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Quick fix: garage

Simple do-it-yourself ideas to transform your space without emptying your wallet

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April Miller recommends Monkey Bar Storage systems, a steel wall-mounted shelf with hooks for the walls and overhead racks that secure above a garage door. Photo: Monkey Bars Storage Systems.

April Miller recommends Monkey Bar Storage systems, a steel wall-mounted shelf with hooks for the walls and overhead racks that secure above a garage door. Photo: Monkey Bars Storage Systems.

Many homeowners feel “shameful” about their untidy garages says April Miller, the owner of April Miller Professional Organizing in St. John’s, N.L.

“They’ll send their kids out to play but they won’t pop open the garage door because they’re so embarrassed about the mess,” says Miller.

A newly-organized garage can have a bigger impact on clients than when she helps out with a kitchen, bedroom, or living room, Miller says. If the garage is on your summer to-do list, use these tips to transform it into a functional, attractive part of your home.

Conquer the clutter

Heather DeVouge is a professional organizer and owns Whole Home Organizing Co. in Stellarton, N.S. She says garages become a catch-all because they’re the last place unwanted items stop on their way out of the house.

She suggests finding a warm, dry day to drag everything out of the garage to sort on your driveway or lawn. Create a pile for each type of item, like sports equipment, tools, and gardening gear, to make it simple to see what you can toss or donate.

“Think about the option of borrowing or renting a particular item when you need it, instead of keeping it,” says DeVouge. “Sometimes it’s just not worth the space the item takes up to continue to store it if you will rarely be using it.”

She suggests the 20/20 rule for items you’re tempted to keep just in case: if it costs less than $20 to buy at a store under 20 minutes away, let it go.

Cost: $0
Time: A full day with snack and rest breaks.

Designate zones

Miller says a garage isn’t usually treated as a common household space, which can lead to arguments and a lack of ownership.

“Often, one spouse will claim the space and then their partner gets frustrated because they aren’t looking after it,” says Miller. “If everyone in the family needs to access the space and use it in some way, it needs to function for everyone.”

Miller is a fan of zones. One to park your vehicle, one to sort recycling and trash, and one for storage. If you use your garage for a hobby, like planting or woodworking, designate a zone.
Store anything your children use at their level, unblocked by other items and organized in a way that makes it easy for them to put back neatly.

Cost: $0
Time: Plan for an hour-long discussion with all household members.

Paint the floor

You probably stopped noticing the dusty-grey concrete floor years ago, but a coat of bright paint will make your garage look larger. Ask your local home-improvement store for garage-floor paint to avoid priming and top-coat.

If you’re feeling fancy, Miller says some of her clients will coat the floor with a slick epoxy for a glossy finish. Sprinkle sparkly paint chips to over the still-wet floor for a terrazzo-like finish.

Cost: $50–$200
Time: An hour to paint the floor, but 2–3 hours beforehand to sweep, vacuum, and remove every particle of dust before you paint.

Focus on the walls

DeVouge says painting the walls is an inexpensive way to brighten up a dingy garage.

Pegboards make it easier to return tools to their rightful spots after use. Some homeowners take it a step further by carefully tracing around each item for a satisfying dose of “a place for everything, and everything in its place,” says Miller.

“When all of your spaces feel pulled-together and organized, people feel so much more content in their home,” says Miller. “Plus, when you know what you have, you’re not wasting money re-buying a battery pack or a tool because you can’t find it.”

Cost: $60–$300
Time: Two hours to paint, one hour to install a pegboard, and more to organize.

Add heavy-duty shelving

Miller generally works with what clients have and doesn’t ask them to buy fancy new organization solutions, but goes out the window when she’s working on a garage.

“Garages are the one place where you want to spend a bit of money on specific organization systems that are more tailored to the type of gear you keep,” says Miller.

She recommends the Monkey Bar Storage systems, a steel wall-mounted shelf with hooks for the walls and overhead racks that secure above a garage door.

“They make good use of the vertical space in a garage,” says Miller. “A lot of people just stack plastic totes against a wall, but it’s a pain to get at the one on the bottom and it’s also a tipping hazard.”

Cost: $150–$2,400
Time: A day to install and organize.

Install cabinets

Wayne Evans, the owner of Organizing Pros in Mount Pearl, N.L., says the biggest problem homeowners have with their garages is that they can’t get in them.

“Everyone wants a garage, but they wind up using them for storage,” says Evans. “That’s a pretty expensive storage area. That’s not what garages are meant for.”

Organizing Pros is known for high-end custom cabinetry like colourful melamine and all-metal modular cabinets designed for garages. Evans says you can’t compare custom powder-coated cabinets to the assemble-yourself big-box store options. “They don’t have the same construction and they aren’t going to hold up as well,” says Evans.

It used to be difficult to buy garage-specific cabinets that weren’t industrial grey, black, or red, says Miller. Today many stores and suppliers carry white, blue, and soft wood tone cabinets so the garage feels more like an extension of your home.

Cost: $300–$3,000
Time: A weekend to DIY or several hours for a professional to measure and install.

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