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Garage Storage: How to Tackle the Mess

The garage is often a home's mystery room. People don't quite know what to do with it; what should we put in it? Our cars? All of our leftover stuff? Our canned food? And what about everything that just seems to accumulate in there, although no one ever claims it? My family's garage used to be a veritable labyrinth- you could go in looking for a can of peas and come out with a basketball and a pair of shoes. It's exciting, yes, when even a visit to your garage turns into an adventure, but not the most efficient organizational system.

And so, this is why my entire summer before my senior year of high school was spent in the garage. Don't worry, I didn't get buried by a long-forgotten stack of textbooks or anything; my parents decided it would be a wonderful character-builder for me to clean out and organize everything that had managed to find a home in there during the past 10 years.

At first, it seemed completely indomitable; I'd wake up at night in a cold sweat from dreams involving a Hydra-like effect, where each time I took one thing out, ten more appeared in its place. I was, apparently, very involved in my assignment. After a week's work, it still seemed completely indomitable. I would never subdue this beast. It was like one of those tile games where you slide pieces around until you get the picture put back together, only I was sliding around giant boxes and tool chests and who-knows-what-else. I was sure I had at least touched everything in the garage, and discarded countless things, but it took a very keen eye to really see any difference.

The next week, things started to look up. I'd cleaned out enough unwanted stuff that I had more than a 4x4 foot square empty at any one time, and I could actually start to imagine the day when everything would have its own home in there. Still imaginary, though, because our garage consisted of three walls, a door, a floor and a ceiling. Not exactly the most conducive for organizing and getting things out of the way. Mind you, at this time we couldn't even park our cars in there. Yeah, it was bad.

The real magic started when I discovered garage storage systems. I took a day off from my vassalage to prepare a presentation extolling the virtues of cabinets and drawers and everything else I wanted to put in our garage. Remember, this was a character-building exercise- it wasn't supposed to cost money. However, my excellent powers of persuasion eventually won out (they always do), and my parents gave me an allotted amount for necessary storage products.

It was almost like Christmas. I knew that with this development, my job would soon be nothing more than a memory of a summer without a social life. First, I put in a large cabinet for all of our food storage (we're set for well into the next millennium, I'd say), and another one for yard work supplies and tools, like rakes and shovels. A couple chests of drawers worked perfectly for sports and equipment and toys, and a new workbench really pulled it together. A few hooks and hangers later, I could not only see the floor, but we could actually fit two whole cars inside! That wasn't something I could even remember. My work here was done. I'm not sure how much my character benefitted from this exercise, but my (admittedly strange) love of garage storage systems was born.

Maybe it's the fact that it went from so overwhelmingly cluttered to not having one thing out of place, and it stays that way. Most other rooms require constant upkeep, but garages are simple to keep put together once the main work is done. I know I'll never have to do that major overhaul again. Yes, that is probably it. And the fact that it looks so darn good.

Since my project turned out so well, I think I have some kind of social obligation to give you a few tips regarding garage storage. First- get rid of things! There is no magic storage system that will somehow fit everything you've managed to hide away in your garage. You can have a garage sale (although it will probably be more like a driveway sale since your garage is still a mess), you can donate items that are in good condition, and you can throw away things that are of no use to anyone. The task will immediately feel more manageable. If you have a garage/driveway sale, you'll even have a little extra cash to put down on great organizers. After this step, mentally organize what you have in your garage- do you need an area for sports equipment or a dirt bike? A lawnmower or a snowblower? Next, group like things together and then decide how to house them. There are all types of configurations of cabinets, drawers, workbenches and tables so you can get the exact garage you want.

And with that, I'd say go for it. It might be tough in the beginning, but it is most definitely worth everything you put into it. And hey, you might even build some character while you're at it.

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