Don't hold onto items you might need but probably won't, an expert says.
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
Imagine how chaotic our kitchens would be if they had no cabinets, shelves or drawers.
Now you understand why so many garages are a mess.
"Garages are designed to fail," said Bill West, a Realtor and garage-organizing consultant who wrote "Your Garagenous Zone: Innovative Ideas for the Garage." They're typically designed as if their only function were to shelter cars, when in fact they often multitask as homes for lawn and garden supplies, tools, bikes, sports equipment, workbenches, trash cans and anything else we can pile on the floor or cram into the corners.
For some people, the disarray can become so discouraging that just the thought of tackling the problem is paralyzing. But West and Chris Perrow, a professional organizer who operates Perrow Systems in Stow, Ohio, have some suggestions that can make the process of organizing the garage less daunting and can result in a space that serves your storage needs.
Beginning the process
The first step, they say, is sorting and purging. Garages tend to become holding areas for bags of caked fertilizer, long-outgrown bike helmets and all sorts of obscure items we hang onto "just in case." That unneeded clutter is doing nothing more than occupying potential storage space.
Perrow recommends sorting everything in the garage into three piles: things you want to keep, things you can get rid of and things you don't know what to do with. Then keep working on the don't-know pile until you've figured out a place for those things or made a decision to let them go.
Be tough in the purging process, West advises. Ask yourself how an item adds value to your life, and push yourself to get beyond the "but I might need this someday" mentality. Few things are truly irreplaceable, and the well-being that comes from an organized garage may be worth far more than the cost of someday having to replace an item you tossed out.
If the job seems overwhelming, divide the garage into quadrants, Perrow suggests. Put duct tape on the floor to mark the dividing lines, and work on just one quarter of the garage at a time.
"You'll start to see hope after the second quadrant," she said.
Once you've pared your possessions, sort them into categories, West said. Pile all the lawn and garden items in one place, for example, all the automotive items in another, all the sports equipment in a third spot.
That will help you see what you have and determine what you need to accommodate everything.
Now that you've reached the point of needing storage ideas, it's a good time for some inspiration.
Look at books or Web sites such as West's (see accompanying box) and perhaps magazines and home-center ads.
Perrow suggests taking a field trip to Organized Living, a store in the Cleveland suburb of Woodmere that specializes in organizational supplies.
The store even has a model garage set up, so you might see storage items you want to buy or get ideas you can replicate with other materials.