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January 20, 2006

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, January 20, 2006

Organizing your garage Organizing your garage (January 20, 2006)

Who knows what treasures lurk in that messy area?

by Kit Davey

You know it's time to clean out your garage when:

** You're afraid to go into it because you might not be able to find your way out;

** You squirm and blush at the thought of letting a friend peek into it;

** You've owned three cars and none of them has ever been parked in it.

Let's face it, your garage is probably an embarrassing eyesore, bursting at the seams and you know you're wasting valuable space holding onto junk you'll probably never use again.

Cleaning out your garage may be an overwhelming, dirty job that you think you don't have the time to tackle, but I promise you, it's worthwhile doing!

By purging and organizing your garage you'll:

** Find lost valuables,

** Gain more space in your home's interior,

** Be able to protect your car from the elements,

** Have a place to work on projects,

** Save money by not having to pay for a storage unit,

** Make money by selling your cast-offs at a garage sale or by making a charitable contribution,

** Have peace of mind.

Want to reap these tremendous benefits? It's simple. Just commit your time and energy to the process. Here's how:

Preparation is the key to a stress-free garage excavation. Schedule your organizing date on a weekend a month away. Enroll your spouse, children and friends in the process.

In preparation for the big event:

** Order a dumpster or time your clean-up to correspond with your city's big garbage pick-up day.

** Call your local charity and schedule a pick-up for the Monday after.

** Decide if you will paint the interior of your garage and, if so, purchase a white or light-colored paint and painting supplies.

** Start gathering supplies: boxes, tape, garbage bags, plastic storage bins, a label maker, etc.

** Two weeks before you dive in, conduct a "needs assessment." Ask yourself what you want to do in the garage and what you want to store there. Need space for a potting station, a workbench for carpentry, household or automotive repair work or a clothes washing/drying/ironing/folding station?

Things you might like to store could include seasonal decorations, garden supplies, tools, household cleaning supplies, recycling containers, tax records, outdoor furniture, sports equipment, etc. What do you have stored inside your house that you'd like to move out?

** Then make a scale drawing of the area. Show the location of doors, windows, outlets, hot water heater, washer/dryer, etc. Make several copies of your floor plan and start sketching in where you hope to put everything. You may also want to draw a side view of each wall so you can plan how to use all the vertical wall space A few hints:

Can you lay boards across the rafters to create a platform? Can you install hooks in the ceiling to hang bicycles? Can you install shelves up to the ceiling to store rarely used supplies? Locate supplies for one activity together and keep them close to where you will use them. Store seldom-used items high up and far away.

At this point you'll probably discover that you don't have enough or the right type of shelving, cabinets or hanging supplies. You'll need to visit your hardware store to look at all the options and also decide how much money you want to spend.

** Inexpensive options: If your garage has unfinished walls you can create your own mini-shelves by nailing sections of two by fours between the studs. For wider shelves, screw in L-shaped brackets onto the studs and lay press board over the brackets. More expensive, but very versatile is the Peg-Board system, sheets of pressed board perforated with regularly-placed holes that can be outfitted with hooks and brackets.

** A simple row of hooks is great for hanging tall tools. Drill a hole in the ends of your broom, rake and shovel and loop a bit of rope through the hole. Hang the tools from the loop.

** Worthwhile purchases: a label-maker and see-through plastic containers. A garage with rows of neatly labeled tubs will not only look tidy, but pay off in time savings and protection of your valuables.
@12subhead:Clean-up time

The day of the big clean up, eat a hearty breakfast and get your supplies together. Set up your driveway as a staging area to sort your possessions. Arrange garbage cans and boxes labeled "garage sale," "charity," "to repair," "return to," "garden supplies," tools," etc. You'll be going through every box in the garage and making decisions about whether to keep the item or where to put it.

Start on the wall at one end of the garage. Ask yourself "Do I want or need this? Have I used it in the past year?" Toss it or place it in the appropriate box. Work your way around the perimeter of the garage, attacking the middle last.

Once you have sorted your possessions, the whole area will look like a bomb hit it, but don't get discouraged! Sweep or blow off the walls, (paint the area if that was part of your plan) and take a break. Install any new shelving, hooks, workbenches or cabinets. Place your treasures, sorted by type, in your labeled bins and place them according to your floorplan.

Now you can keep that garage door open with pride.

Kit Davey, Allied Member, ASID, is a Redwood City-based interior designer who redecorates by rearranging what you already own. E-mail her at [email protected], call her at (650) 367-7370; visit her Web site at

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