Garage & Basement Organization Ideas

Written by Neat Freak

rakes, shovels, broomsCreative Commons License photo credit: joguldi

Have you stepped inside your garage or basement recently, shook your head and walked out again? Probably two of the most dreaded areas of the home to clean and organize are the garage and the basement.  There are boxes and piles of things there that haven’t seen the light of day in years. Out of sight, out of mind. We tend to throw anything and everything in the garage or basement intending to pick it up later and put it where it belongs.  Of course, we never do get back to that item and, unfortunately, we most likely feel we’re going to lose our mind when we start thinking about taking on such a large task.  How do we begin?

Step One:  Throw Out The Junk
You’ll need to gather up some boxes and buy some good garbage bags before you begin.  Start on one shelf or in one corner and start throwing unneeded items into boxes.  If you have cans of old paint, paint supplies, and other chemicals, check with your local trash company for specifics about handling these items.  You’ll want to set anything that could be toxic aside in boxes until you know what to do with them.  Most communities offer a special pick up day for toxic products like old paint and chemicals.  You may also have old small appliances and furniture that you’ll need to dispose of as well.  Your garbage removal company will know what to tell you about those items as well.   Anything that is normal trash, or recyclable items, you will dispose of as you normally would.  It’s hard to know which corner to begin with, but once you get started, it does get easier.  Be prepared for a full day or more of just cleaning out the trash.

Step Two:  Inventory Items and Space
Once you get down to the items you need to keep, you can start planning your storage strategies.  Making a list of the groups of items you store in your basement or garage is helpful.  Some categories could include sports, tools, clothing, home repair, holidays, camping, bikes, games, and the list goes on and on. Along with the inventory, you should draw out a simple floor plan. There may be obstacles to your storage plan if you do not take into account certain permanent elements, like a freezer, built-in workbench, drop-down attic stairs, etc.  Now you’ll have a general idea of the room you have to work with.  While you have everything neatly categorized waiting in boxes in the middle of the room or out in the driveway, you may want to take this opportunity to give the floors and walls of your space a thorough washing and possible painting before you put everything back

Step Three:  Sort Each Category
Within each of your categories you’ll need to determine if the items will be moved around during the year. For instance, are the clothes or sports items seasonal?  Are there baby items being saved for a younger sibling or cousin? Are there sentimental things you won’t use again but you’re saving for keepsakes?  If so, you’ll want to store them in labeled boxes in the back or top of storage areas to free up space for items you’ll need to retrieve often.  Do you have a donation bin that you’ll need to access pretty regularly?  What about recycling bins?

Step Four:  Buy and Create Storage
The sanity of being organized is well worth the money spent on proper basement or garage storage units. Usually, storage shelves for a garage or basement are metal or plastic, so they will stand up to the less than perfect conditions of a garage or basement.  Once you have a floor plan roughed out with your general categories mapped out on it, start shopping around for shelves and specialty storage items.  Specialty storage items such as bike hooks, tool storage shelves and pegboards are incredible space saving items.  An old favorite nuts, bolts, and small items organizing solution is made using baby food jars and a one inch board hung on the wall with shelf supports. Use an awl or nail to poke a hole in the lid of the baby jars and then use a short screw to affix the jar lids to bottom of the board and use a simple pair of shelf brackets screwed firmly into the wall to support it at eye level.  Now you can put your little screws and nails or what-have-you into the baby jars and twist them into place under the shelf.  There are many do-it-yourself storage units that are perfect for basements or garages, even overhead storage shelves made especially to work in a garage, but before you purchase one, make sure it will work with your garage door.  You’ll also want to invest in a good supply of plastic storage containers that fit on your shelves.  It’s important to invest in containers that protect your belongings from moisture, mildew and the occasional pest.

Step Five:  Arrange Your Items
When storing things in the garage, again, it’s best to store them based on when and where you need them.  Have a system in which you can rotate seasonal items to where you can get to them easily.  If you’ve chosen peg board for a storage option, items like tools can be hung and an outline of its shape painted on the pegboard to illustrate where each tool belongs.  Place bikes and sports equipment closest to the door so your kids don’t have to work their way past other items on their way to the driveway or basketball hoop.  Have a shelf for your cleaning supplies near the door into the house.  Store bird seed, planting soil, fertilizer, and other outside items near the door to avoid sprinkling dirt all the way across the floor on your way out to the garden or bird feeder.  Shovels and rakes can be hung on the wall for easy access and also keeps them out of the way.  Smaller garden tools could be kept in a basket with handles, for easy transport to the garden.  If you have space, think about creating a ‘locker’ for each family member where they can store things they want easy access to and let them know whatever doesn’t fit in the locker has to find a home elsewhere.  If your garage or basement leads into a laundry room or mud room, that offers other challenges, as it’s an open area that sees a lot of traffic daily.  It can become a dumping ground for all kinds of things and, unlike closets, it’s harder to hide the clutter.  Decide what you want stored in the mudroom.  If items like small tools, boots, winter coats, or small toys need a home in the mudroom, a boot pad and a good array of hooks on the wall will help to keep these pieces out of the walkway.

Of course, no one said it would be easy.  But, by following a few step-by-step procedures, you’ll have an idea of how to map out a plan so you have a greater chance of succeeding.  Involve the whole family, and you may see results even more quickly!  Good luck with this organizing challenge!  And be sure to visit us again for more organization ideas and tips!

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