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By Adrian Sainz - Associated PressAugust 25th 2008
Few household activities inspire more dread than reorganizing the garage. Americans' garages are filled with the requirements and detritus of daily life—paint cans, golf bags, bicycles, dusty trophies, power tools, old clothes, boxes of moldy magazines. Sometimes it gets so stuffed the family car doesn't fit anymore.
If garage organization is on the agenda, there are several approaches to take, whether you tackle it yourself, or need some help disposing of and organizing your belongings. Homeowners can attack the job at a variety of price levels, from less than $100 for small do-it-yourself jobs to the tens of thousands of dollars for a custom-made system from a garage reorganization company.
Lori Sadaka, who lives in the upscale suburb of Weston, outside of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, spent about $20,000 on her three-car garage. HouseWall Garage System installed hanging bins and baskets, heavy duty cabinets, new flooring, ceiling fans and even a sensor that tells you when to stop driving the car into the garage. She said she was embarrassed by the way her garage looked and encourage people of any budget to take the plunge if they get fed up. She is parking her car in the garage for the first time in 15 years.
"We were just afraid to touch anything. Everything was dirty," she said. "Getting things off the floor and being able to see it was a big attraction." She's clearly part of a trend: sales of garage organization products totaled about $750 million in 2006, up from about $500 million in 2001, according to HomeWorld Business Magazine's Houseware Census.
The cheapest way to reorganize, of course, is to do-it-yourself. But there are several essential steps, including product selection, storage, disposal and design. First, the homeowner must decide what should be removed from the garage. Obvious things, like rusty lawnmowers or old carpets, are easier to get rid of than things with emotional value, like awards and books.
"Break the job down into small manageable pieces," said Barry Izsak, author of Organize Your Garage in No Time. "You didn’t accumulate all that clutter overnight, so you won't be able to organize it all overnight either. But it takes a lot less time to undo the 10 years of clutter than to accumulate it."
Izsak, a garage organizing specialist in Austin, Texas, says that after deciding what stays, separate the room into zones—lawn and garden, sports, cleaning and maintenance, a work area with a workbench, memorabilia. Next, it's time to think about storage options, which can get tricky. Homeowners should ponder how they want to store things—either in cabinets or on hooks, in see-through or non-transparent drawers—before buying anything.
Marc Shuman, president of GarageTek Inc., says, "The best place to start a DIY project is online." Homeowners can easily find affordable storage products on the Internet or in hardware stores that, while not specifically designed for garages, still can be used there. Those include plastic containers that sell for less than $30 in a variety of sizes, or basic wall shelving that's adjustable and costs less than $60. Some are made of weaker materials such as particle board, while others can be made of more durable materials such as fiber board, heavy-duty plastic or metal.
If people are looking to spend less than $500, things such as peg boards and adjustable chrome racks are useful, Izsak said. This Austin garage organizer says that it's wise for those on a strict budget to consider "redeploying" unwanted cabinets or furniture for use in garage storage. Those include old kitchen cabinets, wall units, desks, drawers from bedroom furniture and bookcases. "You can have a long lasting solution without spending a ton of money," Izsak said.
Meanwhile, several companies sell individual storage products or complete systems that are designed specifically for the garage, but still require self-installation. Products include everything from wall mounts for hanging tools and bicycles, to workbenches and cabinets that have legs or can be mounted on walls to keep them off the ground for safety and clutter reduction. These products are sold at retailers or at company web sites and include Gladiator Garage Works by Whirlpool Corp., Husky, ClosetMaid and Rubbermaid. Individual cabinets can cost up to $700 or more, while workbenches can be found at $600, with smaller tool caddies coming in at less than half that price.
In 2006, Consumer Reports reviewed garage organizers. It warned consumers that some products can be hard to install or have confusing instructions. But it praised products from Schulte and Rubbermaid that use tracks or rails that allow for easy hanging of shelves, camping gear, and tools.
Entire garage-only, self-installed systems can run up to $3,500 or more. Several companies, including GarageTek, California Closets and Premier Garage not only sell and design high-end organization systems, but also install and even assist in reorganizing the garage. Both Syosset, N.Y.-based GarageTek and HouseWall in Fort Lauderdale offer specially designed grooved wall paneling that hold hooks to hang bikes and ladders, and elevated cabinets, bins and baskets. They also install flooring, lighting, workbenches and other accessories. These installations can get expensive: The average cost of a garage remodel for GarageTek was $8,500, Shuman said.
Local franchises send a team to the home to inspect the garage. A remodeling plan is agreed upon by the client: Many companies use 3-D computer renderings to establish a design. Workers install the system, but it’s still wise to hire a professional organizer to help you put the stuff back in order. Both GarageTek and HouseWall Garage System will also cart away the stuff you don't want. Shuman said, "It's a full-blown home improvement that adds value."
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