How to Clear Space in Crowded Garage : Space Use: Cabinets, shelves, hooks needed to provide the maximum capacity, keep objects as clean as possible.

If you're eyeing your garage to use for storage and/or work space, there are several ways to find the space you need within your available space.

Before you start installing shelves, cabinets and work tables, make a list of exactly what you'll be storing. Bear in mind as you make the list that the garage was never meant to house unused furniture and personal belongings that won't hold up under the elements.

Some things are correctly stored in the garage (such as gardening equipment, hardware, tools, paint, and some sports equipment), but other things should never be put in the garage at all. Even in the cleanest garage, dirt, dust, dampness, bugs and rodents can be prevalent.

If you are already storing things such as clothes, books, papers, and unused furniture in the garage and you want extra space to store even more things, you should first go through what you already have stored in the garage. Chances are that a good portion of it will be ruined, and you'll have to throw much of it away (particularly if the items have been in the garage for some time). You may decide too, that much of what is stored in the garage is no longer used or needed, and can therefore be given away.

If you are committed to storing personal things in the garage, pack everything in clean boxes and label the boxes on all sides. If you must keep papers in the garage, they are best stored either in Transfile boxes (available at office supply stores) or in a sturdy filing cabinet (you can probably pick up a second-hand cabinet for this).

You'll want to store everything off the floor on shelves or in cabinets. Inexpensive metal shelving is available at building supply and variety stores. These shelves can be assembled and placed along the walls of the garage for instant organized storage space.

When you shop for the metal shelves, also look for some strong hooks that can be attached to the wall or ceiling beams of the garage. These can be used to hang anything that has a loop or open space that could conceivably be draped over a hook.

For example, you can hang your lawn furniture, some long garden tools, large extension cords and garden hose on these hooks. You can even hang your bicycle on hooks (available at bicycle shops).

To establish an immediate work area, a trip to a discount office furniture store can net you a very sturdy 4- to 6-foot table for less than $50. These tables provide work space for gardening, hobby or fix-it projects, and can be collapsed to store flat or to be moved as needed.

Tools and supplies can be stored in an old dresser or cabinet, or from a Pegboard and hook system attached to the wall over the table. The Pegboard and hooks can be purchased at hardware or building supply stores.

Another way to store tools is to buy tool organizers made by Rubbermaid. These tool organizers snap onto a tool center Wall Strip (also made by Rubbermaid) or can be mounted on Pegboard with adapters or brackets, or directly onto a wall with screws.

These tool organizers include a screwdriver rack, wrench rack, hooks that can hold a variety of tools and accessories, parts bins for nails, nuts, bolts and small parts, clip hooks that hold notes or instructions, and a tool rack designed to hold wrenches, putty knives, pencils, punches, shears, pliers and other small tools.

Rubbermaid also makes recycling containers for used automotive batteries, as well as heavy-duty weather resistant storage containers with lids that fit tightly to keep moisture out. These containers come in 3-, 10-, 14- and 18-gallon sizes and can hold everything from small tools to larger tools such as a skill saw or a piece of bulky gardening equipment.

For a sleek, clean look, you may want to have closed cabinetry installed in your garage. These modular cabinets come in a range of colors, styles and materials, and usually feature interior shelves that are adjustable, some drawer space and a countertop that provides work space with an area above it for a Pegboard and hook system for tools.

While these cabinets help keep things cleaner because they are behind closed doors, you'll need to take the door clearance factor into consideration before you have them installed. Make sure that even with your car in the garage, you will have enough room to open the cabinet doors so that you access to the contents without moving the car.

Firms specializing in closet systems often also install these garage cabinet systems to maximize the organization and storage capacity in the garage.

SOUTHLAND FIRMS THAT INSTALL GARAGE SYSTEMS

Some firms in the Southland that install garage systems:

The Closet Store (213) 837-0417

California Closet Co. Check your local directory for the representative in your area.

Crest Garage Cabinets (800) 548-2848

Custom Designs (800) 635-1382

Discount Closet & Garage Organizing (818) 344-4458

Jasons (800) 423-1795

Pacific Organizers (800) 359-6162

The Storage Solution Inc. Check your local directory for the representative in your area.

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