Clean Sweep: Do-It-Yourself Strategies from Garage-Storage Pros

Make room for the cars and corral the clutter with DIY strategies from the garage-storage pros.

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Clean Sweep


Like many suburban dwellers, Laura and Peter Cole and their two children rarely use the front door, opting instead to come and go through the garage. But after eight years in their New Jersey home, the family had parked so much stuff in the 400-square-foot area there was room for only one of their cars. "The space was atrocious," says Laura of the exposed drywall, pitted cement floor, and piles of supplies.

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Full-Scale Renovation


Finally the couple signed up for a full-scale custom garage renovation, complete with hooks, racks, and cupboards that clip onto paneled walls. For the busy Cole clan, calling in the experts was key, but do-it-yourselfers can achieve a similar look by following the advice, outlined here, of GarageTek's Marc Shuman, whose company designed and executed the redo. This family's verdict: "We finally have an entrance to our home we can be proud of," says Laura. Not to mention a killer pair of parking spaces.

The Cost of Going Custom

Depending on location, GarageTek charges approximately $30-$40 per square foot for its tiled polypropylene flooring and slatted PVC walls. Accessories are sold separately. The company will do the floor, one wall of cabinets, hooks, and shelves (average price: $3,000) or the entire garage. Most projects cost about $8,000; a consultation and estimate are free. For more information, visit

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Garden Variety


When storing disparate items, give yourself plenty of options. In this dual potting station and workbench, a combination of cupboards, shelves, hooks, and bins ensures every planter, vase, shovel, and screw has a home. A bright toolbox with stacking compartments and a row of clear plastic boxes for easy-to-lose items such as nails and washers are mounted on the wall. Colorful metal containers help stow odds and ends on shelves.


—Keep toxic substances such as pesticides and paint thinner up high and behind closed doors, where children and pets can't get to them.

—Hardwood butcher block makes a handsome, strong workbench. Sturdy plastics and steel also can support heavy items and are superior to particleboard or melamine, which can warp or crack.

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Kids' Catchall


The Coles chose a basic shelving unit to house toys and gear belonging to Charlie, 13, and Katie, 10. This rack has a place for bats or other sports equipment such as hockey or lacrosse sticks, and a snap-on bag that's a handy holder for tennis balls, Frisbees, and the like. But any durable shelves will do—combine them with a bat-and-ball rack and hang a drawstring bag.

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Garage Golden Rules


1. Divide belongings into four or five broad categories. Then designate a spot in the garage that's the most convenient place for each.

2. Create a space that's safe to move around in and easy to clean by getting as many things off the floor as possible.

3. "The ceiling is the most underutilized space in the garage," says Marc Shuman. His advice: Install adjustable overhead racks for out-of-season items such as boxes of winter gear or picnic supplies.

4. Once a space is organized, it's easier to keep it that way. "Now that everything has a place, we always put our stuff back," says Laura Cole.

Tip: Give unwieldy items like bicycles, balls, scooters, and skateboards their own holders on the wall. If you run out of space, Mom's and Dad's bikes can always be mounted on the ceiling.

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What an Entrance


Create a nook for wet or grimy jackets, backpacks, and shoes near the door. Include plenty of pegs and shoe racks or boot trays. Add cabinets to create a pantry for bulk groceries. Heavy-duty steel shelves are ideal for storing hefty items like a large bin of dog food or jugs of water.


—Keep a fire extinguisher, flashlight, and first-aid kit where they will be easily accessible from indoors or outside. For a list of first-aid items to include, visit

—For a finished look that's low maintenance, GarageTek installed treaded polypropylene floor tiles. DIY options include laying your own interlocking tiles or applying a hard epoxy coating over existing concrete.

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Work and Play


Put frequently used items near the door and swap them out as your needs, or the seasons, change. For instance, in spring it makes sense to have golf clubs and a sprinkler at the ready, as opposed to, say, a snow shovel and sled.

Tip: A shelf, brackets, and a golf rack are attached to a paneled surface made of strong PVC. For a similar effect, hang objects on wall-mounted metal rails.

Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the April 17, 2008, issue of Family Circle magazine.