Your Place: As winter gets closer, time to organize the garage

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

With fall here and winter on its way, it might be time to straighten out the garage, so you can at least find the snow shovels when you need them.

"Will it be another bad winter, Al?" you ask. Iíll tell you when itís over.

In the meantime, the Lehigh Group, maker of Crawford brand garage and home-workshop organization products, recommends cleaning out the space originally designed for cars, suggesting that clutter there might mask hidden dangers.

"Seventy percent of Americans use the garage to store potentially dangerous equipment such as saws and power tools, while nearly 60 percent store flammable liquids, such as oil, gasoline, propane and kerosene, as well as other dangerous chemicals, including pesticides and other lawn-care products in their garage space," the company says.

Considering that only 27 percent of Americans report feeling confident that their garages are "very organized," many arenít just cluttered and inconvenient ó theyíre safety threats, the Lehigh Group said. It based that conclusion on the survey responses of 1,007 adults during the summer.

So how should you approach the task?

Separate items into categories such as auto supplies, lawn and garden tools, holiday decorations and sports equipment. Then, pitch, donate or sell items you donít use.

Before organizing and storing, use a multi-purpose push broom to sweep the garage floor, or wash down the floor with a water hose.

Separate the garage into zones for storing each category of items, and then identify the most appropriate storage method.

One great storage strategy is to use the vertical plane to keep the floor free of clutter. Garages provide ample wall and ceiling space that can easily be used for vertical storage through use of hanging shelves, pegboards, rails, and overhead systems.

Establish a solid game plan to organize the typical plethora of sports gear, as well as the familyís fleet of bikes.

Thereís nothing like getting ready to ride and looking through the paint and gasoline cans for your helmet.