The Garagenous zone: Tips to organize your garage

I want to introduce everyone to Lauren Halagarda. She is a dear friend and the owner of The Organization Connection based in Arlington, VA. I hope you enjoy her fantastic advice on garage organization.

As we head into the dog days of summer, it’s a great time to organize the garage. It’s amazing how much stuff gets put in there, isn’t it? The garage was originally designed to store one family vehicle. Now, we often have more than one family vehicle, and, more often than not, none of our cars fit in the garage. It can appear that a garage is used to house everything but a vehicle! Consider yourself lucky (and organized) if you are actually able to park the car in your garage.

I am not making any guarantees that you will be able to park your car in the garage by the time you are done taking this advice, but I do promise some helpful tips for organizing it better.

First, determine what activities you would like to occur in the garage or what types of things will be stored in this area. For example, is your goal to park your car in this space or simply to park your lawnmower? Do you use it as a workshop for home improvements or does it need to serve as a laundry room? Do you wish to store your gardening supplies or your woodworking tools or kids toys and sporting equipment in this space? Make a list and write down your goals for this space. By going through this exercise, you will be able to identify zones for your garage that work for you and your family.

Next, set aside some time to start sorting small areas or containers within the garage. Break this one seemingly endless project of organizing the garage into small, manageable tasks. Set a timer for 15 minutes or an hour, whatever works for you. I highly recommend against trying to do it all in one day, so that you don’t yourself up for failure. (An exception to this would be if you have help.)

As you sort through your things, ask yourself questions. Do I love it? Do I need it? When is the last time (or how frequently) I used it? Is it outgrown, broken, and otherwise obsolete? If I donated it to charity, would someone get good use out of it?

Store items off the ground. The garage can be damp, and accidental spills are possibilities. When you get to the organizing stage of your project, protect your belongings by storing them off the ground.

Use Vertical Space. When you can’t expand out into the room, try expanding upward. Use the walls for storage. Learn about slat, grid, shelving, and cabinet storage systems to help you make better use of your wall space.

Be kind to the environment. Be sure to dispose of paint, chemicals and other hazardous materials properly. Check out your local recycling guidelines.

Assign items a home. Now that you have sorted items into their prospective zones or categories, try to store them accordingly. Also, store items conveniently. Children’s toys should be stored within their reach. The easier it is to put something away, the more likely it is to get done.

Create Toolkits. Use various-size containers or buckets as toolkits. Home improvement stores sell jackets for buckets to store different types of tools efficiently and you can pick up your “Fix it” bucket and take it where you need it. You can create a: “Car Wash” bucket with soap, sponge, towels, wax, window wipes; “Wall Repair” kit containing a drywall knife, spackle knives, tape; “Electrical Repair” kit containing wire clippers, an outlet, switch, etc. Don’t go crazy and create one for any and every job around the house, just the tasks that you perform on a regular basis.

Label Everything. Do yourself and your family a favor and label everything. Not only will this help you and others identify what is in boxes and containers, but labeling shelves and cabinets can also help encourage others (and yourself) to put the item back in it’s home.

Use the ceiling. There are many tools on the market that utilize the assistance of a lift mechanism, whether it is a bike rack or shelving unit. These can be raised when not in use and lowered to provide easy access.

18 Comments for “The Garagenous zone: Tips to organize your garage”

  1. posted by Janna on

    I am a client of Lauren’s and I just had to put in a plug for the Organization Connection! I have hired her on several occasions to help me with residential organization. She is very professional, prompt, friendly, and knowledgeable. Although organizing can be hard for me, working with Lauren always makes it much more pleasant (thank you!). Note that even if you don’t have a garage, tips in this article apply just as well to other areas!

  2. posted by Miriam on

    Great info; thank you!

    Along with the “Be kind to the environment” step, I recommend that hazardous materials and sharp tools be locked up to be kept out of the reach of children and pets.

  3. posted by Beverly on

    Does anyone have any good ideas on how to get a husband to get rid of useless junk he stores in the garage? His storage barn is so full of crap, he now parks the riding mower in the garage and his car outside! HELP!

  4. posted by Michael G on

    I like the questions you have here for determining what activities happen using the garage rather than just organizing all the stuff. The toolkits idea is nice too.

  5. posted by timgray on

    Getting rid of garage crap is hard for a man as it’s his “man zone”. Honestly holding onto car parts is a great idea if you have a giant 4 car pole barn. It’s dumb if you have a single car or 2 car garage. Get that stuff out of there.

    I store in a single car garage, my tools+workbench. a Sportscar, a Full size road motorcycle (think goldwing), 2 recumbent trikes, plus an engine and a transmission that I am actively working on to put in the sports car (upgrading from 220hp to 480hp) and yes I can still walk in the garage plus store the camping gear as well as the lawn mower and snow blower.

    If you are organized, you CAN have a lot of stuff in the garage. but you have to get rid of the junk. That stack of books from college 20 years ago are junk, recycle them. same for that hooters bar stool, and the spare tire from the car you had 4 years ago.

  6. posted by infmom on

    @Beverly–I don’t think there is any way to MAKE a guy get rid of the junk and clean up his space. Some men bristle mightily at the idea of someone else trying to manage their stuff, and cling to the junk ever more stubbornly. (Can you tell I’ve been married for almost 36 years to a very stubborn pack rat?)

    If you work with him to figure out better ways to store the stuff he’s got, maybe that will help. Maybe some new storage units or shelves on the walls? Maybe a nice big rollaround toolbox from Sears?

    Of course, I am a fine one to talk. Our garage would probably be correctly described by a British person as a rubbish tip. :) However, we are working out a master plan to get most of the junk dealt with and I think we’ll have it looking pretty good if we keep at it, even if it takes a couple months to work it all out.

    We can’t put our car in our garage, but even if it were totally empty that wouldn’t change. We live in an old house that came with a very narrow driveway to begin with, and the previous owners put up a cinderblock wall to keep the neighbor’s dogs away from their kids. Now there’s barely room to inch a compact car down the drive, and our main car is a Buick LeSabre. No chance!

  7. posted by Sue on

    “… Break this one seemingly endless project of organizing the garage into small, manageable tasks….”

    This is the ONLY way I can get a project of this magnitude finished! In fact, we made a master calendar for the year, and focused on one room each month. The garage got divided up into zones and with some dedicated effort—we now have a 2 car garage that actually accomodates TWO CARS!!!!

    We have shelves that hold the once-a-year stuff like Christmas decorations in numbered Rubbermaid tubs (yes, I have a list of what is in each tub). All the camping stuff, scuba gear, painting tools, etc. have tubs.

    It is a thing of beauty!

  8. posted by Don on

    I was only thinking about the challenge of the garage clutter yesterday: crates & tubs – great idea, really useful when it comes time to move again as there’s no packing. My thought on shelves: make them narrow so items can’t hide behind others (except for those intended for the crates).

  9. posted by Chris on

    I think that you have motivated me to try and get my car into the garage for this winter. I know it’s August, but I have so much “stuff” and “junk” in there that it may take that long!! Thanks for the motivation and ideas!

  10. posted by Scott Roewer (declutteryou.com) on

    Great tips, Lauren. I like your ideas of ‘kits’ to keep things together. Here are a few more I thought of that may be helpful. I’m sure there are dozens more.

    **Picture hanging kit

    **Sports equipment kit (ball pump and needles, new straps, tennis racket handle wrap, etc.)

    **First-Aid kit

    **Garage Sale kit (to mark and tag stuff as the year progresses).

    **Gardening kit (small shovel, bucket, gloves, floral scissors, etc).

    I guess for every zone of the garage!

  11. posted by Michael @ Awareness * Connection on

    I know the “label everything” has been a huge help in the fridge and freezer. I never sit around anymore trying to figure out how long something has been around. And frozen items are much easier to identify, and therefore get used more often. I’m good about the labeling when I move, because I hate so much not being able to find my stuff. But I need to get better in storage areas (garage and basement).

  12. posted by Leonie on

    THANK YOU!!! I’m in the process of organising my garage. After getting a quote of $2000 for just one wall from a professional garage organising company, I decided to check out products on the internet, Home Depot, Lowes etc. We’re planning on insulating the garage and then putting up the flexwall system in September. This was a much needed post! Full of good information.

  13. posted by outlander on

    I recently redid my garage. I took pictures as the project progressed. maybe it can help some people with ideas.
    http://snipurl.com/3cm5z

  14. posted by John of Indiana on

    I like the idea of “kits”, too. I have a couple of HUGE wooden totes (straight from the scene in “Das Boot” where they’re yelling “Where are the TOOLS??? I need the TOOLS!!!!”)
    One’s full of wood-working tools, another holds the plumbing stuff/torches/propane tanks/ and one has all the electrical stuff in it.
    And another to keep all the nails and screws in one place.
    They rock!

  15. posted by Peter on

    I am actually sitting in my garage drooling over the organizational possibilities as we speak. Thanks for the great tips.

    http://yinvsyang.com/

  16. posted by Perri Kersh on

    Great tips, Lauren! And great to see you on Unclutterer. We miss you in NC. Hope to see you at an upcoming conference.

  17. posted by Kaz in Oz on

    After a spate of recent car thefts in our neighbourhood, we took time to install an automatic garage door opener and created a space in our 2 car garage to put the SUV in. Unfortunately that now means 2 car spaces worth of crap in one side of the garage and I’m having to fight to get in and out of the car.
    We have the narrow shelves to organise his tools, camping gear etc, the labeled kits for car washing etc, and the plastic tubs for other storage, even a trolley for all the gardening tools – it’s just the load of timber for the (eventual) deck he’s building and the old pigeon pair fridge and freezer and the jogger stroller (our youngest is now 3 1/2) and all our bikes, lawn mower, wheel barrow, huge ladder and his train layout that now need to be organised.
    Lucky his car is too big to fit in the other side anyway and that I have a week off work coming up to try to tackle it without distraction of hubby or kids and a great messageboard on our work intranet to offload some of the stuff on.
    PS love this blog!

  18. posted by Megan on

    I haven’t even read this post yet, but that’s a great great title!

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