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The bigger-is-better garage movement, coinciding with a growing desire for more space in the home indicates home owners aren't just parking vehicles in their garages.

Nationwide, nearly two-thirds of all new homes have two-car garages while 19 percent have three-car garages, leaving only about 15 percent with one-car garages or none at all, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

The West and Midwest are the nation's three-car garage leaders, according to U.S. Census research. In 1992, when the bureau first started nosing around garages, only 16 percent of new Midwest homes were equipped with three-car or larger garages. Last year, the number was up to 32 percent. In the West, the larger garages were built into 20 percent of the new homes in 1992. By 2004, 31 percent of new homes in the West had three-car garages.

In the South, the percentage of homes with big car garages is currently only 9 percent. It's only 7 percent and in the Northeast -- both regions have more basements per capita than the West and Midwest so the extra yen for garages in those regions makes sense.

The growth in demand for larger garages coincides with NAHB's consumer preferences findings -- home buyers after more space, not necessarily the traditional larger, more-house kind of space, but better defined, more usable, specialized spaces.

Take, the garage.

Please.

The problem with garage space is that its yawning, gaping emptiness calls out to home owners looking for somewhere to toss stuff in order to keep the rest of the home neat and up-to-date. Motivation to organize the home's clutter catch-all -- the garage -- just gets tossed into the heap.

"It's (organizing) more a goal than a reality. You have to have discipline," said Dena Mentis, new home expert from Novato, CA and co-author of the "Homebuyer's Kit" (Dearborn Trade, $15.95).

Indeed.

Drive down any suburban street in America on a warm summer day and, well, it ain't pretty. Most "yard" sales are actually "garage" sales designed to air out the home's storage facility.

Pricey status vehicles are left on display -- at the mercy of ultra violet radiation, snow, sleet, wind and hail -- while the junk is nestled snug in the garage.

It's no wonder garage remodeling and organizing will be an estimated $2.5 billion business this year, according to the NAHB.

"At first it might seem like you're fighting a losing battle, trying to get your garage organized, but by following some simple suggestions and using some of today's best storage tools, you can transform your garage from a disorganized storage shed into a fully functioning room in a matter of days," says the guy who wrote the book on garage-guilt, Bill West, author of "Your Garagenous Zone: The Complete Garage Organizer Guide".

It's either that or small animals will turn your heap into a network of nests.

So, click on the garage door opener and get ready to turn your no-parking zone into a household-friendly storage facility.

Let go. Sort through the rubble, toss what you haven't used in six months and can't sell. Chances are you'll never use it again. Donate useful times to a charity. Hold a garage sale. Price it to move. You don't need a profit. You need space.

That's about it. Sweep up, drive in the family car and set the brake.

Right.

Organize it. Divide what's left items into categories -- toys, tools, tires, bottles, books, baby items -- to help you visualize and plan the space you'll need for each category.

Zone out. Divide the garage into designated zones for categories of items to make sure there is enough room for the stuff you are still hoarding. At this point you'll discover, if you ever want to fit your car back into the garage (or even a cat for that matter), you've got more stuff to lose.

Be decisive. Instead of a hodgepodge, willy-nilly system of bins and baskets and shelves and racks that don't mesh, consider one sane, organized, built-in or matching storage system that will keep you from waking up to the same nightmare again. This should be a once-and-for-all proposition and it might require professional help.

If you insist on creating your own system (again, remember, your last one didn't work out so well), consider these techniques to build in some semblance of order.

  • Shelving. The end-all, be-all storage device, has several uses in the de-cluttering process. First, shelves give you space to temporarily place stuff out of the way, while you chase out the small animals and clean up behind them. Later, use the shelves in the sorting and organizing process. Ultimately they are part of your storage system, if the weight of all the boxes and cases and bins don't rip them from the studs.
  • Bins. They go on the shelves. Toss into transparent to translucent, stackable bins stuff you won't need on a daily basis (or probably in your lifetime) so you can watch it not collect dust. Label the bins so you (and archeologists) can find all the stuff you won't use, don't need, but can't, for some deep-seated reason, part with.
  • Racks. You can purchase racks that hang dozens of tools from weed whackers to hedge trimmers, leaf blowers to Christmas light extension cords. Wheeled racks are easy to move about.
  • Air space. Space above where your car used to park can be outfitted with systems for hoisting bikes, surfboards, kites, fishing gear and other stuff. Likewise, use space high on the walls to hang, rig, hook or otherwise store.
  • Your last chance. If you've been here, done this before, who are you kidding? Hire a pro. An expert organizer can recommend storage systems, products and useful approaches. They can also design and build a personalized layout that will be the envy of your cul-de-sac.
  • Remember. There's always an out. Real self-storage facilities abound. You can dump your stuff, visit it whenever you please and give your car the garage-respect it deserves.
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