How To Organize the Garage Without Making the Family Hate You

Oftentimes, one member of the family (usually an adult) gets a bee in their bonnet to clean up the garage. This leads to a dictate to the older children that “this weekend,” regardless of plans to the contrary, “it shall be done.” The adult ready to clean the garage meets with foot tantrums and philosophical complaints about the unfairness of life. Garage-Cleaning-Day is then filled with eye rolling, passive-aggressive behavior and urgent requests for freedom. If any of this rings true read on.

This is a cluttered garage.
This is a cluttered garage.

So is it possible for the garage-cleaning adult to get cooperation from the family? Can’t we all just clean the garage together? Yes, you should ask for family cooperation, but no, you should not expect it. The garage de-clutter will go much better for all if you expect the push back then if you drag the family into a weekend of chores they think they will despise.

Don't expect help, especially from teenagers
Don’t expect help, especially from teenagers

Don’t Expect Help

I hope you weren’t expecting some magical formula to suddenly turn uncooperative teens into helpful little elves. I’m not saying you shouldn’t ask, hey you never know, but don’t expect. Your children may be willing and eager to help; that would be great, and the case would be closed. Not asking for cooperation  is a setup for disappointment, because, as they say, unstated expectations are planned resentments.

Transparency and Consensus

Seek Balance
Seek Balance

Be upfront about your cleaning, decluttering and organizing goals. Call a family meeting. Lay out your plan.  Ask if there is anything in the garage the kids would be willing to keep in their own rooms. Ask if it’s OK to throw out specific items. Ask if they would be willing to help you make these decisions and to act on them. Ask for help.

Get stuff off the floor
Get stuff off the floor

Be clear about your goals. Why do you want to clean the garage? Do you want to park the cars in the garage? Do you want to install a workbench? Or use the one you can’t currently find? Are you tired of tripping on bicycles and hoses, when breaking your neck would be so inconvenient?  Be specific, be non-judgmental, and do not engage in blame. Everyone probably had a hand in making the mess. If the individual items have no specific homes where they belong, is that the kids’ fault for not putting things away? You are admitting you need a system, and you’re asking for help creating one everyone will find easy to use.

Set a schedule. Inform your family which day(s) you are doing this. Make sure there are no conflicts with other obligations. Put the garage clean-up on the family calendar.

Ask For Help From Friends Or Professionals

I know it may sound weird to seek professional help Be honest with yourself. Have you been living with a messy garage for a long time? Is your garage a candidate for America’s Funniest Hoarders? Then hiring a professional is probably a great idea.

Physical laborers can help you move items to the driveway for sorting. They can also help you throw away, donate and put away the resulting piles. Charity and dumpster companies can help you get stuff removed. Professional organizers and de-clutterers can help you detach from your possessions; they can help you find good, organized, accessible places within your garage for the stuff you keep.

You might be tempted to go it alone, but be honest with yourself. Have you tried before? Professional helpers are not attached to your stuff. They can help you decide if your attachment is actually causing you an invisible but very real harm.

Friends are the ones who don’t hang up when you need a ride to the airport; a real friend will help you clean out your garage. Seriously. For the price of some pizza and beer you could cut the time you need in half. Save the beer for after though or you risk having a driveway full of stuff and a bunch of tipsy friends too tired to work. And if a friend says “no,” respect their decision without it affecting your friendship.

Put cleaning on your schedule along with other important tasks.
Put cleaning on your schedule along with other important tasks.

Block Out the Time

Garage cleaning takes time. It can take a weekend or even several days. Block out the cleaning schedule. Don’t be so optimistic that you have to leave the garage task for entertainment, sports or shopping. Nothing should be on your mind other than getting this done.

Plan, Prepare, Schedule Breaks

Make sure you have everything you need the day before. Prepare before Day One. Do not go shopping for these supplies when you’re schedule to be cleaning. Shopping will break your momentum. Have the supplies on hand. Ensure you have contractor bags, a vacuum cleaner, a broom, boxes and containers.

You will need a way to remove anything you’re not keeping. Will that be a pickup truck you rent? A trip to Good Will? Have the dumpster installed the day before you start, so it’s waiting for your contributions.

Plan for lunches, snacks, water or refreshing drinks. Keep covered ice water nearby. You might need paper plates, plastic cups and a bucket of ice.

Acquire Your Organization Systems Ahead of Time

Rhino Shelf InstallationMeasure your walls and get some good quality wall shelves. I have a preference for Rhino Shelves myself because they are amazingly sturdy and deep. Rhino supplies the brackets and hardware. You supply the 2×4 lumber. This allows Rhino to sell top end shelf hardware without charging you to ship the wood for the shelves. Your best bet is to install the brackets, then measure for the wood you need to create the shelves. Then have Home Depot, Lowe’s or a lumber yard cut the 2x4s for you to the exact length. Install the 2×4’s in your Rhino brackets. Your garage shelves will hold 650 lb. per 4 ft. length. Make the shelves do doubleduty. Store contents on the shelves, and hang longer items such as bicycles from hooks underneath.


Gladiator GearTracks garage storage garden and ladder
Gladiator GearTracks garage storage garden and ladder

You’ll need storage tubs for items you’re keeping on the shelves.  Covered storage containers on Rhino shelves can help you get a ton of stuff off the garage floor. If you need access to the items, use cabinets or a wall organization system. Wall organization systems come as rails, pegboards or wall panels. The advantage of these systems is that once the backboard is up (the rail, board or panel), you can move the hooks around without t any need to unscrew and re-mount the hooks. Use these systems to hang often-used items such as rakes, shovels, tools, helmets, bicycles and other every-day items.

Learn more about Rhino Shelves; Gladiator wall and tracks; Rubbermaid tracks, and Proslat wall and track organization system.

Remove Everything From the Garage

But the main reason to put everything into one big pile is so you can see how much you really have.

Throw away the extras
Throw away the extras

If you are following the Konmari method then you already know what’s next. You want to get every last thing out onto your driveway so you can see it in the light of day. This will also give you a chance to clean and inspect the floors and walls for any signs of damage or critter problems. Who knows what that clutter has been covering up?

But the main reason to put everything into one big pile is so you can see how much you really have. Look at the sheer volume of the garage contents. Look at your possessions. Don’t shortchange yourself on this. Take a good hard look.

Box and Label Anything That’s Not Yours

Our goal is a conflict-free garage clean-out when family members are not cooperating. Don’t throw out their stuff. Don’t even sort their stuff. Don’t criticize their stuff. Sort and cull your stuff, not theirs. They’re not participating.

Get a good label maker. Put their stuff in boxes. You’re working on your garage possessions, not theirs.

Organize Your Stuff By Category

Label your garage stuff into categories
Label your garage stuff into categories

Thank you, I whispered … Then something magical happened: I felt at peace with its disposal. I thanked each special item, and I really meant it. It felt amazing. — To Hell and Back Again: A Day with the Marie Kondo Method, by Nicole Silverberg

Your stuff. Finally! Now is the time to sort your garage belongings. Put like items together. Here are some categories to get you started on your own garage item sorting:

  • Automotive Supplies
  • Automotive Tools
  • Camping Gear
  • Cleaners
  • Garbage and Recycling
  • Garden Supplies
  • Garden Tools
  • Hobby Supplies
  • Lawn Equipment
  • Lawn Mower
  • Paint Cans
  • Painting Supplies
  • Pesticides
  • Recreational Gear
  • Seasonal Decorations
  • Spare Parts
  • Sports Equipment
  • Toys
  • Tractor
  • Woodworking Supplies

Put like items together. If you have duplicates, prepare to part with the extras Keep the stuff you need, get rid off the stuff you no longer want or need. Avoid the illusion of “not being wasteful.” If you’re not using it, it’s not bringing you value. While that second lawn edge trimmer takes up space in your garage — doing nothing for anyone — it could be bringing joy to someone who can’t afford to replace theirs. Donate what you can, trash everything else.

Toss Your Own Stuff, and Ask Permission Before Tossing Anyone Else’s Stuff

Giving stuff away is better than living with the cost of clutter.This is not the time for vindictive cleaning. This is not the time to get rid of that “blankety-blank piece of bleeping blank.” If it’s not yours, leave it alone. Just a reminder: We are trying to make sure the family doesn’t hate us after remember? “You’ll thank me later” is not a good plan.

Speaking for myself, I still hold resentment toward family members who forced me to throw away beloved belongings or did it for me. Let your family come to their own conclusions about what’s important to them.

Though you will need professional help if you’re dealing with true hoarding behavior.  Seriously, you are not going to cure them by pitching their garbage.

Let Nothing Live On the Garage Floor: Use Shelves and Wall Systems

Rhino Garage Shelf 16 ft. x 20 in.
Rhino Garage Shelf 16 ft. x 20 in.

I am a big proponent of the “nothing on the floor” school. OK, except the cars. They can live on the garage floor.

Strong wall shelves are where it’s at. You can fit the nose of your car under them, you can hang things from the bottom. There is no excuse not to have a good set of shelves for your stuff.

Anything not on the shelves can hang from the wall. For hanging, you can choose from hooks, pegboard and hooks, slatwall and hooks, and tracks and hooks. The pegboard, slatwall, and tracks offer a huge advantage over simply putting hooks into the garage wall studs. With these systems, you mount the pegboard, wall panel or track. Then you can freely move the hooks around without the hassle of drilling new holes.

Clean the Garage Thoroughly Before You Put anything Back

Again this seems obvious but often people pay this part lip service and rush through this. Chances are this is the first time in years that your garage is completely empty. Give it a good deep cleansing.

Vacuum the floors, walls and under the stairs. If you don’t have drywall, vacuum the spaces between the wall studs. If you do have drywall, vacuum the inevitable spider webs.

Now get a bucket of warm water and a non-sudsing cleaner like Purple Power or Simple Green. Wash down the sooty spots. Don’t soak the garage. , but do give the cleaned area a rinse. Use a clean water bucket and rag.

Everyone Gets An Area

This is another reason why wall shelves are awesome. Everyone’s stuff is on a shelf with their name on it. Pretty sneaky right? It gives people a visual of just what they have. If their stuff won’t fit on a shelf get another one. Really.

Make the New Garage Organization Easy to Maintain

The best slatwall storage system
The best slatwall storage system
The best adjustable garage shelves
The best adjustable garage shelves
The best garage wall vacuum
The best garage wall vacuum
The best garage ladder hook
The best garage ladder hook
The best bike storage ideas
The best bike storage ideas
From now on, everything in your garage has a home. Pull it out when you need it. Put it back when you are done with it. To make this possible, you have to make everything accessible. When planning your cabinets, hooks, and shelves, think about grabbing and returning items to those storage areas. You want it to be easy to access. It gets hard to put things away is if the area is too crowded. If the tennis racket falls every time you put away your jacket, then the jacket will be in the way and the tennis racket will be on the floor. Everything has a place and everything in its place.

Get Everything Off the Floor, Even Other People’s Stuff

Get more shelving than you think you need. You will need more, and it’s easier to plan and install it all at once.  You want room to store things. You don’t want new items pushing old items off the shelves. At all cost, avoid letting stuff live on the floor.  Did you play The Floor is Lava a a kid? Play the lava game with the stuff in your garage. Make room for everything, whether it be on a shelf, a hook, a slatwall, a track or a cabinet.

FastTrack Gardening Kit
FastTrack Gardening Kit

Organize and Beautify Your Area As An Inspiration

Once you are done with the big picture you can begin to plan your dream garage. Should it be a work area? Maybe just a space where no one trips on stuff left on the floor? However great or humble your dream, realize you have begun. When the rest of the family sees what you have done … maybe they won’t care, but maybe they will. Maybe they will begin to get rid of stuff and organize. Who knows? You have laid the groundwork and created the foundation. You’ve become a clean-garage-role-model.

Keep Your Area Neat and Don’t Tolerate “Stuff Creep”

When everything has a home (or at least your stuff has a home), it becomes easy to keep organized. Take it out, put it back. It’s your new mantra. As soon as you buy something, you need to decide where it lives within your organization system.

Others may begin encroaching on your new found space. Do not let them. On this, you must be firm. Garages by their very nature are places where people put things that don’t have a designated home. If your family starts to dump stuff in your area, tell them “no” and put it in theirs. If things wind up on the floor, put your foot down and place them on a shelf.

People Also Ask

How much storage can I get for $200? Each of these garage storage tools is between $100 and $200.

  1. Three 4 ft. x 20 in. deep Rhino Shelf Kits with change to spare for the 2×4’s you’ll pick up at the local home store
  2. A Dual Rhino Shelf Kit with a 4 ft. x 20 in. deep and a 4 ft. x 33.5 in. deep extra heavy duty rack, plus your 2×4’s
  3. A Fleximounts Ceiling Rack
  4. An Ulti-Mate 3-Door Wall Cabinet
  5. Two NewAge Lockable Wall Cabinets
  6. A Gladiator GearBox Wall Cabinet
  7. Two 4×4 Rough Rack Tool Holders
  8. Two Steadyrack Classic Bike Racks
  9. Three GearTrack Packs (for a total of 24 ft. of Track and 24 Hooks)
  10. A GearTrack Accessory Kit with 18 Hooks, 6 bins and a 24-inch mesh basket, plus two GearTrack kits (for a total of 16 ft. Track and 25 accessories)
  11. Three Steel Wall Control Peg Board Storage Systems