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Get a Grip on Sports Gear

sports equipment

As a mom of four sons, I used to find myself constantly tripping over balls, bats, helmets, and various other sports equipment the boys would leave lying around. Sometimes it was downright dangerous -- ever taken a "ride" on a misplaced tennis ball? Other times, it was annoying -- like when the straps from a knee pad, an elbow pad, and a wrist guard became hopelessly Velcro-ed and twisted together. And, once in a while, it was just plain gross -- like when my toddler decided to use his brother's athletic cup as a face mask.

I've learned that though it takes a little extra planning to keep all that stuff off the ground and garage floor, it's totally worth it in the end. These tips can help you keep your garage and basement looking presentable -- and save you annoyance and the "Ew!" factor in the future.

  • Buy an over-the-door rack specially created for sports equipment at your local home improvement or department store. You can fit a surprising number of balls, bats, clubs, helmets, and other items on the shelves and hooks they provide.

  • Use mesh bags to store balls of all sizes. They stretch to accommodate more balls -- and don't take up extra space when holding just a few. "You can also carry them with you to the field and then hang them up on a hook when you're back home," suggests Debbie Williams, author of "Organized Kidz," and founder of www.organizedtimes.com. You can find mesh bags at your local camping or sporting goods store. Don't want to make a special trip to the store? Try sorting each type of ball into a duffel bag, empty trash can, or wire basket. If you can't see what's inside, be sure to label the ball container and put it where the kids can easily get the balls out -- and put them away.

  • Wall-mounted racks meant to hold mops, brooms, and other long-handled cleaning tools work great for keeping racquets, sticks, poles, and bats up off the floor.

  • Peg it up. The pegboard didn't become Dad's toolshed standard for nothing: it's incredibly versatile and can hold anything from skateboards to shin guards.

  • Stack golf clubs, hockey sticks, baseball bats, and anything with a long handle in a clean garbage can. Or, suggests Williams, turn a barstool upside down and use the legs as a "cage" for bats, clubs, poles, and racquets. This is an especially good option because it's compact and you can see what's there at a glance, says Williams.

  • Use sturdy hooks in the garage, mudroom, or your child's room to hold helmets, gloves, mitts, and other smaller items.

  • Keep a close eye on your kids to see what they're playing with at any given time, advises Mary Pankiewicz, professional organizer and author of "Clutter-Free & Organized." From time to time, separate their equipment into groups: things they've outgrown, things they're using right now, and things that they either haven't grown into yet or won't use until another season. Give away or sell the equipment they've outgrown, and put the things they'll use next year in a closet or your basement or attic (be sure to label it well). While you're at it, be sure to fix or get rid of any broken equipment. There's just no point keeping that flat basketball around if it won't hold air.
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