keep piles again. Look at each item and decide if you really need it. If you are holding on to items from someone else, return the items. (If they are the ones that left them, tell them you are learning how to organize and the mean person on the website said to tell them to come over and get their stuff or it’s going out in your yard sale.)
Anything that doesn’t belong in the garage, but is staying with you needs to find a new home. Don’t just put it down and figure you will get to it later, find it a home now. Toss the trash, sell or donate the “get it out of my house” pile, put away the rest, then move on to step two.
Step 2: Building a border
The first thing to think about when organizing a garage is how much space do you have. This may seem like a straightforward question, but when thinking space, don’t limit yourself to the floor space. The great thing about garages is you can utilize floor space, wall space, and even ceiling space.
The second thing to think about is: PEGBOARD! Pegboard is a wonderful thing and it looks just fine in a garage. Most pegboard is either brown or white (usually with one color on one side and one on the other). The employees at your local home improvement store can offer tips on installation. I recently found out that they have galvanized steel pegboard, which is pretty cool looking. In fact they have a whole organizational system to use with the metal pegboard. What really matters is the look you want for your garage. The reason that pegboard is so great is because it is so customizable. Below you will see a variety of ways to customize your pegboard.
Screwdriver hooks can hold screwdrivers, pliers, scissors, and pretty much anything that is slim enough to fit into the hole, but has a top of some sort so that it won’t go all the way through.
There are plain hooks as well. Plain hooks are just long hooks that stick straight out form the wall. Plain hooks can be used for anything from hanging up electrical cords, garden hoses or pretty much anything with a hole in it. I put two of them near each other and use these hooks to hold up our shop broom.
The assortment packs are great if you need a variety of storage items and they are generally more cost effective. Some assortments come with jars to hold nuts, washers, or other little items.
Baskets and Bins:
Wire baskets are great for holding larger items (i.e. things that won’t fall through the holes). They come in various shapes and sizes.
Accessory boxes are nice for larger or smaller items – these boxes can hold little items as they have solid bases.
Small bins provide space for hand tools and smaller parts and pieces, like nails, screws, and nuts and bolts.
After you have the tools and other little things under control, you can start looking at how to organize some of the larger items. Depending on if you have more floor space or more wall space, you can choose either a garden tool organizer that stands on the floor or you can look into the strip garden tool organizers that attach to the wall. Take a look at the various options while keeping in mind your garage layout and choose what works best for you.
There are so many ways to build your garage border, but not all of them will work for everyone since garages come in all different shapes and sizes. Continue to build the border that works for your garage, if you run out of room on the floor, look to the walls. If you run out of room on the walls, decide if you really need everything and whether it belongs in the garage, then look to the ceiling. They have some great products for ceiling storage. There are lifts that can hoist bicycles to the ceiling on pulleys, there are shelving units that you can attach to the ceiling above your garage door, there are just so many cool things out there or you can build your own (just make sure you know what you are doing so it doesn’t fall on you).
My dad built wooden shelves in his garage then he screwed the lids of jars to the underside of these shelves. He uses the jars for storage of nails, screws, and all manner of little things. This is a great way to store small items (the jars are see through), plus you are able to recycle things you already have.
Step 3: Filling in the pieces
The border is the hard part. Once that is done, start putting things away. Again, as you put each item in its place, determine if you need it. You may need to tweak here and there, but you can do that as you go along.
Step 4: The final Step – Keep it Organized
Don’t forget the all important final step. Keep your system going – if you find that in a short time your garage is becoming cluttered again, you need to rethink your system. If the border isn’t simple enough for everyone to follow, then you are going to be fighting an uphill battle. Learning how to organize isn’t supposed to be hard, if it is hard then something is not right.