Indiana Living

January 8 2006

Unstuff the Garage

​Here's how to fit your car in its rightful place one more

By: Courtenay Edelhart

It took Leora Saich about 30 minutes to dig out and warm up her car after the first heavy snowfall of the season last month.

"I don't know what happened to my snow scraper." she said. "It may be in the garage."

That would make it hard to find. Saich's garage is packed with garden tools, an old sandbox, leftover lumber from a long finished deck . . . just about everything imaginable. Except a car.

Saich, 41, who lives just south of Broad Ripple, is among the legions of homeowners whose garages are more storage unit than vehicle shelter. "It's not that I have that much stuff really."  she said sheepishly.  "It's just where i put things.  It's kind of become a catch-all.  I just throw things in there and forget about them."

According to a survey commissioned by Lowe's and conducted by Harris Interactive, more than one out 10 adults said they would be embarrased if others saw their garage.

That needn't be so. It's not that hard to rescue long-suffering vehicles from the elements and snow plows said Mary Balph, a professional organizer who owns Get It Together in Madison.

"The first thing you want to do is look at it with the eyes of a stranger." she said.  "Take an objective look at the garage now and then try to visualize it as you'd want it to look."

​Then empty out the garage completely and start sorting, Balph said.

​Create a trash pile and a separate pile for donations. Still other piles should be items grouped by theme, such as automotive, holiday decor or sports equipment.

"Place like with like."  Balph said.  "Then put them in boxes or containers and label them so you'll know how to find them."

Be ruthless when it comes to discarding things you haven't used in years, urged Debbie Stanley, author or "Organize Your Home . . . In No Time." (Que Publishing $16.95).

"If you have more stuff than you have room, you have to either decrease the stuff or increase the space." she said. "Or you can do a little bit of both."

That, of course, is the hardest part of getting organized: letting go. For many people, it's an emotional process.

"I had one client who was recently divorced who had a whole house worth of stuff crammed into a one-bedroom condo, an what it came down to is he didn't want to accept that he was divorced and living alone." she said.  "Sometimes there are underlying issues that make reality hard to face."

Don't fret if initially it doesn't look like you have enough room for the things you want to keep after the painful purge.  Hardware and home-improvement stores carry all kinds of mounted or upright shelving, as well as hooks for hanging bikes, ladders, and other items on walls, said Dana Carney, a professional organizer who runs a company called Organizing Indy.

"Get as much as you can up off the floor."  she said.  "You'd be amazed how much storage space you can find if you just look up."

Kathy Wilson, 45, Oakwood, Ill hired Organizing Indy's Carney not long ago to make her garage usable again.  Along with an astounding accumulation of junk Wilson's obsessive-compulsive husband had been hoarding, the garage also housed a workshop for various projects, including restoring old cars.

"You almost had to move things around just to walk through it."  Wilson said.  "It was that full."

It took eight hours to purge most of the garage's contents and organize what remained, but Wilson considers the effort well worth it.

"It's so wonderful, absolutely wonderful, not to have to scrape your windows or warm up your car forever every morning."

Call Star reporter Courtenay Edelhart at (317) 444-6481.

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