If you are like many, the garage is the place for hobbies and storage. From working on furniture and cars to storing tools, toys, sports equipment, lawn care items and many other things besides, the garage is the place to put things that have no place elsewhere in the home. This is as it should be because garages are meant for all those things, but it’s easy for the catchall garage to become a disorganized, cluttered mess of pathways and poorly labeled boxes. This can really throw off your inner neat freak, not to mention make it a frustrating space to function in. Such is life. We have “stuff” and we need to keep it somewhere! So, let’s talk about how we can really make the most of our garage space for the purposes which we need.
Clean it up
First things first. Cleaning time. Take a nice day (or a weekend), open up the garage and move everything out into the driveway. The garage is at best a little dirty, but it is easy for dirt, dust, pollen, leaves, sawdust, pet dander, dead bugs, and other debris to collect here. With everything out of the garage, use a leaf blower or a broom to clear any dirt or mess. If you have pets or work on cars, you may need to clean the floor.
For grease or oil stains, cover the spot with sawdust or cat litter. Try to leave it there for a day if possible then sweep it all up with a firm bristled push broom. If that doesn’t work all the way or you are limited in time, try pouring dry dish detergent powder on the stains. Leave it for about an hour, then pour boiling water on it and use a scrub brush or the broom and a little elbow grease to clean it up.
You may also find some cracks in the concrete as you are cleaning and these can simply be filled with an epoxy paste. Once dry, you may need to run over the filled cracks with a little sandpaper to smooth it out. If time permits, one proactive step you can take to make future cleaning easier is to seal the floor. See the references for more information about how to do this.
Floor plan & zones
Once you’ve gotten the space clean – and don’t forget any cobwebs in the corners – then you are ready to start organizing. First, you’ll want to create a floor plan and define the zones of the garage. Designate sections of the room for whatever you need – lawn tools, chemicals, automotive, pantry items, toys/sports equipment, etc. Then pull back in any furniture, appliances, or shelving you plan to keep and place them where they fit in the plan. The idea is to keep the floor space as open as possible so that you can use the garage space efficiently and be able to reach anything you need quickly. Now, let’s take a look at some cool ideas to best organize your space and your gear.
Organization & storage
Containers – Plastic bins are infinitely better for garage storage than cardboard boxes. They can be clear, so you can see what is inside, take a beating without falling apart, keep moisture out, and bugs (eg. Cockroaches) don’t care about plastic. Store your camping equipment, or holiday decorations in these to keep them clean and in good condition. Jars of all sizes can be used to store small items too. Wash out your sauce and spice jars to use for screws, nuts and bolts.
Cabinets –Typically open shelving is better for the garage, but a locking cabinet is great solution for storing chemicals and other hazardous items, especially when you have little ones around. They are also good when you need to keep items free of dust and dirt.
Shelving – Use that wall space! Both free-standing and wall mounted shelving are a must for the garage and there are plenty of options out there. These are the perfect place to put your plastic bins and jars.
Other wall mounted storage – Magnetic strips can be used to hold drill bits. Hanging jars or cans that are open can be used to drop in brushes, pencils, screwdrivers, etc. Paper towel holders can also be used as garbage and lawn bag dispensers. Pegboard is great because you can always move things around to fit what you need.
Tubes and pool noodles – PVC pipe mounted on a wood base is great for vertical storage of your long handled tools like shovels and rakes. Got fishing poles? Use a pool noodle mounted on the wall to secure them.
Workbenches – If you don’t need to use a workbench very often, consider installing a simple fold-down style. You can also consider a mobile workbench, to help make space where you need it or to work where you need to in the garage. A simple table with casters would do the job and you can add pegboard to the sides to hang tools and items within easy reach. Don’t forget to get a stool for your bench!
Overhead – Don’t forget your ceiling space. If you have a lot of items that you don’t use very often, the ceiling is nice place for them! Mount some racks and slide plastic bins in to stay out of the way until needed. You can add labels to the bottoms so it’s easy to remember what you have inside the bins.
Space for the car – if you like to park the car in the garage (who doesn’t?) and have the space for it, add some scrap carpeting to the walls where you pull in to protect your cars finish. You can also hang a tennis ball on a string from the ceiling to tap the windshield when you are in the right spot.
Check out these great references for more in-depth and creative ideas on how to organize your garage and keep it that way!