5 Steps to Reclaiming Your Garage !

Yes, I know, you don't want to face it, but summer's over and fall is here. It's time to put all the warm-weather toys away because there's snow in some places already. If you're one of those people who have been leaving their $25,000 car outside all winter to create room for a $100 tent, maybe it's time for a little garage cleaning and reorganization!

Reclaiming your garage may seem like a pretty daunting task, especially if it's been a dumping ground for years. But trust me -- it's doable. Break it down into the following five steps, done over five days or weekends (depending on just how much clutter you're dealing with). Once you're done, you'll be amazed at how much room you have, and how much easier your storage life becomes -- and how nice it is to have the car inside again!

Step 1: Get Rid of What You Don't Need

Start by moving everything out of the garage. As you do, separate it into three piles: Keep, Sell/Donate, and Toss. What goes into the Keep pile should be only those things that you really need to keep. In the Sell/Donate pile are things you haven't used in six months or more, that would be good garage sale items. If you don't want to have a garage sale, donate the items to a local charity.

Pile three is trash. Bag it up and say goodbye to it, and don't drag it back into the garage ever again. If your Toss pile contains old paint, pesticides, flammables, cleaners, batteries and other similar items, talk with your local landfill about the proper way to dispose of or recycle them.

As soon as you're done moving everything out of the garage and sorting it, have a garage sale. Make it a one-day sale, make your prices reasonable, and be done with it. Whatever's left over should be donated or thrown away, not brought back into the garage!

Step 2: Create a Storage and Usage Plan

Check out that big open space! It's a blank canvas, so decide what its future holds. What will the space be used for? Parking? Storage? Crafts? Woodworking or mechanics? Some combination of things? To get inspired, check out books, magazines, and online sources for ideas and suggestions. Then look at what's existing in the garage in the way of shelving and cabinets, and decide if you want to keep them or not. Remove anything that's no longer suited to your new plan.

Step 3: Clean the Garage Shell

Scrub the floor to remove grease and oil stains. Clean windows, doors and lights. Consider painting the walls and ceiling, as well as built-in cabinets. Paint the floor if desired, using an epoxy paint formulated for garage use.

Step 4: Create Places to Put Things

Now, following your plan, start creating the necessary spaces that you'll need so that you can put things back in an organized manner. Local home centers and other retailers offer a wide variety of prefabricated shelving units, cabinets, and storage bins that allow you to get set up quickly without having to build anything from scratch.

There are also a number of manufacturers that offer quality organizing products designed specifically for the garage. There is a wide range of products for hanging and storing anything from ladders and wheelbarrows to bikes and sports equipment

Step 5: Move it All Back In -- the Right Way

OK, your garage is clean and you have lots of places to put things. Now for the final step, which is to move everything from your Keep pile back into the garage and put it away in its proper new home. Take the time to put things into totes and label them, which keeps the items clean and easy to find. Consider buying totes in colors for easy identification, such as orange for fall and green for summer, or maybe in different colors for different family members.

The important thing is to stick with your plan. Take your time as you move back in, and put everything into its proper cabinet or shelf, or hanging on its proper hook or storage area. Then you can actually park the car inside!

Let it Snow !

Lazlo Vavrovics is with CENTURY 21 B.J. Roth Realty Ltd. in Barrie, ON.

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