The garage is one of the hardest areas of a home to organize for some women.
A lot of the things that reside there belong to other family members - your husband and your kids. There are shelves of toxic chemicals, pest control sprays, and old paint. The sports equipment and toys are often the biggest and hardest to contain that you own. A lot of the boxes are very heavy to carry, dirty, or filled with little parts and tools that you don't even recognize. And if there is something broken, hasn't been used in a while, or is missing parts, chances are it's in the garage for awhile, before the big exit.
Welcome to the land that time forgot.
It's easy to forget all about your garage because it's not a space you have to live in every day. A good majority of people don't even park their cars in their garages because they are too full of "stuff." So their expensive cars sit out in the ice and rain, while rusted tools and dried up paint stay protected inside. It's a neglected organizing project because it's one that requires several hands on deck for the heavy lifting, a willingness to get dirty, and a few car trips to dispose of things.
First things first - assemble your team and introduce the idea of space planning. Get everyone talking about what zones you want in your garage. My kids adore drawing out a map of the different furniture and trying to see ahead of time what will fit where. Think about what items you use the most often and need the easiest access to. Typical zones include:
Tools - Hand tools, Power tools
Household Repair - Light Bulbs, Caulk, Picture Hanging Supplies
Small Parts - Nuts, Bolts, Screws, Nails
Yard Supplies - Tools, Chemicals, Seeds, Mower, Gardening Pots
Outside Decor - Christmas Lights, Seasonal Flags & Yard Decor
Outdoor Toys/Sports Equipment
Seasonal Stuff - Pool Toys, Winter Gear, Patio Cushions
Projects - Things to be repaired, painted, installed in the future
Auto - Cleaning supplies, Parts
No other room in your home is so multi-purpose as your garage, and that's why it's so important to keep it organized. If something breaks, a light bulb burns out, or the toilet starts to overflow, you need quick access to your tools. Now.
Label Your Zones
If you have shelving, determine what items get the prime space that's not too high, nor low. Create areas for each category using Post It notes on the shelves themselves. This will eliminate confusion about what goes where while you are organizing. The beauty of Post Its is that you can move them if you find your space plan didn't work as well as you thought. Then, after your project is done, you can convert your Post Its to permanent labels on the shelves and containers.
The most essential part of organizing is sorting like items with like items. If you don't do this properly, your garage becomes one big junk drawer where nothing is found quickly. Use more Post Its to label each box you sort your items into. This is very helpful when organizing with a group because one person's trash will be often be another's treasure. Label, label, label!
Make It Easy On Yourself
Equally important is making smart choices about what belongs together: paint next to paint brushes, and nails near hammers. Think of this like your kitchen: coffee stored next to the cups, which are stored next to the coffee pot. Don't work harder than you have to.
And speaking of working hard, some garage items will require a bit of extra work. With clothes or dishes, it's easy to donate to your local charity. But with chemicals, electronics, or hazardous waste, it can be confusing to know what to do. Consult earth911.com for tips and create a few boxes for special categories:
Items that need to be properly discarded like expired chemicals, paint, batteries, and old electronics
Items to give/return to others
Items destined for bulk trash pickup/drop off
With lots of people helping to clear the space, it'll get done much faster and safer than if you did it by yourself. Plus everyone is there to answer the important questions about their stuff (Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash) so no one feels their things were thrown away without permission. You might even be pleasantly surprised by the things that are taking up space, but people are willing to part with, like toys deemed too babyish now, or a long forgotten repair project that is ready to be let go gracefully.
At the end of the day, you will have a much cleaner, better organized, and more easily accessible garage, with a tired, but happy family to go along with it. You might even be able to finally park a car or two in there!