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How to Organize a Garage

Declutter and tidy up the extra storage space to make room for your car with these garage organization tips.

Yvonne Harbison
Yvonne Harbison
View inside of double garage. Organizational shelving, tool box, bike rack

With all of the extra space, a garage can easily become the disorganized catch-all spot in the home.  Adding shelves and organization systems can help keep it orderly, allowing you to actually use all of the things cluttering the room. One of the added perks of an organized and clean garage is, of course, that you can actually park your car inside. 

When it comes to sorting out how to organize a garage, just knowing where to start among all the clutter can make the difference. We put together a complete guide to organizing your garage to help you get the project going.

Garage Organization Tips

Calendar with a check mark and a clock

Perhaps the most important trick to organizing your garage is to give yourself plenty of time. This is a multi-step project, and shortcuts may result in a clutter-relapse later on. Keep these garage organization tips and tricks in mind from the start to help fit everything you need into your garage without the mess.

1. Don’t Waste Storage Space.

Tools, spray cleaner, car, dumbbells

Right from the beginning of your garage organization plans, sort and categorize everything in your garage as either something you need and use, or as something you don’t need to keep. As you organize your garage, there may be a lot of space opened up, but there’s no reason to waste that valuable territory on something you don't use, or don’t want.  

Here are some examples of common items that you’ll want to plan space for when you organize your garage:

  • Tools and home repair supplies
  • Sports equipment for your home gym
  • Recreation and camping gear
  • Car care essentials
  • Seasonal decorations

This is not a comprehensive list, but it offers a good start for determining what stays or should be thrown out. Keep in mind that anything in the garage should be regularly accessed, or at least be used every 6 to 12 months. To keep a tidy garage, anything you absolutely must hang on to but don’t need access to should be moved to a long-term storage location, like a backyard shed, or basement or attic storage.

2. Get Rid of What You Don’t Use.

Truck hauling away junk.

As part of your garage organization plans, commit to getting rid of anything that doesn’t belong in your garage. This could mean throwing things away or finding another way to safely dispose of it.

Some examples of what should not be kept in your garage organization:

  • Trash. Don’t let trash stack up in the garage. Trash sometimes includes items for recycling, such as aluminum cans and old batteries which should be sorted separately. If there’s a lot of soda cans and bottles cluttering your garage, set them aside for recycling. 
  • Canned or bulk foods. Storing food, especially fresh food, in the garage causes it to spoil faster. This includes canned goods and pet food, as the temperature and moisture fluctuations in a garage can lead to spoiled food and rusted, compromised cans. 
  • Broken tools, equipment, or memorabilia. If you’re thinking of repairing it, make sure it has a purpose and will be used. Otherwise, if it was possible to fix, or at all a priority for spending garage space on, you probably would have fixed it already. Throw it out.
  • Dried out paint. The cans are taking up space. It is best to get fresh paint for your next home improvement or craft project.
  • Anything out of date, unused, or hazardous. Even if the container is damaged, dispose of it properly. Replace it or update it when you next need it.

Important family papers, books, or photographs. The variable climate inside the average garage can mold and deteriorate paper products unless they are properly packed for long-term storage. They should be stored indoors and in containers sealed against moisture and pests.

3. Recycle What Can Be Recycled.

Recycle bin

Develop and implement a plan to recycle the unneeded stuff that must be handled separately from the disposable items that go in the garbage dumpster on the street. 

Old batteries are hazardous and cannot be disposed of by the local landfill. To keep them out of the garbage can or from mixing with other metal objects, clearly label a small, well-ventilated, plastic bin for holding old batteries in your garage. Contact your local government for information on recycling and collections programs in your area and then recycle them properly on a regular basis.  

Aluminum cans and glass bottles are also recyclable. Many places will offer a cash refund in exchange for recycled cans and bottles. Create separate bins for these types of items, such as small garbage cans, and collect them to take to the local recycling center periodically. 

Some areas will also recycle paper products, cardboard boxes, or specific types of plastics, so do some research on your local services to find which recycling programs are available to participate in. Even if the area doesn’t have a cash trade program, keeping the recycling organized in your garage makes it easier to get rid of without the clutter and mess.

Stuff is stuff. It’s going to take up space somewhere. The big question as you organize your garage is whether or not it is useful enough to take up your garage space. 

As the saying goes, one person’s trash is another’s treasure, so there are a few ways to recycle the things in your garage that you don’t use anymore.

  • Pick a day and time to drop off, or schedule the pick up of old clothes, toys, books, or tools to be donated to your preferred charity.
  • Plan a yard sale to find homes for those items in quality condition that you think will sell.
  • Photograph items of value that are gathering dust and sell them online.

If you have a specific plan to get rid of these unnecessary things in advance, they’re more likely to be done and won’t interfere as you organize your garage for the items and tools you actually use. Any items not being kept should be removed before you get to work on implementing any garage organization ideas.

How to Organize a Garage

Shelving, storage containers, bins, bike rack, lighting.

To most effectively set your garage organization ideas into motion, it’s best to know what you have to work with, from the size of the garage to the amount of stuff you have to find homes for within it.

Empty the Garage

The best way to know how to organize your garage is to see exactly what options already exist and what will need added. Aside from any existing shelving or permanently installed features or storage, empty everything out of the entire garage. It’s best to organize your garage in good weather so you can take over the driveway for the day without risk of the weather interfering.

Categorize the Contents

Hiking equipment hung on gear track channels, metal shelving and tools.

As everything is removed from the garage, sort it into categories. Group together like-items that can be stored in the same area of the garage to make everything easier to locate and use. 

For instance, keep outdoor equipment, like the family’s hiking gear, in the same area as the camping gear. Look for other similar groups of items, like mops, brooms, and the steam cleaner that can be located near the cleaning solutions and dust rags.

Creating categories could help when planning permanent places for grouped items like:

  • Power tools and other hardware
  • Cleaning supplies, for the home and for the cars
  • Holiday decorations
  •  Laundry supplies

Once everything is sorted out, your garage organization ideas can become clearer, as the categories that take up the largest areas stand out. That clarity can help you determine what type of storage solutions will best reduce clutter in your garage. 

As an example, if you discover that lawncare is a large part of your garage storage, with many things such as lawn mowers and large equipment alongside smaller tools like shovels and hand trowels, you may decide it would be a good idea to install a garden shed outside to free up room in the garage.

Plan the New Layout

Clean organized garage with cabinetry and storage racks

Once you have an idea of what you want in your garage, and a clear picture of the space and storage solutions available, you can make a solid plan for how to organize your garage. Locate different areas in the garage that would fit the different categories of items and also be most convenient to how they are used.

It may look something like this:

  • For garden tools most often used in the backyard, store them near the door closest to the yard.
  • Home cleaning supplies would be easy to find, and more often used, when stored near the door into the house. 
  • The bucket of towels and soap for washing the cars might be best stored near the garage doors, so it is close at hand to the driveway or street for wash day.

Creating these zones of grouped tools and stored items helps keep them at hand and ready to be used. It also creates a fixed area for them to be returned to afterward to avoid clutter piling up from lost items, and to maximize the space in your garage.

Other garage organization ideas include making specific task areas within the garage itself, such as creating a mudroom area near the door into the house. 

  • Bring outdoor storage into the garage with benches and ottomans to provide seating and storage for smaller items, like sports bags, or rain boots, near the main access to the house from the garage.  
  • Hang hooks on the wall for coats and umbrellas, and shelves for storing bags.
  • Use plastic bins, canvas totes, baskets, or plastic trays to help keep everything orderly and accessible. 
  • Outdoor rugs or all-weather door mats help contain moisture from boots and shoes to the garage mudroom and prevents it from getting into the house.
Hooks holding rakes, broom, shovel, shelf and coat

Other garage organization ideas include considering how you arrange items along the walls, not just where. 

  • For items that are not accessed often, store them up high and out of the way.
  • Regularly used items and supplies should be kept at eye level or lower.
  • For sports equipment or other items used frequently by children, remember that their eye level may be a little closer to the ground.

The type of items to be stored, their location, and who uses them most often is important to determining the type of storage systems you need for organizing your garage.

Types of Storage to Declutter the Garage

Couple working on projects in garage with wall of cabinetry and storage.

Garage organization ideas rely on the help of garage shelving to get the clutter off the floor. Creative planning with garage organizers helps make the most of the space created. So here are a few types of storage options to consider when planning how to organize a garage.

  • Built-in cabinets - Built-in cabinets keep the garage tidy and clean, with less dust and cobwebs, as everything you need is kept out of sight and easy to access.
  • Box shelves - The DIY favorite shelving is easy to construct and creates sturdy, open platforms to stack boxes and storage bins.
  • Storage racks - With a high weight limit, warehouse-quality storage racks make quick work of storing bulky boxes.
  • Track systems - Track storage systems come in a variety of operational types, from grooved, horizontal slats for hanging hooks and simple shelf supports, to vertical storage shelves that allow for multiple shelf supports at any chosen height and width.

One advantage of storage racks and track systems is that additional shelving parts can be found to help customize the storage capacity based on the needs of the space.

Adding Shelving

Large shelving unit holding bins, tires, water jugs. Box shelf.

There are a few additional garage organization tips and tricks for adding new shelving to your garage.

  • Whether built-in cabinets or simple frame storage racks, keep the shelving off the ground. This makes it easier to clean up, and prevents damage from puddles, chemical spills, or other unexpected messes on the floor.     
  • Built-in, recessed, shelving provides a clean, professional look, and provides a certain customization for storage capacity via adjustable bulk storage options.
  • Peg boards, slat wallboards, and track shelving can be utilized in small or large wall areas, including on the end of cabinets, cabinet doors, or inside cupboards.

One of the most popular garage organization ideas is to utilize vertical storage opportunities wherever possible. This can include any of the following suggestions:

  • Wall-mounted coat racks and hanger hooks for storing cables, cords, or shop towels.
  • Consider ceiling mounted storage for items rarely used.
  • Use larger, secure tracks and hooks to hang bikes, ladders, and larger tools, like pole pruners and saws, chainsaws, or leaf blowers.
  • Wall mounted cubbies or multi-purpose pegboards over workbenches keep tools at hand and organized.

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