What Not to Store in Your Garage

Garages can't hold everything. Here's a list of items you should store elsewhere.

By: Kim Hildenbrand

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Decluttering Your Garage

The garage is a great storage spot, but don’t let the space become a cluttered catchall. Organizing and cleaning expert Donna Smallin Kuper recommends taking stock of belongings and donating what isn’t needed. “Most of the stuff people store in the garage is stuff they decided they no longer want in their everyday living space,” she says. “So they get it out of their house — out of sight, out of mind — and there it sits.”

While you’re editing your belongings, keep in mind three rules of thumb for appropriate garage storage: Don’t store items that could be damaged by extreme or fluctuating temperatures, belongings that could be ruined by moisture and humidity, or hazardous materials that could damage your home. Click through our list of other items you should keep out of the garage.

Food

Shopping at bulk stores can be cost-effective, but the garage is not an ideal place to stash your staples. Food can invite rodents and other pests. Plus, exposure to heat and humidity can cause your groceries to spoil. An unused closet or cupboard in the house is a better choice.

Wine

Fluctuating temperatures can cause wine to expand and contract, which leads to oxidation. A better bet is a wine cabinet or wine refrigerator inside the house.

Daily Used Items

Lisa Mark, certified professional organizer at The Time Butler in Los Altos, Calif., notes that the garage is best for infrequently used belongings. “Items accessed all the time should be stored in the spaces in which they are used,” she says, “and overflow items like paper towels can be stored on shelves in the garage and moved into the home as existing items are used up.”

Cardboard

Don’t store your belongings in cardboard boxes. “The contents will be vulnerable to insects and pests that can damage them,” Kuper explains. “Spiders look at cardboard boxes and say, ‘Wow! What a great new home!’” Instead, choose waterproof, pest-proof plastic bins.

Paintings

Temperature and humidity changes can make paint flake and crack and cause the canvas to expand and contract. For long-term storage, stow artwork in a painting rack in the house, away from heaters or fireplaces.

Photographs

Moisture and extreme temperatures can cause cherished photos to stick together and even grow mold. A closet inside your house (not in the basement) is a better choice.

Important Documents

Passports, birth and marriage certificates, and other difficult-to-replace papers can be damaged by moisture. Store these in a fireproof box in a home office or bedroom.

Delicate Clothing

A wedding dress, a graduation gown and baby’s first outfit can all be ruined by heat, humidity, and cold. Place cherished clothing in an acid-free box in a chest or closet in the house.

Propane Tanks

Due to the danger of ignition, propane tanks should be stored outside the garage. Set cylinders on a flat surface outdoors, away from your house.

Paint

Extreme temperatures can ruin leftover paint. Place cans indoors, out of children’s reach, in a basement or closet.

Hazardous Materials

“When possible, refrain from storing toxic materials in the garage,” Mark advises. She recommends disposal via available county hazmat programs.

Wooden Furniture

Expansion and contraction caused by fluctuating garage temperatures can damage wooden furniture. Keep it in good condition in the house or in a climate-controlled storage unit.