Is your garage a disorganized mess that gives you a feeling of dread whenever you need to break through the chaos to find a paintbrush or a screwdriver? Is your car permanently parked on the verge, as there’s no room for it inside?
These are common problems for garage owners, as the space is often used as multi-purpose area for storing DIY, garden and sports equipment, trash and recycling. And while you might be keen to declutter your home, especially your kitchen cabinets, thinking about the garage is often at the bottom of the list.
By organizing your garage, you’ll discover you've got far more space than you realized, and even that car parked outside might be able to come in undercover. Follow our top storage hacks to increase garage space and never have a feeling of dread when entering your garage again.
1. There’s method in the madness
It can be difficult to know where to start when faced with a mixed pile of chaos, from lawnmowers, footballs and old paint pots. But before you go and buy any new storage, the best approach is to sort out what you’ve got into zones.
Merely moving an item from one pile to another isn’t helpful if you’re doing it inside, and space is limited. So if the weather permits, move your items outside. You can then clearly divide your possessions into clear zones. Perhaps you have gardening equipment, DIY tools, bikes and sporting equipment, and seasonal items like Christmas decorations. The idea is to put every item into a specific group.
Then, sort through what you want to keep and what you don’t need. Has that broom lost its bristles? Has your house been redecorated since you last used that tin of paint? Have your children outgrown their bikes? Be ruthles, have a garage sale and recycle where you can. The US Environment Protection Agency has useful advice on common items that can be recycled.
2. Think about the storage
Now you’ve completed the most difficult task, it’s time to think about what storage you need. Rather than going out and buying lots of boxes, it’s worth spending time making a plan.
Having grouped items into zones, you can get a clearer idea of what you have and the different shapes and sizes of everything. With such a range of things, and many that are awkward shapes, organizing a garage can certainly be a challenge, but they are plenty of storage solutions that can help.
If you’ve previously relied on using the floor space, think up and outwards. How can the walls be used, and what about the roof space? Also consider how to organise different-sized items.
3. Go up the wall
Sorting out your garage might make you feel as if you're going up the wall, but the reality is that’s exactly where some items can go. If you’re endlessly fed up with gashing your legs on bike pedals, move them off the floor.
Wallmaster has a 2-pack vertical bike hook system for indoors ($22, Amazon). Using a vertical storage system will also protect your bikes from scratches. And if your bike was always at the bottom of the pile, changing the storage system will make it easier to access, and you won’t feel you’ve already done a workout before you’ve pushed off.
4. Use a tracking system for garden tools
Garden tools can be some of the most awkwardly shaped items to store, and they are often sharp and potentially hazardous. You’ll want to avoid stepping on the tines of a rake and being struck in the head. I currently store my long-handled garden tools in a corner of my shed, and they are forever getting tangled and falling over.
Tracking systems are a flexible way to organize garden equipment. Apart from getting them off the floor, they can be stored individually, and you can see where everything is at a glance. You can buy the tracks and the hooks separately to get exactly what you need. To get you started, Husky has a 5-piece garage wall track starter kit ($39, Home Depot).
5. Stay grounded with unit shelves
If floor space isn’t at a premium, unit shelves will help you make the most of the wall space, allowing you to store items from the ground up.
However, fixing them to the wall is advisable to prevent them toppling over and causing serious damage and injury. It’s also important to consider how you store your items for safety reasons. Place the heaviest objects on the lower shelves and lighter ones at the top. Keeping lighter items on the top shelves will also help to prevent injuries as you won’t struggle with lifting heavy weights from up high.
It can be tempting to opt for cheap shelves for your garage, as they need to be functional rather than fancy, but although there’s no need to spend out on the aesthetic, they do need to do a job. So, don’t cut corners on shelving that isn’t fit for purpose.
For instance, IKEA’s BROR shelving system is specifically designed for garage use (From $110, IKEA).
6. Add suspense with wall shelves
If unit shelves aren’t an option because you want to free up the floor space, suspended wall-hung shelves are a good alternative. They can be attached with brackets and spaced at different heights to suit what you're storing. Fleximounts has a 3-tier garage shelving unit with height-adjustable floating shelves which could work ($99, Amazon).
However, as with wall-hung shelves, consider the weight you want them to bear. Items you’re storing in your garage, rather than your home, are likely to be on the heavy side, so you’ll need sturdy shelves that are secured with adequate fixings.
Also, think about the material. If your garage is prone to dampness, galvanised steel might be your best option. Galvanised steel shelving is covered in a layer of zinc which protects it from rust and other forms of corrosion.
7. Go above and beyond
Ceiling hoists are excellent for storing items such as kayaks, roof boxes and even ladders. A pulley system makes them easy to access, meaning you won’t be having an adventure before the real one starts. You may be interested in the RAD Sports Kayak Storage Hoist ($79, Amazon).
Overhead garage storage racks are another option that can be fitted to the ceiling. In both cases, just be sure to calculate your ceiling strength beforehand to confirm you're not hanging anything too heavy. A professional can help fit such storage tools and ensure its safety.
8. Sort out the small stuff
Are you endlessly trying to find the right size screw for a fixing or the correct Allen key to tighten up that wobbly self-assembly chair? Get to grips with your smaller hardware items in your garage and organize them in small storage containers with compartments.
The Akro-Mils 16 Drawer Plastic Storage Organizer ($20, Walmart) will help you stay organized.
9. Box it
There’s going to be a whole plethora of items that will need to be contained in boxes to stop them spilling over. The best approach is to group similar items together. So, grab all your footballs and sports equipment and keep them together. If you are stacking boxes on top of one another, invest in lids, to prevent a whole pile of stuff from toppling over.
And if you are stacking boxes with heavy items inside, ensure the box can take the weight. I’d also recommend opting for materials that can be wiped clean and won’t succumb to mold if your garage becomes cold and damp.
An example of this type of storage would be Rubbermaid’s 6-pack Cleverstore 30 Quart Latching Stackable Plastic Storage Bins ($32, Amazon).
I place my bird food in a separate box, otherwise it’s constantly being knocked off the shelf. I also keep a lid on top to prevent any unwelcome guests from taking a nibble.
10. Get labelling
There’s nothing worse than spending hours reorganizing your garage to discover you still can’t find anything. It won’t be down to the fact that everything now has a place – it will because nothing is labeled.
Apart from zoning items into areas, which we’ve already discussed, labeling your boxes will help speed up how quickly you find things. Whether you opt for simple stickers that you create yourself or invest in a labeling gadget, it will be worth the effort. Try this Dymo Label Maker ($54, Amazon).
11. Seasonal storage
From a safety aspect, it’s worth storing the items you use regularly at a level that’s easy to reach. This will mean you won’t need to pull out the step ladder every time you want to get an object out of your tool box.
Seasonal items, such as Christmas lights and decorations, can be stored on top shelves, as you’ll only be using them once a year.
With some planning and hard work, there’s no reason why you can’t reorganize your garage, clear out the clutter and gain some extra space. You'll be wondering why you didn't do it years ago.
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Camilla Sharman has worked in publishing and marketing for over 30 years and has covered a wide range of sectors within the business and consumer industries both as a feature, content, and freelance writer.
As a business journalist, Camilla has researched articles for many different sectors from the jewellery industry to finance and tech, charities, and the arts. Whatever she’s covered, she enjoys delving deep and learning the ins and out of different topics, then conveying her research within engaging content that informs the reader. In her spare time, when she’s not in her kitchen experimenting with a new recipe, you’ll find her keeping fit at the gym. In the pool, stretching at a yoga class, or on a spin bike, exercise is her escape time. She also loves the great outdoors and if she’s not pottering about in her garden, she’ll be jumping on her bike for a gentle cycle ride.