13 Tips to Help You Maintain an Organized Garage
In the suburban home, the garage is a bit of a repository for everything. Have something that won’t go anywhere else? Toss it in the garage. Unfortunately, this leads to the garage being the messiest room in the house, one that is avoided when possible. The clutter can make it so bad that you basically have to traverse an obstacle course to get to your car, if you’re able to fit the car in your garage at all. The task might seem insurmountable, but if you approach it with some determination and a plan, you’ll find that it’s much easier than you think. Here are thirteen tips to help you turn your giant mess into a garage to be proud of, and how to keep it that way.
Set Aside Some Time
The first thing you need to do is clear a decent block of time to take care of the first hurdle, cleaning and reorganizing your garage. It’s best to start early and dedicate the morning and afternoon to the task, as it involves bringing all of your stuff outside, and you’ll want to work in the daylight. You’ll especially not want to leave all your stuff out in your driveway overnight, in case of bad weather or opportunistic passers-by. Organizing a garage can theoretically be done piecemeal, but in order to do the best job possible and make the whole process manageable, it’s best to do it all in one go.
Clean It Out
Your first task is to clean out everything from your garage. That’s every, single, thing. You want the garage to be completely empty at the end of this first step. Everything that you take out, you’ll want to generally organize. Put things with like things; i.e. put sports equipment with other sports equipment, tools with other tools, so on. Everything should have its general zone out on your driveway. Once you’ve got everything out and roughly divided categorically, it’s time to go through it all.
Don’t Be a Hoarder
If you don’t really need something, get rid of it. If it’s broken, but you’re totally going to fix it, except you’ve been saying that for three years now, get rid of it. If you’re not entirely sure what it is, but it looks like it might be an important part of some piece of machinery you probably don’t own, get rid of it. The drive to keep stuff “just in case” is what leads to a cluttered garage even after you try to clean it. Anything that you don’t need, but is still functional, you can donate to charity instead of holding onto it. Go through each of your categorized piles, and for each and every item you keep, make sure you can tell yourself your reason for keeping it.
Do a Thorough Wash While It’s Empty
Once you’ve got the garage cleaned out of all of your stuff, you should attack it with cleaner. Sweep out the entire floor, getting rid of dust and crud and any evidence of animals that may be nesting. Use some cleaner and a mop and make sure to wash the entire floor. You might not be able to eliminate every stain on the concrete, but you can get rid of any superficial grime. If you want to take this to the extreme, try epoxying your floor. You’ll likely need the help of a professional for this step, but epoxy can make your dingy concrete floor shiny and easier to clean off. Whichever path you choose, be meticulous in your cleaning.
Have a Plan
You’ve got everything out in the driveway and the garage is thoroughly cleaned. The next step is, logically, putting all of your stuff back. Don’t just start grabbing stuff and try to put it back Tetris style, though. There’s a reason you organized all your stuff into categorized piles. When you’re putting your garage back together, you need to have a plan. Know where each thing is going before you put it all back. If it helps for you to physically draw up a floor plan, then do so. You also need to make sure that you’re using the most effective storage technique for each item you put away. In all likelihood, that means you’ll have to go out and purchase a few things, in order to facilitate maintaining your clean garage. If you need to get any supplies, you should do so before you clean out the garage, but many a person has realized that they need something else as they’re setting everything up. If that’s you, feel free to buzz down to the hardware store while you’re in the middle of your task. Just have someone watch all of your stuff while you’re gone.
The biggest reason that garages are so cluttered is that, for the most part, everything is stored on the ground, in piles or stacks. If the ground is covered in stuff, then you won’t have enough room to move around, no matter how well “organized” that stuff is. Every garage has plenty of wall space, though. There are a bunch of different things you can use to store things vertically. Shelving units are sturdy and relatively cheap, and if you set them up along your walls, then suddenly your stuff will have a proper home, out of your way. Different things are ideally stored in different ways, so have a nice variety of different types of shelving and other vertical storage solutions.
Try Peg Boards
One great alternative solution to shelving is the trusty pegboard. You simply install it up on the wall, insert pegs, and you have a wide space where you can hang a variety of things. When it comes to things that can be kept on a pegboard, you’re looking at a bunch of small, relatively light objects that you will want regular, easy access to. Sports equipment can be kept up on a pegboard for the athlete, or a workman can use a pegboard to hold up tools that he uses regularly. Just make sure you don’t overburden your pegboard by putting too much weight on it; heavy-duty objects should still be stored in your shelving units.
Get Some Bins
Not everything can go up on the walls. Some stuff you’ll just have to store on the ground. But that doesn’t mean it must be plopped down in a pile. If you have anything you’d like to store together, like winter clothes or a coin collection, put it all inside a plastic bin. They seal up easily, can contain a lot of things, and stack easily. With shelving along each wall and a stack of bins in the corner, you’ll be shocked with how much room you end up having.
Use All of the Available Space
You’ve already maximized wall space, and you want to keep the floor as clear as possible. Where could you possibly story anything else? Look up. The ceiling, of course. There are two different ways that you can store things using your ceiling. If you need to, install hooks that things can hang things. You might not have to, though; some garages come with cross beams that can serve as natural storage space. Either way, the ceiling is perfect for storing long, awkward things. Skis, canoes, kayaks, paddles, anything that would take up a lot of space anywhere else but can be easily hung from the ceiling. It even looks pretty cool to have a kayak hanging up above your car.
Cabinet With a Lock
This is an important tip if you have kids or nosy animals. For the most part, open shelving is better, as it allows easier access and you can efficiently scan the room to find things. But for objects that might be dangerous to your family, you don’t want them to be easily accessed. Invest in a standing cabinet that has a lock, and anything dangerous, like bleach or rat poison, keep locked up in the cabinet.
Store Cleaning Supplies
In your categorized system, make sure you have a section for cleaning supplies. Not only is the garage naturally where you should be storing such things, having them close at hand will make it easier for you to deal with future messes.
Pick Up After Yourself
Once you’ve done everything, this is the single most important step. If you get lax, it won’t matter how good your system is; entropy will win. The only way to fight it is to actively maintain your garage. Never leave anything on the ground, not one thing. The first thing you leave out of place is noticeable, but the second one just contributes to the mess. Don’t let the mess start at all, and it won’t accumulate; do let it start, and it will be out of control before you realize it.
Use a Hose to Clean the Floor
With all of your stuff out of the way, and the ground completely clear, but for a few waterproof bins, you have the ability to easily keep the floor clean. Every couple of weeks, just give it a quick hose down. It will deal with any grime that might have been walked or driven in, and make your garage look great at any time.
Hopefully, with a bit of dedication and perseverance, you’ll find the task of dealing with your garage relatively easy. The one day of hard work is the easy part, though. In order to truly maintain order, wherever you might be, you need to have discipline. Let yourself get relaxed about cleaning up, and you’ll be backsliding in no time.