Over the years I’ve worked with some wonderful women with one common goal. They all wanted to make room in their overcrowded garage for a shiny new car. It makes sense, right? A new car is a significant investment. The moment you drive a new car away from the showroom it starts to decrease in value. But that reduction in value is even swifter and greater if that shiny new asset is left to the mercy of nature. Sun, rain, birds, falling leaves or even worse, hail stones, can do real damage and fast.
The good news is that most homes come with a great big garage space, ready made for cars to drive right in off the street to be safe from the ravages of the elements. The bad news is that many of those garages are filled with stuff, and much of that stuff is often of very little value. So while the car you rely on every day, and which needs protection, is stuck out in the driveway or on the street, there may be mystery boxes of donations, “just in case” items or “I’ll get to that later” projects taking up valuable and otherwise useful space.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to toss out everything to make room for your car. It is possible to have space for your vehicle as well as space for the things that matter.
Of course we keep more than just a car or two in the garage, don’t we? As well as cars, a typical garage contains:
- other sporting equipment
- holiday decorations
- gardening tools
- home maintenance hardware
- hobby supplies
- camping gear
- tubs filled with outgrown children’s clothes
- boxes of memorabilia
- archived papers and more
Is it really possible to make room for it all? In most cases, yes.
Why organise your garage?
Think about what you have in your own garage space right now. Are you happy with your garage space right now? Could you lay your hands on the things you need on a regular basis, without clambering over things, without tripping, without stress? If you want to put something away in your garage, can you do that easily? Or are you like most people who just open the door, toss the item inside and promise yourself to “deal with it another day”?
Shiny new cars are not the only motivation for people who want to declutter and organise the garage. I’ve worked with both men and women who wanted to create an inspiring workspace to pursue a hobby. And then there are my clients who simply want to be able to store their stuff in an organised way so they can find it, get it out and put it away when they need to.
What is it that you want your garage to do for you?
Here are some things to think about before you start on your garage organising project.
How much space will your car need, including when the doors are open? The last thing you want is to bang your brand new car doors into walls, bikes or boxes. What about the length? Tip: Use some kind of permanent indicator to mark the place where you should stop. It could be a mark on the wall that lines up with your side mirror, a tennis ball suspended from the ceiling that touches your windscreen or even a wooden barrier firmly attached to the floor to stop you from driving further.
What will you store in your garage? Take a look at the list above for some starter ideas. What else will you keep in your garage? If you find there’s more on your list than could possibly fit in the space, you have some tough choices to make. How much is enough? Tip: Before you are tempted to pay for more storage, really consider the costs that mount up over time. Many times I’ve heard, “I thought I’d pack it away and declutter it one box at a time”. And in every case, it’s been years before that happens. Could you pay for years of storage to avoid making some tough decisions now?
How will you make it safe to access those things? If your kids need to access their sports equipment, make sure they can do it without hurting themselves, or scratching the car. Tip: Create a kid-friendly parking garage for their bikes and sports equipment near the garage door so it’s easy to get in and out quickly. This will also encourage them to put things away when they’re done.
How will you make it safe to store those things? Think about damp and dust, two very common factors in any garage. Another factor may be the temperature. Will heat or cold affect the things you want to store? Tip: Clear plastic tubs are great for storing many items. They are light to carry, stack neatly and you can see the items inside. They also keep out them dust and damp. But don’t overload them.
It starts with where you are right now. If your garage is clean and empty, lucky you! You can skip the decluttering part and go right to organising the space. Otherwise, you’ll need to assess what’s in there, and decide whether you really need or want it.
Be prepared for it to take time. This is one organising project you can’t do 10 minutes at a time. Set aside at least half a day.
Be prepared to get dirty. Wear gloves, old clothes and sturdy shoes. Have some cleaning equipment handy for quick sweeping, dusting and de-cobwebbing.
Be prepared for surprises. I’ve found bugs, spiders, and mice, both the scurrying and skeleton kind, in my garage organising projects. My clients have also been surprised by long-lost “I’ve been looking for that everywhere” moments, as well as “I’d forgotten I bought that online and never even opened the box” discoveries.
Be prepared to make decisions. Don’t be tempted to just sort things into categories and decide on whether you need it later. There’s no better time than right now.
Be prepared to get rid of things. You’ll be surprised by some of your discoveries, and it’s amazing how quickly your discard pile will grow.
Get some help. Enlist the family for their muscle power as well as their brain power, helping with the decisions on what stays and what goes. If they’ll benefit from the new space you’re creating, they should be helping you create it. If you don’t have help, or feel you can’t rely on them, get help from a trusted friend or an organiser (of course!). Many hands make light work.
Once you’ve done sorting and decluttering, you’ll be left with the things you truly do need and want to keep. Now it’s time to store them appropriately. Strong metal shelves, sturdy containers, informative labels and a few canny storage tricks are your friends here. Customised wall panels and hooks are great too, if you have the budget.
Again, think about access. The holiday decorations you use once a year don’t need to be as accessible as the garden rake you use every week. Keep things together that go together.
Look up. Use the full height of the walls and even the space above you. Store things vertically as much as possible. A peg board for keeping tools off the bench and yet at hand is ideal. For some clever ideas for garage storage, check out my Pinterest board, Organising the Garage.
Organising a garage is a lot like organising a pantry or a linen press. You figure out the space you have available and what you want to keep in that space. Then you figure out efficient ways to store those things in that space, so that you have easy access to the things you need when you need them. I wish you well organising your garage.
And remember the most important final step – Maintenance. Plan time to keep it organised on a regular basis and you’ll always have an organised garage.