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How to Organize Your Garage


I have to admit that I’m not the most organized or neatest person in the world, but there’s only so much “messiness” a person can take.  At some point, even the messy person will break down and clean up.  That’s what happened to me and my garage.

Over the past year, I let the garage turn into the “miscellaneous” area of the house.  In other words, it turned into the messy room where it was used to store everything but the car.  Snow blower, garden tools, lawn mower, patio furniture over the winter, Christmas decorations, cleaning supplies, books, tools, you name it!  It was getting to the point where I couldn’t walk through the garage without tripping over something or other.

So enough is enough, this past weekend, I decided to take some time and organize the jungle that was my garage.  Here are some tips that I found helpful:

  1. Get Rid of Stuff You Don’t Use – This was a big one that helped clear out a lot of clutter.  Giveaway the stuff that you don’t use to charities, friends, family or even the neighbors.  Another thought would be to have a yard/garage sale to make a few dollars with your “junk”.
  2. Get Stuff off the Ground – What makes a garage seem really messy is when stuff is all over the floor.  Get whatever you can off the floor and the garage will be instantly “neater”.  I purchased and installed a rail and hooks system that hangs on the garage wall.  From there, the shovels, brooms, hoses, and other garden tools can hang on the hooks.  I’ve found that shelves also help immensely.  I have some old shelves in the garage that keep other various knick knacks off the floor.
  3. Use Storage Bins – Those large plastic storage bins can come in handy, especially if they can fit neatly into shelves.  What’s great about using boxes/bins is that it keeps things out of sight.
  4. Label Where Things Belong – In conjunction with using boxes/storage bins, label them accordingly so that items are easy to find when you need them (Christmas decorations etc).
  5. Put Stuff Back when Your Finished – This is the key to keeping the garage neat, follow the system you’ve created!  For me, I find it’s much easier to follow a system than creating one, so taking the time to create an intuitive system is well worth the effort.

I’m at the stage where stuff is off the ground, but it’s not as organized as I would like, that is my next step.  Do you have any tips on how to organize the garage/shed/storage area?

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FrugalTrader About the author: FrugalTrader is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.

{ 19 comments… add one }

  • guinness416 July 8, 2009, 10:29 am

    Share equipment with your neighbours is my best tip. I live in the city so don’t have a garage but our shed is pretty clean and clear because our street only has one lawnmower, one snowblower, etc. There’s no reason to have 16 of them each doing one hour of work a week.

  • Alex July 8, 2009, 10:40 am

    I installed Ikea kitchen cabinets with shiny blue doors and a thick butcherblock countertop along the end wall. They were all from the “As-Is/Scratch-n-dent” section so they were cheaper than any other ‘garage’ cabinets I could find, plus they feel more durable. On one side wall, for all those large plastic storage bins, I built shelving out of 2x4s and 3/4″ plywood. I can store up to 8 bins (each labeled with their contents) plus winter tires/toolchest/etc, and finally allow a car into the garage.

    Not to mention a few trips to the local Salvation Army to donate unused/unneeded items.

  • sekishin July 8, 2009, 10:41 am

    Once I get a “path” cleared to the object I need at that time, I’m done . . .

  • nobleea July 8, 2009, 12:06 pm

    There’s a book called “Your Garagenous Zone” it’s highly regarded for people looking to organize their garage. I borrowed it from the library and I can’t say I was impressed. Really, a lot of advertising for different wall org systems, floor coatings, etc. Did give me some ideas though, and had some plans for DIY benches and such.

    Alex, I bet those blue ikea cabinets looks awesome. That’s a great idea.

  • Dharma July 8, 2009, 1:33 pm

    I shut the door :)

  • Bromoney Banks July 8, 2009, 3:36 pm

    It helps SOOO much to get rid of the stuff you know you’ll never look at again.

  • NoDebtGuy July 8, 2009, 4:11 pm

    Costco had these power lifts that would raise everything to the roof for you. I thought that was an awesome idea. Looked a little pricy though so we went with hooks to hang stuff from the roof instead.

    For the summer on vehicle sits outside, but in a couple of months we will have to clean up so I am not stuck scraping everyday!

  • Jacksonville Fence Contractor July 8, 2009, 5:07 pm

    Never underestimate the power of friendship and a case of beer. Last weekend I really needed to overhaul the garage and with three friends over it was completed within a few hours. And all it cost me was a case of beer and a BBQ. Now I just have to maintain it.

  • Ms Save Money July 8, 2009, 7:54 pm

    I find that having shelves on install around the walls of the garage helps keep the garage clean and organized. Also you can by large plastic containers to put away the things that you use only once a year – like decorations for Christmas, Halloween, etc. You can also use them just to put away books and such. Keeps everything clean and organize and dust doesn’t accumulate. Just remember to label the plastic containers so you know what is inside.

  • Andrew July 8, 2009, 8:12 pm

    These tips apply to the majority of rooms in your house let alone the Garage Frugal ;).

  • Steve - Montreal July 8, 2009, 9:06 pm

    My best method is to keep the car parked in it. I see too many people that use their garage for storage as opposed to its real intent.

  • DAvid July 8, 2009, 10:45 pm

    You need a shed!

    DAvid

  • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader July 8, 2009, 11:02 pm

    Thanks for the tips guys!

    DAvid, you are right, I do need a shed! Coming home this summer? Perhaps you can help me build one?

  • Father of Five July 9, 2009, 10:16 pm

    Each August my wife and I scour the house looking for items we don’t use – basically if we have not used it in the last 12 months, it is of no use. Most of these items collect in my workshop/shed and each August we have a flea market to get rid of things. Anything left over at the end of the day we take to the “Value Village” store and donate it. Keeps the clutter down, which I find builds up easily with 5 kids.

  • cannon_fodder July 10, 2009, 11:02 pm

    When my wife and I went house shopping 6 years ago we came across this couple in their mid-50’s who had a nice bungalow. What blew me away was how neat and clean their garage was. Not only did they have relatively few items in the garage, but everything had its place. But, the ultimate was they had the garage floor painted with white epoxy paint. It looked like you could have children playing on it and not worry.

    We tried that but because we didn’t prime it properly it eventually just flaked away and became an annoyance.

    We did however take some spare paint and paint the garage walls (they were constructed with drywall on them). We then placed hooks at various key locations, we use a hose reel to keep the hose in its place (easily one of the most obvious ways to make a garage look messy), installed some cheap wall cabinets from Walmart, hung our recycling bins on the wall and presto!

    But, most importantly, I vowed that when we bought this house with a 2 car garage it would always remain a 2 car garage! Like Steve in Montreal stated – the garage is primarily to protect the cars, not become an ever growing garbage bin (I know garage and garbage are spelled similarly but that is where it ends).

    Unfortunately, houses built now seem to really squeeze the size of garages to their bare minimum so like guinness416 mentioned, I store my snowblower in my next door neighbour’s 1 1/2 car garage and for his troubles, I take care of his driveway and sidewalk.

    Whatever you do, don’t start to let things piled up – a great aunt of mine passed away a few years ago and she used her garage as a storage locker. It took her kids over 2 weeks to go through everything after she passed away.

  • JJ July 14, 2009, 9:04 am

    I park in my garage so I don’t let it get out of hand or order to begin with. I do not want to clean off the windows in winter, so I park inside even in summer. It becomes a habit and then no big cleaning job is needed.

  • Tom @ Canadian Finance Blog July 15, 2009, 6:51 pm

    Ms Save Money, I am also going with some big bins for seasonal items. We recently moved it and almost everything is in the garage while I deal with it one box at a time. Planning to get my garage all set before winter!

  • Niche Topics January 1, 2010, 10:20 pm

    Great tips, thanks! The ceiling is also a great for storage space. You can insert a few hooks to hold bicycles etc. Many don’t make good use of these areas for storage since they are difficult to reach. You can use a ladder, pulleys or a hydraulic lift to help you raise items into the elevated areas.

  • Deb August 31, 2011, 11:19 pm

    When we recentlymoved into a new home in an adult commuity,the rules were thatwe had to keep our car in the garage at night. Yikes! That meant we had to organize our excess stuff quickly!
    So my husband went to the federal government surplus auction and got several 36″ wide file cabinets (5 and 6 feet tall by 18″ deep) and a metal cabinet reasonably cheaply. He filled most of one wall with these cabinets and created quite a bit of storage.
    The top drawers on the file cabinets have flip up fronts and pull out trays, and the bottom one is an actual drawer. We can get a lot of things in each drawer and things stay relatively dust free. There are even slots so I can put a paper label on the front so we can tell what’s in there.
    Since the highest cabinet in 6 feet tall, we can also fit some plastic boxes along the top.
    Now we still have to figure out how to organize the other side of the garage with the bikes, chairs, ladders, workbench, etc. And that’s how I got to this page in my hunt for ideas!
    We can now get the car in though and that’s a succesful first step.

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