Garage Organizing Tips

While many homeowners are often careful to control the amount of clutter that piles up in their house, too many of us simply push the clutter from our home’s interior into our garage. This is the packrat’s version of “kicking the can down the road.”  

Unfortunately, displacing the clutter does not remove it, and inevitably, at least 25% of us end up with no room to park our vehicles, which is precisely the purpose for which the garage was designed.

If your garage has become a procrastination zone for the organizing and spring cleaning your home desperately needs, then this is the article for you.

Take your time and make a plan

Organized Living has several steps to help you get started on your big spring cleaning project, cleaning and organizing your garage.  

First, give yourself enough time to complete the project.  In order to get your garage organized, you are going to need to take everything outside, go through it all and bring what is left back in.  This could take a couple of days. If you have weekend plans, then cleaning the garage will have to wait until you have a free weekend.

Second, make a plan. In the days preceding the garage, bring a legal pad and pen out to the garage with you and make a rough inventory.  Assess your space and how much you will need to get one or both vehicles inside the garage. Think about how you want your garage to look and brainstorm some ideas for where you can begin to store items more effectively.  Think about cabinets or shelving that needs to be removed or replaced and if there is any ceiling space or wall space that can be better utilized.

Come up with a list of cleaning projects and tasks, and research ideas for storage.  You may need to come up with a budget and a schedule for cleaning and renovation/repair supplies and shelving.  Consider using reclaimed kitchen cabinetry and shelving from a salvage warehouse or yard to save on costs. If you have plans for DIY garage renovation such as installing new flooring, repainting, or building extensive customized shelving, consider making a schedule, renting a storage unit, and hiring help to keep yourself on schedule and accountable.

Remove everything and clean the garage from top to bottom

Once you have your plan, you will need to remove everything from the garage and clean it from top to bottom.  

The garage floor will need to be hosed down or power washed.  Cobwebs, dirt, debris and stains removed from walls, corners, shelves and floors.  Existing work benches, stations, walls, corners and shelving should be inspected to see if they need replacing, additional cleaning, repainting or staining or repair.  

All items removed from the garage should be put into three piles: keep, donate or throw away.  While cleaning out your garage, you can have a garage sale, encouraging neighbors to drop by and take items off your hands immediately.

Now is the time for garage renovation projects

If you are planning on installing an epoxy or polyurethane coating, repainting the walls, building customized shelving, or adding heavy duty hooks, now would be the time to complete those projects.  It may even be necessary to move larger items to the basement, shed, or rented storage facility until you have completed your garage renovation projects.

Organize and maximize your space

Designate areas of your garage for sports equipment, children’s items, gardening and landscaping, pets, car maintenance, and maximize wall space.  There are many sites and groups online that can help you with storage and organizational ideas specifically for the garage. The Family Handyman has over 50 ideas for ceiling tracks, stacking storage bins, wire shelving, custom wood shelving, space saving organizational projects, etc.  And Buzzfeed recommends pegboards and slatwalls.

Remember that garages are great places to utilize recycled and reclaimed materials including: scrap lumber, kitchen cabinets, old school lockers, library index card holders, old dressers, bookshelves, mail slats, small apothecary drawers, plastic containers, plastic crates, and used silverware organizers.  All can be repurposed and reused in unique ways to organize your garage and many of these items can be picked up at garage sales, GoodWill, the consignment shop and in salvage yards and warehouses.

Consider creating a “mudroom” space

The garage can be a useful space to contain pets, kids, wayward guests, grubby gardeners and handymen.  Consider building a custom shoe rack and setting up rubber mats to stop dirt and mud in its tracks. A hook for a bucket and old rags and sponges can be hung or place on a shelf to wash down the legs and feet of humans and dogs alike.  

Make your garage the kind of place your car will be proud to park in

Your car needs a garage worthy of its presence.  If you truly love your car and want it to last, you will do what is necessary to create a space in your garage large enough for your car to be parked.  Keep in mind that it is much better for your car’s long-term maintenance and value to be parked inside a garage. The cost of keeping your car safe and insured will be lower if you keep it out of the elements including wind, rain, hail, and ice storms.

Don’t let your garage become a dumping ground for all of the clutter in your home you are reluctant to confront head on.  House Method recommends adopting the ritual of Swedish Death Cleaning, a cultural practice common to the elderly in Sweden who begin purging possessions and items in anticipation of their demise so that their children do not have to make decisions about what to do with their parent’s things when they die.  But there is no reason we cannot begin doing this work when we are much younger.

Decluttering has been shown to have positive effects on mental and physical health and generally makes homes healthier, happier, more productive, and cleaner.  Many organizational experts suggest adopting the mantra of purging at least one item in your household for every new item you purchase.  

Too often the garage is an easy place to leave items we are reluctant to let go of such as the appliances we never used, the children’s toys we do not want to let go of, the recreational equipment we bought and never used, the projects we always intended to do but never got around to, and the furniture and good will items we intended to sell or get rid of but never did.  Do your household and your vehicle a favor and clean your garage this weekend. Your mental health will thank you for it.

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