Does your garage look like this?
We all need a nudge. So here it is: Saturday, Sept. 10 is National Clean Out Your Garage Day. Proclaimed such by Lehigh Consumer Products LLC, a maker of organizing gadgets, the designation doesn't have official status. Still, a day devoted to a task on which it is easy to procrastinate has a serious purpose, according to research from Lehigh. In a 2009 survey of 1,000 U.S. adults, Lehigh found that not only does garage clutter annoy homeowners, it is literally a pain: Thirty-nine percent of respondents said they tripped over garage items, and 27 percent had hit an object opening their car door.Timing right Since then, Lehigh has designated a day on the first weekend after Labor Day to the garage, since this is a time when many households put away lawn and garden tools and other seasonal equipment. It takes at least a day, maybe more, if it involves painting or installing shelves or other organizational systems, noted Lisa Jacobs, with the professional organization unit of New York City-based MyClean.com. The garage and basement are usually the two biggest repositories of clutter in any home, added Jacobs. "Getting started is the worst part," she said. "It can feel very overwhelming." If a "National Day" isn't enough of a motivator, experts say there's a wide array of tempting products, from specialized shelving to motorized lifts that store items below the ceiling that can keep the garage organized — but only after the initial clutter sort-and-purge is complete. Gearing up All it takes is one motivated person to tackle the job, but it's probably better if two people can work together, said Denise Lee, a St. Louis-based professional organizer. Heavy objects might require two lifters; plus, it helps to have a second opinion on sorting decisions, Lee explained. Anyone pitching in should take safety precautions. Gloves with rubber or leather palms protect against cuts, and eye protection and breathing masks may be necessary if there's lots of dirt and dust, Lee said. An ample supply of contractor-quality trash bags (available at hardware stores) and empty boxes are also necessary for the organizing ahead. Sorting through "The aim is to touch each item in the garage just once as you're clearing out everything," explained Scott Roewer, a Washington D.C.-based professional organizer. Pick up and then deposit in bags or boxes labeled as "trash," "donate," "recycle" or "keep." The "keep" pile can be divided into like categories, such as garden or sports equipment. Also consider an "undecided" box as well as a "to be repaired" bin, said Roewer. Planning ahead Everything should go into a box or bag, and then set in one area of the garage or in the driveway. Check the weather report before leaving things outside, Lee cautioned. The floor usually requires a washing down, and "you may want to brighten up everything with a paint specially made for garages," Lee added. Now, the work switches from physical to cerebral. "Consider where you should place things," Lee said. Frequently used items should be readily accessible. Things that need to be loaded and unloaded into the trunk frequently, like sports equipment, Roewer said, should be near the car. Things that must remain out of reach from kids should be placed high. For those who decide the garage could descend into clutter again without better storage, a bevy of do-it-yourself as well as professionally installed shelving, cabinets, tool tables, and the like are available. Among the favorites of professional organizers interviewed for this story: The Garage Zones by Closet Maid, HyLoft, Gladiator GarageWorks by Whirlpool Corp. and the elfa garage systems offered by The Container Store, all of which are available at retail locations throughout North America.