Garage organizing tips

A recent UCLA study found that only 25 percent of garages could be used to store cars because they were so packed with stuff.  This is because the garage tends to become a dumping ground for all the things we’re not quite sure what to do with: boxes of old records (both vinyl and paper); infomercial impulse-inspired exercise equipment; small appliances that have outlived their usefulness yet are somehow “too good to get rid of”; and the inevitable unopened cartons of belongings from the last move.

Then there are all those items that actually belong in the garage — if you can find them: tools, gardening supplies, bicycles, camping gear and sporting goods…and possibly even a car.

If your garage is overdue for an overhaul, here’s a step-by-step plan to help you get the job done.  Compact 12 Tote Storage Box Organizer by Albern Enterprises, Llc Image

1. Focus. Think about how you currently use your garage versus how you’d prefer to be using it. For example, maybe you currently use it for “storage” (a euphemism for “dump”) but you’d like to be able to do woodworking or crafts projects there — or perhaps even park a vehicle inside. Decide how you want to use the space, and then sketch out a rough plan.

2. Inventory. Make a list of the general categories of stuff currently cluttering your garage. Then go back through the list and put a check-mark by the categories you plan on keeping in your newly organized space, and a big X next to the ones you plan to eliminate. Keep in mind that “Miscellaneous” is not an effective category. If you can’t pinpoint an item’s purpose or place, get rid of it.

3. Deadline. Set a deadline for getting the job done and then block out time in your calendar for your garage project. Tip: If you tie your deadline to an event such as a neighborhood yard sale, you’ll have a better shot at achieving your goal.

4. Prepare. Assemble any supplies you might need to make the decluttering go smoothly, such as protective gloves, storage containers, boxes, marking pens, labels, trash bins and, if necessary, a Dumpster. (A bulldozer is optional.)  If you think you might need any specialized garage organizers, it’s wise to do some research beforehand.

5. Dig In. Allocate two holding areas (outside the garage, if necessary) designated for “keep” and “don’t keep” items. (Suggestion: The area allocated for “don’t keep” should be at least twice as large as the “keep” area.) Your objective is to fill up the “don’t-keep” section. You may want to divide up this section with three or more containers labeled “trash,” “donate,” “sell,” or any other relevant subcategories. But keep it as simple as possible — creating too many options is counterproductive.

Garbage Can Cart Image
Finally, remember this classic decluttering rule:  Keep the best and let go of the rest.

Hooked on kitchen organizing

Hooks are among my favorite kitchen organizing devices.  They save drawer space and help counters stay clear while keeping frequently used items handy.  And they’re incredibly inexpensive.  Here are a few examples of how to use them:

  • Scissors, pot holders and aprons can be hung on the side of your fridge with magnetic hooksMini Magnetic Storage Hooks - Stainless Steel (Set of 4) Image
  • A small hook installed on the underside of a cabinet above a counter will give you an efficient way to hang bananas, so you won’t need a counter-space-wasting “banana tree” or hammock-style ripener.
  • Use hooks on the inside of cabinet doors for hanging large utensils (that’s why many of them have a hole in the handle) or lightweight cutting boards.
  • Cups and mugs can be hung on small hooks attached to the underside of shelves inside a cupboard.

If you’re not sure where would be the best place to put up non-magnetic hooks, you can experiment by using removable 3M Command Strip Hooks which won’t damage most surfaces.  They come in a variety of sizes and are designed to stay put until you decide to remove them.

Outdoor storage that hides in plain sight

Should you get a storage shed – or should you work on shedding your excess clutter?7.5'H x 10'D Backyard Garden Storage Building

In most cases, you’re probably better off getting rid of stuff than stuffing it in its own littlehouse.  However, a shed is an ideal solution for certain situations. If you want easy access to gardening tools and supplies, sports equipment, building materials or other outdoor-related items, a shed may be beneficial.

But if you just have too much “miscellaneous”, it’s better to shed the stuff so you don’t stuff the shed.

Deck boxes are an efficient and economical alternative to sheds–they can be used for stowing all types of outdoor gear such as patio furniture covers and cushions, pool supplies, toys and sporting goods.

Pool Side Deck Box with Wheels ImageThey come in a range of styles and materials and also do double-duty as seating options, ranging in size from ottomans to chairs to benches. For easy portability, choose a rolling deck box.




Reorganize your medicine cabinet

Look inside most medicine cabinets and you’ll find a whole lot more than medicine crammed onto those skinny little shelves: grooming tools and supplies, cosmetics, dental-care items, first aid materials, contact lens solution, sunscreen…

Acrylic Vanity Organizer - Medium ImageIf your medicine cabinet is a mess, maybe it’s time to declutter and reorganize. Start by eliminating outdated medications and ineffective products. Be ruthless when clearing out space-hogging beauty treatments and toiletries: Jettison bottles of dried-up lotions, toss out ancient nail polish and get rid of old “but-I-may-use-it-someday” items.

Next, focus on preventing future medicine cabinet clutter. You can keep those shallow shelves chaos-free with the help of special organizers that provide limited yet easily accessible storage. These narrow, transparent containers allow you to cluster products often used in tandem, such as skin care (cleanser/moisturizer/toner), shaving supplies (razor/shaving cream/after-shave) and dental care (toothpaste/mouthwash/floss).

Here are my favorite medicine cabinet organizers–all sized at about 3 inches deep or less, they can also be used on counter tops:Pill Organizer - Acrylic Image

  • The 12-compartment Pill Organizer is specifically designed to keep standard-size prescription and small over-the-counter medication bottles organized and easy to access; it also works for organizing nail polish and other similar size bottles.
  • InterDesign’s Vanity Organizer with Drawer features a
    handy drawer plus five compartments of various sizes to accommodate a wide variety of toiletries from taller narrow products (electric toothbrushes, razors,
    mascara) to wider items such as deodorant and toothpaste, while the clear drawer is ideal for storing sensitive items like contact lenses.
  • MagnaPod Magnetic Cosmetic Organizers are 1-inch-deep clear plastic containers that magnetically adhere to the inside of  steel-framed medicine cabinet doors, providing additional space to organize make-up. There is also a MagnaPod Toothbrush Holder.


Organizing Pet Supplies

For most pet owners, the top pet clutter culprits tend to be the supplies and materials that get the most use: food, toys and grooming products.Pet Care Center Image

If you want to keep all your pet-related items together, the Deluxe Pet Organizer is the simplest solution.  It features a lift-top bin that stores up to 40 pounds of dog or cat food
for easy scooping, and includes two large baskets and three shelves for keeping everything else organized and accessible.

Pet Food Container - 65 Quart Image

Another option is to set up separate storage systems for each type of pet product.

For pet foods there are a number of different specially designed pet food storage containers to choose from, such as this 65-quart rolling canister that makes a 50-pound bag of dog food easy to work with.

Plastic Storage Chest with 4 Drawers Image

Pet toys and grooming products can be stored in multi-drawer rolling carts that come in different sizes and configurations; this 4-drawer plastic storage chest is a good example.  The two deep drawers are useful for supplies like litter box fillers and bulky toys, while the shallower drawers are handy for holding items such as litter pan liners, grooming materials and small toys.

More types of pet organizers can be found here.

Nightstand Organizers

Bedside Storage Caddy - Natural Denier ImageBedrooms should be pleasant places, not arenas for chaos and clutter.   Resolve to keep your bedroom a peaceful haven by preventing excess items from accumulating, especially near your bed.

Nightstands are notorious clutter magnets, but you can avoid “nightmare nightstand syndrome” by using a multi-pocketed bedside caddy. These space-saving organizers are designed to hold necessities such as eyeglasses, remotes, cell phones, tissues and magazines.

If you like to keep your electronic essentials near your bed and also want to make sure they charge overnight, the Cardinal Recharge Station eliminates cord and cable clutter while charging up to four devices, and also has a handy storage drawer.

If books are your bedside bugaboo, consider the Bookshelf Lamp–it can stop piles of reading materials from forming on your nightstand by keeping books upright, and saves space by also providing a reading light.


Clothes Closet Maximizers

All clothes closets have at least one thing in common: they’re never big enough.   This is due to the scientifically proven fact that clothing multiplies to fill whatever space is provided for its containment.

To prevent excess clothes build-up, follow the In/Out Inventory Rule: Whenever a new garment is acquired, an older one is retired.  Only keep items that make you look good and feel good.

But even a well-weeded wardrobe can seem cluttered unless you know how to make the most of your closet space.  Here are three types of efficient and economical closet maximizers:

  • You can fit more clothes in your closet by using tiered hangers designed to save
    space, such as the Five-Tier Swing-Arm Slack Hanger which accommodates fourDouble Up Adjustable Closet Rod Image pairs of pants on swing-out rods plus a fifth pair on the bottom tier.
  • Closet rod doublers such as the Double Up Adjustable Closet Rod can literally double your clothes-hanging space.
  • Towel bars can also provide surprisingly effective clothes storage. When installed on the inside of closet doors, they’re ideal for draping jeans, sweat pants or any items that often seem too much trouble to put on hangers.


Organized refrigerator magnets

Is the front or side of your fridge festooned with “hanging clutter”?  Maybe it’s time to clear off those vertical surfaces.  Take down all the tired-looking magnets along with the stuff stuck underneath them. Weed out tattered cartoons, expired coupons, old grocery lists, layers of kids’ artwork and anything else that’s contributing to the appearance of chaos. Only put back current and essential items, and set a limit on the maximum number of magnets allowable.

The most useful refrigerator magnets are ones that help you stay organized. Here are three of my favorites:

  • The Magnetic Message Board includes a Stainless Steel Magnet - Safe Food Storage Times Imagemagnetic dry erase pen, handy for noting leftovers along with the storage date–this should help prevent “mystery items” from accumulating in your fridge.
  • The Safe Food Storage Times Magnet eliminates the guesswork from how long it’s safe to keep those leftovers and other foods.
  • Magnetic kitchen timers are useful space-savers and come in a variety of styles.

Reclaim your dining table

Wall Desk - Great Spacesaver by Wooden Mallet ImageIn many homes, the dining area is where most “office work” actually gets done (or
postponed). In fact, the kitchen or dining room table is probably the most popular place for doing all types of paperwork, from bill paying to schoolwork to tax preparation. But all too often the table surfaces end up piled with the detritus of ongoing or unfinished business. If you’re ready to reclaim your dining table, here are three types of solutions to consider:

  • Wall-mounted folding desks are designed to fold up when not in use.  The Great Spacesaver is one of the most
    compact folding wall desks.  A larger option with more storage space is the Fold-out Convertible Desk .
  • Ladder or leaning desks also utilize minimal wall space while providing vertical storage, and require no installation.
  • Rollaway carts offer mobile workspace and storage.  The Rolling Computer Cart is an efficient example: it features a pull-out keyboard tray plus a drawer and two shelves.Rolling Computer Cart Image

Kitchen Pantry Organizers

Even “convenience foods” become inconvenient when they’re a cluttered jumble of cans, jars, bottles, boxes, bags and packets. A well-organized pantry lets you easily view and quickly access your inventory of packaged ingredients.

A pantry is simply any space where nonperishable foods and condiments are stored. The separate pantry room (essentially a walk-in closet lined with shelves) used to be a commonplace element in houses, and this concept has experienced a renaissance in newer dwellings. But in many homes today, a pantry is often just a closet or cabinet in the kitchen area.

You can create effective pantry storage in even the most limited space, thanks to these cleverly designed helpers:  Slide Out Storage Tower by Jobar Image

• Pantry caddies are rolling shelf units designed to fit in narrow spaces such as the gap between a refrigerator and cabinets. Shelves are “lipped” to keep items from falling off when the unit is rolled out. The three-shelf Slide Out Storage Tower is just 5 inches wide but over 21 inches long, providing plenty of storage in a super-slim profile.

• Over-the-door and wall-mounted racks are another efficient way to “pantrify” your kitchen. The FreedomRail Over The Door Pantry Rack is a good example–it includes
three spacious baskets and two can-holders, all with adjustable spacing options.Five-Shelf Cabinet Lazy Susan - White - D-Shaped Image

Lazy Susan turntables have long been used for accessible storage in deep corner spaces below or inside cupboards.                                                           A new twist, so to speak, is the Five-Shelf Cabinet Lazy Susan, designed to fit tall cabinets (rectangular or corner) and featuring five individually rotating D-shaped shelves that make it easy to find anything you put on them.