By, Devora Farrell
Let’s just be honest here, shall we?
How long has it been since you’ve actually parked your car in the garage? If your answer is “last night,” then you have my permission to turn the page. You probably have enough room for all of your belongings. Or, you rely solely on public transportation, in which case, you don’t have a garage.
Now, on to the rest of us plebeians: If your answer is, “never,” or “I didn’t know that that’s what a garage was intended for,” let’s explore the possibilities.
Most people think of garage storage as appropriate for sports equipment, lawn maintenance equipment, sukkah boards, boxes still packed from the last move, and possibly, recycling bins. They’re right – a garage is a good place for that (but not the boxes – if you haven’t opened them yet, can’t quite remember what’s in them, and it’s been at least a year, consider letting them go – you have my permission to chuck ‘em without even opening them. Yes, I mean that. ). There are a few good options for outdoor-related equipment, among them: Garbage pails for bats, mitts, balls, hockey sticks, pads, helmets…perhaps separated by sport, if there’s enough to warrant that. Another possibility is netting, mounted on the wall, to corral balls of different sizes, or hooks for some lawn-maintenance equipment. Some people enjoy the “parking lot” idea of painting lines on the garage floor appropriately sized for the lawn mower, snow blower, seed spreader, and the like.
Now, before addressing what else could go in there, purge everything that you can. Remember my favorite song: The less you have, the less you have to clean up. Catchy tune. Take back your valuable space! As motivated as you might be now, refrain (get the music reference?) from buying bins just yet. Even if they’re on sale. How will you know how many containers will you need if you don’t yet know how much you have? Storage size estimation can much more easily be done after purging.
What other things could be well-stored in a garage, especially if the garage is attached to the house. I hope for your sake, it is. Not much could motivate me to go to the garage in the winter if it takes donning all the cold weather paraphernalia just to go out there to get something. If this is your situation, feel free to ignore the rest of this article so that you won’t feel bad.
If your garage is indeed attached to the house, you have a great opportunity to have a quasi-kitchen extension. What can go there? The particularly large or small pots, the infrequently-accessed specialty items, cookie cutters (in a small bin), boxed Pesach items or other seasonal or holiday-related housewares, small appliances that are not too heavy, cleaning supplies (with no child access), and of course, Costco storage (12 paper towel rolls, anyone?), non-perishable food, and large boxes of plastic-ware. Since most attached garages are not climate- controlled, the items stored there should not need to be accessed frequently, nor should they require a narrow temperature range.
How can these things be stored? The heavy duty build-‘em-yourself aerated plastic modular shelves, available at most home improvement stores are a good choice. A great thing about these shelves is that you can always add more of them as you need them. They are strong and easy to clean with just a hose. The holes in them allow for good air circulation, limiting mold, and they are lightweight. These shelves should be positioned on the wall closest to the house. This way, the garage excursion can be as brief as possible.
Sounds wonderful, no? Yes, except for two problems. The first is the possibility of the shelves being too tall to access the top tiers easily. Simple solution: store a foldable stepstool designated just for the garage next to the shelves. Label its required location so that others will be less tempted to “borrow” it elsewhere “for a minute.” And speaking of labels reminds me of the second issue: Even if a number of kitchen-related objects start to “live” in the garage, freeing up valuable kitchen space (and allowing the cupboards to breathe a little), how will you know where to find things on the new shelves? The handy-dandy label maker! “Which one,” you ask? I prefer the brother p-touch, either size. I actually have both the one that handles regular sized labels, as well as the larger one for labelling larger bins that need to be stacked. The labels are then able to be read from a greater distance without needing to pull each one closer to see what’s in it. Of course, you can always use painter’s tape and a Sharpie. That works too, but I’m an organizing maniac, so I have all the organizing toys.
Anyhoo, back to kitchen and Costco things now living in the garage: label the shelf edges with each item’s parking spot, e.g. Pareve Food Processor; Rotisserie; Soda Stream. I do not bother to label the Costco purchases because their packaging is usually clear and self-explanatory, and even I have my labelling parameters. The label tape is expensive, even though the label-maker is not. With the parking spaces thus named, the perpetrators will have to work harder to rationalize “misplacing” the appliance elsewhere. If you are fortunate enough to have cleaning help, you may want to encourage them to write the corresponding word in their preferred language (if it is not English) to make it easier for them to work efficiently. The easier the system is for others, the more cooperative they will probably be with maintaining it…and you too.
Devora Farrell, Chief Organizer and Coach of This Organized, LLC, would be delighted to hear from you… btw, thanks for saying, “hi,” when you see her around town. She can be reached at (973) 919-7761 or at AsktheOrganizer@JewishLocalPages.com.