As we head into the holiday season we find ourselves digging out the decorations, lights, and stockings and putting away the patio furniture, hoses, and garden tools.
If you’re like most of us, you probably have specific places where you keep your holiday stuff, your garden and seasonal stuff, and even your tools and repair stuff.
But, are you using those spaces efficiently?
I recently had the opportunity to add a garage to a home and we were able to create a nice large attic space above it for the homeowner’s patio furniture cushions and other seasonal things.
We also added a bunch of new features in their existing garages that helped them organize and store much more than they had ever been able to do before.
With the assistance of a great local company, West Coast Dream Garage, we transformed the garage into three specific storage areas.
The first garage, which houses a car as well, was outfitted with Handiwall, a tough, slot wall-type product that facilitated wire shelving, baskets, and hooks for skis, poles, helmets, and a whole variety of other household items that had always been difficult to store.
In the middle garage we installed multiple shelving units stocked with close to six dozen storage totes allowing the homeowner to both categorize and label, once again, things that had been difficult to store.
The last garage, housing a classic car, was outfitted with steel cabinets, more Handiwall and, of course, the extra attic space above.
Along the back wall – near the door into the house – we installed a stainless steel work counter with more wall cabinets, along with their extra fridge and freezer, and more Handiwall.
While all of this sounds expensive it really wasn’t as costly as one might think.
Rather than go with the high-end steel cabinets, which are wonderful and tough, but not needed here, we opted for shelving and cabinets we found at a local home improvement store.
We also bought the clear, flip-top storage totes on sale, and they work and fit perfectly.
The Handiwall was the most costly part of this project but, and this is important, this product is far superior to all of the other slot-wall products we looked at.
The best part of what we did organizing this garage space was the fact that, in the end, everything was off the floor and everything had a place.
One of the biggest problems homeowners face when looking to store stuff in basements, crawl spaces, and garages, is keeping things dry and safe.
Cardboard boxes are not practical for long-term storage, they are affected by dampness and water, they are easily breached by rodents, and are difficult to label.
Plastic and polymer totes and bins come in a huge variety of styles, sizes, and quality, but most are excellent choices for storing just about all of your extra things.
Here are a few simple suggestions when starting to organize and sort out your stuff:
1. Don’t tackle everything at once, pick one area and work on that.
2. If you can, start by creating a completely empty, open space where you can transfer one box at a time and work in an organized fashion.
3. Prioritize. Decide what things need to be dealt with first, important things like family pictures, banking, and other documents, valuable items including record albums, and perhaps some vintage things left to you by your parents. These are the things that often get water damaged during a disaster or, even worse, stolen or lost.
4. Categorize. Take an inventory of the storage spaces you have already in your home, the attic, the dry crawl space, the extra space in the garage, or even that well-built, and hopefully dry, shed. Put all similar things together in one area, such as placing all of your personal stuff, family history, pictures, the children’s school archives, the wedding album, in one safe and dry area. Use the shed for all of your garden and outside stuff, perhaps even the larger tools that have always been in the way in the garage. Bikes can also go in there in the winter, as long as it’s secure and dry.
5. Be tough. Get rid of as much stuff as possible as you organize and sort out everything you have in storage. If it’s in storage there’s a good chance you don’t need it, honestly, you probably haven’t even thought about that old electric weed eater you bought 16 years ago.
6. Involve everyone. Get everyone involved, your spouse, the kids at home, the kids on their own, even your neighbours and friends. You’ll be shocked at how much of your stuff other people will take, or, other people will motivate you to get rid of stuff simply by laughing at the fact you kept it for so many years.
7. Use your time wisely. Make a little time each weekend to work on the storage problem. Don’t tackle too much at once, but also don’t put it off. And, if you can, make it a dedicated whole weekend, or week-off, project. Fill the fridge with your favourite snacks and beverages, put on some old and comfortable clothes, turn off the cellphone, and PVR any TV shows you may have watched during that time. Then make a plan, execute it, and relish in the success after.
I have three sheds and a playhouse slash garden shed which all need organizing and cleaning out.
I also have a laundry room that needs a makeover and a storage room that is stacked with boxes, bins, and a lot of stuff we need to get rid of.
Fortunately we don’t have a big house so there is no attic and no basement, because, if there was, they would be full too.
I haven’t mentioned my office either – that is a whole other column by itself.
It’s not rocket science as they say, but it is one of the most daunting and terrifying things we face in and around our home.
The cool thing is though, that once we organize and clean out one space we start to feel in control, and more able to tackle the next space.
And you don’t have to do it alone, there are friends and family that will help. There are also great local people and companies, like West Coast Dream Garage (www.westcoastdreamgarage.ca), that can help with ideas and guidance.
Keep safe this holiday season, drive responsibly, enjoy your families and friends, and please send me your questions and comments anytime.