Many space-hungry families in the Bay Area are spreading out into the garage for extra room for craft projects, game areas, and laundry while still storing hazardous materials like chemicals, tools, poorly secured heavy equipment and boxes of stuff. Learn how getting it organized now can keep your entire family safe.
August is a great time to tackle organizing the garage for a few main reasons:
- The weather is good
- Many of the things we store in the garage are out on the patio or being used to enjoy the summer with.
- The weather is great for hauling everything out into the yard or driveway to assemble and secure new storage systems.
While many garages are repositories of generations of clutter, they also hold significant dangers to your family. Does your garage contain any of these 10 hazards? Get rid of them or get them properly secured in safe storage systems before somebody gets hurt.
Hazard #1 – Chemicals or Hazardous Fluids
These are often stored within easy reach in the garage. Bad idea. Move them to a locked cabinet or a into a shelf out of the reach of children to protect against accidental burns or ingestion. Certain cleaning products when combined can create a toxic reaction. Bleach and vinegar or bleach and ammonia create lethal reactions, but there are many other dangerous burns or fumes that can happen when solutions combine. A comprehensive list of Incompatible chemical mixtures can be found at www.chemistry.about.com. Make sure all liquids stay in original packaging and are stored safely. Carefully pack up and transport unwanted chemicals, paints and hazardous materials to your local Hazardous Waste Disposal Site for free disposal.
Hazard #2 – Electrical Hazards
These abound in the modern garage, from improper use of extension cords to faulty or out-dated wiring. Hiring a trained home inspector to review the wiring that is out of sight (in crawl spaces and in the attic) as well as the circuit panel for code problems is an important way to ensure the safety of your family. Just think about how many more electrical devices are plugged in to an area that once held mostly the family car! (Is that a plasma TV I see in there?)
Never use cords that appear frayed or burned; do not use extension cords (meant for temporary power) as permanent wiring to power equipment and do not use indoor extension cords improperly in outdoor conditions. Remove and replace cords nailed or stapled into the wall. Eliminate the potential for electrocution by keeping powered items out of flood-prone areas.
Hazard #3 – Fire.
Lots of us have fire extinguishers right by the door in the garage; so why is it that the third leading cause of home injury deaths are fire related? Prevent fires by keeping as many flammable fluids and items out of the garage as you can. Do not store gasoline in the garage if you can find anyplace else to keep it safely, like a shed. If you must, keep it tightly sealed and far away from an appliance with a pilot light. Fertilizers and turpentine are highly flammable too, so tighten the lids and try not to keep too much extra on hand. Also, reread the electrical paragraph above.
Hazard #4 – Falling Objects
These are a leading cause of death or serious injury in the garage. Secure tall cabinets to the wall and store heavier items near the ground with lighter objects up high. Do not stack boxes or items as children enjoy climbing stacks, and make sure ladders are securely stored horizontally, not vertically, to prevent accidental climbing and falling.
Hazard #5 – Ladders
A friend of mine fondly refers to the wooden ladder he inherited from his father as an original from “The Rickety Ladder Factory” and whenever he uses it, there must always be a spotter to prevent him from crashing to the ground. A better use of the ladder would be to repurpose it into a hanging structure from the rafters of the garage or a vertical bookshelf (see pinterest for ideas!). Follow all guidelines when using a ladder, make sure it is securely situated on level ground, and never stand on the top rung. Period.
Hazard #6 – Lighting
Lighting is often insufficient which is baffling given the importance of being able to see the position of your fingers as they relate to the plank of wood sliding effortlessly through the table saw. Fluorescent lighting is inexpensive and efficient; task lighting can be combined with a magnifying glass to aid in tasks that require precision. If you can see it, you are less likely to trip over it or hurt yourself with it.
Hazard #7 – Sharp Objects.
Who needs to run with scissors when they can go into the garage and potentially stick their hand in a drawer with box cutters and razors, brush up against sharp garden tools facing out from the wall or bump their shins on sharp tools poking out of open tool kits on the floor. Imagine you are a big rubber balloon and wander around in your garage. Feel safe yet?
Hazard #8 – Lack of First Aid Information/Kit.
I recently did a stupid thing in the kitchen by filling a glass jar with scalding hot bacon grease. It tipped and scalded my forearm. Not knowing what to do, two people in my home grabbed their cell phones to search the internet for remedies while I debated whether it would be safe to run it under cold water or better to throw baking soda on it! Cool running water was the answer but I was in agony as we waited for pages to load. Get a top notch first aid kit and a laminated first aid guide and put it in plain sight in your garage.
Hazard # 9 – Electric Garage Doors
Injuries from garage doors are numerous and grim. Google it. The descending doors crush children and pets, hit people on the head or amputate limbs so often it is a top danger in the garage. Have a Garage Door expert inspect and do any minor repairs to your garage door, the opener, and the floor sensors.
Hazard # 10 – Floor slipping, tripping, sliding
This is a big problem rain or shine. What are the odds that you will have your arms full of stuff when you trip over that box you were too busy to properly store? If you have that smooth shiny concrete, consider applying a paint that has a texture to it to make slips less likely.
If all this seems overwhelming, consider hiring a professional residential organizer to help you tackle the dangers and excess in your garage so that one day, you could even, maybe park a car in there.
Sarah Gant is the owner of www.editorganizing.com, and is a member of NAPO and the Marin Builders Association. As a Professional Organizer, she is fast, thorough, and sharp as a tack.