The garage is the one room in your home most likely to become stuffed with clutter. This is a room where “out of sight, out of mind” can become a major problem. Since most of us spend less time in the garage relative to the rest of the home, it’s easy to let them deteriorate into unorganized, cluttered messes. In fact, one of the biggest reasons garages become so cluttered is that many people use them as a place to store the clutter they clear out of the rest of their home. If you’re fed up with the whirlwind of chaos that is your garage, here are five things you can do to become better organized.
Pegboards are one of the most useful organizational tools you can install in your garage. The key lies in their flexibility: Pegboards can support shelves, hooks, baskets, and all manner of custom tool-holders, all in whatever configuration you can dream up. Pegboards put wall space to use and can be cut to fit into odd spaces that have no other use. They’re easy to install and can be found at virtually every hardware store.
Put in Heavy-Duty Shelving
Most of us already have some sort of shelving in our garage, but much of the time, it simply isn’t up to snuff. People often store large, heavy items in their garage, items which most types of shelving can’t hold up. Putting in heavy-duty shelving will not only allow you to take greater advantage of vertical space, but may allow you to get larger, heavier items up off the floor, making your garage easier to get around. Fortunately, this type of shelving is relatively inexpensive, can be found at virtually every home improvement store, and is often extremely easy to build – all you’ll need is a screwdriver.
Hang Overhead Storage Units
If you’re really looking to take advantage of vertical space, you’ll need to go even taller than typical shelves. Here’s where overhead storage units will save the day. These special racks, typically made out of sturdy metal, hang from the ceiling and allow you to make the top 2 to 3 feet of your garage useful. If you’re really in need of getting things out of the way, there’s probably not a better garage storage solution. These overhead racks are best used with plastic bins. However, there are some caveats to overhead storage that you’ll need to be aware of. First, your ceiling will need to be high enough, or you’ll hit your head.
Second, you’ll need to be very careful with installation; otherwise, you risk ruining your garage ceiling. Third, take it easy on the amount of weight you put on these racks – your ceiling can only support so much weight, and heavy items will be dangerous to move on and off these shelves. Finally, make sure you’re physically fit enough to reach these shelves, or have someone who is. Lifting heavy items above your head can, of course, be dangerous.
Use the 6-Month Rule
Perhaps now you’re at the point where you’ve maximized the storage space in your garage, and you’ve still got too much clutter. Now is the time to decide what you need in your life and what you don’t. Professional home organizers often urge their clients to use the “6-Month Rule.” This rule states that if you haven’t used an item in the past six months, you’re unlikely to use it again, so you’re better off without it.
Rent a Storage Unit
Ok, so now you may be at the point where you’ve maximized the storage space in your garage and have rid yourself of everything you don’t need, but you’re still out of garage space. Your last resort then is to find somewhere else to keep your leftover possessions. Instead of spreading that clutter throughout the rest of your home, consider moving it out entirely by renting a self-storage unit. Since you’ll have to pay a monthly rental fee on a storage unit, only store things you absolutely need. Fortunately, storage units are relatively inexpensive, and many storage facilities offer specials. Use a self-storage pricing tool to find the cheapest storage units near you. If moving into your storage unit is too expensive, there are services these days that will actually send movers out to your home to pick up your stuff, though that convenience comes at a greater price.
Decluttering is like dieting: It may be easy to shed a few pounds after a month-long diet, but you’re liable to put those pounds back on once you go back to your normal lifestyle. Likewise, you may have decluttered your garage, but if you don’t change the behaviors that led to the clutter, you’ll soon have clutter again. The only way to keep clutter (and those pounds) off is to change your lifestyle. The biggest behavior change you can make to reduce new clutter is to organize immediately -- don’t put it off until later. If you’re tempted to just throw something in your garage, don’t. Put it where it belongs, or find a new place for it to belong. It may take you some more time, but it’s likely not as much time as you think, and it will save you from spending time decluttering later. This, however, is a hard behavior to fully-adopt, so one way to compensate is to schedule regular decluttering initiatives, perhaps at the end of every month.
Brian Shreckengast is a writer at SelfStorage.com