← Back to All Columns

Columns

Le Garage: My Struggle

I’ve heard it said that a person’s mind is only as clear as the messiest room in their home environment. Uh-oh. When I first heard that (many years ago) my thoughts went straight to our garage, with its cobwebs, piles of towing chains, furry dog beds and a defunct refrigerator. Little screws, nails, nuts and bolts mingled in various rusty coffee cans. Power tools were menacing in an intimidating tangle of Mikita blue, DeWalt yellow and mega-extension cord orange.

After a purge and sort, which necessitated a few trips to the dump for large items and a few weeks of full garbage and recycling bins, my husband and I got a clear idea of what kind of storage we needed and went shopping.

Once we bought sturdy shelves and a good tool box, our garage began to get into shape. Getting everything up off the floor is an enormous component of a clean, organized garage. Paint and painting supplies went on to shelves, as did power tools. Gardening items like rakes and hoes hang from hooks on connecting rails (rubbermaid.com) and small tools are organized in a large tool box that is on casters so that it can roll to where it’s needed.

Extra cords have been rolled and hung on S-hooks at the corners of the shelves. Miscellaneous small items, such as outlet covers, gloves, tape, boxes of nails and picture hangers, have been sorted into shoebox-sized plastic containers. All are labeled.

Clutter problems in any area, even the garage, often begin at the point of purchase. This goes triple for nails, screws and the like. We had plenty of loose screws, nuts, bolts and nails from all the times we thought it might be nice to have extra on hand. Now I buy only what we need for a specific project.

The stuff we use the least or once annually (Christmas decorations, hunting gear, Halloween costumes) is stored on the highest shelves. Items we use regularly are stored at heights between the knees and the shoulders for easy access and lifting. Also, it leaves the floor clear for regular sweeping and helps prevent nesting opportunities for rodents.

I feel more peaceful with every square foot of garage we organize. Unfortunately, it’s a never ending battle. We’ve had to divide it into my side (where I park my car) and his side (which contains enough tools to build a Winchester house). I’ve promised to not trespass on his side of the garage. This agreement is working, sort of. I still feel some psychological repercussions. Do we really need eight wheelbarrows?

The garage gives me organizing humility and increased empathy for my clients. Still, I encourage all of us to go for our highest garage potential. Get in touch with your priorities — the couch or the Corolla? Your skinny clothes circa 1974 or a chest freezer that could store food for the family and make meal-planning easier? Ancestral antiques that you’ve never really liked or shelter for tools and supplies for the garden you adore?

There are no wrong answers in organizing — it is all about you, your family, and the lives that you choose to live. You’ll probably have to compromise, like I did, but I believe that the more conscious these choices are, the more mental clarity you’ll enjoy.