Updated: May 19, 2020
A garage can be a catch-all for the things that don't have a place in your home. I like to refer to it as a graveyard for your stuff. Jerry Seinfeld even weighed in with his opinion on garage organization when he did a bit on The Tonight Show. He said, "No object has ever made it from the garage and back into the house." That statement definitely has some truth to it.
The garage holds a lot of categories. Christmas decorations, sporting equipment, lawn tools, and even random household items. But can you guess what our garages don't always hold? A CAR! That's right! Can you believe that? Almost 1 in 4 Americans say that their garages are too cluttered to park a car. The average cost of a new car is around $30,000 so it would make sense that if you have the opportunity to protect your vehicle that you would. So let's start talking about some steps to get your garage organized.
Garage Organization Projects by A Meaningful Space
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Make A Plan
Start by deciding on what you need to store in the garage. Categories in your garage may include car care, tools, paint/chemicals, gardening, yard/lawn, sports equipment, holiday, or food/beverage storage. Talk about it as a family so everyone is on board. It's also important to talk about a time frame for your project. Your garage didn't fill up with stuff overnight. You may not be able to tackle this area in a day or even a weekend. Break your garage into sections and tackle them one at a time if it's more feasible for you. Don't forget to include the weather in your plans. Since most garages aren't climate-controlled you'll want to choose a day without rain and with temperatures that are comfortable.
Sort It Out
Now that you've created your categories it's time to start bringing items out of your garage. Use your categories to sort as you go. You can use boxes with labels on the front, tarps on the ground, or for fun, sidewalk chalk to write it out on the pavement. Make sure to have a place for trash, donations, and recycling. Whatever section you are starting with, or if you're decluttering the whole garage at once, everything and I mean EVERYTHING needs to come out and be sorted.
Be brutally honest. If you haven't used an item in at least a year, do you really need it? What about those "projects" waiting to be started, worked on, or finished? Any holiday decorations that you didn't use last time you put them up? What about sports items that you or the kids no longer use? Do you have tools or gardening equipment that is broken or rusted?
As you are making decisions about what to keep and what to let go, remember your organizing goals. If an item doesn't serve a purpose, it's time to toss it.
Create Your Zones
Now that you have sorted and purged your items, you can begin to place them back into the garage. Just like the inside of the house, keep like items together. Consider the frequency that you use items to help you determine where your zones belong. The more you use an item, the more accessible it should be. An example of this would be the lawnmower and snowblower (if you have one). If you have seasonal items like this, then place them within easy reach during the season they are being used. Keep items where it makes sense for how you use them. Seasonal items like decorations can be stored in a less accessible area since they are only used once a year.
Items should be off of the ground whenever possible in the garage. Keeping flat surfaces like floors clutter-free is key to maintaining the organization. One of the most common solutions to keeping floors clean is to invest in upright shelving units. Make sure to carefully measure the space where you are planning to install the shelving unit to get the right size. Another way to keep items off of the ground is to take advantage of the vertical space in your garage. Hang bikes, ladders, gardening tools, and more! There are even ceiling rack systems that can help you take advantage of all of your vertical garage space.
Storage bins are also helpful in keeping your items together. Choose bins that are made from heavy-duty plastic, and avoid using cardboard, fabric, or wicker bins in the garage. They don't hold up over time and can also attract bugs. I tend to favor clear plastic so you can see what you have without removing the lids. Choose sizes that are appropriate for what you are storing, and remember to label each one.
More Garage Storage Advice
Chemical and Paint Storage
If you are going to store paint in your garage make sure that it won't be exposed to extreme hot or cold temperatures. Paint can separate or gel and become unusable. If the paint you are keeping is good and is a current color you use in your home, consider storing it in the basement or a utility closet for the long-term. To know which color is in the can, dab some of the color on the lid. On the lid also note the room where the paint has been used.
If you are ready to get rid of some paint, check with your local township or city to see how you can responsibly dispose of paint and other chemicals. Any chemicals that are toxic or hazardous should be kept out of the reach of children and pets. Keep them in a cabinet or up off the ground and label as dangerous or hazardous. Any flammable substances such as gasoline should be kept away from any heat sources and off of the concrete floor.
Keep Your Garage Pest Free
Garages are easy places for rodents and bugs to take up residence. I have seen this happen in many garages and even in the nicest of homes! Do not leave items like food, birdseed, grass seed, or pet food exposed in the garage. Store these items in durable, heavy-duty plastic or metal bins. Rounded corners on the lids help deter rodents from chewing their way in. Don't keep items like paper, clothing, or firewood in your garage either. Not only will it more than likely ruin these items, but keeping them here will also attract bugs and mice.