By Lisa Phillips

Garages aren’t just for cars anymore. Today, garages are a flex space and everyone in the family uses this area to store things like extra dog and bird food, 20 rolls of paper towels and paint drop cloths, cans of soda and motor oil, shoes of all sizes and hiking boots, along with the traditional lawn equipment, golf clubs, coolers and toys. Garages can act as overflow storage from our kitchens, laundry rooms and bedrooms. It’s time to organize this outdoor closet.

  • Getting started. Take everything out of the garage. Sweep out the garage floor, clear cobwebs from ceilings and repair any loose shelving or holes.
  • Sort and categorize. Begin by sorting “like with like.” Put all the sporting equipment, camping gear, holiday decorations, etc., together. Take time to look everything over. How long has it been since you used this item? Are things still useful and practical? Is it still age appropriate? You’ll have four piles: move, donate, trash and keep. If you have something that doesn’t have a home in the garage, put it back where it belongs. Donate items that are still in working order and trash what is broken or has missing pieces and parts.
  • Now that you have determined what’s staying, ask yourself how often you’ll need access to it. If you only use the items once a year, like holiday decorations, store them in the back or out of the way.
  • Storage solutions. There are many storage solutions available: shelves, peg boards, hooks, tool racks, etc. Try to keep as much off the floor as possible to reduce clutter so you will have room for the cars. Built-in cabinets can keep things behind closed doors so you do not have to look at fishing poles and baseball bats all the time. You can buy ceiling-mounted racks or wall mounts that are designed for outdoor recreational equipment, everything from bicycles to kayaks. You can use a traditional pegboard with hooks or you can buy special panels that are designed with baskets, hooks and shelves.
  • Storage containers come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Plastic bins can either be clear, so you can see inside, or they come in colors to help hide the contents. Plastic is crush and critter-proof and keeps contents cleaner than cardboard boxes, which can break down due to humidity. Colorful buckets are popular for balls and shoes. When using boxes or bins, it is helpful to label them.

We buy, save and store items we think we need, are afraid to let go of and hoard in case we may need it one day. We are paying the price of the over-abundance of stuff with increased storage rentals because we’ve spilled out of our homes and into our garages, and when that space is not enough, we rent additional storage space. The clutter costs us not only thousands of dollars in rental fees, but costs us the time it takes to clean out our garages, and also causes us mental anguish when we have to make decisions of what to keep and why we’re keeping it.

Garage organization is the fastest-growing segment in the home organization industry. Many guests enter homes through garages, which makes this space the first thing that they see. Think of how it’ll feel to get in and out of your car in the coolness of your garage versus the scalding heat of your driveway. It’s that simple.