Updated: May 10, 2019
My husband and I organized our garage recently. It looks and functions 100 times better than before! While I don't offer garage organizing as part of my services (yet!), I want to share how we planned for this project so that you can do the same if you're looking for tips. I asked my instagram followers what questions they had on the topic, so I'll be answering those questions in this post as well.
QUESTION: “How do you decide what areas to put everything?"
We have a 2-car garage but only park one car inside. We decided that anything we didn't need often would be kept next to the car, inside of labeled bins (and on shelves); and other items we use more frequently would be kept on the side that is always open. My husband wanted to be able to use his workbench in the garage without having to move the car out, so that can be found on the right side, away from the car.
Here are some before shots of the garage (I wish I had taken better pictures)...
We didn't like the tall cabinets that used to store all our "stuff". The shelves inside were warped from holding heavy items. Also, I really like to use bins for storage but cabinet doors and shelves place limits on the size and weight of bins you can use. Industrial, adjustable shelving was a better option for us.
QUESTION: "Where to find sturdy shelves?"
We bought our shelves from Costco.com. Sturdy shelves can also be found at home improvement stores like Home Depot or Lowes. If you don't see any in these stores, check their websites!
As always when organizing a space: first take everything out, then group, plan for product etc.
We had found bins that we really liked because the depth was the same as the shelving we bought, they were modular (stackable), and they came in several sizes. We bought one of each size bin and then went through our piles of "like" items and determined how many of each size bin we needed.
Items kept in the bins are things that we don't use often. For example: camping gear; snow clothes (it doesn't snow where we live); extra paint for touch ups (inside & outside); beach toys; emergency items; tools only used for special projects etc... We labeled the bins well which is a MUST (especially since we didn't use clear bins), and we kept similar bins in the same area on the shelves (for example ... all 5 or 6 bins holding camping gear are placed together on the shelves).
Let me share why I would rather use bins on open shelves rather than cabinets... The "before" picture shows that we used to store paint on shelves inside the cabinets. Imagine the task of looking for the right paint when doing touch up work in the house: I would have to look through several cans/buckets of indoor AND outdoor paint to find the right one. The after picture shows that by using bins, I am now able to pull a bin off the shelf and only have to shuffle through the selection of indoor OR outdoor paint.
QUESTION: “Sports gear! How to handle it all?”
While our less-used sports gear was put in bins and labeled (Mitts/Cleats), the gear that the kids use often was left exposed and right next to the opening of the garage. This way, they don't have to open a bin to find what they want... and more importantly: they don't have to spend much effort putting things away when they're done.
We also kept our lawn chairs in this same area as it is right next to where the trunk of my car is. This makes it easy to take the chairs outside or put into the car when going to sporting events. Because we had open wall space above the balls and other sporting items - we took advantage of that wall space to get everything off the ground.
You won't see yard tools in my garage since we keep them locked up in a shed in the backyard... but apply the same principle with your yard tools as I did with my chairs (if you store them in your garage): get them off the ground and use any wall space you have available to store them.
QUESTION: "What to do with kids' ride-ons (scooters / bikes)?"
Our kids' bikes and scooters are kept in our backyard but we did hang our more valuable bikes in the garage where they could be locked up. If you don't have wall space available to store them as we did, think about using a bike rack or maybe just taping off a section on the ground so that everyone knows where the "home" for bikes is at.
QUESTION: “How do you determine what goes in the garage and what stays inside?”
Here's a general rule of thumb: if it gets used outside, keep it outside. If it gets used inside, keep it inside.
If you need to use your garage as an overflow for items that don’t fit in the house: first, make sure that you aren't saving things you don't need or won't use. If you have a goal to get it organized, don't allow your garage to become a catch-all for random items if you have a goal to get it organized. If you do have items that don't get used often in the house, but need to be saved - store those things in your garage, but make sure to use labels so that you don’t forget what you have and where it's at.
Keep in mind the weather year-round when you store things in your garage. For example, you wouldn’t want to store any candles in your garage if you live in Arizona… even if they are candles that get used outside or if they’re Christmas candles and you store Christmas decor in your garage.
QUESTION: “Where does your Christmas décor live?”
All of my seasonal decor (including Christmas) gets stored in a basement storage room inside my house. If I didn’t have that available… I would need to store more in my garage and would probably use overhead storage racks.
QUESTION: "What bins are good to use for outdoor storage?"
Modular bins that stack are the best way to go. Everything functions better, and you make the most of your space if you use the same kind throughout. Clear bins are great because you can see what's inside... but obviously we did not use clear in our garage. If you use bins that aren't clear, be sure to label really well! (Even if you do use clear, labeling gives you the best chance at maintaining your organization.)
QUESTION: “What’s the best way to organize tools?”
I don’t consider myself an expert on garage organization which is why I don’t offer it as a service, so I hesitate to say much about tools etc. Everyone keeps different types of tools and different amounts. What worked best for us may not be what works best for you. To give you a few general tips: the first would be to make a "home" for EVERYTHING. Clutter happens when we don't know where to put something. Another tip would be to get everything off the ground. Use shelves, cabinets, and wall space for storage. If you use cabinets, use bins that you can pull out rather that just throwing all tools onto a shelf. If you're using drawers, use drawer organizers to separate different "types" of tools as seen in the following pictures:
QUESTION: “What if your husband has a million of the same tools and insists he needs all of them? Should we put all like tools together or keep one of each tool as a set and put the others somewhere else?”
If you’re short on space, find out which tools get used the most, then group the rest together and put them in a bin, label it, and keep it in a less prime location. If you have space available, keep all like-items together so that when looking for a tool, there's only one place you have to check for it.
QUESTION: “I have a lot of my work gear in the garage in an old cabinet. Is rolling shelving better?”
We chose rolling shelving as a way to have storage AND a work-top that can pull away from the wall as one piece. If you’re not needing to roll your storage piece away from the wall, rolling shelving is probably not necessary. If you’re using cabinets: store your work gear in a bin or a bag or something that makes it easy to transport. It would probably be ideal for you to take that entire bin or bag with you when you go to work – rather than taking everything out of the bin and transferring to something else (then doing the same thing when it gets put away).
ONE MORE HELPFUL TIP:
Place a garbage can or bucket in your garage, close to where you exit your car. Every time you get out of the car, gather up any garbage and dispose of it in your trash can or bucket. You'll be more likely to keep your car clean if you implement this tip.
PRODUCTS WE USED IN THIS GARAGE:
(the bins above - plus one additional size - can also be found at Walmart)
FYI: the labels on the bins in this garage were made using a vinyl cutter.