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garage_homespun_9_19RISMEDIA, August 19, 2009—(MCT)—Signs your garage needs organizing: Your entire wardrobe is gray to disguise the salt marks from squeezing past your car; you have to buy a third set of crutches, because you can’t remember where in the garage you put the pairs you bought the first two times you stumbled over your kids’ sports equipment and you’re just tired of the mess. 

Whatever the reason, now’s a good time to start. If a survey by the Lehigh Group is any indication, many of us need to. The Pennsylvania company, which makes the Crawford brand of storage devices, found that nearly 40% of respondents had tripped over clutter in their garage, 22% had accidentally hit something while parking a car and 27% had hit an object with a car door. 

Organizing a garage involves more than cleaning it out and putting things back in neater piles. It requires culling your possessions and devising a plan for handling what’s left, and it takes time and work. But if you do it right, you’ll be better able to keep things under control. And that means you won’t have to do it again. 

Getting Started

-Figure on garage organization being a big job — possibly more than a day, if you have a lot of stuff. If the job is overwhelming, start with just the floor. Before you start, decide where you’ll put everything during the organizing process. Work on a nice day so you can keep your stuff outside without worrying about it getting wet. 

-Designate different areas of your yard or temporary storage area for general categories of items—sporting equipment, tools, toys and so on. Then, as you remove things from the garage, you can sort them at the same time. 

-Take the opportunity to rid yourself of the things you don’t need, so you’ll have less to organize. Letting go of a possession can be hard, but only keep an item if you have a good reason for keeping it. Don’t keep anything that’s broken or anything you acquired ‘just in case.’ 

Where to put stuff

Once everything’s culled and sorted, you can start thinking about how to store it.

Knowing what you have to store will help you choose the right options. Home centers, hardware stores and specialty retailers carry a huge array of devices, including hangers for everything from hand tools to wheelbarrows. You’ll find cupboards, shelves, magnetic strips for holding small tools, bins and racks for toys and sporting equipment, peg boards and even hinged hooks that swing out of the way when they’re not in use. 

Or use what you already have—old bookshelves, chests of drawers or a simple board attached horizontally to the wall, with nails and hooks for hanging things. 

Go Vertical

Most garages are fairly small, especially once you fit the cars in. So instead of putting a lot of things on the floor, make use of vertical spaces. Getting things off the ground has benefits beyond maximizing square footage. Concrete garage floors are often damp, so elevating storage keeps items out of contact with moisture. It also makes it easier to put dangerous items out of children’s reach. 

Provide Clearance

Providing enough clearance around your cars ensures you can get in and out easily, without bumping into anything. Allow enough space for vehicle doors to open and for a person to walk around the car. Plan for enough space so you can walk comfortably while carrying groceries, without having to walk sideways or squeeze through any space. Measure the spaces where cabinets will go to make sure there’s enough room to open cabinet doors when the cars are in the garage. 

More to Come

Don’t forget to plan for expansion. You’re almost certain to buy more stuff, so make room for it now. Plan for 25% to 30% more storage than what you need right now. But don’t use that as an excuse to accumulate without bounds. Otherwise, you’ll be doing this again before long. 

(c) 2009, Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio).

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.