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Tips for how to organize a garage

How to Organize a Garage that You Actually Use

We’ve all seen pictures of spotless garages, with painted floors and fancy organizing systems.  The walls are snow white, the lighting is amazing.  Thing is, there’s hardly ever anything in these”dream” garages.  Where’s all the stuff that real people use?

For the rest of us, we know the floor is going to get oil spots on it.  The walls are going to have dirt marks from garden tools.  We just want to be able to find a hammer and nail when there is a picture to hang.  Or have a place to store bicycles so we don’t trip over them every time we walk past.  And maybe even have room for the car.

Organized garage
A garage organized for real life, and still has room for the car

Garage Organizing Tips for Real Life

If you want to be able to actually use your space, try these seven tips for how to organize a garage.

1.  Set aside enough time to get organized

If your garage is a complete mess, you may not know where to start.  If that’s the case, plan to se aside a weekend to tackle the project.  Enlist the help of your family, or a supportive friend.

Get yourself in the mindset that this will be what you will spend your time doing for the chosen weekend.  Make a point not to let yourself get distracted, or discouraged.  You’ll get through it, and feel great when it’s done.

2.  Work in sections

If you try to tackle the whole space at once, you’ll feel overwhelmed.  Just choose one area to start.  Once you’ve got that cleared out and reorganized, you can start on another area.

For example, you might pick a corner where you’d like to have a work bench.  Clear that space out, and set up your work area.  When that’s finished, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment that will help to keep you motivated to do more.

3.  Clear out the space

Before you can organize a section, you will need to clear it out.  Start by moving everything out of the area.  It’s most convenient if you can move things outside to the driveway or yard to get it out of the way.

Organizing garden tools
Move items out of the garage to make space to work

This is another reason why it’s a good idea to work in sections.  If you pull everything out of the garage at once, you may not be able to get it all put away again that same day.  You probably don’t want to leave things outside overnight.  When you work in sections, you have built-in convenient stopping points.

4.  Sort as you go

As you’re moving things into the driveway and yard, start sorting them into categories.  Put all the garden tools in one spot, bikes and toys in another.  All the power tools go in that corner of the yard, while items to donate go in the other.  Trash goes straight into the garbage can, which you have handy.

Be sure to make a donate/sell pile.  Surely you don’t need everything that’s currently in your garage.  When you’re done clearing out the space, have a garage sale, sell items on eBay, or just drop them off at a donation center.  (If you have trouble letting go of things, check out Clutter and Emotions – Learning to Let Go.)

Garage clean out
Make more room in your garage by getting rid of unused items. Have a sale, or donate to charity.

5.  Establish zones

Now that you have your first space cleared out, what do you want to use it for?  Do you want a work bench?  Would that be a good spot for some shelves?  Or would it be most convenient to have the lawn mower and other garden tools right there?

Designating a specific purpose for each section of your garage will help you to stay organized, and to find things again in the future.

6.  Use different types of storage

Many messy garages are messy simply because there isn’t enough storage.  Everything ends up in a pile.  You’ll need to implement some storage methods, but they don’t have to be fancy or expensive.

I use lots of different types of storage at home.  Below are pictures from my own garage.  (I’m a little nervous to share them.)

It doesn’t look like a magazine, but it’s really practical, and well organized.  These are economical solutions, too.  This is organizing for real life.

Shelving

Shelves along one wall are handy for storing flower pots, hand tools, Christmas decorations, and more.  Potentially hazardous items go on the top shelf, out of the way of little hands.

These budget friendly heavy-duty plastic shelves were purchased from the local home store.

Garage shelves
Shelves are great for multi-purpose storage.

Tubs & Bins

More Christmas decorations, and seasonal outdoor items go into big plastic tubs.  This keeps items contained, and clean.  These are always on sale after holidays, and you may also find them in thrift stores.

You can also repurpose small bins meant for storing children’s toys.  These are perfect for small items.  Whatever doesn’t have a home somewhere else goes in a bin.

Peg board

Peg board and the pegs are really inexpensive to buy, and very easy to hang.  Though it takes some initial effort to plan the layout and put everything in place, it’s worth the effort.  Everything is easy to find, and easy to put away again.

Organizing tools with peg board
Peg board is a very inexpensive way to keep tools handy and organized.

Drawers

For tools that can’t easily be stored on peg board, drawers are a good option.  Mine hold a socket set, a collection of clamps, and some small power tools.  Drawers are also great for collections of small items.

Tool organizing tips
Drawers work well for storing small items and collections, as well as some power tools.

Old cabinets

Save your cabinets from your kitchen remodel, and put them in your garage.  Instant storage and great work space.  You can make a really handy work table from a kitchen cupboard, and a scrap piece of countertop.

If you’re not planning a kitchen remodel, you can also get old cabinets at really reasonable prices from salvage shops.  Try your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

Garage workbench
A work table and storage made from an old cabinet and scrap countertop.

Hooks, hooks, hooks

You can never have enough hooks in the garage.  Use them in the ceiling to hang bicycles out of the way.  I have a hook to hold my ladder, and hooks to store outdoor furniture when it’s out of season.

Hooks for storing a bike
Hooks in the ceiling keep bikes off the floor and out of the way.

You can also use hooks for storing garden tools. This is a super budget-friendly option. I bought inexpensive U-hooks, and screwed them into a scrap piece of lumber. I then screwed the lumber into a couple studs.

It’s the perfect way to keep the garden tools from falling all over the place. Nails make handy hooks for pruning sheers and hand saws. Everything garden related is in one place.

Garden tool storage
Hooks screwed into scrap lumber attached to the wall are perfect for storing garden tools.

7.  Maintain order

Once you’ve worked so hard to organize your space, you’ll want to keep it that way.  Make it a habit to put things back where they belong when you’re done using them.  Teach your family to do the same.  If you bring something new into the space, create a designated place for it.

This can be hard when you get busy and don’t feel like you have time to put things away.  But take the few extra seconds to do it now, and you won’t have to spend another whole weekend doing it later.

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