Anyone who has a garage, attic or basement knows that these areas are generally the least organized of the household. Mainly because having a clutter here is more acceptable than in any other area of the home. People almost expect to have to wander through these spaces searching for whatever it is they are looking for, even if they berate themselves along the way for not being more organized.
If you are in a situation like this, don't worry. There is hope! Options are available that will create a home for every last item stored in any of these areas, solutions that range in price from extravagant to so affordable they can fit any household budget. The hardest part is getting started, but I assure you, it's a decision you will never regret. Just imagine what it would feel like to always find what you are looking for.
The Garage - More Than Just a Home for the Car
Mainly known as the getaway for every husband, the garage is used for much more than storing autos. Tools, bicycles, hobbies, sports equipment, workbenches, pool supplies. . . the list goes on. In most garages I have seen, items of all shapes and sizes are usually strewn around with no rhyme or reason. In some cases there is so much stuff in the garage that there's no room for the cars!
Take Eleanor, for example. I grew up two houses away from her and her family. Her husband, Frank, was a livery car driver in New York City, and every year or two he came home with a new Lincoln Town Car. What I never understood was, every year the new car remained in the driveway. Why did the source of Frank's livelihood remain there, when they had a perfectly good garage? Because Eleanor was a pack rat and, to make matters worse, an Avon representative. Their garage was stacked with Avon overstock that Eleanor had collected over the years; many of the items were so far beyond their expiration dates that they were unusable. Yet they remained in the garage along with two freezers overstocked with food and meats that had probably been in there for ages as well. Unfortunately, I was not able to help Eleanor, and the Town Car remained in the driveway.
On one hand, a garage can be a dangerous place for the disorganized person because it can turn into a dumping ground for items you just don't know what to do with. On the other hand, it is probably the largest storage area you have. Therefore, it is important to use it efficiently. And these days garages are being built larger and larger.
You can start by sorting the contents according to activities or categories. Gardening, home repair, automotive, barbecuing and sports are a few examples. Place the items that you use the most in the areas most convenient to access. And don't forget that ceiling and walls are also great areas for storage: you can hang many items from walls, or build shelves. Use old dressers or cabinets to store equipment or supplies.
The Basement - Still Afraid To Go Down There Alone?
Basements are the place that many people do not like to go down in alone. Thoughts of spiders and ghost lurking in the corner can keep even the bravest away. But these days, the basement can be multi functional. Many people use them as a guest room, office, den, exercise area or play room. Or a combination of storage and a finished area for the family to use. The only thing that may be keeping you from going down there is the fear of the mess you may have!
Again, the key to making this area work is organizing it properly. More importantly, some of what you may be storing in your basement may need to be stored in specific ways. The basement can get a bit tricky because if you are not using it on a regular basis, it really can become the land of "out of sight, out of mind."
The basement is most often the home of important equipment such as furnaces, water softeners, water heaters, washers and dryers. Remember that these areas should remain free of clutter in the event that these items need to be serviced. Also, clutter around these areas can be a fire hazard if the items are flammable.
When organizing the basement, you also need to keep in mind that there is always the chance of flooding. Therefore, storing chemicals and items of value above flood level is important to remember. Also, keep areas around pipes and drains free of clutter. Some further basic tips about items that may be kept in the basement:
Luggage: Space under the stairs, if you have it, is a good place to store luggage. To avoid having mold forming on the outside of the luggage, make sure the area in which you keep it is free of dampness. You can put smaller pieces in larger pieces, but make sure you keep an inventory so you don't forget what you have.
Paperwork: The basement is ideal for storing old tax records, old paperwork, warranties and mementos. Keep them on a high shelf to protect from flooding. All important and irreplaceable items should be stored in a water and fireproof safe, or outside of the home in a safe deposit box.
Hobbies & Crafts, Holiday & Party Supplies Store in clear, labeled containers.
Pantry & Bulk Supplies: Store non-perishable foods, paper towels, napkins and bath tissue in cabinets or on shelving. Make sure they are stored in a way that you know where everything is and they are easily viewed so you know when to restock.
Second Refrigerator or Freezer: Put on a platform to protect from floods.
Attics - A Wonderful Place for Memories
Attics are best used for the things we do not need to get to on a regular basis. Nostalgia really comes to mind when thinking of how to best utilize this space. Wedding dresses, hope chests, cedar closets are among things that are commonly housed in the attic.
When choosing containers for the attic, thick plastic is best. If you like to see the contents, get them in clear plastic. If you like colored containers, then put labels on the outside of the containers. Plastic containers are the best protection against moisture, insects and rodents.
To make the most of the space, you can have custom shelving or cabinets built to fit the specific shape of your attic. The possibilities are endless for what you can store here.
Some people are fortunate enough to have an attic that is of decent size and at some point would like to use it for something other than storage. When I met Marianne, her teenage niece and nephew had just moved in with her and the situation looked to be permanent. She lived alone and was using one of her extra bedrooms as a home gym and the other as a home office. With the new additions coming into her home and life, she knew she had to make some changes so she would not have to give up these two important areas of her life. She did not know what to do, until the attic came to mind.
She was one of the lucky ones. Her attic had enough ceiling height that it could be used as a regular room. So we decided to move her workout room and home office up into this space, so her niece and nephew could each have a room of their own in the house. This also meant condensing the items that were currently being stored in the attic and finding a home for them there as well.
When it comes to organizing garages, basements, and attic, everyone has a different situation and different need. These are just a few examples of what these spaces can be used for and how we can organize them. Whatever your need is, there is a solution out there. The most important thing to keep in mind is that organization makes life easier, especially in areas where we tend to keep a variety of items. The best way to go about it is to make a plan, take it one step at a time and be patient. Once you finish the project, you will be happy that you made the effort and you will see what a difference it can make in your life.