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By Tom Skevin

RISMEDIA, May 2, 2008-(MCT)-When finding a parking spot in the garage is like finding one in Manhattan, it’s time to get organized. Nicole Alashaian of Emerson, N.J., is facing up to this reality.

“My name is Nicole, and I have a messy garage,” says Alashaian, who has a two-car garage.

“It’s as simple as this: no basement, a weird attic and a belief that stacking (the garage pile) higher will make it go away.

“Put it this way: My electric and gas meters are inside the garage. The PSE&G guy has pretty much stopped asking to come inside to read it.”

For most people who responded to a query in the Record newspaper and `fessed up to their garage problem, it’s a question of not having enough time.

“Each winter I tell my wife that when the weather gets better I will work on the garage,” says Kurt Sidorak, who shares a two-car garage with a tenant at his two-family in Northvale, N.J.

“It’s just hard to find the time since I work two part-time jobs and take care of my elderly dad during the day.”

Though they lack time, those with a garage problem do have plenty of humor.

“When I realize that my husband, Lou, still has excess car parts in his mom’s attic-and he’s been out of the house for over 30 years-I know I’m fighting a losing battle,” says Gail Ann Fernandez of Haworth, N.J.

For brave souls willing to take the plunge, this can be a do-it-yourself project.

For others, it may require a more serious move: hiring the pros.

So to start on the path toward a clean and well-functioning garage, let’s get organized.

Do it Yourself

There are three considerations: time, budget and skill.

“It would be nice to have a pro come in, but my husband and I can do just as well for less money,” says Donna Palladino of Waldwick, N.J., who has a one-car garage that hasn’t seen a car in years.

For those with some time and some skill and on a budget, this is a job that can be done. After all, this is not redecorating the living room or building an addition.

“Set aside a certain amount of time; begin with 15 minutes,” says Gayle M. Gruenberg, president of the Northern New Jersey chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers. “Pick one small place and start there.”

Determine usage:

Decide what purpose the garage will serve.

Will it be primarily for parking, or other uses? Those could include a mix of mini-warehouse, workshop, auto shop, lawn-and-garden shop, parking and food storage.

Where to start:

First, clear it out.
Items such as pesticides, lacquers, thinners and solvents should be gotten rid of at a government-sponsored disposal day. Bring motor oil to an auto shop.

Recycle paper goods, bottles and cans. Furniture, toys and clothing can be donated to charity.

Items of value can be set aside for when the area is ready for a … garage sale.

Organizing:

– The key is to clear as much floor space as possible, allowing for ease of parking and use of the garage as a work room.
– Use the walls and ceiling. Install cabinets and shelves along the walls, hang devices in the ceiling to stow bicycles and set brackets on the walls to hold ladders, lawn furniture, tools, spreaders and the like.
– A counter, safety cabinet, rack for long-handled tools, recycle organizer and sports organizer are the most important items to have, says Dave Palmer of Palmer Brothers hardware in River Edge, N.J., but adding quality systems cost $1,000 to $5,000 (and higher with options).
“Buy a quality system,” he advises, “and it will cost less than getting a cheap knockoff that will fall apart in a year.”

Do it right:

When setting hooks, brackets and wood (to hold pegboard), make sure to find the studs (2-by-4s) in the wall or ceiling.

In finished garages, look for signs of nails or screws about every 16 inches. If needed, drill test holes with an eighth-inch bit to find the first stud, then measure to 16 inches on each side and go from there. Hitting the wood will provide resistance and a squeaking sound.

When drilling into masonry, use a bit designed for such use.

Later, fill test holes in wallboard with spackle; in masonry, fill with mortar or masonry caulk.

Large shelves:

For more storage space, build a shelf high enough to fit the front end of a car under and/or build a higher shelf (mini-loft) at the back of the garage.

The former must not have any posts that will block the car. Allow about 4 inches clearance from bottom of shelf to top of car. To help support the shelf, install one or more metal straps from the rear wall to front of the shelf.

For overhead shelf, allow enough clearance to prevent people from hitting their heads. Install posts to support.

Shop table:

Handymen and handywomen can build this–just don’t put a permanent table where it will block a car. If tacking to the wall, again, hit the studs.

Not as handy? Buy a prefab kit and build. Or use an old kitchen or picnic table.

Hiring the Pro’s:

Don’t have enough time and/or talent to pull it off? Do what others have and call a pro.

“The average customer is not someone with three sports cars,” says Peter Morrow of The Custom Closet in Hillsdale. “The average customer is somebody who’s got a one-car garage with not enough storage space. Or the person with a two-car garage, three kids and five bikes and is overwhelmed.”

Their numbers are growing, those in the industry say.

“We doubled in size from the end of our first full year to the end of our second full year,” says Jay Feingold, who along with Charlie Dennis has been in the business for three years as PremierGarage of Northern New Jersey in Passaic, N.J.

Professionals say the cost can run from $500 to $10,000 and up with bells and whistles. It depends on the size of the garage, the wall space, quality and number of cabinets and counters ordered, flooring and choice of organizers.

Feingold says jobs can get really pricey-more than $20,000-when adding enhanced lighting, audio/video/telephone and heating. He recalls building cabinets around a stove for one customer. Automotive enthusiasts have been known to add vehicle lifts.

A simple project can take a day or less. With a flooring surface that provides traction, figure three days; up to five for larger, more complex jobs. Allow a week or more if also having the garage cleaned out.

When hiring, be realistic, says Beatrix H. Goudey of Let Us Organize You in Glen Rock, N.J.

“People will call us in and want to spend $500 to $1,000-asking to have a garage just like the one they saw (on TV) on `Mission: Organization,'” she says, “and they want it done in one to two days.”

Ā© 2008, North Jersey Media Group Inc.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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