Harlan Miller’s garage is as neat as a pin. Clean as a whistle. Spick and span.
If you were to walk into his two-car space in northwest Lawrence, you might think you’d been duped into entering a staging area for a Closet Maid advertisement or a Real Simple magazine photo shoot.
Rows of wrenches, screw drivers and hand tools line a tidy peg board, white cabinets contain odds and ends, labeled drawers make every screw, nail and washer easily accessible. There’s even off-the-workspace spots for paper towels, tissues and a cordless phone.
“It helps when it’s organized,” says Miller, a self-confessed lifelong neatnik. “You don’t have to hunt for stuff.”
And though your garage probably doesn’t mirror Miller’s in the neatness category, that doesn’t mean it can’t.
And we’ve got the perfect motivation for you.
Saturday is National Clean Out Your Garage Day. And while not a calendar-official holiday, it isn’t such a bad idea either. A clean garage means a better space to do projects, an easier time trying to find tools and less embarrassment when neighbors peer inside while walking the dog.
And there’s a reason to do it other than just for aesthetic and convenience purposes — a chaotic garage can also be a dangerous place. A survey by The Lehigh Group found that 39 percent of respondents had tripped over an item in a cluttered garage, 27 percent had hit an object when opening a vehicle door, and 22 percent have hit something while parking.
So, to avoid those situations — and ones where your monkey wrench has walked off yet again — we talked to Miller and Lawrence’s Marilyn Roy, who runs Simplify! Residential and Business Organizing Service, for tips on how to get your garage in gear.
Recycle and take out the trash. The first thing Roy does when working on a garage is take out the recycling. Next, she moves on to the obvious trash like cardboard boxes. She says removing those items right away helps you see what you actually have to work with.
What do you still use and need? The next step is to figure out what non-trash items are cluttering up your space without giving you much benefit. This step might take some time, and therefore, Roy recommends that if you’re feeling overwhelmed to just take a step back and do a little bit at a time. It doesn’t all have to be done this weekend or even this year.
Be practical. Once you’ve figured out what you need to store in your garage, it’s time to think about where to put it. Roy recommends categorizing by how often you use something. Therefore, the holiday decorations shouldn’t be impeding your lawnmower, and your cordless drill shouldn’t be stationed behind a circular saw.
Label and sort. Miller’s garage relies heavily on labels and making sure that like things (power cords, wrenches) are together. He has a cabinet he hand-made to sort and hold small, but necessary, items like ear plugs.
Be flexible. If something’s location isn’t working, change it. There’s no reason to make anything inconvenient when the whole point of organization is easy accessibility. Miller says that after moving to his present home in 2002, it took years of tinkering to get everything in the perfect spot.
Have some discipline. Once you’ve taken the time to create an organized system, all that hard work can unravel fairly quickly if you don’t actually adhere to said system. Both Roy and Miller stress that it saves busy people more time in the long run if they just put things back in the proper place after using them.