If your Chicagoland home has a garage, you know how much of a workhorse this space can be. Traditionally, garages were meant as a space to house a vehicle from the elements — such as the snow and winds that come along with Chicagoland’s famous winters.
Today, though, the benefits of having a garage go way beyond storing your car. In households across Chicagoland, garages serve a variety of different purposes — as warehouses, storage spaces, pantries, work studios, game rooms, and beyond. You may pop into your garage at the beginning of spring when it’s time to unload your outdoor furniture and sporting equipment, or let your kids use it for band practice in the dead of winter. For some, the garage is put into use as a bonus sitting area, or a makeshift fitness studio. In other cases, it’s a holding pen for all of the household stuff you’re not quite willing to get rid of.
Long story short? Garages across Chicagoland are getting a lot of use, and that can make them a major source of clutter and disorganization. In fact, one garage company study has suggested that about one third of homeowners don’t really know what is stored in their garage, and three out of four say that they wish this space was better organized. Many homeowners also say that they plan on tackling a major garage reorganization within the next several years.
In particular, anyone looking to get their home ready to sell in the near future should not forget the importance of getting to the garage. The flexibility of this space makes it a popular feature for buyers, and staging the garage could make a big difference to anyone viewing your listing. In fact, research has suggested that about 32% of buyers consider the garage to be one of the most important rooms in a house. It even ranks in the top three most important spaces for buyers 55 and older. A 2003 study from Florida State University indicated that the existence of a regular-sized garage can help raise the price of a home by up to 13 percent; if this space is clean and well-utilized, it could make even more of an impact on prospective buyers.
So, whether you’re making this space more functional for yourself or staging it for potential buyers, what steps can you take to organize your garage — and make sure it stays that way? Here are a few ideas to try:
Declutter, Declutter, Declutter
One of the first and most effective steps you can take to make the most of your garage space is to get rid of everything you no longer want or need. Clearing out the clutter can allow you to free up a lot of space, which can then be organized more efficiently based on your goals.
To do this important project, block out a large chunk of time, and enlist all the assistants you can, like family members, your kids, or even professional helpers.
Working strategically across the space, sort items, and then divide into three primary categories — keep, donate/sell, or trash. Don’t worry if your garage gets messy during this stage; getting everything out in the open (and sometimes, out on your driveway) can help you get a sense of how much you’re dealing with. After sorting, dispose of what you can, and then make plans to recycle, sell, or donate the items that are still functional, but which you no longer need.
At the same time, there are some items that may have taken up residence in your garage that should really move to other spots in your home, like paint cans, pet food, propane tanks, or paper goods. Take some time to move and safely store these items in the appropriate areas around your property.
Finally, turn your attention to the items that you’re going to keep, and start sorting. Depending on how you want to use your garage moving forward, you might organize by category, such as “lawn and gardening tools,” “sports gear,” or “patio decor.” You could also sort by size — bulky items, mid-size items, small items, and so on. Once you’ve sorted your remaining inventory into categories, you can make decisions about how to optimize your space. One effective idea may be to…
Divide Your Space Into Zones
Think about how you use your garage, and then divide the space accordingly, so the things you need are always easy to access.
For instance, you could store all of your adventure gear and sporting equipment in one area, and all of your tools in another. This way, your items aren’t getting mixed in with one another, making it tough to find what you need when you need it.
You could also designate areas in the garage for different family members; this way, everyone can focus on storing their items in their select space. You might also organize the room based on how often you use each item, keeping your most commonly employed things near the front for easy access, and shifting your least-used items to the back. Or you could sort items by size, storing your bulkiest items in one area, and relegating your smaller, loose items to designated storage bins, shelves, or containers.
Taking some time to divide the garage this way could free up a significant amount of floor space, making it easier to then designate areas to put to use around your garage. With all of your stuff relegated to a few select storage areas, you may finally be able to add a workstation, roll out a yoga mat, set up a makeshift home gym, or even park your car. Another way to finally put your garage’s square footage to use may be to…
One way to free up more garage space may be to go, well… up!
Keeping your garage’s floor as clean and clear as possible can help make the whole room feel more open and functional — making it more appealing if you’re staging the home for buyers, and more inviting if you’re looking for new ways to use your current space.
Make use of your garage’s walls and ceiling for storage. Pegboards are a classic option for storing light hand tools and sporting equipment, as are slotted wall panels,which can be used to elevate tools or hang hooks and shelving. You could also add standing shelves around the edges of your garage, or mount a modular, track-based shelving system directly to the wall. Finally, if your space allows it, you might even try using your ceiling for storage. Overhead shelving and storage racks can be a great fit for hanging away the bulky items you don’t use often, like canoes, skis, or storage bins of clothing or winter gear.
Among your vertical storage, you can still add some organizational finesse. For example, use the most accessible shelves for items that you’re going to take down the most regularly, and keep less commonly used items on higher shelves or bottom rungs. Similarly, you can keep your wall and ceiling storage sorted by category, hanging hand tools in one section, yard equipment in another, and so on.
Want to Talk With Chicagoland’s Real Estate Experts?
Want to talk over your Chicagoland garage ideas with a local expert? Curious about what goes into getting your home ready to sell, from cleaning out the garage to reaching the right audience of buyers? We get you.
There’s an art and science to selling your home. As the largest independent and locally owned real estate brokerage in Chicagoland, the Baird & Warner family has earned success by putting our clients’ needs first, and always making it easier to navigate the selling process, at every step of the way.
Your Baird & Warner real estate agent is your selling expert and trusted advisor, and can take the responsibility off your plate, managing all the people and moving parts to make sure you get the results you want. With mortgage and title services in-house, our full-service approach can transform an intricate, complex process into one that is smarter and more seamless, so your sale goes as smoothly as possible.