How to Organize Your Garage

Stacks of boxes

Fall is often a great season for clearing out the garage and organizing. It’s generally less wet than spring and cool enough to do manual work. Also it’s the time of year where people often go rummaging through the garage looking for their holiday decorations. So if you have a mind to do some garage revamping before the winter comes we have some tips to make things go more smoothly.

Don’t Make These Common Mistakes

Mistake Number 1: Getting Storage Equipment First

I know you’re eager to get going and as inspirational as a trip to the Container Store or Walmart can be, getting storage items before you know what you are storing is a recipe for disaster. You’ll invariably get the wrong items in the wrong sizes in the wrong amounts.
You gotta know what you’re keeping and storing before you buy. Otherwise you’ll create more chaos.

Mistake Number 2: Not having cleaning and disposal supplies on hand

So this is good news for those of you with the shopping bug. Make that trip to the big box store and get yourself some contractor bags. Get more than you think you need because you really do need more than you think you need.
Make sure you have brooms and dust pans and gloves and floor degreaser or kitty litter and if it’s going to be a really dirty job some dust masks and eye protection.

Mistake Number 3: Not Grouping Items by Task or Type

When you clear out your garage put things together in a logical fashion so you can store them logically later. You want to know what you have so group things together. This makes it easier to get rid of redundant items and keep the ones you want. Then store similar or related items together.

Mistake Number 4: Not Making Things Easy to Put Away

When things are difficult to put in there place they get left out. If you’re like me your garage gets cluttered for a reason. It’s easier to just leave something out than it is to return it to it’s proper place. Set yourself up for success and make that part as easy as possible. No excuses.

Mistake Number 5: Not Setting Aside Enough Time

Cleaning out the garage can be a big job. Thinking you’re going to tackle it in a few hours is not going to work.
A little bit here; a little bit there is not going to get you anywhere. Set aside a weekend or two and really do it right.

Let The Job Be Big

Get everything out of the garage. Clean the whole thing. Sweep the cobwebs off the ceiling degrease the oil stains off the floor. Maybe even apply a densifying sealer to protect the floor. Dedicate a weekend or maybe even two.

Get Help

Call in favors or hire some helpers. Tackling this job alone can be a real drag and you might feel like throwing in the towel half way through. Having motivating friends and family on board can make things go much more quickly.

Remember, this can be dusty and dirty work so make sure you feed your crew and have plenty of water or other cold beverages on hand.  And have enough supplies for them to work with. Hand out those work gloves you got at the big box store and give them some dust masks or painter hats if needed.

Don’t forget to feed them. Nothing beats the camaraderie of some hard work and a cold beer or some other refreshment at the end of the day. Call me crazy but some of my fondest memories are of working hard with my friends and bonding over the experience afterwards.

Keep Things Off the Floor

Once you have your items organized and in boxes you want to get things off the floor. Get some high quality wall shelves like the Rhino DYI shelving I review here. These are some seriously strong shelves that you can pretty much put anything on.

Maybe get some cabinets like the Gladiator wall cabinets so you can lock away some of your tools and chemicals. You can even get some wall slats and set up your work bench now that you have room. Don’t forget that you can even use your ceiling but don’t put too much weight up there.

Car or No Car

Some people are adamant that a car must be kept in the garage. If you have an older house that might not be possible. If you live in a mild climate garaging your car may not be necessary. If you want to use your garage for hobbies or to work out of you may choose not to garage your car.

Some people turn their garages into recreational areas, gyms, home music studios or use it to run their own businesses.

Now that you have cleaned out your garage you have a choice and not a default situation because of the clutter.

Give Family Members Their Own Area

This simple step can lead to peace and familial harmony as I describe in this article. Failing that at least people know where their stuff belongs. Again, make it easy for family members to return their belongings to their rightful place. Set up your family and you for success. Work with them on this and allow for input from children and spouses. Labels can help.

Organize Your Stuff to Suit Your Lifestyle

If you love playing sports or have a hobby you pursue in the garage then those things should be front and center and easy to get to. Make it easy to get that kayak in and out. Make that tool chest easy to access. Take and inventory of how you would ideally like to spend time and what items you need or want to use regularly. If you want a home gym you’re much more likely to work out if you don’t have to get things into place every time first.
You can also swap out seasonal items throughout the year to better suit your needs.

Get the Right Sized Bins for Objects.

Measure big items so you get big enough bins. Also get smaller bins for tiny objects like screws or small parts. Put smaller bins into larger bins to organize things into subcategories.

Get Clear Bins and Label Them

This way you can see what’s inside and then label them so you know what you have. Seriously, you’ll thank me later. This is also where organizing things as you clear out your garage comes in. This way you don’e wind up with that “Junk Box” with uncategorized stuff. Plan ahead.

Have a Plan for the Future

Where will you put new things? How easy did you make it to put things back? How are you going to sustain your new organization? The main idea here is to make sure you don’t relapse into clutter.

Conclusion

Cleaning out the garage is a yearly ritual that often gets done badly. Doing a proper job can ensure many years of garage happiness with minimal upkeep. Get it done right the first time and allow that to carry you through so that you fall back into old habits.