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NO PARKING ZONE? LET THE PROS SHOW YOU HOW TO ORGANIZE YOUR MESSY GARAGE.

Byline: Christina Uss Correspondent

You're in good company if you've resolved to tidy up a cluttered or dysfunctional garage this year.

According to research by the National Association of Home Builders, American homeowners are predicted to spend $2.5 billion in the coming year for garage remodeling projects.

``The garage is the last bastion of the hunter-gatherer,'' says Jonathan Marder, owner of Woodland Hills-based Garage Specialists, who has organized about 500 garages in Southern California during the past four years alone. ``How many items do you have tucked away that you either don't know what they are, who gave them to you, or can't remember why you bother to keep them?''

Garages are one of the few spaces in the home that can be ignored for years - even decades. Marder has been in spaces that haven't seen a human face for 30 or 40 years, mazelike warrens filled with trash and treasures. Fortunately he finds that the bigger the mess, the bigger the cleanup's reward.

``It's the ultimate feel-good business. Everyone's socks get knocked off. One garage we finished recently, the owner gave my favorite exclamation, 'I have a sexy garage!' ''

The cost of a professional garage organization varies depending on the size of the job, the number of workers needed and the price of storage products purchased through the organizer. All organizers interviewed for this story provide free estimates.

Marder says most of his garage-organizing jobs can be completed in one day, with average costs ranging from $1,000 to $1,200 - including the price of a few storage products. Most organizers will offer a free estimate before starting a job and may charge by the day up to $3,500 for a truly chaotic garage, or by the hour - down to $45-$150 - for smaller jobs requiring fewer people.

Irresponsible storage is the main clutter-causing problem, according to Dorothy Breininger of the Center for Organization and Goal Planning in Canoga Park.

``The garage has become the new in-home storage unit. Why go to a storage facility when you have one at home? And once we start storing things, it's hard to know when to stop.''

Breininger also asserts that garages serve too many purposes.

``We've not decided how we really want to use the space in the garage. Are we parking cars? Keeping our dogs in there? Preparing for a garage sale? Letting the kids use it as a drum studio for practice? Using it as a workstation for carpentry or crafts?''

The garage-clutter problem affects people from all walks of life. When Marder began his business, he expected to be helping elderly couples clean out garages filled with a lifetime's worth of accumulated possessions. Instead, his clients are baby boomers and Gen-Xers - fairly affluent families with simply too much stuff and not enough space.

``It's just an area of our lives where we all put stuff we never get around to.''

Knowing how to get started on the garage is frequently the chief obstacle facing well-intentioned homeowners.

``It's physically and emotionally difficult,'' says Marder. ``We open a box, and we become a time traveler. Every box is a time capsule.''

To combat the tendency to get lost in memories and lose the organizing focus, it's important that homeowners involve outside help, whether it is a group of friends or a professional team.

Breininger and Marder concur that the first step your team should take is getting everything out of the garage. In the light of day, things that seem impossible to part with are suddenly easier to handle.

Once all the clutter is out of the space, divide it up into distinct zones: items to keep, items to throw away and items to donate. While simply discarding unnecessary items is the quickest way to clean, Marder points out that sometimes simply taking items out, cleaning them off, and putting them back in a neat and orderly way is a great help.

``I tell clients, even if we just take it all out and put it back in, they'll have a 30- to 40-percent space increase. We had one client with a tremendously cluttered garage who could only bear to part with one thing - a pair of suspenders. But when we were done putting it all back, she could finally park her car in the garage.''

A wide array of garage-organizing products is available to make the job even easier. Both Breininger and Robin Valdez of Expert Organizers in Reseda recommend the Garage Tek storage and organization system, which incorporates a thermoplastic product used to arrange merchandise for retail store displays. Components and accessories are customized for each garage. Valdez considers their products very durable and well-suited to the industrial space of a garage.

``It's big, rugged, manly stuff.''

Organizing pros also emphasize the need for clear plastic containers rather than cardboard boxes.

``If it's in cardboard, forget about it,'' Valdez warns, ``You'll never remember what's in there. If it's clear, you can immediately get an idea what items are where.''

Once you've made that New Year's resolution to organize your garage, find the motivation to follow through.

Breininger recounts: ``I had a client whose wife, kids and friends had coaxed him to tackle the garage, but to no success. To find out why he couldn't face getting the garage organized, I shared, 'There doesn't seem to be any motivation for you to do so.' He said, `I'll call you back.'

``A week later, I heard from him. He'd purchased a beautiful red Corvette and needed a place to park it. He hired us, we organized. The two-car garage looked spectacular, with tools and gardening and sports stuff on one side, and the shiny red car on the other. Remember, it's not the resolution that you make, it's the motivation behind it that moves us to success!''

Things to do

INVOLVE OTHERS: Consider hiring a professional organizer to help. If you plan to do it yourself, gather a crew to help, and allot one day for the entire process.

BE READY: Have a furniture dolly on hand to move heavier items, and a pickup or a rental truck to take items to a local charity. Decide in advance if you need a storage unit or shelving units or racking systems. Have fresh boxes with handles and lids that stack neatly and a thick marker.

TAKE IT ALL OUT: First, get everything out of the garage onto the lawn or driveway; then decide what to keep, donate or throw away.

ORGANIZE BY ZONE: Put everything back in designated zones, keeping gardening items in one area, sports equipment in another, tools in their own space, and so on.

KEEP IT CLEAN: Once you've organized the space, commit to keeping it that way. Apply the ``one in/one out'' rule. For example, if you buy a new rake, one needs to be removed. Allow yourself a small procrastination zone, where you can dump things for future attention, but when this gets full - clean it.

Things to buy

GarageTek - A patented wall storage system that maximizes usable space in a garage. Durable, glossy wall panels support cabinets, shelving, and other accessories. Average garage makeover costs $5,500 and includes design, materials and installation. Comes with a 10-year warranty. (866) 200-4100 or www.garagetek.com.

Racor PBH-1R Pro Stor Bicycle Hoist Monster - A bicycle hoist that uses a pulley system to easily lift and store bicycles up and out of the way. Available for $29 at REI, 18605 Devonshire St., Northridge; (818) 831-5555 or www.rei.com (item No. 634422).

Rubbermaid's clear plastic storage bins - Come in many sizes, like the 16.5-gallon Hi-Top Clear Storage Box with Lid or 72-quart Bluebird Jumbo Clear Storage Box With Lid. Hi-Top (set of six), $55.99; Bluebird (set of six), $79.99. Available at www.target.com.

Commercial Heavy Duty Shelving - Hirsh Industries 1500 Series Steel Shelving, five shelves, 72 inches high by 48 inches wide by 24 inches deep (item No. 550120). Available for $99.99 at Office Depot stores or www.officedepot.com.

``Your Garagenous Zone: Innovative Ideas for the Garage'' by Bill West (Paragon Garage Co. Ltd.; $21.95). A book full of pointers on how best to get control of a gloomy, cluttered garage and reinvent it as a useful space.

- Compiled by Christina Uss

CAPTION(S):

7 photos, 2 boxes

Photo:

(1 -- cover -- color) GARAGE CLEANUPS

LET THE PROS HELP YOU GET ORGANIZED

(2 -- 4 -- color) When Garage Specialists comes to redo a garage, workers like Mike Estes, left, sort the keeper items from the trash. Above, it's best to empty everything out. Right, the company's owner, Jonathan Marder, tidies up a Calabasas garage.

(5 -- color) Marder recommends clear plastic containers, because it's easy to see what's in them.

(6 -- color) Marder: ``Every box is a time capsule.''

(7 -- color) no caption (Marder stocking up plastic containers)

Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer

Box:

(1) Things to do (see text)

(2) Things to buy (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 22, 2005
Words:1494
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