Organize the Garage

This article explains how to organize a garage. The main purpose of the garage is to park your vehicles to protect against the elements and theft. Garages can also be used to store tools, yard equipment, gardening needs etc. But more often than not, it becomes a catch all space for all the broken and rejected items. Before you know, there is no place to park your vehicle. Even if you do, you can’t open the vehicle door or have to navigate through “stuff”, most of which are useless and unwanted, to get inside the house. With some manual labor you can organize the garage into a clean, clutter free and fabulous space as the rest your house. A garage is a great place to try out your carpentry skills.

If you haven’t read my article on tips yet, I strongly suggest you read it before you organize the garage. That article will help you get through these tasks a whole lot easier and keep your results once you are done.

Depending on the size of your garage and the number of items you have, it could be a large task to organize the garage. It will take time. Have realistic goals. Split tasks into small chunks, so you can complete them in a reasonable amount of time and make progress. Do what you can in 1 or 2 hour maximum. Set this as your goal. You might be tempted to do the next task but only proceed if you have time left in your 1 or 2 hour time limit. If not, wait for the next day or weekend, otherwise you will be exhausted. Also look at what you have accomplished for inspiration and motivation.

I suggest you pick a nice day to organize the garage, so you can use part of your driveway to work with if needed. Move the car out of the garage so you have additional space to move around. Now, clear out some space within the garage so that you can group items into the five categories mentioned in the article Home Organization Tips (when you begin). Again, tackle small areas so you can finish sorting in an hour or two. You can come back to the rest of the items the next day or next week. Once you are done with sorting your items, you can begin to organize the garage.

Essentials needed to organize a garage are cabinets, shelves, utility hooks, pegboards and peg hooks and storage containers.

Pegboard is an effective and economical tool to organize a garage. It can hold a majority of your tools, sports and small yard equipment in plain sight without taking up any floor space.

Install pegboards from floor to ceiling on the garage wall farthest from the door to your house. You need some gap between the wall and the pegboard to accommodate the peg hooks. Attach 1 by 4's in a grid pattern to the studs (to make it sturdy enough to hold the weight) on the wall first. Then install the pegboards onto the grid. Use peg hooks to store tools (like screw drivers, saws, cord reel etc.), gardening tools (like lopper, hedge sheer, pruning sheer, hand trowel, hand cultivator, garden claw etc.) and small yard equipment (like weed eater, leaf blower, spreader etc.).

Peg hooks can also be used to hang sports equipment like skis, skates etc. Reuse old or torn golf bags to put taller items like hockey sticks, baseball bats, skis, fishing rods etc. and can be hung on the pegboard.

Use a mesh laundry hamper to store larger balls (basketballs, soccer balls, foot balls etc.). There are small mesh bags available at super markets for under $12 to store smaller items like baseballs, tennis balls, golf balls and hockey pucks. You can hang these bags on the pegboard. You can also put these smaller items in boxes and label them before putting them on the shelves mentioned later on in this article.

You can also install wall hooks to store the mesh bags (mentioned above), garden hose etc.

Install a wall mount tool rack onto the studs to hang heavy tools like shovels, rakes and brooms.

Another economical option to organize the garage is to install shelves on the walls. Wall mounted shelves use the vertical space without taking up any floor space. You can buy shelf brackets and plywood or MDF cut to size for the shelves at home improvement stores. If you have scraps of plywood left over from other projects, use mending braces to connect them together to make a shelf. The depth of the shelf must be equal to the depth of the shelf brackets. If the shelfs hang past the brackets, it could pull away from the wall causing drywall damage. Metal L shaped support brackets come in 8, 10, 12, 14 inches etc. and costs under $2 each at home improvement stores. If you are going to put heavier items on the shelves, use heavy duty shelf brackets. Also use shelf brackets every 18 inches to prevent sagging or warping of the shelves. Installing brackets on to the studs will make them sturdier. Your local home improvement store personnel will be able to help you with installation instructions. There are also videos on the internet.

Divide things you want to put on the shelves into categories like lawn and garden, automotive, sports, holiday decorations, camping etc. Designate shelves for each of these categories. Reuse shoe boxes or cardboard shipping boxes to group like items from each category and label them.

Reuse jars (peanut butter, jams, jelly, baby food, coffee) to sort and store different sizes (and types) of screws, nails, nuts and bolts, wall anchors etc. Label them (like for example, 2 inch drywall screws, 1/2 inch wood screws) using a permanent marker. You can either put these jars directly or in boxes, on the shelves. Using boxes will make it easier to reach items in the back without taking all the items in the front since you can take the entire box out.

Always put the items you use regularly on the bottom shelves and rarely used items like holiday decorations, camping equipment etc. on the top shelves.

You can use either wall mount or freestanding cabinets that can be locked to store chemicals, paint etc. for safety reasons. Safety is the most important aspect when you organize the garage, especially if you have children. Mounting cabinets on to the walls will require some expertise. Also if you are in a temporary situation like renting, free standing cabinets will be a better choice. You can get a plastic storage cabinet for under $100 at home improvement stores or even supermarkets. They are water and rust proof and easy to clean.

You may also need free standing shelving unit(s) while you organize the garage to store heavier items like potting soil, lawn fertilizers and ice melt. You can reuse cat box filler buckets, paint buckets etc. for these.

You can store water softener salt and pet supplies like food and cat box filler here, if you don’t have space for them inside the house. Put them on the shelving unit according to weight with heavier ones on the bottom shelf. Do not put more weight than the shelf’s weight limit. Again, keep seasonal items in the front for easy access (for example, in winter, keep ice melt in the front).

You can also use stacking recycling bins to store these items if you don’t have space for a shelving unit. You can also utilize under the stair storage space if available in your garage.

Use square or round mailing tubes or tall containers to hold longer items like moldings, wood pieces and pipes. You can store them in a corner.

If you have an unfinished garage, use the space between the studs to store taller items. You can install hooks to the studs and use bungee cords tied to the hooks to prevent them from falling over. This way it is also easy to take these taller items out when you need them.

You could use the same bungee cord method to group tall items together and keep them in a corner if you don’t have access to mailing tubes or if you have a lot of them.

If you have a work bench install a small pegboard on to the wall above it to store everyday tools that can be hung. Install a shelf above the peg board for tools and items that you cannot hang. Also use the space underneath the table by putting a tool chest or a plastic cart to store small tools, hardware items like nails and screws if you don’t already have built-in bench storage. This will keep your work area organized in such a way that everything you need is easily accessible.

If you are storing a freezer (and also garbage/recycling bins) in the garage, putting them closer to the door to your house will provide easy access.

Store lawn mower and snow blower on the other side of the garage. Keep the seasonal one in the front.

Install ladder hooks onto the studs to hang the ladder without taking any floor space. You can install these hooks on the wall space below the bottom wall shelf. Hang the ladder sideways if the height is limited.

You can store bicycle(s) on the floor, leaning against the wall if you have the space. You can also install bicycle hooks onto the studs to store them. Bicycle racks are available at home improvement stores that can store multiple bicycles but are pricier (upwards of $50). Bicycle lifts are also available at supermarkets for around $30 to hang bicycles from the ceiling but will require expertise to install them.

Important tips when you organize the garage:

  1. Buy storage supplies only when you have an idea of the space available and the amount of items you have.
  2. Park the vehicles inside the garage and measure the space available for freestanding cabinets or shelving units.
  3. Also measure the height of the vehicle’s front so that you know where the wall mounted shelves can begin.
  4. Install the wall mounted shelves tall enough so that you won’t hit your head if you have to walk under them.
  5. Make sure all your tools, ladder etc. are hung securely on the hooks or racks attached to the studs. You don’t want them to fall onto your vehicles and cause damage.
  6. You can reuse shoe boxes or cardboard shipping boxes to group like items together before putting them on the shelves.

After you organize the garage, you will be able to park your vehicle and safely move around in the garage. Remember to maintain it. After all you put a lot of effort into organizing it.

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