End frustrations by organizing garage

Calls usually come from women who can't stand looking at the mess anymore

Camilla Brown

Camilla Brown

Is your home’s garage a place for your car or a place for your stuff?

If you’re like most of the clients garage guru Camilla Brown deals with, chances are your stuff has long since pushed the car out the door – or is very close to it – and you’re not happy about it.

Brown is owner of West Coast Dream Garage, a company that specializes in helping people re-claim their garage by making it functional and aesthetically pleasing. She’s helped countless homeowners overcome the challenge of having  a garage that is just a disorganized storage facility.

“The biggest problem for so many people is they can’t find things they know they have,” says Brown.

Eventually, she says, most people get tired of the frustration, and that’s when she gets called.

“The calls I get are typically from women who can’t stand looking at the mess anymore,” says Brown. “The men are usually on board [with the project], but they don’t want to deal with it themselves or they don’t have the time.”

Brown says there are plenty of things people can do on their own to get the same results, if they’re on a budget.

Brown says any good garage makeover starts from the floor up, because filling cracks, cleaning the floor, painting, and sealing it with a reflective, anti-stain protective coating always does wonders for brightening up a garage, and for making it look bigger.

Once the floor is done, tackle the walls. She recommends investing in a slat wall system that gets stuff up off the floors and off deep shelves so it can be seen and easily identified. There are various systems that can be found for about $500.

The goal is to get rid of the boxes that tend to hide stuff, so it can’t be found again.

You won’t be able to do away completely with cupboards and boxes, says Brown, but she notes that, as a general rule of thumb, it’s safe to say that anything that can be seen gets used, and anything that can’t, isn’t.

If you determine you do need cupboards, and you want to save money, Brown recommends getting them second-hand from a garage sale or the Internet.

Once you have your wall system, benches and cupboards in place, start organizing. Like items should be grouped together – tools in one place, toys in another, bicycles hung, unused tires wall mounted.

If you do need a box, says Brown, make it single purpose – balls, for instance, or sports equipment. Do try to avoid them, however, because they tend to become excuses to hide stuff that you don’t really need in the long run. They also make it difficult to find things later – and half the reason you’re doing this in the first place is because you can’t find your stuff now.

When you start arranging your belongings, make sure they’re accessible to everyone who needs them. Kids stuff should be easy to reach so they can get it, and put it away, quickly. Same for adults.

A good tip, says the garage guru, is to plan the space before you start putting things away. You’ll save a lot of time, and everything will feel that much better in the end.

Another trick is to get rid of stuff you really don’t need.

“If you buy a new drill, get rid of the old one,” Brown advises. “Don’t put it in a drawer because you ‘might need it for parts’ one day. Chances are your neighbour is keeping one for parts anyway, so let him store it, and get the parts from him when you need them.”

If you’re doing the job yourself, you’ll have to spend some time on it – 10 to 12 hours, Brown figures – but you’ll definitely save money. You’ll also be very happy you did the deed, because an organized garage is definitely a thing of beauty. And, if you’re selling your home, a garage that is bright (because you added new lights), has a new floor, and is organized could well make the difference for a potential buyer trying to decide between two homes that are otherwise equal.

Brown says getting your garage organized and looking good also pays dividends in saving time relieving stress.


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