“The garage is where clutter goes to die,” jokes Amanda M. LeBlanc, a professional organizer in Birmingham, Ala.
Many of you said the same thing in Consumer Reports’ recent nationwide poll of almost 1,000 garage owners. Filled with tools, sports equipment and more, the garages of 62 percent of Americans are crowded, disorganized or a mess. Shocker: Almost one-third of us don’t park our car in the garage, no matter how large.
Help is at hand. Consumer Reports recommends dividing items in your garage into four groups: sell, donate, trash and keep. Overall, your objective is to get as much as you can off the garage floor and onto the walls or shelves.
With that done, you can start planning. Ask yourself whether you prefer to store items behind closed doors, on open shelves or a mix of both. Also, are there items cluttering up indoor living spaces that you’d like to store in the garage?
And lastly, think about future needs. If you own a Mini but will be trading it in for an SUV, or vice versa, consider the size of future cars. Consider these four scenarios:
1. For DIYers: Everything in its space
A whopping 78 percent of people surveyed store tools or a workbench in their garage, and 44 percent use the space as a workshop. A slat wall, wire grid or pegboard will keep your tools in plain sight. Opt for cabinets with doors and drawers if you prefer things to be stowed away or you want to keep them away from young children.
If space is at a premium or if you maintain your own car, consider tool cabinets on wheels, which you can move into the center of the garage or the driveway.
A workbench that lets you adjust the height is handy for different jobs and for users of different heights.
Consider a workbench with a sealed laminate or plastic surface. Those types resist stains best, according to Consumer Reports’ tests.
2. For gardeners: Corral your gear
You’ll probably want wall storage and shelves for hand tools, potting soil, peat moss and fertilizer. Lawn mowers and heavy pots will need space on the floor.
Use a wall system for your rakes, hoes and other tall items. Mount trowels, bulb planters and other hand tools on a pegboard, either on individual hooks or perhaps in wire or clear plastic bins for visibility.
If there’s space, consider a potting bench along the back wall, with some grow lights.
3. For sports equipment: Make it easy
A slat wall, track or grid system can be fitted with hooks for specialized holders for balls, mitts, backpacks, rackets, skateboards, skis, bikes and more.
A slat wall or grid system allows you to easily raise hooks and accessories as kids get taller.
Wall-mounted wire baskets, mesh bags and clear, open bins stow items in clear view.
A floor bike rack allows youngsters to ride right into the garage and park. No kids? Consider suspending bikes from the ceiling with a bike lift, either motorized or manual.
A hoist allows you to get your canoe or kayak up and down without damaging it or harming yourself in the process.
4. ’Tis not the season: Stow rarely used items
Overhead storage is an economical alternative to a cabinet for large, long and relatively flat objects.
A ceiling-mounted shelf is the ideal place for such lightweight items as holiday decorations and out-of-season clothing.
For bulk purchases, keep extra cleaning supplies and nonperishable foods near the inner door to the house.
Paper records can go into bins, but the weight makes them better for a shelf mounted high on a wall rather than above a car.
Use clear plastic bins to hold more than one type of item. Opaque bins are fine for out-of-season clothes, old business records, etc., if they’re clearly labeled.