It’s a fact as old as garages themselves: having one can be a messy affair. With the best will in the world, even the most compulsively neat garages can quickly succumb to entropy when a big project is in the works. For the messy folk among us, the problem can be even worse. You might think there’s nothing you can do about a jumbled garage; that not being able to track down the right screwdriver is just a fact of life; that your favourite torque wrench is gone forever; that tripping over scattered parts is inevitable.
The truth is, it doesn’t have to be this way. With these 20 genius organizational tips, you could soon be well on the way to a tidy garage that will be the envy of your friends or colleagues. Try one or two tips, or try them all – there’s something here to suit all budgets and experience levels, and big and small garages. Getting a garage in order can be a hugely cathartic experience, and we hope you enjoy putting these ideas into action – happy tidying!
1. The Right Toolbox for the Job
At the heart of every well-organized garage is a great toolbox. This one simple piece of kit will keep all the tools you need in one place, in good condition, and also has the advantage of making them more portable. Depending on the size of your garage and what equipment you need, you might consider a lot of different options. For larger spaces with a lot of tools to store, you might want to install a whole cabinet for tools, for instance. For added utility, this cabinet could have wheels on its base, allowing you to pull it around to where you need it – whether inside or outside the garage. For smaller spaces, choosing as compact a toolbox as possible is probably the best bet.
2. Keep it Comfortable
Nothing puts you off tidying like uncomfortable conditions. Give yourself a chance to put things away carefully by keeping your space toasty with a garage heater. A decent heater can be had for under $50, and it really is a sound investment for making the space more comfortable. When you aren’t freezing in the winter months, it’s far easier to keep your garage organized.
With a heater about, you won’t need to wear bulky coats and gloves, freeing up your hands to access and stow away tools, whilst having the option to turn up the thermostat out there will also help to keep temperature sensitive items – such as paint, and your car – in the best condition possible.
3. Light it up
A well-lit garage is a tidy garage, for a variety of reasons. Using the best garage lighting possible will make it easier to find your tools, and allow you to hang about without straining your eyes. When you think about it, this is one of the most basic steps you can take to keep yourself safe whilst working in your garage too. On top of this, properly installed overhead lighting is a real space-saver compared to haphazardly plugged-in lamps. Get this aspect of your garage right, and others will naturally follow.
4. Make it Easy to Access
Another way to make the most of your space is to choose the right garage door opener. Motorised doors can save a lot of effort over the years, keep your belongings safely stowed, and let light in with the flick of a switch.
Certain doors also provide a great opportunity for squeezing in extra storage space; the door tracks can sometimes be sturdy enough to attach hooks to, allowing you to hang long items such as ladders.
5. Make Friends with Wall Storage
For smaller garages in particular, wall storage solutions should be a close friend and ally in the battle against disorganization. Although it might seem easier in the short-term to heap items on the floor for storage, keeping them away from the ground actually comes with a lot of advantages:
- Saves floor space for moving around, and parking your car
- Storing items at a height reduces the risk of them being damaged by water
- Items are far easier to organise on shelves than on the ground
The type of wall storage you use will depend very much on the size of your garage, but the possibilities are virtually endless. You might consider going green and using old crates as DIY box shelves, or head to your hardware store for some advice. One great way to maximise space is to install corner shelves. This can be a simple way to get the most out of those awkward corner spaces!
6. Try Overhead Storage
Another great way to keep items off the ground is to invest in some overhead storage. Most of us have things kicking around which we don’t use all that often – perhaps camping gear, or skis – so they don’t need to be as easily accessible as day-to-day equipment. This is where overhead storage comes in! There are several ways you can suspend items from the ceiling of your garage. You might wish to install ceiling tracks, which can hold tubs and boxes, or a simple rack. The latter can be made from PVC pipes by the average DIY enthusiast, for a very low cost. Simple ceiling mounted shelves can also be purchased from most good hardware stores. Finally, you might also think about investing in some spring-to-action claws for your ceiling. These claws automatically grip onto items pushed into their grasp, and can be a great way to tuck certain items, such as bikes, easily out of the way.
7. Try Storage Tubes for bigger Tools
In the same way you might store unusually shaped kitchen implements in a pot to prevent them from getting stuck in drawers, you can pop larger handheld tools into concrete forming tubes. Tools such as rakes, shovels, brushes, and hockey sticks can be slid in and out of these tubes with ease – no more tangled piles of equipment on the floor, or stacked precariously in a corner.
This is a cost-effective solution too: concrete forming tubes can be had from your local hardware store for less than $10 apiece. Try securing them to the garage wall with a plumbing strap screwed to the wall on either side of the tube. It’s a simple, cheap, effective way to keep differently shaped tools organized in one place.
8. Get Magnetized
We’ve already written about the wonders of magnetic tool holders, and it bears repeating here: these simple but effective pieces of kit are a really great way to keep your tools well-organized, yet easily accessible. These magnetic strips come in a variety of sizes, and can be either mounted on your wall with screws, or stuck onto another magnetic surface. They have the advantage of letting you see you tools, reducing the need to fumble around for them in drawers or boxes. They’re also another example of ways you can maximise the storage potential of your garage by using wall space.
Finally, because metal tools can simply be placed and pulled from the strip with virtually no effort, tidying your tools away becomes easy, so you’ll be more likely to actually do it!
9. Get Hooked
Hooks are an incredibly basic bit of kit, but one that no well-organized garage should be without. They’re versatile, cost-effective, and can be installed pretty much anywhere in your garage with minimal elbow grease. Below are just a few ideas for using the humble hook:
- Hang up outdoor coats to prevent rain, snow, or mud being trailed into the house
- Large hooks can be used to mount bigger items, such as a ladder or bike
- Hanging certain tools; such as scissors and trowels
- Keep car keys safe and accessible with a hook by the door into the house
- Prevent cables tangling between uses by hanging them from hooks
- Hang a binder clip onto a hook for hanging items such as gloves and rags
- Hang goggles and sunglasses for easy access
10. Hoist your Bike out of the Way
One of the most challenging items to store in the tight space of a garage is your bike. They’re often heavy and awkwardly shaped, plus not every garage will have room for a proper bike rack. One solution to this age old problem is to raise your bike up, out of the way using a specially designed hoist. These devices can be had for as little as $10, and attach to your bike via a series of hooks.
The bike is then lifted upwards by a pulley system mounted on the wall or ceiling. They’re fairly straight-forward to install, and even easier to use. This solution allows you to keep your bike at a height even if you can’t manage to lift it over your head. The rope system means it can be easily raised and lowered with very little strength required.
11. Labels, labels, labels
It’s a simple trick, but one that’s worth remembering: when it comes to organization, labels are your friend! We all know the pain that comes with rummaging through countless boxes in search of one illusive item. More often than not, we give up the search and purchase a new one, only for its predecessor to miraculously reappear in a random location with no explanation. Label your boxes, bins, cupboards, drawers, and even shelves, to get the most out of your garage space. Investing in a label maker can be a massive help with this. Dynamo sell an excellent quality one for $60, and it’s definitely a better option than handwritten labels, which can smudge and peel off – if they’re even legible to anyone other than you in the first place!
12. Use your Joists
If you have joists on the ceiling of your garage, you can wrangle a lot of extra storage space! You can take advantage of your joists fairly easily by fitting attic decking panels between them. This basically gives you a whole extra layer of storage space – great for tucking away items which aren’t used so often. Creating a flat surface in this space also makes it more accessible – you’ll basically be creating a large, elevated shelf! When trying this trick, remember to check how much weight the joists can take before you get started. A knowledgeable building professional will be able to advise you, so you don’t end up overloading your new storage space.
13. Install Ball Ramps
If there’s one type of item which always seems to get in the way, it’s balls! Footballs, soccer balls, basket balls; all can contribute to a nasty trip, and clutter up your garage too. One genius way to store balls is to install simple ball ramps. These are basically angled shelves, made from a plank of wood angled upwards so a ball can be wedged in place. They can be installed anywhere – perhaps in some otherwise dead space. Since it’s easy to take balls in and out of the slots, kids are likely to get behind this storage method too. This is a simple way to keep the balls accessible but out of harm’s way.
14. Pegboards could be the Answer
The humble pegboard has as many storage applications as you can imagine. These boards, drilled with holes in a uniform pattern, can hold any number of hooks, which you can attach practically anything to.
They’re a great way to keep the tools and resources you need in sight and out of the way – much like a magnetic tool holder, but without the limitation of only being useful for metal items. Below are a few ideas for getting the most out of a pegboard:
- Install hooks on it to hang tools from – it’s much easier to change around the configuration than if you drilled the hooks straight into the wall
- Attach baskets for storing smaller items accessibly
- Multiple hooks can be lined up for supporting larger items
- Store your most frequently used items towards the centre of the board, where you’ll see them easily
Overall, pegboards are an incredibly flexible and cost-effective option for storing your stuff.
15. Have a Good old-fashioned clean out
As much as you may feel like putting it off, the single best thing you can do to organize your garage is to have a good sort. Set aside some time – ideally a whole weekend’s worth – when the weather is fine and you can take things outside to sort through. When you’re not sure whether to keep an item there are a few key questions to ask:
- Have I used this in the last year?
- Will I use it in the next year?
- Will someone else in the house have a use for it soon?
If the answer to all three of these questions is a resounding “no”, then you’re better off getting rid of the item. It would be easy to get ruthless and simply stuff all your unwanted things into a skip, but this would be a real wasted opportunity. Items in good condition can be sold or given away, whilst other things can be recycled at your local facility.
This is why taking your time is important when undertaking this task – it allows you to dispose of unwanted items in the most environmentally friendly and useful way possible. Once you only have items left which you believe you’ll use, sort them into categories, such as “sports”, “car”, “camping”, or “garden”, to help inform where you store them. Storing items in distinct categories makes them easier to track down later on.
16. Try Tool Outlines
This simple but effective trick is probably most at home with pegboard storage. So you’ve worked out the optimum place for every tool on your pegboard or shelf – great! Now imagine you’re carrying out a task which requires multiple tools…how do you know where to put them back? This is where outlines come in. Simply draw around the items whilst they’re on the pegboard or shelf, and returning each to its ideal home will be easy. Remember to use a non-water soluble permanent marker or paint when you do this, to prevent any smudges or running. This tip can also work on the floor of your garage, where strips of tape can help to outline where certain items – for example children’s driving toys – should sit.
17. Squeeze in a Workbench by Making it fold up
Think you don’t have room for a workbench? Think again! You might actually have enough space to install a simple Murphy-bed style bench which folds away when it’s not in use. A decent DIY enthusiast can construct their own fold-away workbench fairly easily and cost effectively, but you can also purchase a ready-made one from a good hardware store.
To further the storage impact of the bench, you could even consider hanging smaller items on its underside – just be careful that they can stay firmly in place when the bench is lowered into position. This simple solution can be a great way to provide space for tasks which shouldn’t be carried out in the house.
18. Paint or coat the Garage Floor
Painting the garage floor isn’t exactly an organizational strategy, but it is vital to making the most of your garage. A standard concrete floor has some serious downsides, including how easily it stains, and how an uneven surface can let in bugs and leaves. You can give your coat an Epoxy coat for around $60, which will improve its appearance, make it easier to clean, and provide a grippy surface for your car – not to mention your shoes. You can easily coat the floor of the garage yourself over a weekend. Ensure you carry out the process when a few fine days are forecast, to ensure it has adequate time to dry. Having a nice floor under your feet will also improve the garage’s overall appearance to no end, and help encourage your future efforts to keep it as a paradigm of neatness.
19. Use the ubiquitous Bin
Another simple, but often overlooked, piece of organizational equipment is the humble storage bin. They can be stacked on shelves or the ground, used as drawers, sealed with lids, and more. They’re also very cheap to get hold of! When organizing your garage with bins, as obvious as it sounds, remember to store similar items together so you can find what you’re looking for more easily later. It’s also a good idea to label your bins, again, with a label maker for optimum legibility.
20. Organize Tapes with your own Tape Dispenser
Tape can be a tricky one to store. Rolls can get lost, ends can get stuck down, and once you drop one it can roll along the floor and out of your life forever. Most garages are practically overrun with tape of one kind or another, whether duct tape, masking tape, electrical tape, or run of the mill Scotch tape. That’s where a handy DIY tape dispenser comes in.
There are plenty of options for making one – the sturdiest of the bunch is a slotted wooden box, with a hacksaw blade mounted on the end for easily cutting pieces of tape. Another alternative is to steal the cutting strip from a roll of aluminum foil.
Brining it all Together
And there you have it! With very little time and money, and just a bit of effort, anyone can transform their garage into a serenely organized space. Many of the tips on this list focus on keeping your garage comfortable to work in, and maximising the space you do have with wall and overhead storage. With these two simple tenets, you can really make a difference to your garage.