How to Organize a Garage
Keeping the house clean and tidy is one thing, but keeping the garage clean and free of clutter often feels like a Herculean task. Considering how much we store in our garages and how hard they work, it’s not surprising that it can be very difficult to keep this area clean and organized. Folks find though that every minute that you invest in keeping your garage clean and tidy pays you back in dividends because the space becomes more functional.
Nobody looks forward to garage cleaning on a beautiful weekend, but putting in a little bit of time, strategy, and work now can help you enjoy this functional space every time you step (or drive) into it.
Garage Cleaning and Organization Tips
When planning the organization of your garage – remember to think beyond the floor and what resides on it. Your 4 walls, and even your ceiling can be expansive storage places – and if you’re not using them, that space is just dead air.
If you’re storing sporting equipment like kayaks, bicycles, and other things of the sort in your garage, these items are massive space-claimers. Consider using hooks or slings that are readily available to hang these items. Many home improvement companies sell grid-style metal hanging shelves/platforms that bolt directly into the ceiling. These devices are great for storing large totes (we’ll talk about totes later), coolers, and big boxes. Consider metal shelving if you need space for a large amount of either boxes, totes, tools, or other big items. Cabinets are excellent for small items like chemicals, wash and wax, paint, and small tools – plus, they keep your valuable floorspace open.
While the investment in new steel garage cabinets can be a bit much for some homeowners, scouring local online sales can yield you plenty of old kitchen cabinets that can easily be repainted and refurbished into great storage cabinets. Steel floor-standing cabinets can often be found in sales as well for a decent price, or you can buy new. Your goal should be able to have as little items touching the floor of your garage as possible – Workbench, toolbox(es), standing shelves and cabinets, and of course, your cars if they’re in the garage overnight. Finally, don’t forget about that famous “outdoor shoes” pile that always seems to build up by the door. Consider a show rack that bolts to the wall to get those shoes up and off the floor so you don’t have to step out the door and into a sea of shoes!
Should It Stay or Should It Go?
Now that you’ve got all your planning done on what sort of cabinets, shelves and other storage devices you’re going to add – it’s time to get a move on! Build or assemble your storage items first, and if possible, get them installed in the areas you want them in ahead of time. Once this is done, it’s organizing day! The first step is to move everything in the garage out. This includes vehicles, tools, possessions, boxes, and anything else that has been sitting around in the back corner for years. You want to literally remove everything that isn’t bolted to the floor or walls.
Next up, we need to determine what stays and what goes. It’s amazing how much stuff can accumulate over the years. If you plan on having a garage sale, coordinating it just after your garage cleanout is a great idea. Step one, start with your chemicals and paint. Just about every municipality has a hazardous material program to drop off items, and now is a good time to do so. Homeowners often keep old paint long past its usefulness and 3 color changes past from your current color in the living room! Any latex paint being kept for “touch up” work, you can easily pair down to small sizes like mason jars, or 1 quart cans and label everything. Gather up any old paint, old chemicals not needed and dispose of them through your municipality. Your leftover items can be best organized in the cabinets we talked about earlier.
Determine what other items need to go. Remember that super cool self-propelled sprinkler you bought at a garage sale 7 years ago that’s over 2 foot long and has sat in the back corner of the garage for 7 years since? It’s time to move on. It’s good to separate items into piles or sections at this point – items you are keeping, items you are are donating or throwing out, and items worth enough money to sell – either at a garage sale or on numerous online markets.
To declutter, you need to be ruthless with this process. A good place to start is if you find items that have received zero use in over a year. It’s very likely these items can go. If the expression is, “Wow, I still have that” it’s probably time to move on. There are, of course, some exceptions to this rule, but those exceptions should be few and far between.
This process can easily take a weekend on its own, depending on how big your garage is and how much stuff you have stored inside of it. Once you have all of your possessions sorted into those groups, the next step is to immediately take what you wish to donate to your organization of choice right away. You also want to make sure that all items you wish to recycle or throw out get to their appropriate bin. Remember – don’t throw away hazardous chemicals and paint!
How to Clean a Garage
Once you have gotten rid of (what is likely) a mountain of clutter, the next step is going to be cleaning out the space. Garages have a tendency to become very filthy, since they store items like cars and lawn mowers. It is best to start cleaning from the top down: for example, use a broom or long-handled duster to get all of the cobwebs out of the corner.
Once you have worked on the ceiling, move to the floors and sweep these down as well. This knocks all of the debris onto the floor, where it can be easily swept out. Once you have done an initial sweeping, take a bucket with soapy water and wipe down the walls and any surfaces with a soft sponge. If you want to repaint your garage, now is a great time!
If you are wondering how to clean garage floor, it’s actually quite simple. Once you have swept the entire area and wiped down the walls, you are ready to clean. You can mop a garage floor the same way that you would mop the floor inside of your house, and scrubbing can actually be done with a push-style shop broom. Once done though, rinse it thoroughly with a hose and let it dry in the sun. Garage floor cleaning is best done with a concentrated degreaser mixed with water, many of which are sold at AutoZone. Flood the floor with a mix of degreaser/water, then scrub with a broom. You can either mop the water up with a mop/bucket, or literally use the hose to rinse and squeegee the water out and into the driveway. This is best done as a 2-person team.
If there are stubborn oil stains on the floor of your garage, you may wish to use a wire bristle brush to buff out the worst of the stain. If you have standing oil spots – use oil dry first to soak up these spots. Getting a bottle of commercial oil stain remover, or a driveway cleaner, can help here.
Now is a perfect time to also epoxy your garage floor and add a distinct coating to it if you desire. 2-part epoxies (recommended over the 1 part) have been extremely popular, affordable, and are fairly easy to apply.
The Power of Organization
Once you have your “keep” section organized. Consider using storage totes to sort out all your items. They work great, store and stack easily, and can easily be labeled. Consider totes for painting materials, sanding and woodworking materials, car parts, camping and outdoor gear, tools that aren’t used often – just about anything can be kept in a tote, and when properly labeled, it makes your garage look clean, organized, and it makes items easy to find when you need them. For smaller items like nuts, bolts, and fasteners that aren’t in pack boxes or bags – consider using compartment trays or even mason jars to organize your bolts. A great idea is to separate your nuts and bolts by small and large, metric and standard sizes. The task may seem daunting at first, but when you need a bolt, you’ll save all that time later having to dig through one gigantic cache of bolts to find what you’re looking for. In your toolbox, consider socket trays, combination wrench organizers and plier racks. All of these items may cost you 100.00 one time, but the amount of time they save later is priceless.
Try to organize your items by how frequently you need them. Seasonal items can usually be stored further out of reach or even in a back shed if you have one. Remember also, if you opt to put in a ceiling-hanging grid/shelf, some of your lesser used items can go in totes or by themselves up there. Items that you use on a weekly basis need to be easier to access. If your organizational system reflects how you actually use the items in the garage, it is more likely that you can keep on top of your new organizational system. Systems tend to break down if they do not reflect the reality of how we use our items and space. Here are some other organization ideas that once people discover them, garage organization and clean-up become much easier!
- Use heavy-duty hooks to hang your ladders and stepping devices up and out of the way.
- Use hooks or folding arms to hang saw horses or stands up and out of the way.
- Extension cord rollers/spools. Once you use them you never go back. No more tanged cords!
- Use a shelf to make a battery-powered tool charging station.
Putting It All Back
So now, you’ve got your organization items built, totes are bought, your items are sorted, the floor and walls are clean, and things are ready to go where they belong. It’s a long journey, but it’s worth it in the end.
Again, just because you have organized your garage does not mean that the project is entirely finished. It is likely that you need to tweak your system over the next few months in order to reflect how you truly use the space.
One of the major advantages to this process is that you are likely to end up with considerably more garage space after you purge and organize. You may be able to use this additional space to your advantage, maybe with a gym space or a shop space. Or if you are the sort who typically keeps your car outside due to “lack of space,” you may be able to find it a new home!
Keeping your garage organized and clean goes a long way toward improving your use not only of the garage but of your home. Make a weekend soon to clean out your space and improve the functionality of your garage, as this will help you enjoy your summer more.
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