Step 3: Store Smart
Walsh believes that nothing should be kept on the garage floor (this allows for easy sweeping and prevents the slow creep of stuff across the space). Instead, he recommends creating vertical storage organized by one simple rule: The less often a category of stuff is used, the higher up it goes. Luckily, the Johnsons already have a wooden mezzanine built into the rafters of their garage, which is perfect for childhood toys and other items that will go into deep storage, as well as the newly packed plastic bins holding Jeremy's stuff and Tony's old patient files. Walsh orders that anything currently stored in cardboard boxes (a favorite nesting material for rodents) also be transferred to plastic. The bins are then grouped together—a different color for each category—and marked with a labelmaker. Finally, they are organized on the mezzanine level with their labels conveniently visible.

Meanwhile, Walsh is busy converting the walls of various zones into vertical storage. He hammers in nails to hold saws and shears, hangs a rack for rakes and brooms, and erects heavy-duty plastic shelving to store small plastic bins filled with frequently used items like gardening gloves and spades. Suddenly Kay, who is organizing containers of tape and lightbulbs on the shelf beneath the tool bench, finds a tail sticking out of a hole in the wall. With Walshian efficiency, she yanks out the attached dead rat and tosses it into the Dumpster.

Four hours after Walsh's arrival on the scene, the formerly chaotic space has been transformed into a tidy minimalist's paradise that will actually—Allison can't get over this—fit two parked cars. What's more, the garage doors will close behind them, discouraging future rodents from seeking shelter inside. "It hasn't looked like this in 30 years," Kay says quietly, surveying the cleared expanse of concrete, one whole phase of her life swept away to make room for the next.

"It's so clean," Allison marvels. "Quick, Mom, get some of your stuff and mess it up!"

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