A messy garage is not only embarrassing and makes any, and every, job take longer, it could even be dangerous.
Clutter could fall when you’re reaching for an item, or stuff could block a doorway that you may one day need for an emergency exit.
Of course, there are solutions, and they vary from just rearranging what you have to installing an entire storage system. Whether you have a workshop, a “toy box,” or a man-cave, it will benefit from organization.
What you’ll need
Steel or wire shelving units and wooden or metal shelves. Shelves that hang from the walls or ceiling are preferable, since, ideally, you want to keep as much stuff off of the floor as possible. Anything that stays on the floor should be on wheels. This will look better and make it easier to keep the garage clean.
Jars and storage containers. For smaller items like screws and bolts. Options for larger storage containers for other items range from cardboard boxes to, preferably, clear, flat-topped stackable plastic containers.
Pegboards and hooks. For hanging things like hoses, extensions cords or even bikes on the wall, freeing up floor space.
Locking toolbox, or a magnet bar. For tools; an organizational magnetic tool bar hung on the wall can be convenient.
Tire covers and a tire rack or stand. To make winter (or summer) tires easier, and cleaner, to handle, and to keep them out of the way.
How to do it
1. De-clutter. Be honest with yourself: do you really need four garden rakes? Are you actually going to fix that broken shovel one day? If you haven’t used something in the last year, chances are you never will. If it’s good, sell or give it to someone. If it’s broken, trash it. Be ruthless. Your garage should be valuable real estate, not a messy storage locker.
2. Make a master plan. Before you buy any storage items, figure out how you want to arrange your garage. Ideally, you should draw up plans, including measurements, so you’ll know how many shelves or storage containers you can fit in. Take everything into account. It’s no good moving a workbench to one wall if the electrical outlets are on the other, or if a shelf of containers blocks a heat vent.
Take your plan to the store, along with a measuring tape, so when it’s time to buy your shelving and containers, you’ll know right away if something is going to work with your overall design.
3. Organize. Store similar items together. Things like tools, gardening items, car parts, and grilling items should all be in their own areas so they’re easy to find. You can get even more specific if you want to find things even faster, by storing nuts and bolts by size in individual jars, for example.
Designate seasonal storage areas — you shouldn’t have to move the snow blower to get at the pool noodles. Off-season items can be tucked back so they’re not in the way, while stuff you’ll be using now should be up front and ready to go. Each summer and fall, switch everything around.
4. Make use of wall space. Nothing should be simply piled up on the floor. That’s a guarantee you’ll never be able to get to the stuff on the bottom. Even if you’re using storage containers, they should be on shelves, which will allow you to pull out each one individually.
You can buy steel or wire shelving units, or install brackets on the walls to hold wooden or metal shelves. Don’t skimp — you’ll want heavy-duty in the garage. If your shelf unit is on wheels, make sure they’re good quality, so they’ll roll easily when the unit is weighted down.
Tools, hoses, extension cords, gardening tools and other items can also be hung on the wall. There are numerous options available, including pegboards or slot walls, individual hooks, and track panel systems. For metal tools, consider a magnetic organizational bar: attach it to the wall, and then let the magnet keep your tools in place.
If you switch your tires for winter and summer (and you should, of course), you’re left with four bulky black rings that need a spot. First of all, invest in some tire covers. These cloth bags fit individually over the tires to keep your hands clean, and have handles so you can move the tires more easily. Now, keep tires out of the way with a wall-mounted rack, or a tire-specific shelf or stand.
Don’t forget the ceiling, either. If it’s high enough, you can store bicycles on pulley systems, or lighter items that don’t get used very much in racks that attach to the rafters.
5. Sort it all into containers. Storage containers are a garage’s best friend. Covered ones are the best, because they’ll keep the contents clean. Cardboard boxes will do, but plastic ones will protect the contents if the garage gets damp.
Clear containers will let you see what’s inside, but even they should be labelled so you can easily grab the one you need. Flat-topped ones can be stacked – no more than two or three high, so you can easily get to the ones on the bottom – and are usually better than a round-topped “steamer-style” container. Collapsible totes are great for quick storage and can be flattened and packed away when not in use.
You’ve always wanted a cool tool box, right? Well, this is the time to treat yourself, because it’s going to make any job easier if you can quickly and easily access the right tool. Look for a good-quality box with drawers that slide easily, one that has larger drawers on the bottom for bulkier items. Get one with a lock to keep everything that’s yours, yours.
Sometimes you need to think beyond the garage. If you have enough space in your back yard, consider getting a garden shed for your lawn mower and garden tools. It’ll free up more space in the garage, and will eliminate the need to constantly sweep out soil and grass. If the shed’s large enough, you can also use it for bicycles, or for bulky children’s toys.
After all that work, don’t backslide! Five minutes spent putting everything away could save you half an hour when you’re looking for something the next time around. A place for everything — and everything in its place.