Q: My partner and I moved into our dream home over a year ago, and we still have rooms littered with boxes because we don’t have as much space as we thought. We’ve been eyeing our garage as a potential storage room, but we’re unsure how to best proceed. Any advice?
A: Rare is the home that doesn’t have a bit too much stuff in it. Many of us are blessed with tons — literally tons — of belongings. But the space to store all of it is shrinking as our population grows and more people move to urban areas.
The good news is you’re already on the right track. The garage is a very useful space that can serve many purposes other than housing cars, recyclables and miscellaneous junk. It can potentially be a workshop, a game room, a place to hang out, or a fantastic storage space for organizing your overflow of goods.
If you’re taking on a garage storage project from scratch, start by taking inventory. What do you have, and more importantly, what do you actually need? Give away the things you don’t need, and you’ll already be halfway there.
Next, prioritize the top 10–20 things — the essentials — that you definitely need and want to organize in your garage. What are your immediate needs or everyday hobbies? Once you’ve determined what’s going in, you’ll need to determine the dimensions of the space to get a sense of its capacity.
Next, draw your garage to scale, sketching a plan that shows where the essentials will go and how much space they will require. Make sure to look up, because there is usually ample space high up in the garage that can be used to store mementos, painting supplies, and anything else that you want to keep but don’t often use. Just make sure not to store heavy objects up high, as they can be a serious pain — figuratively and literally — to get up and down. Also, don’t forget to leave room for adequate lighting.
Most garages have three walls that can be lined with cabinets and open storage areas to keep the space neat and tidy. Open storage areas are great for garden tools, as well as ladders and raw materials. They’re also perfect spots for installing bicycle racks. If you have the space for it, I recommend installing a good workbench to transform your garage into a workshop.
Cabinets can store tools, cleaning products and other useful household items. The addition of pegboards will allow you to hang screwdrivers, pliers and other hand tools. Shelves can hold wood and metal materials for home-improvement projects. Cabinets can also store gear, supplies and first aid items. A specialized sports cabinet can be employed for hiking, skiing and water-based recreation gear.
If you adequately plan and take your time to get it right, this process will be very rewarding. Once you’ve turned your garage into an organized storage solution, you will be astounded by how much room you now have in your home.
Kevin Kartak is the owner of AAA KARTAK Glass & Closet, a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBAK’s nearly 2,800 members, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.