Garage Before & After

After: a space that is practical, safe, and free of clutter for everyone to use.

by Liz Miklosi

In Michigan, we get every kind of weather: from below freezing, snow, and ice in the winter to sticky, humid heat in the summer. As a result, our garages are filled with items we continually use, used to use and/or think we may use some day. Garages hold a wide variety of items depending on the owner’s individual interests, activities experiences and our exact location. Michigan garages have an obvious function: a place to park vehicles and storage of garden tools/supplies, outdoor toys, sports equipment and pet supplies. Sometimes, our garages become temporary extensions of our home; a place to have parties, for kids to play in bad weather, to work on vehicles and hobbies like refinishing furniture; however, it’s difficult for a garage to complete these functions if it is not properly organized.

Before: empty boxes scattered along the side blocking the walkway from the door and access to essential items.

Organizing Basics

There are few rules you should keep in mind before you begin to organize your garage: 1) everything needs a home, and 2) this “home” should be easy to reach, use and see if you want the whole family to comply with the previous rule. Now, let the organizing begin!

1. Remove everything, starting at the garage door working toward the house. Sweep and clean the entire space.

2. As you remove items, sort them into categories such as: trash, belongs in the garage, doesn’t belong in the garage, sell/donate, borrowed items that need returned. If it doesn’t belong in the garage, don’t bring it back in! Be honest with yourself by asking, “why is this in my garage?” A professional organizer can help speed up the purging process by holding you accountable in the decision making process. Keep items that are useful, practical and in good condition and only an amount that is manageable.

3. Pull the car(s) into the garage and chalk an outline of the vehicle on the floor, adding 30 inches near door space to open doors. Then, remove the cars again.

4. Now sort items that belong in the garage into additional categories (think: sports, tools, storage, ect.) If it won’t all fit, purge again!

5. Focus on function as you designate a convenient area to house everything in each category. Don’t move it until you know it will fit into its intended home. When choosing a home, I encourage homeowners to look up, over, behind and above. Imagine what is needed to make the most out of the space available and contemplate building shelves, purchasing storage containers, or dusting off old racks. Vertical space is often wasted, and is great for long items like brooms and snow shovels. Additionally, keep in mind when the garage door is open, there is at least a three foot space between the door and the ceiling. Ceiling racks attach to rafters creating a great space for seasonal items.

Before: various items piled in front and on top of one another creating a very chaotic and dangerous environment.

Choosing a Home for Items

• Items used every day should be put on open shelves or hooks that you can access without reaching or bending or having to walk too far. These items include the recycle bin, pet food, and coat hooks near the door to your home.

• Items used on a regular basis may be a few feet away and may be a bit of a reach (accessible by stool, for example). These items include a broom, tool set, and car wash brush/supplies.

• Seasonal items can be put up high where you may need a ladder to get to them once or twice a year. Some items may have temporary homes depending on the season. For example, the lawn mower may replace the snow blower in the spring, and rakes are replaced with snow shovels in winter.

• Another consideration is the weight of the item; heavy items are best kept down low and lighter items kept up high. For practical reasons, it’s better to have a light item fall on my head as I try to retrieve it versus a heavy item that might cause serious injury. Also, items kept on the floor may need to be elevated or containerized in order to protect from rain/snow that drips off the vehicles.

This seasonal house on Lake Michigan’s garage is an extension of a very small kitchen, and the owner does a lot of entertaining outside. The use of vertical space, shelving, and categorizing was essential.

Storage Ideas

• Containerize small like items and label the container. Clear bins allow you to see what’s in them without having to label, but solid bins may create a more overall aesthetic appearance. Containers protect items from pests, dust, water and humidity, and can be elaborate or as simple as an empty peanut butter jar.

• If you are a visual person, you may like to hang everything in plain sight. If you prefer neatness and order, utilizing cabinets or closets may appeal to you.

• Place chemicals or poisonous, flammable liquids in a locked cabinet (or out of reach) in order to keep children and pets safe.

• Keep children’s toys closer to the floor so they can reach them on their own. Create a stall for their bikes with chalk or tape, just like you did for your vehicle, clearly marking its “home.”

• Hang tools on pegboards or kept in drawers depending on your personal preference.

• To keep your garage neat and orderly, it will take discipline and regular maintenance. As each season changes, alter the location of items if needed and do a brief tour through the garage to return it to the orderly, organized state you created.

Remember to contact a professional if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Happy organizing!

Liz is a professional organizer with over 35 years of professional experience. She has a dedicated yet creative approach, and is available to assist in organizing and designing space for optimal function. She is part of the Organizing Specialists Network,





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