As a professional organizer who works with residential clients, I see it all. More often than not, my job with a client begins in the kitchen, playroom or various closets around the house. But the space I hear about most, the space I hear the most dreams about, the space that is consistently an issue in nearly every home I work in…actually isn’t even inside. It’s outside. It’s the garage!
During my initial consultation, we make that turn toward the door to the garage and I hear audible groans or sighs. They’re afraid to show me for fear of my reaction and then immediately head into a conversation about their ultimate garage dreams.
There’s just something about pushing that garage door button, watching the door slowly roll up, and pulling your car inside. Yes, I did say “inside”! If that isn’t enough, how about a garage where everything has its place, items are easy to locate (the first time) and it’s appealing to look at and walk into. Maybe a garage that even inspires you to get more done around the house. Or tackle those lingering projects you’ve been meaning to get ahold of.
This is all possible. Sure it’s going to take time, especially if your garage is cluttered. But the time invested will be returned 100 fold. I promise! And remember, it took a while to get to this point, it will take time to unravel to get back on track.
I’ve helped many families re-organize their garages and I’m here to help you get started with my top 5 professional tips:
A garage should be treated like any other space in your home – whatever is living in it should have meaning, purpose, a use (meaning it’s actually being used!) and have somewhere to go when you’re done using it. Therefore, your first step is sorting through everything. And I mean everything. Don’t leave one box unopened. Keep in mind, we won’t know how to put away your items (in steps 4 and 5) unless we first know what you have going on out there. This part of the process takes time. If you have family or friends available to help, offer to feed them as a thank you. To keep yourself motivated, consider breaking down the task over the course of a few days or a long weekend. To keep your spirits up, play some music or have people around that keep you laughing yet also keep you on task.
Sort everything into categories like tools, car gear, cleaning products, camping items, bike gear, toys, etc. Whatever makes sense to you, sort it out. Also designate a donate pile, a trash pile and a pile for items that need to be disposed of responsibly (chemicals, paint, and the like). As you’re pulling out items, if they belong in the trash or donate pile, place them accordingly. However, once everything is sorted, go through your categories one more time. If you find you have duplicates or one tool works better than another, get rid of it. It always helps my clients to see everything in front of them. Sometimes they didn’t realize just how many philips screwdrivers they owned. 1 or 2 is plenty!
What makes sense to one family may not make sense to another. Before you move forward with any purchases, consider your current systems / routines and what IS working for you. Try to go in line with that so there isn’t a huge habit change for the household. But if previous systems were failing miserably and causing you stress, spend a little time thinking about what you’d like out of your garage and how those issues can be easily solved.
Take measurements keeping note of windows, vents, light switches or doors. These are good to have in hand as you go shopping or while working with a company (or professional organizer – hint hint) that will help you design your space / shelving.
This step is a distant cousin to step 2 so make sure you’re considering these together. Since a garage tends to be one wide open space, what makes the most sense is creating zones. Zones help break down that large space into areas that are clear, defined and make sense to everyone. For example, a work space (adults only), a toy / bike space, a gardening space, a camping space, a space for your specific hobby…you get the idea. This will keep items in check and when you need to find something you know exactly what zone to head for.
Now that we know what we have, we can consider ways to contain and organize your items. Since the garage tends to be dirty and not air-conditioned / heated, consider bins with a lid for your smaller items or items that can be grouped together and will fit inside a bin. Bins that stack well is an important feature. My preference is clear bins so you don’t have to fuss with a label and can see directly inside to know the contents.
Again, if you know what you’re containing (which we figured out during the sort process) you’ll know what size bins to purchase. Make sure to purchase bins that fit the volume of what you’re containing. We don’t need to waste any space out here!
If you have chemicals that must be stored away in the garage, be sure to consider one locking cabinet to keep kids safe.
Remember, a big goal is likely getting the car parked inside. Which means you’ll need as much floor space as possible. Going vertical with storage in your garage is the best way to make use of space…and don’t worry, the aesthetics out here don’t matter as much as they do inside the house. If you end up with walls and walls of shelving, that’s fine. As long as you’re happy with the end result, that’s what matters.
These days there are endless shelving and wall system options including utility tracks, wall panels, pegboard and track-based systems that help get bikes, lawn gear and even coolers up off the floor too! I’ve seen time and again when a homeowner has purchased incorrect shelving. Whatever you do, be sure you are using as much vertical wall space as possible (all the way to the top, people!) and that the shelving doesn’t stick out too far. The best depth for shelving is 18″ or less. Shelving that has cabinet doors is always a nice look, but try not to make that an excuse to let your cabinets get out of control. If you have open shelving, you’re more apt to keep items tidy and organized. Using overhead shelving, even your ceiling can make space to get long items or seasonal decor tucked away.
Keeping as much off the floor as possible will also make it easy to sweep and clean your garage. Maybe you can add a fancy epoxy floor or garage carpet tiles once you’ve tidied up! Go ahead, make everyone in the neighborhood envious of your new, wide open, clean, organized garage!
Can’t get enough of garage organization tips? Here’s a few extra for you…
* Invest in good garage lighting.
* Add weather-stripping or a rubber strip to the bottom of the garage door to keep bugs and leaves from entering.
* Be sure to have a good garage lock – this is a popular location from where intruders enter a home.
* To keep your garage looking and functioning great, at least once a year go through your items to toss and donate. Personally, twice a year would be even better!
You guys have certainly seen quite a few garage organization posts over the last few months. Between my client’s garages and my own, you can see how much clutter can accumulate in this space of your home…but you’ve also seen the amazing transformations and how you can gain an entirely new space!
I shared this post with my friends at Junk King, a company founded in a garage by 2 friends living in San Carlos, Ca – yes, my friends at Junk King are local! But don’t worry, they have more than 60 franchises in 22 states. Junk King picks up junk from your home – responsibly! What they pick up will be reused or recycled. They also do a thorough sweep-up and remove bulky items such as mattresses, furniture, garden refuse, electrical appliances and DIY / builders debris….you know, all the stuff that accumulates around your home and you wonder who you could possibly call to come pick it up. Junk King does!
By the way, they arrive with the people equipped to actually pick it up for you, in a big red truck…and it’s gone! Right then and there. Love this!
Please take a moment to check out their great site and blog, where this very post was shared. I’m so grateful to partner up with fellow like-minded companies…but especially those that are sweet and in my own backyard. Thank you for having me share my garage tips, Junk King!
p.s. I was not paid to write this post – this is a genuine local partnership between me and Junk King.