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How to organize your garage

How to organize your garage
This garage is ready for cars and the inevitable storage items.
[NOTE: This post has been updated with additional images; above is Plan 888-14 by Nick Lee.] 

People are realizing that the garage is an extension of the home instead of a catchall, says Amanda LeBlanc, CEO/founder of The Amandas, a professional organizing firm with offices in Birmingham, Alabama, and New Orleans. “Eighty-six percent of new home buyers want a bonus garage space that’s organized,” LeBlanc says, referring to a 2013 National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) report on homebuyer trends. And in a 2014 survey of 500 real estate brokers and agents, nine out of ten said that home shoppers view garages as more than just a place to park a car—household storage and entertaining space are two other garage

functions. For example, Plan 917-42, above, by The Homestead Partners, includes extra space for a workbench and storage wall, also shown in Plan 888-14 by Nick Lee, below.

LeBlanc and Washington, D.C.-based interior designer Kirsten Lytle, NCIDQ, offer 12 savvy and easy strategies for keeping your garage clutter-free.

1. Organize your garage by zones, such as gardening, home improvement, sports activities and seasonal storage. In addition, keep like items together and group items used for a task together. “The key to garage organization is to make it easy to find what you need and also to put it away,” Lytle says.

2. Organize based on frequency of use, placing items that you use more often in the most convenient location and keeping them as close to where they are used as possible. “If my clients are always working on home improvement projects, tools need to be at eye level because it’s easier to quickly grab what they’re looking for,” LeBlanc says. “If gardening is their thing, garden storage should be arranged near the outside garage entrance for quick access.” For example, Plan 924-4 by Truoba, below, has a handy garden entry storage area.

3. Label where things should go so it is easy for someone else to put things away in their proper spot.

4. Utilize vertical space—consider an adjustable storage system (think cabinets, wall hooks, racks, adjustable shelves etc.). “These systems free up valuable floor space in the garage and provide more freedom to stay organized because shelves, hooks, cabinets and baskets can be rearranged to fit changing storage needs,” LeBlanc says (she is a spokesperson for Organized Living storage systems). Other adjustable storage systems include ClosetMaid ProGarageGladiator, and Monkey Bars. Home Depot and Lowe’s carry a range of adjustable storage products from Gladiator, Edsal, Husky Kobalt, Rubbermaid and others. Another idea: If you’re remodeling your kitchen, Lytle suggests reinstalling some of your old kitchen cabinets in the garage for storage. 

5. Put tools in their place (so you can find them the next time you want to use them). Store hand tools in a container—or on a shelf—that’s the right size to keep them one layer deep. When storing power tools, consider getting Velcro® wraps for wire and cord management. Also, avoid using toolboxes that you have to constantly unpack and unfold. “Go for a tool chest on casters with drawers instead,” Lytle says. “Craftsman tool chests are old school, but they do withstand the test of time!” Or consider a built-in workshop with a

separate storage area, as shown in Plan 924-9, by Truoba.

6. Get racks for bikes and off-season sports gear to keep these items corralled and out of the way when not in use. Also, if you have kids, store bikes, scooters, outside toys and pool gear where they can reach them, so it’s easy for them to grab their toys and put them away. 

7. Put holiday decorations up and away. “Holiday decorations and seasonal items are good candidates for storing on top shelves because they typically take up a lot of space and are only used once a year,” LeBlanc says. “Why take up a lower shelf on which you can be storing more frequently used items?” Lytle recommends packing holiday decorations in plastic tubs with very descriptive labels, separating ornaments by color or style (sophisticated vs. rustic, etc.), and getting rid of decorations that are shabby, tacky, or missing parts. 

8. Create a catchall for sports shoes, rain boots, totes and summer/winter accessories. Muddy shoes and sports bags shouldn’t really go in the house if you have room in the garage, LeBlanc says. Plus, when they’re stored near your door, you can grab them and go to your next game without the hassle of trying to find them in the house. 

9. Lock up ALL chemicals. Keep all chemicals including car fluids, paint, flammable substances and anything dangerous in a locked metal cabinet out of reach of children. Also, remember to make sure that you have proper ventilation when using and storing these items.

10. Lighten up. Add garage lighting so that you can see clearly when looking for things or accomplishing a task.

11. Finish the concrete floors of your garage with an epoxy finish that includes a semi-gloss shine and a little bit of grit. “It looks nicer (and you can make it colorful if you want!!), makes cleaning up oil and other chemicals easier, and provides slip resistance,” Lytle says.

12. Reduce overhead storage and donate. “While overhead storage is a great idea, it’s a pain to access later,” Lytle says. “If you have that much stuff that you aren’t using, consider getting rid of it or passing it to someone who can use it now.” 

But sometimes you just need more room for automobiles, which is where a stacking mechanism might work, as shown in this garage, Plan 930-19, by Sater Design Collection.

However you decide to organize your garage, it’s important to get everyone in your house onboard. “If you’re the only one committed to clean up, then you’ll eventually give up and things will be unorganized again,” LeBlanc says. “Everyone has to be on board to maintain an organized garage.”

Even the garage door is worth reconsidering. Here's a translucent example, from Plan 449-13 by David Cox: bringing daylight with privacy and also as a way to illuminate the driveway at night.

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