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The Philosophy Of Storage 
And Stuff

By , Editor


When I see open garage doors it never ceases to amaze me how many people just dump their stuff on the floor and leave the walls bare. In a lot of garages there isn't room to park a car, yet the space above waist height is almost empty. That is a waste of resources.

First: Use the Volume of the available space, not just the area. 

Second: Prioritize. Some things aren't used very often. Some items are used all the time. Essential tools and materials should be within close and easy reach of the main work areas. Stuff that isn't used very often should be relegated to second-class or third-class status and stored farther away from the primary work areas. You wouldn't store your everyday silverware in the attic and place your Christmas lights in a main drawer in the kitchen, would you?

It's a good idea to use attic space for low-priority things (items that aren't used often, seasonal things, etc). Lots of garages have space overhead that is poorly utilized. Roofs framed with trusses make it difficult or impossible to conveniently move around in the attic space, but that overhead space can still be put to work. I recently installed folding attic access ladders in two separate garage projects. They work pretty slick, and at a cost of around $80 they are cost-effective solution.

Third: Be Reasonable. Avoid spending too much time and money storing things of little value. It doesn't make sense to spend $200 on storage for things that might be worth $20. Get rid of the junk. I tend to go in phases of wanting to keep things and wanting to clean house. I see value in almost everything  including broken, worn-out and discarded stuff. That is one benefit, and one downside, of handymanlyness... everything is useful so nothing gets thrown away.


Squeezing The Most Stuff Into Your Limited
Shop Or Garage Space:

A couple of concepts come to mind:

1. Fjords. No not Fords, fjords, the Norwegian word for narrow, deep bays in the coastline.

If you measured the length of the coastline in Norway, Alaska or British Columbia, the total mileage would be much greater than the overall distance along the coast, because the shoreline is folded and convoluted. With shop layout it's often the amount of wall area that provides the real benefit, rather than the total volume of the shop. Walls can hold shelves or hooks, and you can hang tools on the wall. If you run out of wall space (and I've done that) then you also run out of places to store things.

The fjord concept means that you arrange storage to create deep "bays" whereby the amount of shelf "frontage" can be much more than the overall length of the walls. 

The usual approach is to place a shelf unit with the long dimension parallel to the wall. 

My approach is to make the long dimension perpendicular to the wall, such as in this example from a friend's basement. This is just one technique to convert the volume of the shop into something more usable.

Shelf units arranged like "fingers" to maximize use of room space.

However, in a garage it's important that the shelf unit not interfere with vehicle storage.


The approach taken by most people is to arrange the shelf units along the wall, such as in this example.


Spacing the shelf units apart creates a small slot that can be useful for storing large flat items like stepladders and pieces of wood.


As I've done in this example from my own basement.


Back-to-back shelf units create more usable storage.

Recently I've been putting steel shelf units back-to-back, perpendicular to the wall, and leaving a small access area to reach the sides of the shelf units. In a garage this can only be done if there is a wide enough strip between the walls and the space where the car is parked.


2. The Fishing Vest. Fishermen, and soldiers in combat, wear some interesting garments to store a lot of stuff. A fisherman's vest is just a vest with pockets everywhere. The idea is to cover your body with small items instead of carrying a big tackle box. Could you imagine soldiers doing urban combat and having to lug around a duffle bag, knapsack or other piece of luggage. It would be stupid. They keep much of their ammunition and equipment close by, but distributed around their torso and upper leg areas. 

What does this have to do with garages and storage you ask?  A lot.

Consider your garage to be like a fishing vest, inside out. Consider your car to be the body that fits inside the vest. The idea is to use more than just the available wall and ceiling surfaces for storage. The idea is to determine how much volume the car needs, plus the volume people need to access the items in the garage, and then turn all the remaining volume into usable storage space. In the end there is just enough room to access the car and the stuff.

Many camping trailers (except the pop-up kind) make good use of the volume because they place cabinets all over the place, especially up near the ceiling.

Consider these concepts when you need to make the most of your limited garage space.



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November 7, 2002