A step-by-step plan to organize your garage (the space you love to hate)

Decluttering—and getting organized in general—can quickly become overwhelming and daunting when you don’t know where to begin or where to find the time to do the work.

As a professional organizer who has worked in every area of the home under the sun, there are definitely certain areas of the home that are more enjoyable to work in than others, however, each space comes with its pros and cons.

To be completely honest, garages are one of the most difficult areas for us to get excited about. It’s the the part of the home that is arguably the easiest to neglect. The part of the home that can be ignored since it doesn’t require a pass-through to enter or exit the home. The part of the home where no furniture, art, or decoration is needed to make it feel like “home” (and therefore no necessary care/upkeep to make it look presentable on a daily basis). The part of the home where you can literally just shut the door and forget about.

For a space that is used as a storage area (for household items, cars, or both), our main priority is first and foremost the functionality. We are less concerned with making the space “pretty” with products that tie into the home’s aesthetic and more focused on figuring out how to make the pieces of the puzzle fit together in a way that makes it both visible and possible to access, which can sometimes be tricky in such a tight space.

The warmer months are definitely the recommended time to tackle a garage project (trust us, we typically don’t take on garage projects in the winter because of how cold it can get!). So since we have a few more months of warmth upon us (at least on the East Coast) why not bring this to-do to the top of your list?

Here are our 6 tips for how to get started, what to consider, and how to make the most of your space to create a functional garage.

1. Identify the goal. The size of your garage is going to determine how realistic you can be with what is stored and how you store it. For example, if you have a one-car garage and need to fit a car, 4 bikes, utility tools, and camping gear you will need to get creative with your vertical space and utilize as much of the 3 garage walls as possible. 

We recently worked on a project where the client was looking to totally revamp the organization in their garage. The client has a large two-car garage but the extra space had served as a storage dumping ground, which we see happen often in homes (sometimes having extra space just encourages more “stuff” to get filled into the space). So, the goal was to make it possible for the family’s two large cars to comfortably fit in the garage while also storing the family’s many bikes, outdoor entertaining supplies, sports equipment, and outdoor gardening/maintenance tools.

2. Measure the space. Once you have a goal in mind, measure the available space so that you can move forward with creating a layout. When you are measuring the space make sure to account for any obstacles, like the height (know how high you can go without blocking the garage door from opening), the length (how much wall space and floor space you have to work with), and the depth (how much space from the wall you can work with...this is especially important to know if you are working around getting a car to fit in the same space!)

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3. Plan the layout. Now that you have your goal and measurements, figure out how you’d like to layout your space. We always recommend using the vertical space, so adding freestanding or wall-mounted shelving is a worthy investment if space allows. Then, figure out what you’d like where in the garage and how accessible it needs to be. For example, if you want to hang your bikes but need to make it possible for your kids to grab you’ll need to make sure that the hooks are low enough for a child to grab. For taller, thin items (like rakes, shovels, or even sports sticks and rackets), store upright along the perimeter of the wall to save on shelf space, storage depth, and make it easy to grab when needed.

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4. Inventory everything. Pull everything out of the garage and create categories so that you can see how much of each category your have. Trust us, it will definitely look worse before it gets better but this exercise will help you see exactly what you own, how much of it, and what to account for when you are deciding where it should go in the garage.

5. Purge the unnecessary. Get rid of the items that you no longer need. Since it could have been a while since the last time you took a good look at what you are storing, your needs may have changed and some items could be let go of. We often find that kids gear (bikes, beach toys, outdoor games) are the biggest area that build up over time.

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6. Organize the rest. Now it’s time to load everything back into the garage. Start with the items that you access the least (seasonal items) and store them on higher shelves or in the back of the garage. Then, take the items that you use most frequently (daily or weekly) and give those priority space. For example, if you are an avid gardener then keep your supplies on a shelf that is easy for you to access without having to grab a ladder or shift items out of its way. As always, we find that corralling categories using sturdy bins keep the contents organized and labeling each bin (or shelf) makes it multi-user friendly.

BEFORE AND AFTER

So, what organizing projects are on your summer to-do list? Leave a comment below for us to focus on in our future “how to” posts!

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Rachel and Company is a professional organizing firm based in Bethesda, MD, serving clients in the Washington, DC area including: Potomac, Maryland Georgetown, the Palisades, McLean, Arlington, and Alexandria, Virginia.