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Tips for Straightening Out Cluttered Garage

April 02, 1987|BONNIE McCULLOUGH | McCullough, based in Colorado, is the author of five books on home management.

In the past few weeks, we have organized every room in the house. Now it's time to tackle the garage. As with other rooms, you ought to decide the purposes for this space. Sometimes this room is used as a work place. Often, the garage is a catch-all.

If it is important to you to have a place to park the car, then the space available for a work bench and storage are limited. But, if you organize that space, you can handle much more than if you just toss things in.

Perhaps you are motivated by money. Space is valuable. Apartment dwellers sometimes pay for garage privileges. Where I live, a public self-storage unit about the size of a single-car garage will cost $75 per month. If you had to pay that monthly bill, you would be sure the stuff in there was worth keeping. But, often we are in a hurry and just set things in the garage, or attic, hoping to deal with them when we have more time to organize.

The 'Halfway-Out Spot'

My husband and I are savers. When we were younger, we used our garage as a "halfway-out" spot. We put all sorts of things in there that we didn't quite know what to do with, everything from carpet scraps to appliances. We saved toys, broken furniture and building scraps.

One very cold night in January, we put our dog and her pups in the garage to keep them from freezing. The dog pulled a blanket in front of the heater and started a fire. Luckily, a cruising patrolman saw the smoke and helped evacuate the neighborhood at 3 a.m. The next day, as we cleaned up the mess and itemized damage for the insurance company, we realized that most of what was destroyed was worthless junk we just hadn't parted with. Fortunately, the garage was not attached to the house.

That experience drastically changed our storage habits. Now we have limits on garage storage: holiday decorations, garden supplies, tools and the car. When we feel the squeeze in the house, the cast-outs go to charity, not the garage.

Will part of your garage be used for storage? It's essential that every home have a storage place, and the garage is a logical place. The storage areas in your home can be classified into three categories: prime, secondary and long-term.

Storage for Everyday Items

Prime storage is reserved for things you use every day. Where are they? In the kitchen or other work areas, prime space is nearest the most-frequented counters, between neck and waist levels, within an arm's reach. At your desk, sewing cabinet or work bench, the drawers within arm's length are prime and should contain supplies used most often. Ideally you can pick them up in one motion, without moving other items and without unstacking. Vertical surfaces and walls in active work areas are often used to hang tools for quick access.

Secondary storage space is for things you use, but not every day. These areas are usually high or low or in the rear or under. These items are a little harder to reach.

Long-term storage is for things you still have good reason to keep, but don't use very often. You may need to build or buy shelving for long-term storage needs. This storage area is often in the basement, attic, garage, pantry or shed. This is where you keep the Halloween costumes and holiday decorations. It's the spot for camping gear, ice chest, turkey roaster, large water jugs, pressure canner and steamer.

Portable Shelves

A house with adequate storage is easier to keep clean. It's easier to find things, too. Apartment dwellers, who do not have auxiliary areas like the attic and garage for long-term storage items, often make a set of portable shelves to accommodate needs.

If you decide to have a work center in your garage for such things as woodwork, auto repair or gardening, design them to accommodate the necessary supplies and equipment. Use shelves, buckets, bins, peg boards and hooks to divide supplies and equipment. This makes work faster and more rewarding.

Some garages look like the inside of a dump truck. Once you decide that an item is worth keeping, prepare it for storage to preserve its value. If it's breakable, wrap it with newspaper. Cover it by putting it in a box or plastic bag to keep the dust off. Be sure the item is clean to discourage bugs and mice from infesting. Label the box or bag to save time hunting for it when you are ready to use it again.

Shelves are the traditional way to increase capacity. Build your own. Check the cost of sturdy metal shelving, or consider setting up your own portable bucket-and-board unit. Use five-gallon buckets or cinder blocks as spacers between long boards. They can be stacked against a wall in the basement, garage or bedroom. Filling the buckets with sand or beans makes the shelves stable.

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