Garage Organizing 101


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Garage Organizing 101

What’s in your garage? Not sure?

If it’s not your car, then maybe we need to talk!

For a lot of people, the garage ends up being the dumping ground for things you don’t know what to do with, don’t want to think about or think you will get around to later. This is what I call the “I’m-a-gonna” syndrome (I’m a gonna get around to that sometime).

It may seem convenient to throw anything and everything in the garage and simply close the door and forget about it. Not such a good idea.


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While garage organizing doesn't sound exciting, there are two benefits to consider. According to many real estate experts the garage can give you extra living and entertaining space you didn’t realize you had for a very small cash outlay.

Need another reason?

If you decide to sell your home, most people concentrate on the kitchen and bathroom areas. While these two areas are important (especially to women, who tend to be the principal decision maker of home purchases), they are also the most costly to renovate. However, a clean, well organized and cheerful garage is the “wow” factor most men are looking for and the cost to spruce up the garage can be far less. In this tight home market, anything that can give you extra “wow” is worth considering.

With a little planning and some time you can reclaim your garage and make a useful, multifunctional space. The garage organizing tips on this page will give you the help you need.

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What about cost? Doesn’t it cost a lot to do a garage makeover?

Not necessarily!

While you can perform a high end costly garage makeover that would make Jay Leno green with envy, it’s not necessary to break the bank. Any organizing project (including garages) have both a high end, low end and somewhere in the middle cost range. It all depends on how creative you are, what your vision of the space is and what you decide to purchase to organize your garage “stuff.”

Do you feel overwhelmed or don’t know where to start?

High end – low end – or no end in sight -- here are my suggestions to help you with your garage organizing and give you the functionality you want and deserve:

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Garage Organizing Step One

Preparation You most likely have a lot of stuff that is trash or not worth keeping. Therefore, before you begin, I suggest rounding up lots of bags for trash and boxes for things you want to keep while going through the next step (Sorting). If time, money and space allow, you could even rent a Pod for your driveway to put your items in. You can lock up your garage items for safety. This will free up the garage space while you perform any cleaning, painting, etc. that you feel is necessary. This is especially helpful if you will be hanging drywall, installing Slatwall, painting the floor or installing floor tiles, etc.

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Garage Organizing Step Two

Sort It Out I know you probably dislike this step, but all organizing projects involve sorting. Sorry! Take time and don’t rush through this step just because you may not find it enjoyable. Look through the Basic Principles and Other Things under the Start Here section for tips and information to help you with the sorting process. You can also use the Trash, Keep, Recycle sorting tools under the Free Stuff section to get you started. The good news is, once you’ve completed this portion of your project, you will not only feel better, but the rest of the steps will be a breeze.

Garage Organizing Step Three

Trash It/Donate It/Recycle It Don’t hesitate – take the Trash to the dump the minute you’ve finished sorting. Be sure to dispose of items like paint, old motor oil, etc. properly. Check with your city for guidelines on disposing of hazardous items.

Next take Recycle items to the recycle facility and the Donate items to your favorite charity of choice. Make sure to complete these three steps before moving forward. You will avoid the temptation to keep something you already decided to discard. Also, clearing the space will make it easier to complete the rest of the project!

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Garage Organizing Step Four

Plan It This portion of the project will take some thought and planning on your part. It will be very specific to you and your particular garage space and what you want to do with it. Here are some things to think about and questions to ask yourself before you get to the next step (Design):

  • What do I want the garage to be used for? (Examples: protect my car; workshop area; overflow entertainment space; play space for kids; storage for sports equipment, holiday decorations, garden supplies, etc.).
  • Do repairs need to be made? (Examples: mold, mildew, rotting wood, bad ceiling joists, eliminates a flooding problem, etc.)
  • What type of items do I have that will need to be stored? (Examples: large quantities of small items such as nails, screws, nuts, bolts, etc.; paint cans and supplies; bicycles, balls, skis and other sports gear; lawn mowers, leaf/snow blowers, rakes, shovels, etc.; car/motorcycle, etc.).
  • What type of functional storage space already exists in my garage? (Examples: drywall, pegboard or unfinished walls; free standing shelves, built in shelving or overhead storage racks; workbench, etc.).
  • Do I need to add anything? (Examples: hang drywall, pegboard or install Slatwall to better utilize my vertical space; install workbench and tool storage area; purchase organizing equipment specific to what I will be storing; install overhead racks to utilize ceiling area better).
  • Do I want to add color and “wow”? (Examples: paint the walls or floor; add garage floor tiles, etc.)?

Taking time to decide what you want up front will save you time, money and trips to the hardware store!

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Garage Organizing Step Five

Design It Now that you’ve thought through the questions above, take some time to draw a layout of the space and design what you want. You don’t have to be an architect or an interior designer. A pencil, some graph paper, a tape measure and a ruler are the only tools you will need. Measure your garage area and draw it on the graph paper, to scale (1 square/graph = 1 foot of garage). Draw in any existing features you intend to keep (work bench, built in shelves, etc.). Make trips to home improvement, hardware stores, etc. to find items you want to add to your space. Get specific measurements (height, width, depth). Now go back to your space and make sure what you want will fit. Measure carefully. Sketch it in on your drawing. Once you have the design the way you like it, you can purchase the items you need to complete the project. Be sure to install drywall/pegboard before you paint so you can paint it to match your walls (unless you’re installing Slatwall – you’ll want to paint then install). Paint the ceiling, then walls. Paint the floor last. Don’t be afraid to use your imagination!! Have a design theme and add some splashes of color. Make it interesting!

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Garage Organizing Step Six

Hang It/Store It/Stack It Take a deep breath. You’re in the home stretch and almost done! Time to get out those garage shelves, boxes, bins, baskets, bicycle lifts, etc. that you purchased. Install items such as overhead storage, bins, lifts, etc. according to manufacturer specifications and directions. Be sure to secure them safely and anchor items to be hung on the walls or ceilings with appropriate hardware. Use a stud finder and always anchor items securely to studs, not drywall. Safety first! Get all storage equipment installed first.

Next, get your Keep items and start putting them away utilizing those great organizers you purchased and installed. Hang the bicycles up off the floor; store the paint and painting supplies securely and away from the reach of children; put the rakes, shovels, leaf/snow blowers on their appropriate wall racks; stash basket balls, tennis balls, etc. in their own baskets. Keep going until everything is in the place you designed for it on your plan. Small items such as nails, screws, washers, nuts, bolts, etc. can be sorted in separate containers. Old baby food or canning jars make wonderful places to store these items. Be sure to stack bins safely so they won’t tip over.

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If you rented a POD, be sure to call for a pickup so you can regain the use of your driveway!

Viola! Congratulate yourself -- you're done with your garage organizing and your garage is picture perfect!

Put that car back in the garage and celebrate!

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Walk into anyone's garage. What will you see? Probably 50% of the time there will be anything but a vehicle there. If there are 2 or more garages …

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