Organize your garage

Is your garage currently a catch-all for your tools, sports equipment, outdoor toys, seasonal decorations, and maybe even a little extra food and drink?

Heck, is there even room for your car anymore? Believe me, I get it! Until recently I was only able to fit one car in my two-car garage. That’s a shocking admission for someone whose job it is to be buttoned up!

There’s something overwhelming and paralysis-inducing about garage clutter. Not only is it in a “room” of the house you literally have to shut the door on (and can therefore blithely ignore), but also the stuff in it is often large and heavy, making it difficult to tackle without some help.

That said, there is only so long I can, in good conscience, let that big organizational “…but…” get in your way (as in, “I really want to deal with it, buuuuuttt….”)! If you’ve been putting it off, the change of seasons is actually the perfect time to roll up your sleeves and get to the bottom of that mess in your garage.

In that spirit, I’ve put together a list of must-have tools and top tips to get you over your inertia and on your way to a ship-shape space.

Must-have tools for an organized garage

Before you get started, look through your belongings to see if you have these essential tools. If not, head on over to your local super store or Container Store; you won’t want to get started without them.

• Clear bins & labels. You’ll need places to store things like sports equipment and seldom-used tools. Clear bins and easy-to-read labels enable you to find what you’re looking for (or put something back in the right spot) within seconds. These Garage Totes from the Container Store are a great option.

• Rolling shelves. Most garages don’t come with extensive built-in shelving or cabinets. As a result, things end up piling up on the floor. Rolling wire shelves, and really rolling shelves of any stripe, will help you minimize the mess on your garage floor by using the vertical space. I specify rolling shelves mainly because in garages you frequently need to shift items around. For example, should you get a new snow blower, you will have to find a spot for it inside. If your shelving is on wheels, it’s much, much easier to accommodate new items when they come in. I like the Antonius System from Ikea at $39.

• Hooks. Hooks are the hardest working organizational tools. Period. They make it easy to locate (and replace) items you use on a fairly frequent basis. They also good for keeping dangerous tools well out of the reach of children. Hang a few in your garage for tools, small and large. They are great when it comes to storing brooms, rakes, saws, coolers, bikes, and snow tires. I think Rubbermaid’s hook & rail systems are amazing – and very well priced.

• Ceiling mounted shelving. Overhead storage can be a lifesaver in a garage. You can get excellent ceiling mounted shelving from stores like Sears for less than $55. Perfect for those things, like emergency kits, you need to keep but don’t use very often.

• Shoe rack. Nothing is worse than walking into your garage only to step into a puddle of melted snow, or maybe even worse, cold, sticky mud. Pick up a shoe rack, and give your family a place (other than the floor) to store footwear conveniently. If you have an entry directly into your home from your garage, this is an absolute must. Rather than cluttering up a hallway or kitchen, have everyone remove their shoes before coming inside. It will save you lots of time because your floors won’t get nearly as dirty. {image via: Garage Innovations}

Tips for digging out from under the mess

Once you are ready to dig in and tackle your mess, stop looking at the big picture. Garages tend to be large “projects” that can overwhelm and paralyze. Instead, pick one small area, like a workbench, to focus on first.

Declutter it completely before moving on to another small space. If not having enough time is the thing that has been holding you back, make a garage-detoxification “appointment” with yourself after dinner every night this week for 30 minutes. You’ll be amazed at how much progress you can make in small chunks of time.

Here are some other good things to consider as you tackle the mess.
• If you’re stymied, take note. Writing down what you don’t like about your current garage situation can help to make sure the same problems don’t pop up when you’re arranging your new layout. Don’t make the same mistakes twice!

• Edit first. Simply decide what’s important to keep in the area you are cleaning and toss or donate the rest. You might find it helpful to grab a large contractor bag for the trash items and a large, empty cardboard box for items you can donate. Additionally, I find that if I take a moment to identify an organization to donate the items to, like my church, or the local school, I have a much easier time letting go of things I don’t use because I can picture who it will be used by next.

• Sort second. Once you’re done getting rid of unnecessary items, sort them into smaller groups (sports equipment, tools, bikes, etc.). This will help you to figure out kind of shelving, hooks, and storage bins you need to install so that you can give everything a proper home.

• Organize according to use. When you’re planning out the layout of your garage, make sure you take into consideration which items you use the most, and where you use them. The lawnmower should be close to the opening of the garage, and the boot rack closer to the house doorway.