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5 Steps for Creating a Garage You Can Love - and Use

A major US corporation recently launched a new line of products it hopes will create a $650 million retail business - appliances and storage devices designed to appeal to the 65 million garage owners in the U.S! According to a 1994 study by the U.S. Department of Energy (and we won't even explore what launched that study!), 25% of people with two-car garages didn't park any cars in them and 32% parked only one. When it came to three-car garages, only 13% parked three cars. . So, if we don't park cars in our garages, what do we use them for?

Based on nearly twenty-five years of assisting our clients in organizing homes and offices in North America, I can attest to the fact that a large percentage of garage owners consider their garage a convenient on-site storage facility, or major irritation, often an embarrassment. Not because of the age or condition of the car parked there, but because of the clutter - frequently moved from one garage to another.

One of the major principles of our company is Clutter is Postponed Decisions® -- and what better place to store postponed decisions than a garage? So how do you get rid of the clutter? Consider these five tips:

1) Design your vision. Create in your mind a picture of how the garage would look if you got rid of the clutter. If that's impossible for you, think of how you would feel if you could actually park your car in the garage? Perhaps you could allow houseguests to get directly into your car in the garage without driving it to the front door in order to avoid their seeing the ness. Or, maybe you could find the barbeque utensils you need in a few seconds instead of having to buy new ones!

2) Eliminate your excuses. Disorganization can range from circumstantial to chronic. It doesn't really matter what caused the mess - they may very well be legitimate. The question is how much longer are you willing to put up with the situation? If you can't do it yourself, resolve to get help. After hiring us to help him clean up his garage, a client said, "I can't believe I drove into my garage every day for three years chastising myself that I hadn't done anything with all that clutter. For a few hundred dollars, it was done - and I didn't even have to do it. I wonder what took me so long?"

3) Commit your time. Decide when you will get started on solving the problem. A client recently hired us to clean her garage. When it was over she commented, "That was a lot different that I thought it would be." "How?" I asked. "For one thing," she replied, "I thought it would take four weekends." We were done in six hours. The first and simplest step is to identify a specific place to put the items you find that you no longer need or want. (Donating unused but useable items to a local charity, selling them on e-Bay, or having a garage sale, if you're into such things, will not only make you feel better, it can even earn or save you money.

4) Select your tools. Choose the right tools for what you want to store. Two of the most effective solutions in a garage are shelving and hooks. They don't have to be costly to be functional, but if you dream of having a garage that is aesthetically pleasing, there are a variety of attractive and function options. In order to determine what size of storage units you need, use the most basic or organizing principles: Group like items together. Then determine if you really need or want that many empty boxes, garden tools you never use, or appliances you never really liked anyway. Check out organizing, discount, hardware, and home and garden stores and catalogs of an amazing variety of equipment.

5) Maintain your success. That old adage "A place for everything and everything in it's place" sounds admirable, but for most of us, it's just impossible. In the rush of everyday living, things just get messy - and that includes garages. But if there IS a place for everything, cleaning it up presents no major challenges, and getting other members of the family to help is easier too!

Picture your garage as a place you can love - and even park your car. Imagine that!

© Barbara Hemphill is the author of Kiplinger's Taming the Paper Tiger at Work and Taming the Paper Tiger at Home and co-author of Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever. The mission of Hemphill Productivity Institute is to help individuals and organizations create and sustain a productive environment so they can accomplish their work and enjoy their lives. We do this by organizing space, information, and time. We can be reached at 800-427-0237 or at

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