It’s summer time. You know what that means… It’s time to clean the garage! Yes, it’s dirty. Yes, it’s overwhelming. But don’t worry, I’ve got your back. I’ll take you through organizing the garage, step by step.
Ready? Let’s go.
Step 1: Garage Goals
Yes, #garagegoals. Literally.
The first step to organizing the garage is a super easy one. You can do it in your nice, air conditioned, spider-free living room.
Make a goal. How can your garage better serve your life?
Do you want to park in the garage so you don’t have to climb into a 150 degree car or scrape windshields.
How about setting up a home gym with equipment and floor mats.
Maybe you want a spot to hang with your crew and have a few drinks.
Could you create a dedicated area for your furniture refinishing side hustle.
Do a quick Pinterest search to gather ideas and inspiration. Forming goals before you start will give you direction and motivation for organizing the garage.
Step 2: Start Organizing
Now that you’ve got some ideas for how you’d like your space to work for you, it’s time for the hardest step.
Don’t overthink it, just start. Literally, anywhere.
As you’re tackling your belongings…
- Throw out anything that’s obviously garbage.
- Make a donate pile for items that could still be used.
- Look for common themes and group like items.
- Loosely place items where you think you might want them to go.
- Be a good human. Don’t dump hazardous materials. Make a trip to the recycling center.
This step could take a long time. It will be tedious. But your garage didn’t get messy in a day, it probably won’t get organized in a day, either. Purging is very important but it’s also hard. Keep this in mind: what is going to improve your quality of life, your #garagegoals or those 17 old paint cans?
Step 3: Placement
In the last step, I encouraged you to start sorting and loosely placing items around your garage. To expand on that, you’re going to want to put items you need handy in easy-to-reach spots. Put items you need less often or you don’t need to grab quickly in less accessible spots.
For example, this basket of bug spray and sun tan lotion is immediately next to my back door. When we’re heading out, it’s super easy to grab what we need. When we come home from a day away, it’s easy to return these items to their home on my way back inside.
Be mindful of convenience. When systems are convenient, they’re easier to maintain.
Step 4: Create Zones
Now that you’ve got goals and have begun to sort and purge, it’s time to sort further and create zones.
Creating zones is helpful because it helps you determine a logical place when you’re organizing the garage. You can also use the same logic when you need to find an item.
Every home will have different zones. Here are some examples:
- beach items
- camping gear
- lawn equipment
- children’s toys
- sports equipment
Step 5: Bins and Shelves
Storage is essential in garages. If you have a lot of belongings, it might be expensive to go out and buy all new. Shop your home, ask your friends, or peruse garage sales. It’s better for the earth and it’s better for your wallet.
These are all. the. toys. in our garage. These bins used to live in my 2nd grade classroom, then my pantry, and now they live in the garage. The shelves were passed to me from a friend. And holy moly with the free frisbees. Labels weren’t really necessary here because you can clearly see what’s in the bins, but my 5-year-old insisted. Chalk labels and a white marker were a quick and simple solution and one of my favorite labeling methods.
After shopping your home, you may find you do need to purchase some bins when you’re organizing the garage. Measure the items you’d like to bin up and measure the shelves where you plan to store the bins. Bins are helpful for containing small items and keeping pests and dirt out of your stuff, but they won’t keep the weather out. If your garage has moisture issues, you may want to consider spending a little more on weathertight boxes.
Shelves add tons of vertical storage space and get things off the floor (always a goal in the garage).
Lighter, plastic shelving (as seen above) are inexpensive, simple to assemble and very functional, but the shelves don’t adjust and you wouldn’t want to put very heavy items on them.
The shelves pictured here are heavy, solid, and a bit pricey–but they’re worth it if you have a need. The adjustable shelves are great for larger items. If you find yourself with lots of large tools or heavy car parts, lining a wall with these shelves is a solution.
Evaluate what you need to store and purchase accordingly.
This is our “home improvement” zone, which houses painting, staining, and tiling supplies, as well as my husband’s larger tools (on the neighboring shelf).
Step 6: Other Storage Options
I’m all about using what you have and working within your budget, but sometimes, you just need to splurge and invest in some quality specialty organization.
Need more space? Look up. Most garages have high ceilings. Consider getting a shelf that attaches to the ceiling for items you don’t use very often. We purchased these Safe Racks a few years ago and they’ve been amazing. They were about $200 each, so they were an investment, but they’ve provided so much extra space that they’re totally worth it. We don’t have a storage room in our home, so all of these seasonal items were taking up valuable real estate in our garage. It’s a little hard to get items up and down, given that the shelves are so high and the bins can be heavy, but since we only access them once or twice a year, it’s all good.
Another item that may be worth investing in when organizing the garage are toolboxes. Tool boxes are literally made for organizing tools and, if you get a good one, they last a lifetime. Pegboards can also effective for tool organization. The system you go with will probably depend greatly on how many tools you have and what you do with them.
Step 7: Hang it Up
In addition to bins and shelves, hooks are essential elements to an organized garage. You want things off the floor. I’m going to say that again, it’s that important.
GET THINGS OFF THE FLOOR.
When items are off the floor, there are fewer places for critters to hide and it’s much easier to sweep or blow out. Plus, when one thing is left on the floor, it’s hard to resist putting a bunch of other things on the floor.
Regular hooks are only a few dollars at hardware stores and worth every penny. You can upgrade to specialty hooks made specifically for garden tools or fishing poles or anything else you need.
Hang all the things.
Step 8: Label It
As with any organizational space, labels in the garage are key ESPECIALLY if you are using opaque bins and can’t see the contents. Labels do not have to be fancy to be effective. Masking tape and sharpie will do if you don’t have a label maker. Chalk tape and white paint pen is also cheap and effective. If you want to be legit, go for the label maker label or even custom vinyl. Labels let you know what’s in a bin without having to search in multiple places, they also hold you (and others) accountable for returning items to their proper location—which always seems to be a challenge in a garage.
Step 9: Sort the small stuff
Waaaaaay back in step 2, I told you it wasn’t time to sort the small stuff. Now, with all the big stuff purged, sorted into zones, binned, shelved, placed, hung, and labelled it’s finally time to sort the small stuff. This could actually be done much sooner than now, but it can be tedious and I prefer to get all the big stuff out of the way first.
When I say “small stuff” I mean sorting nails, screws, bolts, random items in tool boxes or tackle boxes. You know what I mean.
Step 10 (optional): Upgrade the Floor
I know what you’re going to say. It’s a garage. It doesn’t need nice flooring. BUT. First off, it looks nice and automatically makes the garage look cleaner and fresher. Second, it stops spills from leaking into the concrete and staining it. Third, painting or coating the floor makes it much easier to clean. If you’re organizing everything else, you might as well take care of the floor, too!
Epoxy paint is one option. You can either DIY or hire out. We chose a more unorthodox route: peel and stick tiles. We only did one section of our garage and spent about $1/sq ft. They have gotten a bit scuffed and you wouldn’t want to park on it, but they’ve stayed stuck for about 3 years now and they’re easy to clean (which I did not do for this picture, as you can tell because it’s a garage).
Step 11 (also optional): Decorate
If you’ve made it this far, you deserve a little prettiness. My one last topic for garage organization is to pretty it up a bit. One easy way is to hang off-season wreaths on your walls. You could add a cute welcome mat or “hello” decal to your door. Add posters or completed family puzzles to empty wall space.
Just because it’s a garage doesn’t mean it has to be ugly, although it will probably get dirty.
And that’s it. 11 simple and easy steps to getting a functional, tidied garage. NBD, right?
In all seriousness, organizing the garage is a BIG project. The time it will take greatly depends on how much you’ve got in there and how motivated you are. It’s also hard to estimate how much it will cost. The more you have, the more you have to organize and store. That’s why purging is SO important.
So. When are you tackling your garage??
**Disclosure: This post contains links. Some are affiliate, some are not. If you make a purchase through them I may earn a small commission. I link these companies and their products because of their quality and use, not because of the commission I may or may not receive.