Garage Storage and Organization Made Easy

Clear out the clutter and make room for your cars

When Sheila Scarborough moved with her husband and two kids to their new house, she realized the critical role of garage organization. "Our last house had a much larger garage with built-in, wide shelving, plus attic access for other stuff," she said. Scarborough was also intent on having both of the family cars — a 2003 Dodge Grand Caravan and a 1998 Saturn wagon — live in the garage and not out on the driveway.

But with reduced storage space staring her in the face, it was time to get serious about organizing the garage. She began with a comprehensive look at the items littering her garage floor.

"Look for the big space hogs and get rid of them, or at least get them out of the way," she offered. "Oversized ice chests/coolers and holiday decorations are ideal candidates to go on shelves that hang down from the garage ceiling. Even though you have to move cars and climb on a ladder to get to them, you only have to do that infrequently." The family bikes can also be mounted from the ceiling and easily lowered with pulleys.

Scarborough continued the process by mounting adjustable utility shelves on the walls for her oddly shaped items. Plastic laundry baskets became the keepers of balls, frisbees, bike paraphernalia (helmets, gloves, pumps etc.) and gardening equipment (small tools, bags of potting soil, gardening gloves, watering cans).

"I also got sick of the unwieldy stack of rakes and brooms, so I got wall strips with brackets so I could put all handled items on the wall," she said.

She also learned an important lesson on how to properly mount said wall strips.

"The wall strip with the brooms and stuff ended up coming out of the wall because we didn't make sure that at least part of it was on a stud," she warned. "We thought big anchor bolts would be enough. Wrong."

And to help inspire her during the garage reorganization, she added a personal touch to what is commonly an impersonal space. "I put a Rolling Stones poster over my brooms!" she laughed.

Garage sweet garage

"The garage needn't be a catchall for everything that doesn't fit into your house," says Lisa Lennard, organizational expert at California Closets. "By thinking of the garage as an extension of your home, you can enjoy a clutter-free space all year round."

Lennard offers a few simple tips to keep garage space clean and organized — and still have room for the family car.

Step 1: Clean
Motivation is always higher when organizing a clean space versus a dirty one, so start by taking everything out of the garage and giving it a thorough cleaning. Use cat litter to soak up oil spills from the floor and change any burned-out lightbulbs. If you are thinking about painting, now is the time to do it!

Step 2: Group
In order to clearly see what you have, group items together by their purpose. Create a separate pile for tools and home improvement, sports equipment, seasonal items, abandoned hobbies, gardening tools, etc. If there are items that belong inside the home, move them there immediately. Also, create a pile for trash as well as a pile for donation. If you have items you've borrowed from neighbors and friends, create a pile for "returns."

Step 3: Assess
Review the items you have, by pile. Ask yourself, do I need this? Do I use this? Does someone else use it? Can I donate it or sell it at a garage sale or on eBay? Cull down each pile to only those items you use regularly, or need to keep on hand for special occasions (holiday decorations, wrapping paper, extra paint, etc.).

"Pare down ruthlessly. If it's outgrown, give it away; throw it away if it's beaten up; or sell it if it's in good shape. But just get rid of it," adds Scarborough. "Always ask, 'Do I really need this or like this? Does it still work? Would I buy it again today?'"

Step 4: Store
Most people don't make efficient use of their garage space because everything collects on the floor. For smaller items, invest in see-through storage containers or baskets that can be labeled and stacked. For larger items, such as sports equipment and tools, purchase garage accessories that utilize the walls to maximize available space. Consider hiring a professional to create shelving, drawers or even a workbench area.

Prefab garage organization systems also allow you to use vertical space, and can potentially double or triple storage space while still leaving room for your car. Sources for garage organization systems include: California Closets, Hold Everything, Home Depot, Ikea and Racor Home Storage Products.

Step 5: Maintain
Make a commitment to return garage items to their designated spaces when you are done with an activity. It only takes a few seconds, and it can mean the difference between keeping your garage organized and neat or descending back into chaos. If you start out having a specific place for each item, it's much easier.

Once you've cleaned out the clutter in your garage, you'll feel a lot better both mentally and physically. Organizational experts say clearing out and organizing can even help you lose weight. Hmmm...let me know when you're ready to tackle your closets.