Is your garage the de facto dumping ground for all your old stuff? Or, perhaps you placed many of the boxes from your old house in there and simply haven’t had the heart to unpack them? 

You’ll get around to it one day, right? 

We are here to tell you that you can actually reclaim that space and fall in love with it as much as you love the rest of your house. The process is not too taxing but will take a little planning and some investment of your time and hard-earned cash to do right. 

Read on to find out how you too can make your garage into another functional room in your home. Who knows, you may even turn it into your own private hideaway? 

How do I organize my garage successfully?

As the old adage goes, “failing to plan, is planning to fail.” To this end, the only way to successfully organize your garage is to think it through very carefully. 

messy garage
Want your garage back? Then get it organized! Source: pxhere

If you plan on retaining your garage as somewhere to safely store your car, your garage options will be limited. But this also comes with the issue that most of you with a garage will use it for storage. 

But, even if you do, there are still many viable options to maximize what remains of your garage space too. If your heart is set on getting that garage in order, then plan to set aside at least a full day, if not a weekend or two, to complete the task.

With the time allotted, the first step is to plan on what you want to keep in there. Chances are, you have a lot of stuff you either no longer need, don’t work, or have never used in your garage.

If so, it might be time to declutter. You can do this alone, but decluttering will go a lot faster if you make it a family activity and invite a few friends over to help (“free” beer is a great incentive FYI). 

Examine everything, including boxes you didn’t open when you first moved in—you never know where that family artifact could be hiding.

Next, sort everything into one of three piles: keep, donate or sell, or toss. Place them on tarps or use chalk to mark off portions of your driveway and place them there. Outgrown toys, objects that are beyond repair, outdated home chemicals (which may require specific disposal), and anything you haven’t used in two years or more should all be tossed. If you have a hard time letting go of treasured items, you can always take photographs as keepsakes.

pimp up your garage
Source: onurdongel/iStock

That being said, as any self-declared DIYer will tell you, little bits of wood or other spare parts can be kept too, as you never know when you’ll need them in the future. However, be realistic. The more you keep, the more you have to store. 

Sort the keepers into broad categories (sports equipment, hand tools, etc.) and store them in clearly labeled cardboard boxes or, better yet, stackable clear-plastic bins that you can reuse later. For the time being, return the keepers to the garage.

Donate giveaways as soon as possible, and hold a yard sale (or car boot sale) to get rid of unwanted items. Alternatively, you could sell them on any of the various auctioning or private second-hand selling websites out there.

For larger quantities or heavier items, consider using a service like Bagster to deal with the problem for you. Also, always pay attention to old equipment or metals you may have stored; they could be a hidden treasure trove in scrap!

With all that being said, there are certain items you really shouldn’t keep in your garage anyway.

partially messy garage
This garage has some organization, but we can do better. Source: CosmicKowboy9/Wikimedia Commons

What shouldn’t you keep in your garage?

There are certain things that are not a good idea to keep in your garage anyway. Getting rid of these will be a valuable step in getting your garage tidied up.

The first item(s) are things like old paint. It can be ruined by extreme cold or heat, so garage storage is usually not a good idea. Cans of paint should really be kept in relatively stable, cooler locations, or disposed of properly if you don’t plan on using them again.

Propane gas tanks are also a big no no in your garage. The vapors they can release can easily be ignited by a spark, which is a distinct possibility if you do any DIY work there. For this reason, it is highly recommended that propane tanks should be maintained outside at all times.

gas bottles
Try not to store explosive things like gas bottles in your garage. Source: Ildar Sagdejev/Wikimedia Commons

Another set of items you should avoid storing in your garage is paper-based products. Pests like cockroaches and other bugs are attracted to them. To avoid this, place them in an indoor location like a pantry or store them in tightly closed boxes with lids.

On that note, you should avoid storing food items like pet food, loose in your garage too. This can also become a magnet for those pesky pests.

Another item(s) you should avoid storing in your garage is a refrigerator. The well-ventilated nature of most garages means that this can drastically increase the energy costs of having one run in a place like a garage. This is because excessive heat can force the refrigerator or freezer to work extra hard (and use extra electricity) to keep cool, while very cold temperatures can fool the sensors into thinking it’s already reached the proper level of refrigeration when it hasn’t.

How can I declutter my garage quickly?

If you have a garage, you’ll need more than just a pegboard to keep things organized (though those are great too). Here, we’ve gathered together some of the best tips and suggested products that are useful for families who need help organizing the black hole that their garage has become.

organize your garage
Source: imaginima/iStock

It’s not about spending money, but about thinking of new methods to organize your belongings so you can find them again. 

So, let’s cut to the chase and discover a few basic strategies, and products, that can help you get your garage “ship-shape and Bristol-fashion” in no time. 

1. Clear the garage floor

It might sound obvious, but the best way to make more room in your garage is to keep the floor area as clear of objects as reasonably practicable. This will give you much more room for your automobile and you won’t have to deal with sloppy, impossible-to-sort piles of stuff.

Buy some shelves, wall mounts, racks, etc, or consider getting yourself some cabinets. If you go for this option, ensure that the products are on legs so you can simply clean the floor beneath them. If you are going to go down the shelving route, you might want to prioritize getting open shelves rather than cabinets for most items (except for dangerous stuff like chemicals, of course). 

tidy garage
Source: imaginima/iStock

Shelves are less expensive, easier to reach (you don’t need extra clearance to open the doors), and allow you to quickly scan what you’ve stored.

Cabinets with doors provide a reason to be disorderly by allowing you to conceal ‘evidence’, thus they can rapidly get cluttered. Use them just when the items you’re storing need to be protected from dust and dirt in the air.

Some great options, though there are, of course, many others, include the following: –

  • Stackable clear-plastic bins with lids like Rubbermaid Roughneck Clear containers. They don’t cost that much, and will quickly allow you to start organizing your garage gear. 
  • Clear jars in different sizes for sorting hardware and small items are also useful. You can either recycle old food jars or buy some.
  • For things like chemicals or tools, you might want to get yourself some form of a lockable cabinet. This will help you greatly keep them out of reach of small children. Rubbermaid can help you out here too with its range of stackable lockable cabinets.
  • With all that sorting and storing, you might want to have a way of labeling everything to find later. You can either do this by hand or, for added efficiency, make your own labels with a label printer. 

2. Maximize the space on your walls

organize your garage walls
Next, make the most of your garage walls. Source: metaldetector/Wikimedia Commons

Similar to point 1 above, there are other products beyond shelves and cabinets that can allow you to use the garage walls too. 

One option is to set up a pegboard in your garage. There are widely available and simple to install, and they can be trimmed to fit and even painted to modify the design.

This kind of solution also enables you to add a number of useful hooks, shelves, and other organizers that are available from numerous manufacturers.

However, pegboards do have their downsides. For example, while a pegboard may hold small hand tools and other items, it isn’t strong enough to hold heavier objects such as bicycles.

If you want one of these, you can’t go wrong with something like this one from Kuhome. 

Another option is something called track systems. This involves suspending standard shelves from a single track attached to wall studs, allowing them to support bigger objects. There is also a wide range of choices for things like hooks, rails, etc.

tidy garage 1
Source: urfinguss/iStock

While great, you must ensure that the track is level to ensure anything like shelves you hang on them are straight and level also. These are best for finished and plumb garage walls.

One great example comes from Fleximounts. 

If all fails, you can always rely on panels. These effectively cover the entire wall with slotted plastic panels that hold lock-in hooks, shelves, and cabinets, allowing you to make the most of every square inch of wall space.

But, like other suggestions above, they do have some limitations. One main issue is that some systems require expert installation, which increases the expense, and you’re limited to storing goods that are system-compatible.

3. Get yourself a workbench

garage workbench
Build or buy a decent workbench too. Source: Interesting Engineering/YouTube

Your garage doesn’t just have to be a place to hide away all those things you don’t use very often. You can turn it into a proper workspace too if you wanted.

To this end, installing a decent workbench is always a good investment for the self-described DIYer. 

A wall-mounted, fold-down variant (such as the WORX folding work table) provides a strong surface and tucks out of the way when not in use, making it ideal for the occasional DIYer.

For more heavy-duty options, benches with built-in tool storage can be quite expensive. Instead, you can build shelves on either side of a modest worktable and hang a pegboard above it to keep your supplies organized.

Alternatively, a set of casters transforms any table into a mobile workstation; however, make sure they don’t make the table too tall! Whichever option you go for, don’t forget to get yourself somewhere to sit. 

Finish it off with a comfortable stool that fits under the table for storage.

4. Don’t forget the ceiling

Don’t forget the ceiling! Source: Hyloft/Amazon

So far we’ve covered (literally and figuratively) utilizing your floor space and wall space efficiently, but there is one other surface of the garage you really shouldn’t neglect – the ceiling. 

Long, flat items that aren’t used every day, such as ladders and seasonal sports equipment, can be hung from the garage ceiling. Make sure that any shelves you hang from the ceiling don’t interfere with the operation of your garage door, and that there is enough space to avoid grazing your car’s roof.

There are quite a few options here you might want to explore. For example, you can rig up something yourself using lengths of scrap metal or wood, etc. 

But, if you want something a little more professional, you can’t go wrong with overhead storage rack systems like Koova’s. For larger or more awkward’s shaped objects, our friend’s over at Fleximounts have a solution for that too with their adjustable ceiling storage system. 

Other options include hoist-like systems for storing heavier objects like ladders or even bikes, etc. StoreYourBoard, is one example of this kind of system. 

5. Make the floor as durable as possible

cover garage floor
Polish off your project with a nice floor covering. Source: pxhere

After you’ve cleaned up, that dirty concrete surface will appear even more dismal now that you can see it all (hopefully). This is where you might want to top off your hard work with some final flourishes.

For example, antiskid floor coatings repel oil stains and wipe clean as simply as a kitchen tabletop, and the color chips and paint hide any flaws. Brilliant!

There are a wide variety of choices for this kind of thing, but you can’t go wrong with an all-in-one kit like Rust-Oleum’s Garage Floor Polycuramine Concrete Coating. This kind of kit isn’t going to break the bank, but schedule the installation for a few days of temperate, 50 to 80-degree weather to allow for enough drying time. The key to success is meticulous preparation, specifically a clean, dry slab.

You won’t regret taking the time to apply it properly.

6. Don’t neglect security

garage lock
Beef up the security while you are at it. Source: Public Domain Pictures

If you have decided to pimp up your garage, it is quite likely you want to store some of your most valuable tools and gear in there. But, all that stuff in one place could be a literal treasure trove for potential bandits. 

For this reason, you might want to consider beefing up the security of your garage accordingly? 

Just like any castle, its defenses of it are only ever as good as the weakest part. In most cases, this will mean the door needs to be shut-able and lockable. 

When the garage door is left open and the house door is unlocked, break-ins are common. At the very least, always use a deadbolt on the front garage entrance and lock the garage windows where possible. 

For improved security, install a garage-door lock that secures the door to the sidewalls and use it when you’re gone for a long time. Needless to say, whichever locks your choose, always close the garage door, even if you’re out back mowing the lawn.

There are some more sophisticated systems you can invest in too, like smart security systems and cameras, etc, but we’ll let you be the judge of how much money and effort you are willing to pay. For example, you can pick up a relatively decent internet-connected combination floodlight and security camera, like Blink’s. 

7. Keep your garage car-damage proof

car in garage
Now get your car back in there. Source: pxhere

Now that you’ve completely tidied up that garage, you can now plan for other things like continuing to use it for storing, or even working on, your car. Depending on the width of your garage (and its door), there are a few things you’ll want to be in mind or do to make it safe to reverse your car in or out of the space.

If your car has maneuvering sensors, the first thing to do is to find ways to not have to rely on the sensors where possible, as they will likely tell you the space is too tight. You can create some simple visual aids to help you park if space is a little tight in there. 

For example, simply hang a tennis ball on a thread from the ceiling so that it touches the windshield when you’re in the right location, instead of using motion sensors that tell you exactly how far to draw the car in. You should also position this, or other visual aids, to enable you to leave enough space for you to walk between the rear of the car and the back wall of the garage too. 

For a low-cost way to prevent contact between your car and garage walls, attach scrap carpeting to the walls in areas where the doors or bumper might hit them, to protect the finish of your automobile.

If you are putting two cars in the garage, you should also allow as much space as possible between the two vehicles so that you can wheel trash bins to the curb or move big goods around without being obstructed.

garage outside
Source: marchello74/iStock

If you have a minivan or other vehicle with sliding doors, as well as another car, back the larger vehicle into the garage with the sliding doors facing the center, then place your car next to it with the doors facing front for easy access to both vehicles.

And that, garage organization fans, is your lot for today.

There is nothing more gratifying than rescuing a storage space from complete chaos using a little planning and investment. Once you’ve completed a project like this, we can guarantee you’ll fall in love with the space once again and keep it clean and tidy forever!

Good luck. 

Editor’s Note: This is a part of our special DIY HOME ISSUE, where IE explores the best tips and tricks to impress guests with your engineering skills.