Want to Actually Park Your Car in your Garage?
It’s that time of year again when the cool Fall air and the still sunny days seem to motivate us to clean out our garages. Or maybe it’s knowing that the holiday decorations are buried in there somewhere and we don’t want to get yelled at… The point is, it’s a great time to organize the garage. And let’s face it: garages can be creepy places. Old stuff, damp stuff, crowded stuff, and bugs. Lots of bugs.
But with some elbow grease, the proper storage, and establishing boundaries, your garage can become a useful part of your home again.
- Adjustable shelving is key: Shelving has to be able to move to maximize your storage space. I like the wire stuff because it’s cheap, temperature resistant, strong, and easy to install. And don’t skimp — pick a wall and go floor to ceiling with it. You’ll be glad you did.
- Overhead storage: Garages are some of the tallest spaces in our homes and the upper halves of them are usually dead zones. Think about using the top half by installing ceiling-mounted storage platforms (fixed, or on pulley systems). Also think about hanging large equipment like bicycles from the ceiling to free up floor space.
- Slatwall vs. Pegboard: I gotta say, my preference is for slatwall because it’s so dang versitile. These days, it’s not just for handtools anymore. You can also hang floating shelves, baskets and cabinets off of it. Even those on a tight budget can swing a panel or two — just check Craigslist, Sam’s Club, or stores that buy suppliles from going-out-of-business department stores, like A&B fixtures in Raleigh, NC. They may not have the same finish as the high end ones, but they’re paintable and the function is the same. Pegboard is great for the really small tools like screwdrivers, hammers, etc. and the hooks are cheap at roughly $20 for a variety kit. It’s also easier to install than slatwall and can be a one-person job because of the lesser weight and thickness than slatwall. But when using pegboard, always use the plastic locking tabs to keep your hooks in place, otherwise they’ll fall off in a jiffy when you pull a tool down.
- Freestanding shelves: These shelves are very budget friendly ranging from $20 to in the hundreds depending on your needs. I like the ones that can be stacked vertically or unstacked and placed horizontally because they’re more versatile. Just be sure whatever you get is stable enough to support what will be on it. No wimpy shelves for heavy bins.
- Go vertical: Large hooks installed in the wall or mounted off slatwall or shelves are great places to hang ladders, scrap wood, bikes, folding tables, wheelbarrows, spreaders, and other large items. By keeping them off the floor the garage is easy to sweep and keep clean so less dust collects on your stuff. It’s also a great way to use all your wall space, and to keep your back injury-free. It’s much easier to lift a heavy item off a wall than to heave it upwards. (Does anybody really lift from the knees?)
- Bins with lids: Because you’re in an non-climate controlled area and there’s lots of creepy-crawlies waiting to nest in your things, always get plastic storage bins with locking lids. No cardboard boxes that will collape or mildew, and no wimpy cheap bins that will warp in the heat so the lids pop off. A little extra money will really pay off for the heavy-duty bins with clamping lids.
- Colored bins: If you like to see what you have, clear bins are the way to go. But in a large storage area, or a place with hard to reach tall or overhead storage, color coding your bins is a good idea. Get red bins for holiday items, green for gardening, blue for sports, yellow for kids, purple for memorabilia, etc. It’ll save you a ton of time both in labeling, and in finding what you need — you only have to search say, 3 bins, instead of 20 for the “right” Holiday ornaments.
- Garage Furniture: Locking cabinets to store chemicals and paint are great if you have young kids or pets around. And toolchests with heavy duty ball bearings are so helpful for storing small tools or if you do a lot of handywork. Look for both cabinets and toolchests with locking wheels for both safety and convenience.
- Trash cans: Every garage should have at least one trash can in it for trash generated from projects, cleaning out the car, sweeping, kid’s juice boxes while they’re playing in the driveway, etc.
- Flooring: If you do a lot of handywork in the garage, think about a gel floor mat or rubber panels to act as shock absorbers while you’re on your feet. Also, if you have 4 days and $150, think about epoxying your floor so it hoses out easily and prevents oil stains.
- It’s all about the “Zones”: Now for the “real” organizing tip. Establish zones or boundaries for the stuff that gets put back so you keep like items together. Store the most accessed items near the doors or on mid-level shelves. For example, all Holiday bins on the top shelf, sporting goods hung on the wall closest to the garage door, gardening supplies on a mid-level shelf by the door. And don’t be afraid of empty space. If you’ve designated the top shelf as holiday items but it’s not full, and you need to find a home for some sporting goods, don’t mix. Allow the empty space to be room to grow and designate a new zone for your other items. It’ll guarantee you can find what you need, when you need it.
By going vertical and using “dead space” near your garage’s ceiling, spending money on the right things like proper storage, and establishing “zones” will keep your garage neat and organized. And hey, you may even be able to park your car in it again!