How to Organize Your Garage

messy garage

Have boxes, bicycles, yard gear and other paraphernalia squeezed your car out of the garage? If so, the time has come to take control. Thoughtful organization can turn an unusable garage into a highly functional storage area, workshop, activity area and — yes — home for your car.

Pull out and sort
The first step is to get serious about deciding what stays and what goes. It’s a waste of time and money to buy cabinets to contain things you don’t need. Remember: Storage space is valuable — don’t waste it.

Sort out the garage on a mild-weather weekend, so you can drag everything out into the driveway. Then divide the stuff into three groups: 1) Things you want to keep; 2) Stuff you can donate or sell; 3) Items to recycle or discard.

The first group will probably be the biggest at first. But be brutal — keep moving things from Group 1 to Groups 2 and 3. This takes discipline. Be realistic about whether you’ll ever use that old lawnmower, baby stroller or broken leaf blower. Remember that keeping all that stuff just makes it harder to find, access and use the items you really do need.

Once you’ve decided what you want to keep and you’ve disbursed the rest, it’s time to consider the best methods for organizing and storing the remaining items.

One of the easiest and least expensive ways to get bulky items off the floor is to employ ceiling- or wall-mounted hooks and holders. Specially designed hang-ups are available for everything from bikes to golf clubs to skateboards.

Beyond hooks and the like, you can also get various types of wood, metal or wire rack systems. Freestanding or wall-hung wire shelving can be used for open storage or to hold bins. And, as many do-it-yourselfers know, pegboard or wire rack systems are a natural for keeping tools handy and in view in a workshop.

Garage storage cabinets
Cabinets with doors are great for getting things out of view and — more importantly — for dramatically multiplying the available square footage of storage in your garage. Doors also help to shelter items from dust and moisture. Metal cabinets are the most durable and maintenance free. Laminated particleboard cabinets have a homier look but are more susceptible to moisture damage.

When shopping, be sure to choose cabinets with shelves that can handle heavy items without bowing or sagging. Pay attention to the dimensions: Some shelves and storage systems are much deeper or taller than others. Deep cabinets hold more, but can make items harder to reach or find. Some sturdy cabinets (and large tools and workbenches) come with locking casters or wheels, making a garage more versatile and easier to clean.

Prices for garage cabinets are all over the map. They can run from as little as $150 to $10,000 or more for a high-quality, multi-unit storage system.

Organize and prioritize
A key goal to organizing is putting things where you can find them later. Store like items together, and avoid containers that conceal what’s inside. Consolidate similar items when possible. Clear plastic bins with tight-fitting lids keep items visible and protected from moisture (though not humidity) and rodents. You can stack them or, for easier access, slide them onto shelves. Keep your most frequently used items at eye level and toward the fronts of shelves, so they’re more accessible.

Remember that everything doesn’t need to go in the garage! Seasonal decorations only need to be accessed a couple of times a year, so store them in the attic or basement if you can. The garage should really be used for storing things that you use more frequently.