Garage Overhaul: Making Room for Your Car in Its Natural Habitat

It wasn’t that long ago that we lived in a world where garages were pretty much dedicated to one thing: parking our cars. These days, however, only 30% of Americans park in the garage. Of course, some people transform their garages into an extension of the house by creating a gym or a work space. But many of us are guilty of the same thing: using the garage to store years of clutter that forces our vehicles out into the cold.

Garages are magnets for “stuff.” Their wide open spaces are easily filled by outgrown sports equipment, oversize suitcases, or that fill-in-the-blank you’re going to refinish “one day.” You know how it goes once it starts--the pile just grows from there.

To get started on your overhaul, just do the same thing you do with every organizing project (even if you want to reach for the anxiety meds the second you think about tackling it): take a deep breath, break it into bite-sized pieces, and dive in.

Sort

Start by sorting your stuff into the regular piles--keep, trash, recycle, donate--and then have a garage sale or charity pick-up to reduce the clutter. If you have a lot to get rid of, Bagster (a heavy-duty dumpster-in-a-bag that you fill and they dispose of) is a great solution. Sort the keeper items into categories--sports, garden, decorations, etc.--and put them in clear stacking boxes with lids. Make sure any paint you may have out there finds a new home inside; garage temps are too variable to safely store paint. Same goes for pet food, which attracts mice and should be corralled in the house.

Visualize

The best way to tackle your garage is to start with a clean slate, because visualization is key. Once you have the clutter quieted down, draw a chalk outline on the floor of how much space you need for your car with the doors/hatch open. Then you can start planning for storage. Using vertical and ceiling space is critical in a garage project. You want shelves and hooks wherever you can use them. Can you fit shelves in front of your car? How about on the side? How much clearance do you have above the garage door? Map it out so you know what you need.

Paint

If you’re planning on painting, now is the time to break out the roller when the clutter is gone and the shelving isn’t yet installed. White is the least distracting color, but you can paint the walls orange and the ceiling turquoise if you want to; there’s no rule that the garage has to be drab and grey. If you’re really going swank, you can also epoxy the floor. Something like Quikrete Epoxy Garage Floor Coating will make sure your floor resists oil drips and that it wipes clean like a kitchen counter. It may even inspire you to ask people to remove their shoes before they walk into your garage!

Reassign

Think carefully about how you’re going to divide the space. Pay attention to that chalk outline for your parking requirements since that’s the reason you’re undergoing this whole exercise. Then ponder how else you want to use the area. Crafting? Storage? Working out? A workbench and tool zone? Thanks to automatic door openers, the vast majority of us now enter and leave our homes through the garage, so think about what can be adjusted around that entryway to make it more useful. Coat/backpack hooks at kid level? Shoe storage? Maybe you want to paint the back of the door or spruce up that zone a little if guests enter your home with you through the garage.

Store

Use high shelves for seasonal decorations, tools you rarely use, luggage, and memorabilia. If you store cleaning supplies in the garage, you’ll want a wall area reserved for a hanging system for brooms and mops along with some shelves for cleaners and spray bottles. Pegboard can be used for lighter items; it’s easy to hang, you can paint it to provide a pop of color on an otherwise plain wall, and it can be easily cut to size to fit any space. Use track shelves for heavier items and affix the tracks to wall studs. Your ceiling is a great zone for large flat items, gardening implements, and ladders. (Just make sure to avoid a face palm moment by checking and then obsessively double checking that you haven’t interfered with operating the garage door.) Reserve the easily accessed eye-level shelves for anything in high rotation in your family’s lives.

And now...the moment you’ve been waiting for. Drum roll, please! Start your car and pull it into its new home. Then sit back and wait for the envious neighbors to arrive in droves.

Happy Organizing!

Sheryl