7 Tips for an Organized Garage

7 Tips for an Organized Garage

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When a client contacted me for help with her garage last week, my first thought was, “Yay! I love turning garages into functional spaces!” and my second thought was “Um… do you have a space heater?” Luckily, the organization gods blessed us with a balmy 58 degrees in Ohio January, just perfect for the project.

The before pic. This is very typical of what I find in garages. This picture makes me excited… I wanna get in there and solve that organizational puzzle!

If you’re itching to organize your garage, here are my top 7 tips to get that space looking ship-shape:

Tip #1. Make the stuff in your garage reflect your life NOW: Like most storage spaces, garages often become the dumping ground for things we aren’t sure what to do with. That coffee table from college? Roller-blades from high school? The turkey frier we thought was awesome but (shockingly) find we rarely have the need to deep fry large fowl?

Think about your life NOW when you look at your garage, because each item inside absorbs your energy to store and maintain. Make it worth it. For example, if you have paraphernalia from your early-twenties backpacking phase, but the only backpacks making a regular appearance in your life now are the Ninja Turtle ones your kids take to school, well, perhaps it’s time to bequeath your gear to go some young soul with stronger legs. (I speak from personal experience, after donating my backpacking equipment to the college-aged kids across the street. My backpack has been all around the world in recent years. So much better than gathering dust at my house!)

To make sure you only keep items that reflect your life now, jot down a list of what you need your garage to do for you. In other words, what is the PURPOSE of this space? For last week’s project, our list looked like this:

  • Woodworking
  • Tools
  • Outdoor sports
  • Gardening
  • Camping

As we sorted, we made sure the items we kept fit within the parameters of this list. Keeping purpose in mind is key to organizing any space. 

Tip #2: Donate duplicates. How many hammers, screwdrivers, and tape measures do you really need? Unless you’re an octopus, you only have two arms. At most, you could probably wield two hammers, Thor-style. (And if you want to do that, by all means, rock it out.) But donating your duplicate tools helps others in need, and–surprise bonus–having less tools means you’ll take better care of the ones you have.

Tip #3: Toss the Miscellany: Bags of random, rusted screws. Jars of various hinges. The extra hardware that came with your blinds… or maybe those were from the blinds at your last house… no, wait, those go with those IKEA shelves…. I think. I find LOTS of miscellaneous small items in garages. Wasting your time dealing with miscellaneous items will grind a garage project to a screeching halt. If you don’t know what something is as soon as you look at it, toss it. You were living your life just fine before you “discovered” it in your garage and you will live your life just fine thereafter. If it would take you 30 minutes to sort that bag of random screws, throw them away. I’m serious. Screws are cheap. You can afford to buy new, correctly-sized screws when you start a new project. Only keep screws, nuts, bolts, and the like that are still in their original labeled packaging. Toss the rest.

Tip #4: Opt for open shelves: I’ve never been in a garage that had too much open shelving. Open shelving is gold. Good storage should mimic a store, and stores always have open shelves. Imagine if you walked into Lowe’s and they’d replaced all their open shelving with closed cupboards. It would be annoying, if not impossible, to find anything. Buy yourself some basic, freestanding open shelving and then channel your inner stock boy. Put like items together, stacked neatly back-to-front, with labels facing out. Group similar, small items (nails, work gloves, etc.) into clear, open containers.

Ah, open shelving! And look! Similar items grouped together in clear bins. I see work gloves, bug killers, and drilling items, all happily nestled with their buddies. Happiness!

Tip #5: Label everything: I’m not sure who designed the tool chest, but they certainly didn’t consult a professional organizer. Tool chests are great for storing tools, but not-so-great for remembering what is inside. Quite often, I find tool chests nearly empty, with tools strewn about the floor. Why? Because you cannot see what is inside. For this project, I labeled the outside of the tool chest with my favorite labeling supplies–Sharpie and painter’s tape. The same goes for closed cupboards.


Once again, a Sharpie and painter’s tape have solved the mystery of what’s inside Drawer #2 (and 3, and 4…)

No more mysteries with these closed cupboards… we know what you’re hiding!  

Tip #6: Hook It Up: Anything that can be attached to the wall on hooks should be. I’m talking leaf blowers, extension cords, sleds, snow shovels, ladders, etc. Install peg board to hang hammers, wrenches, and other quick-grab tools. Unlike your living room, your garage is not the place to hang an artful cluster of decorative mirrors. Make those walls work for you and cover them with as much functional swag as you can.

We all need some pegboard in our lives.

Tip #7: Corral the Tall-Skinnies and Rounds in Laundry Hampers: Sports equipment presents a particular challenge, as it is often tall and skinny (think baseball bats, hockey sticks, fishing poles, etc.) or round (all manner of balls). These awkwardly shaped items don’t fit well on shelves or walls, but are perfect in sturdy, tall, lidless laundry hampers. I have two in my garage to hold all our sporting equipment. Simple, easy, and affordable.

The absolute simplest way to keep your balls in check. (Please tell me some of you are laughing at that sentence…)

I hope I’ve motivated you to fire up your space heater and tackle that garage before spring. Think how good you’ll feel to have “clean garage” checked off your list before the first warm days!

Rose Lounsbury is the Dayton, Ohio area’s up-and-coming professional organizer. After blogging about her own journey toward a minimalist lifestyle, Rose was inspired to start Less, a minimalist-minded professional organizing company. If you’d like Rose’s help with an organizing project at your home or office, please call her at 937-626-9030, email her at Rose@OrganizeWithLess.com, or visit her online at OrganizeWithLess.com.

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