Tuesday, June 19, 2012

5 Easy Steps to an Organized Garage

Summertime is here…warmer temperatures means we're exposing more. More of the garage, that is, as outdoor activities take center stage and the garage door gets left open all day.

Yes, I know that the garage isn't the same as your house, but think of how many people can see inside that garage. Does the space look the way you like? Can you find everything you need? Does everyone in the family know where to put things back?

Now is the perfect time to get the garage in order.  Some people recommend you take everything out of the garage as the first step to cleaning out. While this certainly allows a deep cleaning of all the nooks and crannies, it also makes the project feel a bit overwhelming and leaves you in the position of having to finish the entire garage in one pass, or leave your belongings in the driveway.  I don't recommend de-cluttering a room or a basement by removing everything and putting it all back in, and I don't recommend it for a garage either. By following these simple steps you'll be all set in no time.

1)      Identify: What are the types of items that will be stored in the garage? Examples of "types" are sports equipment, lawn/yard tools, hardware, paints/chemicals, trash and recycling…you get the idea. Keep in mind if there are some items that are kept elsewhere, like the basement or the shed. As always, expect there to be "donation" and "trash" piles as well.

2)      Sort: Starting in one corner, pick up the first thing you see and determine if that's where it belongs. If it isn't put it in one of the designated areas you just identified. Repeat with the next item. And repeat again. At this point, you're only sorting, not worrying about how it will be stored. That comes later. Just get things in the right "neighborhood" for now. As you sort, consider whether you really need to keep the item. If you have multiples of something, consider donating a few of them. (I found 10 umbrellas last time I cleaned my garage. Go figure.) Outgrown bicycles and cleats, sports equipment, old tools, and unused materials from previous home improvement projects are all things that can be donated. Only keep what works, has all of its parts, and is in use currently. If it doesn't meet those criteria, it's probably ready for the trash.

3)      Clean: As soon as a space is cleared, sweep it out, or use a shop vacuum if you have one, and don't forget those cobwebs above. Be reasonable with the level of cleanliness you're going for - it's a garage after all - but getting the leaves and dirt out will make the garage look orderly and will help keep the house clean, too.

4)      Inventory: This is the step where you now figure out what you're trying to store. Now that everything is sorted into those "neighborhoods" from Step 2, you can easily see what you're dealing with and determine how each should be stored. Do you need access to the item regularly? Items like bike helmets should have a designated spot, where it's easy to grab them. Scooters and skateboards also need ready access in our garage, so they have a prime real estate spot. Are there any items that are routinely aggravating to you because they're inaccessible? In my house it was heavy duty extension cords. They were never where I could easily get to them, so I avoided any outdoor task requiring electricity, which included vacuuming out my car, trimming the hedges, and using the weedwacker. The cords are now stored on a reachable hook, right near the garage door. Lucky me...I have many more projects I can get done now.

Overhead Storage Organizer <br>Turn unused ceiling space into valuable storage!
5)      Store: For items that you need access to occasionally, consider shelving. Items such as paints, chemicals, and hardware can be stored in plastic bins on the shelves. Hooks provide quick access to things like backpacks, helmets, and extension cords. Lawn care tools are best stored on hooks designed for that purpose, found at any home improvement store. Hang items that aren't used regularly from the ceiling, in an out-of-the-way spot. Items such as ladders or bicycles that are rarely used are good candidates for this space. Finally, consider using the space over the garage doors for storage of bins. Shelving systems for this exact purpose, one of which is shown at the right, can be purchased in many locations. Holiday items, off season clothing, or items that are only used infrequently, like camping gear can fit on these shelves, freeing up precious garage floor space.

That's all there is to it. The key is to think about how you use your garage and keep the items used the most in the most convenient and accessible space. Items such as recycling bins are most convenient when they're kept near the door into the house. Tools will be put back more easily if you can reach their storage area. Many of us don't put thought into how to organize the areas of our garage functionally…but you'll enjoy your garage much more when you do!

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Friday, June 8, 2012

It's the Little Things

Often, it's the little things that bring joy.  Take, for instance, the IKEA RATIONELL VARIERA plastic bag dispenser. The fact that it costs only $1.99 is reason enough to be joyful, but it's also incredibly versatile. This small wonder attaches to the wall with either adhesive strips or screws and can be used for countless organization applications.  First, the obvious: it dispenses bags, just as advertised.  It holds LOTS and LOTS of bags, neatly and accessibly, but here (in no particular order) is a list of some other unexpected uses that I've found.

1. Store wrapping paper – It's the perfect size to hold wrapping paper rolls neatly. I have mine on the inside of a closet door. It works perfectly to keep the rolls in order. If you have the space, you could really go crazy and put categories of paper in each – Holiday, Birthday, All Occasion.

2. Organize toys – It's a creative way to keep tall skinny toys in order in a playroom, like the race track pieces shown in picture #2. Some other toys that fit perfectly: small plastic bats, kids' golf clubs, batons.

3. Create a light – A bedside lamp from a plastic bag dispenser? Yes! Check out "ikeahackers.com" (link below) for instructions on how to make this cool wall sconce.

4. Store craft supplies – Tame unruly balls of yarn, prevent unraveling, and create a yarn dispenser. No more tangled messes! The same principle applies to ribbons as well.

5. Hold plants – I originally saw this idea as a way to keep plants out of reach of cats, but it really does offer an imaginative way to clear pots off the flat surfaces of your home while still enjoying greenery. No cats required to enjoy this use.

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