Good news for those of you who fill your garage with junk – you’re actually doing the right thing. The word ‘garage’ is a French word meaning ‘shelter’ or ‘storehouse’. Originally, it had nothing to do with cars.
In fact, in 1902 an American motoring magazine had to explain to readers that a ‘garage’ had become the new French word for an ‘automobile stable’.
Anyway, this article isn’t here to make you feel guilty or proud about using your garage as a storehouse full of random items. All we’re saying is this: treat this room in the same way as you would any other room in your house. You have a limited amount of space, and it’s good to use it wisely.
And, who knows, you may even be able to fit your car in too, and turn it back into one of those new-fangled ‘automobile stables’. So let’s get organised...
Firstly, get it clean. Sweep out all the leaves, dirt and cobwebs and transform it from an insects’ tomb to a pleasant space.
Now consider decorating. Decorating? Yes, decorating. We can learn from America, where the garage is often a well-cared-for extension of the home with light and colour, rather than a Brit-style grubby lean-to.
A garage floor coating is a good way to upgrade a grey concrete garage floor. Or you can paint the walls with a masonry brush and fluffy roller. An undercoat of watered down PVA will seal the bricks first, to make sure the paint doesn’t just keep soaking in.
The odd homely touch, like a metal or wooden sign on the wall (nothing too fragile), can make the place look brighter.
And of course, declutter. Be strict with yourself when it comes to getting rid of stuff you don’t use. We all know that for many items in there, the garage is an indecisive half-way point between the house and the tip.
The key to achieving an organised garage is having, as granny used to say, ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’.
Shelves and hanging systems look bright, organised and give you immediate extra space. Consider making one or at most two walls your organising wall/s, because every shelf etc makes the garage look smaller.
Think of ‘zones’ for different items, like a gardening zone, a DIY zone, a toys and games zone and so on.
And if you’re using drawers, plastic totes, or anything that keeps items out of sight, label the hell out of them, or you’ll lose stuff in your brilliant new system.
Look up. All that space between your head and the ceiling is potential storage space, particularly if your garage has a pitched roof.
But while we’re staring at the ceiling, let’s consider the lighting. Is it good enough? Is it in the right position? If you’re actually spending time in the garage, particularly if you’ve got a workbench in there, the lighting needs to be right.
Back to storage. A few extra planks across the rafters can create excellent storage space for items you hardly ever need – that Christmas tree, for example. No, the artificial one.
Or you could go one better and have a sliding storage system with plastic tubs that hang from the ceiling, saving wall and floor space for other things.
Just don’t put anything too heavy up there, simply because it can be a pain (literally) to lift up and down. And obviously, nothing you use every day.
Be inventive, because if you don’t, you’ll have no space left for your car.
There are, of course, purpose-made ‘storage solutions’ you can buy like a tool tower, which holds long-handled items like a broom and a spade. Many of these are on wheels so you can roll them wherever you need them.
But there are also adapted solutions. A tall, second-hand filing cabinet, for example, can be great in the garage for storing bits and bobs. Label the drawers, of course, like you’re the fussiest sort of PA.
And then there’s the workbench. Or if you’re wincing at the very thought of creating a handy place for DIY, call it ‘The Garage Table’.
You can create a level surface simply by putting some leftover kitchen worktop between two freestanding shelving units.
You can build a workbench yourself out of a few pieces of leftover wood. You can even, if you’re feeling inspired, have a wall-mounted folding workbench that goes flat against the wall when it’s not needed.
But get a workbench, and keep it clear, and you’ll be amazed how often you use it for little garage-related tasks, from potting plants to repairing bike punctures.
And store things under the workbench, too. Ideally it would be stuff in bins on wheels that you can roll out when you need it, and back when you don’t.
And finally, the walls – the main storage space if you want to get a car in here as well. Panels, racks, hooks, shelves and tote bins are your friends.
Get a wall panel or pegboard full of perforations and a set of hooks to go with it. You’ve now got your own hanging rack for tools etc. Hang baskets to contain smaller items like nails and screws. You can also buy tracks with sliding hooks on them for the same purpose.
Now get a few strategically placed shelves, deep enough to put plastic tote bins on. Plastic totes are cheap and make you feel organised – but only if you label them, of course.
You can also store nails and screws, as well as other small items, by taking empty jars and mounting them underneath the shelving. You just use a screw through the lid of the jar and then the jar screws onto the lid.
Ready-made modular storage systems can be great, but they’re more expensive. Make sure they suit your purposes, otherwise they'll just eat up floor space.
And that’s it. You’re done. You’ve now got a garage so fine that it can help sell your home. ‘Good job!’, as they probably say in those pristine American garages...