Garages have been known to inspire greatness. It was in a garage that Hewlett-Packard was born. Ditto Apple. And who can count the number of rock bands spawned on the concrete floors of buildings theoretically built for cars?
Most garages, of course, are used for more mundane projects and storage. As a hybrid room combining an inside space with a sort of outside feel, the garage can sometimes turn into an unorganized mess that renders it essentially useless.
But with some prudent planning — and a willingness to let go of stuff — the garage can be transformed into an organized, useful space that may spur you to launch the next American success story. Or at least allow you to find your missing garden shears.
There are two basic steps to garage organization: Dealing with what's in it; and creating a way to store it.
"Usually garages become a dumping area for those things you or your family members don't know what to do with," says professional organizer Rosann Johnson, owner of Medford's Organize It Right. "These are items we can't find a home for or we're unwilling to let go of. To have the garage of your dreams requires letting go of the clutter and making hard decisions about what to keep or toss."
Johnson suggests making a list of all the purposes your garage is used for and only keeping things that go along with those purposes. Pull everything out onto the driveway working one complete area at a time. Says Johnson: "You'll need to make a decision on each item. Is it a keeper, trash, an item to be donated or an item to be returned to a neighbor? Items that you keep should be sorted into piles according to like items. This is what we call sorting and purging."
One thrifty tip for getting rid of items is to sell them via a yard sale, the classifieds or on craigslist.com [online].
Make a plan on where to store the keeper items and group them together in containers, when possible. This is what Johnson calls "finding a home." She recommends using clear plastic containers so you can see what's inside, along with labeling the outside so others will know where to put things away.
With everything organized, you'll need places to put it all. If it helps, make a diagram of your garage space and sketch out your plan. Garage storage options utilize wall space to get items off the floor; the most common types include shelves, cabinets and slat wall systems.
"Choosing which type of storage is really up to the individual," says LaMont Ray, owner of Closet Concepts in Medford. "Some people like things put away in cabinets so you don't see them, while others like things hung on walls or on shelves for better accessibility.
Ray prefers slatwall systems, which are faux walls with horizontal grooves that can hold a host of customizable hooks and hangers. "They can hold just about anything," he says. "There are a lot of different hanger options so if you don't like where you put something, it's easy to customize."
When choosing cabinets, choose a quality suited for your usage. According to Ray, there are all different grades of cabinetry. "For the car guy with big tools, you want heavier duty stuff. For storing heavy items like paint, you want heavy duty shelves or they'll bow," he says.
Overhead storage racks and loft systems that drop down from the ceiling are great for seasonal items like Christmas decorations. Tools can be hung from an assortment of hooks on a big pegboard, and there are also mountable tool holders or tool chests.
Decorative epoxy floor coating with a variety of colors and chip fleck options can give the garage a finished, professional look.
To maintain a newly organized garage, don't let things accumulate and try it out for a month.
"You may find that putting tools in one area of the garage may really not work for you," says Johnson. "It's okay to change things around. If something isn't efficient, try to figure out why it isn't working and make the necessary changes to make the area work for you."