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Dear Kathi,

I have a three-bedroom home with a two-car garage. I recently took on a new roommate who agreed to bring in only a TV and his clothes. He would put the rest of his possessions into storage because the room he rents is completely furnished. This is the problem: he has moved many of his belongings into my garage. I don’t want to be difficult and would like to try to accommodate his items. Right now, however, he is blocking my gaming area where I have several pinball machines. What can I do to optimize my space more efficiently and fit more storage into this space?

James, San Diego


I appreciate your wishing to accommodate a roommate who has overstepped his agreement. Putting one’s things in storage usually means one’s own storage, not someone else’s! In most difficult situations there is a middle ground. In this case it sounds like your roommate has gone over your invisible (to him) boundary line. You might negotiate him storing some of his things in your garage, perhaps only to the extent that he not impinge on your gaming space, or whichever limits you choose to impose. That way you could create a win-win situation: helping him out while still retaining the essential garage space you need for yourself.

It is hard to give specific organizing advice without seeing exactly what is in your garage. The standard organizing process would be to take inventory of the all the loose items and the larger immovable items, like your pinball machines, washing machine, etc.

I’m not sure if you have a laundry section within your garage or if you park your car there. Let’s assume you do laundry, play pinball and keep storage items in your garage, without trying to accommodate an automobile. If this is the case, you basically have three zones within this space. Knowing this, you will want to group all items related to each activity within their appropriate zone.

Storage items, like your new roommate’s boxes are best stored floor to ceiling on shelving units against a long sidewall. One swift way to reduce the clutter of storage items is to buy large plastic bins. Fill these bins, label and stack them together. Rectangular bins save space and fit nicely onto shelves. If you decide to allow your roommate to keep his items in the garage, you can at least insist that he repack his belongings into plastic bins. They save space and are the best way to protect against water and dust damage.

Consider hanging cupboards above the washer and dryer to hold extra cleaning supplies. If you have room, a small roller unit that fits between or on one side of the washer and dryer can hold the laundry soap, spot remover, bleach, dryer sheets, etc. If you use an ironing board, consider buying a unit that installs into the wall or one that hangs directly from the wall and tucks away when not in use. This will optimize floor space.

One of my favorite laundry tools to save space and time is the professional grade clothes steamer. I haven’t used an iron since I received my steamer as a gift over ten years ago! This unit, which requires only one foot of floor space, steams wrinkles out of clothes more quickly than any iron. If you are not familiar with this handy tool, you can find it online by searching ‘garment steamer’ or ‘clothes steamer.’ A wonderful space and time saving device! Make sure to buy the floor model on wheels for the most effortless steaming.

If this column hasn’t completely addressed your dilemma, please email me with more specifics about your garage predicament and I will do my best to advise.
Thanks for writing and don’t hesitate to write with any other specific questions.

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San Diego Professional Organizer