Not just a dumping ground
It's time to get your garage in order
Maybe it begins with the lawnmower.
Or maybe the hedge-trimmer.
Those things have to go somewhere, right?
But then maybe the shovels come. A rake or two. Maybe a basketball or two or five; a football, a soccer ball, or how about some baseball or hockey gear. Cans of paint might be next — all left over from when you painted that room upstairs.
Then there are the tools — so many tools that don’t belong in the house. There might be camping gear, old toys and even some old towels or rags. And the shoes. Oh gosh the shoes. So many — they have to go somewhere. The garage is a good place, right?
Before you know it, this spacious room where you once used to keep vehicles out of the elements has become a dumping ground for stuff you may need, but maybe not need right that second. And maybe none of it belongs inside the actual home.
Autumn is around the corner, which means someday soon all that lawn equipment will need to be stored and put away for a season, along with a lot of other clutter that can make the garage a cluster to walk through on any given day.
It can be a daunting task, but it is doable.
“One thing to assess before you start organizing the garage is how much help you will need and how much you will have to offload,” said Lauren Bower, a professional organizer and owner of Bowerbird Home Organization in Fort Wayne. “Perhaps you can invite friends over for a ‘clean the garage’ party for a weekend so that you have enough help from start to finish.”
Something else someone wanting to organize the garage needs to handle is whether to keep a lot of the clutter that piles up or to chuck it. Bower suggests that some local charities will come and pick up items people are willing to donate.
“One trend I have been seeing is that people are hiring out organizing or storage solution building tasks, and donating to charity instead of having garage sales,” Bower said.
Those who decide to throw some of their things away might opt for a large trash bin or Dumpster, which can be rented and parked in the driveway or nearby and provides an easy way for the junk to be piled up quickly and removed relatively fast, too.
Still, that leaves all the things people want to keep — all of which has to go somewhere.
“Basically, the garage is kind of the point of entry for the house,” said Shelly Ross, an owner at Closet Concepts in Fort Wayne.
Closets, shelves and bins have always been a staple in garages, but in recent years the desire is to make the garage a little more spiffy. Many garages are no longer a grease monkey’s paradise — people want them just as clean as the rest of the home.
Enter polyurethane or epoxy floor coatings, which protect against stains. Or there are various pads and mats people now use to keep liquids and stains off their garage floors.
“It’s becoming a cleaner and nicer extension of the house,” Ross said. “I think people are using it more for storage, but the trend seems to be a little more about downsizing. To efficiently make the house smaller they’re using the garage for storage, but they want it to be clean.”
Many of Ross’s customers are looking at cabinets with doors to put in their garages. This tactic not only keeps clutter off the floor but hides it as well.
“That’s what we’re hearing most of,” she said. “People want cabinets to hide the clutter. They want places to put their trash can or the kids’ ball or toys. We can also get bikes off the floor, or balls and things into baskets, or shoes on shelves. People are just wanting things off the floor. It looks neater that way.”
“Everything needs a spot,” Ross added.
Plus, a clean garage can double as another room, if need be.
Families who have large get-togethers, especially during the holidays, can set up tables and chairs in the garage for buffets or eating. Ross said her family hosted 80 people over the holidays this year, and the garage was utilized as an easy space to let people mingle, munch on food and hang out so the house was not so overcrowded.
It can also double as a game room when company is over and needs to be entertained. Or even a home gym, theater or art studio.
“The options are endless,” Ross said. “There is so much you can do with garages these days.”
But before that, you need to clean and organize.
And if it’s not something you already do regularly, it may seem like a bear.
There might be heavy dirt or grime in various places. Tools which have gone unused for a fairly long time might be rusted. Footballs or basketballs may be flattened, so, too, the tires on unused bicycles, which might have chains on which the grease dried long ago.
Maybe it’s been a long, long time since your garage was cleared out enough for its original purpose: housing the car.
“It is good to start early, but if you haven’t and now you have a monster on your hands, do”t worry,” Bower said. “If you are short on resources, you can make great progress just by putting on some good music, opening up the garage door for some cheerful lighting, and just work a few hours a week on it.”
“Slow and steady can win the race,” she added.
And eventually it might even help you win something more precious: