Archives for Garage
Spring has arrived here in the northern hemisphere (at least on the calendar) and that means yard work is about to begin in earnest. Here are a few simple steps that you can perform now so that you’ll be ready when the weather really warms.
The Lawn Mower
Hopefully you didn’t let the mower sit all winter with gas in the tank. Right? If you did, remember to let it run until it’s empty this autumn (or add a stabilizer), and hope it will start this year.
You’ll also want to change the spark plug and put in a new air filter, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. It’s also a good idea to keep the blade sharp, so remove it and sharpen it. Again, the manufacturer likely supplied instructions for this, too. If not, hop online and search for digital copies of those instructions from the manufacturer. Finally, make sure the wheels are on securely and moving freely, and inspect the rope pull (if it has one). Eventually, it will wear and snap in your hand. That’s not fun.
The Gas Trimmer
Again, hopefully you added gas stabilizer or ran it until empty last year if you have a gas-powered one. During your inspection, replace the spark plug and ensure that you’ve got enough trim cable on the trimmer, as well as an extra. Getting part way through the yard only to run out is a hassle (it always happens to me after the hardware store has closed).
As you did with the mower, make sure the moving parts are operating as expected. Adjust the handle, for example, to see that it moves smoothly. If there’s dried grass and who-knows-what caked underneath the guard from last season, clean it off per the manufacturer’s instructions.
Many other lawn tools don’t require much maintenance, but now is the time to check on them anyway. Things like shovels, trowels, and rakes require only a quick once-over. I also confirm that my extension cords are working and not torn, as well as the garden hose. Finally, move tools that you won’t be using, like snow shovels, out of the way and store them for the warmer months. I move mine from the shed to the basement for the spring and summer.
Last year my wheelbarrow had a flat tire, so I filled it with air. It was flat again within a week, so I simply replaced it with a solid tire, much like this one from True Temper. Now a flat tire is no longer an issue. Speaking of the wheelbarrow, this is the time to hit it with some rust-proof paint if you find it needs it.
I don’t know about you, but my outdoor furniture takes a beating. Between the blazing sun, occasional rain and — worst of all — my children, those cushions start showing their age after just a few seasons. A discount big box store is a good place to find replacements if yours are in need of an updating. Also, keep that can of rust-proof paint and/or a scrub brush handy.
So much has been written about spring lawn prep. This tutorial from Lowe’s is similar to what I do. I think the most important take-aways are to clean up any debris that was deposited during the winter, cut everything nice and short, and then note any problem areas like bald spots. Next, aerate it. You can likely rent one of these for a day or even a few hours from a local hardware or home improvement store or a garden nursery. This breaks up the soil and lets water and beneficial nutrients get down in there. Plus, lawn aerators are just fun to use.
Those are the basics. If you have something like an outdoor shower or in-ground irrigation system, wait for it to warm up a bit before turning them on. Then test each zone to ensure proper working order. With as cold as it has been so far this spring in the northeast, I’m also waiting to turn on my outdoor water spigots.
Do you have any springtime yard rituals? Share your routines in the comments.
Summertime is perfect for catching up on outdoor chores, but having fun is probably what everyone (mostly) thinks about. For those of us in the United States, Labor Day (this year it falls on Sept. 3) gives us an opportunity for one final summer celebration before cooler temperatures are ushered in with the start of fall. Many people try their hand at being a grill master for the day and test out new recipes and grilling techniques. Some take road trips or one last visit to the beach.
No matter the activity, by putting things in order at the end of this season, you’ll find everything you need when warmer temperatures arrive next year. Focus on some basic rules of thumb so you can avoid hour-long searches to find your stuff, like …
Keep similar items together
You’ve heard this one before and there’s a reason you hear it so often. It’s perhaps the one rule that, if you stick to it, will help you save time so you can get on with the business of having fun. When everything you need for a specific activity (bike, helmet, knee pads, tire gauge, and pump together; grill cleaning brush, tongs, and skewers together) is in one location, you will find what you want quickly and see what things are broken and need fixing or replacing. Once you’ve gathered all your supplies together, they should be kept in the same location all the time (just like you always keep your keys, wallet, and mobile phone in the same spot). Labeling storage spaces can help, too.
Replace needed items immediately
Those broken items or the ones that just don’t work the way you would like them to? Replace them now if you regularly use the items. If you wait until next year, you’re likely to be suprised (not pleasantly) when it’s time to use them. Keep a running list of things you need to buy and take it with you on your next shopping trip. Stick to your list so you don’t overbuy. Try not to give in to the temptation of getting things that you’re not certain you’ll actually use (is it possible your plans just might change?). Wait on those items and come up with a game plan first. And, donate/recycle/trash the items that you no longer want.
Remember to replenish your first-aid kits as well. Not only will you need them year-round (in your car and in several rooms in your home), but you’ll also want to have a kit ready in the bags you use for your summer events (picnics, trips to the zoo, sporting events, etc.). Don’t forget to stock up on first-aid supplies for your pets, too.
Use checklists to help you remember
Create an “end of summer” list to remind you of all the things you need to do to wrap up the season and get ready for the next. Group your tasks by category (camping, gardening, marathon/race) so you can focus easily on each section before moving on to the next. For example, if hiking is on your list, it might include:
- Clean hiking boots
- Put boots with other hiking gear
- Purchase new socks and liners
- Create a communication plan
- Start training routine to prepare for trip (add start date)
What you put on your checklist will be specific to you and the things you like doing. It should include all the gear you need (what’s a trip to the park without your favorite frisbee or a picnic with a half empty basket or a lawn concert without a comfy chair?) as well as any special requirements (season pass to the water park, parking pass for the football game). After creating your checklist, keep it with the items it belongs with or in a “summer activities” (paper or electronic) file so you can keep using it each year.
Put special events on your calendar now
Get ready for next year’s events by entering on your calendar those that you attend annually or new ones that you want to go to (or host). Doing this will help plan your activities and to narrow down the things you can realistically do based on your available time and budget. You’ll also see if you need to enlist the help of others.
Planning and organizing fun summer activities can give you something to look forward to next year without the hassle and pain of never-ending searches for the things you need. And, there’s still time to take care of many of this summer’s chores that you haven’t gotten to yet. Take a look at our tips on how to organize your:
The summer months are a good time to tackle many projects, including organizing your garage and closets. Today, we’re sharing tips on how to shape up your car. Though some may walk, ride a bike or scooter, or take public transportation to get about town, many people (raising my hand) travel by car. For some, it’s a second home or main “office.” When you spend a lot of time in your vehicle, keeping it organized is a necessity as you’ll need to not only feel comfortable, but also find what you need with relative ease.
To begin a car uncluttering and organizing project, take everything that doesn’t belong in your car out of the car (check under your seats), looking for things that are obviously trash (empty water bottles, food wrappers). Next, categorize the remaining items (chargers with chargers, first aid supplies with first aid supplies). Then …
Be selective about what you need to keep
Depending on your lifestyle, you could have a variety of things you need to regularly keep in your car. If you’re a mobile entrepreneur, you may need office supplies, brochures, or client forms. If you’re a parent, toys, books, or hand sanitizer may be more important things to keep in the car. For people who do a fair amount of long-distance driving, street maps, money for tolls, or audio books are the likely must-have items. Think through all the things you need to have with you on a regular basis so that you can …
Decide what will live inside your car and trunk
You will want to store some things inside your car (e.g. in the glove compartment, center console, pockets on the backs of each seat, side door pockets) and other items inside your trunk. Use frequency of use as a benchmark along with size and volume of specific items. For things you use often, store them inside your car and think of your trunk as archival or large item storage. And, if you live in an area where there are seasonal extremes, you may also want weather appropriate items (ice melt, gloves, sun shades).
Based on the size and features of your car (or truck or SUV or minivan), place things in the locations that make sense to you — like in a kitchen, store things where you use them. And, consider keeping a container inside your car to collect garbage. Here are suggestions on where to keep some things:
- Registration, insurance card, and emergency numbers
- Car manuals
- Collision kit
- First aid kit
- Cell phone charger (this can also be kept in the center console along with a tire gauge)
- Container or resealable bag of coins (for tolls or parking)
- Coupons and gift cards
- Trash bags
- Emergency car kit (read more about emergency supplies)
- Spare tire
- Mylar blankets
- Extra change of clothes
Choose your containers
Containers help you keep everything in its place and easily accessible. They also can help keep loose items from shifting and flying about if you have to stop suddenly or in the event of an accident.
Here are a few to consider:
- Milk crate. A crate is great for keeping sports equipment, toys, and things that you need to do something with (packages to mail, things to return). Consider putting a milk crate (or laundry basket) in your trunk.
- Trunk organizer. The compartments in a trunk organizer make it easy to keep similar items together and separate them from others. They can hold many things (like groceries and car care supplies) and have outer pockets for papers or maps.
- Mobile office organizer. Use this mobile unit on the passenger seat to hold hanging file folders and to keep pens and note pads close by if you often work from your car. Some organizers have lids to keep items from slipping out and others forgo file storage and give you enough space for keeping CD’s, tissues, and other items.
- Plastic envelope. Plastic envelopes are great for keeping coupons and receipts and can easily be stored in door pockets or behind-the-seat pockets. Or, put your registration and insurance card in an envelope in your glove compartment.
Create a maintenance routine
Once everything is arranged in the way that works for you, make a plan to keep your vehicle organized and road-trip ready. A simple way to stop the build up of trash is to empty your garbage container each time you fill up your tank. Because you refuel on a regular basis, combining these tasks will almost guarantee that your ride will be clutter free. What about all those supplies that you need to have all the time? To be sure you don’t run out, check your stash once a week (or once every two weeks) to make sure you have all you need and can restock if you don’t.
As with any maintenance routine, keep it simple. The more complex the steps, the more difficult it will be to maintain. Don’t wait until you get your car detailed to focus on keeping it clean and orderly. Do a little bit each week and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much easier it is to keep everything in its place.
Longer days during the summer are a wonderful feature of the season. It’s a great time to tackle tasks that require working outdoors. If you live in a house or townhome, summer is also the perfect time to organize your garage (if you have one).
Putting together a garage organizing list is not that much different than making any other type of task list. The same principles apply to organizing your garage as with cleaning out your closet, and your goal is to make a list that is clear and manageable. When you get back from your wonderfully restful summer vacation, you’ll be ready to take care of this warm-weather task. Remember to keep these six simple steps in mind instead of randomly jumping head first into the garage:
- Get it out of your head. Jot down the things you need to take care of in your garage. Your list doesn’t have to be massive, though there is nothing wrong if it is.
- Focus. Pick the one thing (or two things) you’re going to work on first, and break this big task into smaller, actionable steps. Work in short time blocks to maintain focus without feeling stress.
- Group like items. Put similar items together in categories — tools with tools, car repair items with car repair items.
- Hold yourself accountable. Select a deadline for completion and put it on your calendar. Be realistic about how much you will be able to accomplish based on how much time you have to work on your project, as well as how much help you’ll have.
- Get help. Partner with someone or several someones to help you get things done.
- Pick a reward. This is perhaps the best part of the plan, besides actually completing what you set out to do. It can be very motivating to have something to look forward to when the project is finished. Not everyone needs this, but it can be helpful.
With this plan in place, think about your main goal(s) for getting the garage more organized. Do you want to fit the car(s) inside? Do you need to find things more easily? Would having a place for storing bulk supplies be helpful? If you feel overwhelmed, referring to your main goal will keep you calm, focused, and ready to continue.
Next, have a look around your garage (i.e., pick one area to begin focusing on) and decide:
What you’ll keep
Do you really need everything that’s stored in your garage? How long have the widgets been sitting in the widget box? Substitute “widgets” with things that you’ve been holding on to because you might use them “someday.” And, speaking of “someday,” when was the last time you used them? Do you still remember why you’re keeping them? Does anything in the garage belong to someone not living in your home?
Once you’ve decided what you’re going to keep, gather these items together so they’ll all be in the same location. If you have similar items strewn about in various parts of the garage, it will be more difficult for you to find them when you need them.
What you’ll purge
Along with deciding what you’ll hold on to, you’ll have to figure out what needs to be thrown out (e.g., items with broken or missing parts), what you’ll recycle, and what you’ll donate to charity or give away to someone in need. Be sure to only give away things that still function and are not in disrepair. Ask yourself, “If I saw this in a store, would I buy it in the condition it’s in now?”
What your zones will be
What are the categories of things that need to be stored in the garage? Do you need stroller parking? What about:
- Yard maintenance equipment and gardening supplies
- Tools, ladder, workbenches
- Car maintenance supplies
- Painting supplies
- Holiday storage
- Sports equipment
- Bulk products
Once you come up with your zones, sketch the garage (with wall dimensions) to see where you will store items. For example, you may want to keep bulk paper products closer to the entry door to the garage. By doing this, you will avoid going into the heart of the garage for items that you will use inside your home.
What storage options you’ll use
A popular garage organizing option is to use shelving units (e.g. free-standing units or a track system, like Elfa Utility Garage or Rubbermaid Fast Track System). The benefit of using shelving is that you won’t have to stack containers on top of each other. Stacking means that you’ll have to remove one bin to get to another, a process that would likely stop you from reguarly putting things back where they belong.
Pegboards and slatwall systems allow you to use the walls to hang items that you use often (like brooms, rakes, hammers). Cabinets with or without doors may also meet your needs. Consider adding other components depending on your lifestyle (e.g. a vertical bike hook).
What containers you’ll use
Once you’ve selected your shelving, choose clear, sturdy containers (remember to add labels) to group your like items together. Be sure to get containers with covers to protect the contents from dust and crawling critters. You can choose lids of the same color to store certain categories together (like red lids for all painting supplies).
Armed with a plan, you can attack your garage organizing project in small chunks so that it’s manageable and not overwhelming. Your car and future self will thank you for it.
While the chilly winds blow (at least on those of us in the northern hemisphere), now is a great time to go through your home and see what winter-related items you haven’t used this year and donate the excess to charity. You’ll free up space in your home, and possibly help someone in need make it through the winter more comfortably.
Check out your:
- Blankets. Are there heavy blankets lingering in your closet that you haven’t used this year or last year or the year before that?
- Sweaters. If you haven’t worn the sweater by now, are you ever going to wear it again?
- Hats, gloves, scarves. If you have children, do all the hats and gloves in your closet still fit someone in your home?
- Coats. Similar to your sweaters, if any of your winter coats haven’t been worn this season, are you ever going to wear them?
- Boots. If they’re in good condition, someone in need could really benefit from any boots you’re not wearing.
- Outdoor recreation items. Sleds, toboggans, and skis won’t help someone in need, but if you’re no longer using them, they still shouldn’t be taking up space in your garage.
- Outdoor care items. Snow shovels, snow blowers, and other outdoor care items should be replaced if they’re broken or unsafe to use. Don’t donate unusable items to charity, but recycle and/or trash pieces as appropriate.
- Decorations. Any holiday or winter decorations you didn’t put out this year could easily be sold on eBay, Craigslist, or given away through Freecycle. Check with local doctors’ offices, day care centers, and schools to see if they have any interest in the items you didn’t use this year.
Those of you basking in the summer sun in the southern hemisphere, consider doing a similar sweep for unused warm-weather items. If you haven’t used something yet, it’s likely just taking up space in your home unnecessarily.
Today’s edition of Britain’s Daily Mail includes an article, photo gallery, and impressive infographic describing London’s newest clutter-free street, which officially opened earlier today. The piece “No kerbs, pavements or nanny-state signs: Britain’s longest clutter-free street is unveiled to make things SAFER” explains the initiative to improve safety on this stretch of road by removing visual distractions:
Britain’s longest ‘clutter-free’ street was opened today with the aim of making cars and people co-exist harmoniously — without the need for hectoring signs and protective steel barriers.
Indeed, the newly revamped Exhibition Road in the heart of London’s museum quarter in Kensington, visited by millions of people from around Britain and the world, doesn’t even have kerbs or pavements.
The idea underlining the project is that when nannying rules and orders — in the form of countless signs, traffic signals and barriers — are removed, motorists take more personal responsibility for their own actions and drive more attentively, making more eye contact with pedestrians.
In addition to taking on projects in London, two years ago national officials in Britain formally began encouraging city council leaders to decrease road signage to improve road safety. This specific decision to rework Exhibition Road came in 2003 and is based on popular urban design and engineering concepts from Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman. Monderman’s engineering ideas are implemented in many areas of Europe and Asia and are referred to as “shared space” planning design.
More about the clutter-free road from the Daily Mail article:
Councillor Daniel Moylan, deputy chairman of Transport for London (TfL), said: “… The psychology of this scheme is fascinating. Experience seems to show that when you dedicate space to traffic and control it with signs and green traffic lights, motorists develop a claim on it. It becomes ‘my space.’ Drivers become annoyed if people move into it.
They get angry if a mother pushing a buggy moves across the crossing just as the lights are about to change.
This new scheme is more like the behaviour in a supermarket car park. Drivers know there are people around pushing shopping trolleys and so drive more cautiously. They are looking out.
They don’t feel that pedestrians are invading their space. They don’t therefore get annoyed.”
Image from Britain’s Daily Mail. Thanks to reader Samantha for bringing this post idea to our attention.
My resolution for June was to get our garage in gear. This ended up being an extremely relevant task seeing as our old car died and we got a new one. We had two hail storms in June, and it was wonderful to be able to pull the new car into the garage to keep it safe.
I started by clearing the clutter out of the garage the first weekend of the month. Rather, I started by clearing our clutter out of the garage. I had forgotten that our landlord had some of his stuff in the garage when we moved in (a couple dining chairs, etc.), so I wasn’t able to clear out his things. Mostly, though, only our garage-appropriate stuff remains in the garage (lawn mower, rake, trash cans, tools, bikes).
The second task was to organize what remained in the space and I sort of did this. See what I mean by “sort of”:
We have shelves now in place and space to organize, but I haven’t yet completed the project. Most of our tools and garage items still remain in their moving boxes. Since my mantra was garages are for cars, not clutter, I didn’t push myself too hard to get all of the organizing work finished. I can get the car in the garage and find things, so I’ll just keep unpacking boxes and putting items away over the next few weekends. I met my parking goal, so the rest is simply icing on the proverbial cake. As far as I’m concerned, the resolution was met, even if not perfectly.
My goal for July is to review and reset a number of our family’s routines and to do the same with some personal and professional goals. Now that my son is in preschool, we have a different structure to our day and different demands on our time. Not only does our family need to figure out how we want to structure our schedule, but I need to figure out which of my goals are best for me to achieve right now.
This may seem like a light resolution, and it is in terms of physical labor. However, it’s something that has to get done to retain our family’s sanity and for me to feel like I have better direction personally and professionally.
I haven’t yet figured out how I’m going to tackle this goal, but as I do I will give a few updates over the course of the month to help anyone who may be doing something similar. Creating new routines can be challenging if the first attempt isn’t one that can last over many months. And, identifying what I want to accomplish personally and professionally is going to take some introspection, and I need to set aside the time to do this properly.
What are your resolutions and/or goals for July? How did you do with any resolutions or goals you made for June? If you have annual resolutions instead of monthly resolutions, how are these advancing? The first of July was the half-way point in the year — are you on track to accomplish what you are hoping to by the year’s end? Share your experiences in the comments.
It’s difficult for me to believe that today is the last day of May. While I’m certain my calendar isn’t lying to me, I’m still confused as to how the time passed so quickly. Where did you go, May?
My resolution for May was to cut back on my media intake. I only watched two shows in real time and unsubscribed from three magazines. The battery on my cell phone stopped holding a consistent charge, so I was forced to cut back on my phone and application usage regardless of if it was my intention. Also, I was pretty consistent about using a timer to keep me from wasting time on the computer. Overall, I think it was a resolution that was kept well and will be easily continued throughout the remainder of the year.
My goal for June is to get our garage in gear. Our new house has a double car garage and it is incredibly tempting to abandon stuff in there. I tried diligently to not let it become a place where “I don’t want to deal with it right now” items were set during the move, but, alas, some of those things slipped through the doors.
My first goal is to get rid of all the clutter. Anything we don’t need will find its appropriate home on Craigslist, be taken to charity, be recycled, or be thrown away. All the clutter will be gone by Friday, June 10.
My second goal is to organize the remaining items so I can find things immediately when I need them. The items also must be organized so two cars can fit in the garage, even though we only have one car. We have friends and family who come to visit and their cars should be able to join ours. This goal should be met by the end of the month of June.
My mantra: Garages are for cars, not clutter.
If you have a garage, can you fit your car inside of it? Would getting your garage in gear be a good resolution for you for the month of June? I know I’m eager to get rid of the clutter and have a garage that really fits my family’s needs.
Although the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has me wanting to spend time indoors, the sunny skies and 70 degree temperatures are tempting me to head outside. As a compromise, I’ve been doing work in our new garage where I can hear the team analysis on one of the 200 ESPN stations and still feel like I’m outside with the garage door open.
If you’re considering doing work in your garage this weekend or in the coming weeks, be sure to check out Unclutterer posts we’ve already written on organizing your garage and related topics:
- Get your garage ready for summer
- Find garage organizing inspiration from Elfa, Ikea, and Sears
- Tips to organize your garage
- Garage storage
I was in a friend’s garage recently helping him with a home-improvement project when I noticed that many of the wrenches and sockets in his tool cabinet were wrapped in red electrical tape. On closer inspection, I noticed that the colored tape was only wrapped around his metric-sized tools.
By having an easy way to differentiate his metric tools from their SAE counterparts, he found he was more likely to put both types back in their correct places when he was done using them.
Do you have any tricks for labeling things to keep them grouped with similar items? Please share them in the comments.
After having to scrape frost off the car windows yesterday morning, I’m finally willing to accept that fall has arrived. As I have been pulling out all the cold-weather supplies (coats, hats, boots, shovels, grill covers, etc.), I’ve stumbled upon some unexpected clutter in these storage spaces. If you haven’t already pulled out these supplies in your own home (or done the same with warmer-weather supplies if you live in the southern hemisphere), be sure to check out these locations for hidden clutter:
- Linen storage. I found a couple blankets and flannel sheets that I stored over the winter that should have been donated to our local animal shelter back in April. The elastic is shot in one set of sheets and two of the blankets have worn thin in places. Inspect your cooler weather linens to see if they’re ready for six months of use. (And give your warmer weather items a serious inspection before putting them into storage.)
- Exterior storage boxes/sheds. If you store items outdoors during the winter, but in protective storage, be sure to give these areas a good review before putting tools away for the season. Small rodents and other critters may have been using these locations for living quarters during the summer months.
- Car trunk. While loading a blanket and some freeze-dried snacks into the trunk of our car, I noticed a number of summer items hadn’t made it out of the trunk yet. Pull everything out of the trunk of your car and evaluate if it should live the winter in this space. If you don’t have a car, inspect the basket on your bike or thoroughly go through your backpack.
Have you found hidden clutter in your home while getting things ready for winter? If so, tell us where so we can all give these spaces a good review before the cool temperatures have us nesting indoors.
Knife and Saw is selling a beautiful bike shelf that is perfect for city dwellers in small spaces:
It’s not inexpensive ($270 for Ash or $300 for Walnut), but it is beautiful. And, the top of the bike rack can be used to hold stuff, which makes it a nice multi-tasker:
Speaking of beautiful wood things, have you seen Combine Collective’s Black Walnut Keyboard Trays?
Ranging from $69 to $79, they hold up to three Mac wireless devices in sustainable wood to use on your lap or desk.
It’s nice to see organizing products that are visually stunning and incredibly functional. So many organizing products are designed with utility as the only focus, completely ignoring aesthetics. I’m always on the lookout for items that manage to have high-quality function and form, and both of these certainly meet those standards.
(Bike shelf via Cool Hunting.)