7 Steps To Organize Your Garage

It’s summertime! The kids are home and families are planning their summer activities and vacations, which means…folks need access to their garages. That’s where all the tools, toys, bikes, sporting and camping equipment are right?  Too bad all that stuff you need is spread out all over the garage with no rhyme or reason.  No wonder I’ve been getting a lot of questions on how to organize your garage!

Well, don’t fear. I’ve got 7 steps to help guide you through the mess to organize your garage and create a space that’s orderly and easy to access. Before you start any garage project make sure you take into consideration the weather (too hot or too cold) and prepare accordingly.  As a Certified Professional Organizer in San Antonio, Texas, you can be sure this is one of the first things I check!  Be sure to have enough water on hand and wear clothing that will allow you to move around easily and that you’re not afraid to get dirty in.  I also highly recommend wearing closed-toe shoes.  Plan a weekend or two to get through it all and put it on your calendar.  This is an important event!  Let’s get started….

1. Assess, Analyze and Prioritize

One of the biggest problems you may encounter when you organize your garage (or any space that’s cluttered) is that there is no plan for the space. Folks fail to take time to analyze and visualize the space to figure out how they want it to function. What is your priority for your garage? To park your car (one of your biggest investments)?  To have a workspace? To store seasonal items and sporting equipment?  Or maybe all of the above?  Well, you might be able to have all of that if you just take a moment and prioritize how you want to use the space. With your priorities in line, you’ll have an easier time purging and organizing the space because you’ll be able to determine what belongs in the space and what doesn’t.

2. Clear The Space

You’ll need to start with a clean slate.  Get a couple of tarps and blankets to place your items on and lay them in an open area like the driveway or lawn.  Once everything is out, be sure sweep and wash down the floors and walls.

NOTE: This may be a great opportunity to paint the walls and stain your concrete floor.  It’ll give your space a fresh, clean, new look.

3. Sort By Putting Like Items With Like Items

As you pull things out of the garage, gather all of your sporting equipment together in one spot, then your tools, lawn gear, camping gear, decorations and so on.  You can even get down to the itty bitty nails and screws…sort these out as well (this might be a good task for an older child to do for you).  Sorting like items with like items may seem like a “no-brainer” but it is a key step in the organization process not only when you are sorting but when putting things back into their established zones.

4. Start Purging!

Be ruthless in this step.  Try to commit to getting rid of 50% of the stuff in your space.  Even if you don’t get rid of that much, making the effort will go a long way.  To purge, start by making four piles: keep, donate, trash, recycle. As you purge, place each item into its respective category.  Get rid of anything that is broken or things you haven’t used in over a year.  Return items that don’t belong to you or belong somewhere else other than the garage.  Get rid of duplicates.  Remember…you’re trying to organize your garage…how many hammers, screws, brooms, basketballs, bats and rakes do you really need? If you’re having trouble getting rid of stuff remember to ask yourself these questions:  Do I love it?  Do I use it?  Have I used it in the last year? Do I really need it?  If not…put them in the donate, trash or recycle piles.  Donating items is a wonderful thing because you’re giving someone else the chance to enjoy and appreciate your items.

5. Take Inventory of What You Have Then Map Out Your Space and Create Zones

Now that you’ve cut down all of your stuff, take inventory of what you have that way you’ll have a better of idea of what organizational items you can work with or what you’ll need to purchase.  NEVER purchase organizational products before you’ve purged…it’ll save you time, money and frustration.  Now, map out the space.  Draw it out on paper or use masking tape to mark off outlines of the different spaces/work zones.  You can mark off the spot reserved for your car, heavy duty shelving, paint and hazardous material cabinet, sports equipment, lawn care supplies, tools shed or workbench and bike/recreational equipment.  Don’t forget to go vertical and overhead.  Consider your walls to hang items or install shelving.  And what about the ceiling?  You may be able to put plywood boards along rafters to store seasonal or seldom used items.  Also think about convenience and frequency of use.  For example, you probably want a trashcan near the driver’s side door of your parked car so that you can easily throw away items.  Or place your recycling bins next to the door leading into the house to make it easy to toss items into them.  Or how about hanging /parking the bikes near the garage door so it’s easier for the kids to grab their bikes and go!

NOTE:  At this point, if you don’t think you’ll have enough space for all of your zones, you may need to go back and purge some more.  Just remember your priorities and stay focused on creating a useable and functional garage!


6. Determine Your Organizational Supplies

Now that you’ve mapped out your zones, gather your supplies.  Use large trash cans to store rakes, shovels and brooms upright.  You can also use a large trash can to store sporting equipment like, skateboards, balls, bats and gloves. Use pegboards to hang tools.  Use large hooks mounted to studs in the wall or ceiling to hang bicycles and extension cords.  Consider getting a cabinet with locking doors to store paint, chemicals, cleaning supplies and any other hazardous materials.  Get some solid wood or metal shelves to store heavy equipment and storage bins.  Use clear plastic containers to store like items (this makes it easier for you to see what’s in the container).  Consider a rolling tool rack/cabinet to transport supplies while keeping them organized. Use glass jars or small plastic containers to keep nails, screws, nuts, hooks, and washers organized.  Use tin cans to store paint brushes or screwdrivers.  Get a door mat to dust of shoes before entering the house.  And get a label maker! Labels will help you organize your “stuff” like never before! When you organize your garage, you organize your DIY project workflow, which makes things LOTS easier!

 And finally…

7. Put Everything Away In Its Proper Zone and Label Everything You Can!

This is the fun part because the finish line is in sight!  Start putting things away in their designated zone and start labeling.  I am a huge fan of label makers.  It just makes it easier to find and put things away.  Label makers are great for labeling cords, containers, drawers, boxes and shelves.  If you don’t have a label maker, use masking tape or duct tape and a permanent marker.  Be sure to label the front and sides of storage bins so you’ll be able to read them no matter which way you face them.  The ideas are endless when it comes to labeling.  You may want to check out my post on label makers.  The bottom line, label as much as you can..it is another very important element to organizing.

Enjoy your new garage!

You’ve worked hard to organize your garage and you’ve earned it. Enjoy!

photo credit

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13 thoughts on “7 Steps To Organize Your Garage

  1. Before we sold our house and went back to renting, our garage was a breeding ground for clutter. I had so much stuff in there that I was sure I needed. Much of it was “just in case” stuff or “I might need it one day” stuff. That stuff was rarely used and even when I could use it I spent a lot of time searching through boxes to find stuff. It would have been faster to just get rid of all that stuff and run up to the store if I needed some specialty screw, bolt, or other random item.

    I did small declutters here and there where I decluttered in place, but it would have been more productive if I had used the clean sweep method instead. Before we moved we got rid of everything in the garage, since we wouldn’t have a garage in our apartment. It felt great to have a completely clean garage with nothing in it for the few days before we moved.

    • I know what you mean Eric…garages can be a haven for clutter! Heck, Dan and I have done 2 huge garage editing projects in the past two years….over 3000 items were tossed and let go of and it does feel great to have a cleaner, less cluttered garage. Sorry you couldn’t enjoy your clutter free garage a little longer ;o)

  2. I can tell you that many times I have felt like a crazy person because I love an organized garage. Over the years raising four kids, I have often lost the battle. I think a garage is the only shared room that every family member has a say in. Your steps are so perfect in tackling this “way down on the list of things to do” project. It is a process but it is well worth the effort on organizing it and keeping it that way. Thank You Vanessa

  3. Great processes that also can be used for – dare I say – the popular remote storage unit. Also, what a great tip on “not purchasing organizational holders” until the edit (purge) stage is completed.

    As on the move military kids, my brother and I used a lot of these same processes as kids to clean out “Dad’s garage – slash storage – slash yard sale buys – slash bad doggy zone – slash who knows what to do with it” area. Unfortunately, it never seemed to last as we would spend 2 – 3 weekends every quarter doing the same clean up. This meant no play time until it was clean and organized. That chore stuck with us.

    Though there were other chore areas, the cleaning of the garage was sometimes so intense I believe it set the stage to duplicate that behavior as adults. Even though we are all now veterans, the two youngest boys didn’t go through this and well, this post would serve them well. I wouldn’t have said this as a youth, but I do believe getting kids involved in this process at a younger age is instrumental in more areas then just having a clean or organized area. The actual process seems to flow well into other areas like project completion and decision making.

    Of all steps the one thing I’ve just recently improved is the labeling and inventory of the stored item. It’s still a work in progress but improving this one step is so helpful. Prior to this, not being able to reference what exactly is in a box labeled “office supply” that is somewhere in storage hasn’t been entirely helpful. Now, with the help of Evernote and even the photo capability of my I-pod, I’m coming close to improving this step. Of course, it’s most likely preferable to use the purge steps to reduce storage to a minimum, but to be honest; I’m not close to “in-house zero” yet but at least I’m moving in the right direction.

    Just like in episode 3 and 12 this is a great post Vanessa. Also, relative to your zones and mapping areas, sometimes it’s been really helpful to look at the Houzz pictures to help with ideas and containers. For the garage pictures this link is one of many pictorials when figuring out options especially vertical ones

  4. Well I’ve read all your organizational ideas and am ready to get started…Wish me LUCK..! I’VE been attempting this for ten years now. It’s been so overwhelming and stressful that eventually I give up. But I am gonna give it another shot. I will let u know how it goes. Thanks

    • Good for you, Wendy! If you’re really ready to tackle your organization and want to tap into the system I use with every one of my clients, check out my S.I.M.P.L.E. Organizing System at GetOrganizedSOS.com! I’ve gotten some amazing feedback from folks who went through the system and it’s guaranteed!

  5. As good as this sounds I am still frozen in my tracks. I have so much of everything, especially the small stuff and one of a kind things. I know. I need to get rid of stuff , but I’m one if those who can’t part from stuff. Not junk mind you- but stuff nonetheless☹️