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Ultimate Guide to Garage Organization and Storage Ideas

Our mission is to achieve First Order Organization which is our organizational method that says you must be able to reach items in need in the first order – that is without moving anything in the way.

Step 1: Cleaning and Sorting 

Many of us have random piles of things scattered throughout the garage. Boxes of pictures mixed with soccer cleats; kids swim gear with office files; you get the idea. Too many unrelated things stuffed away together makes it impossible to find things.

Even if your garage is fairly organized, it could probably use a sort and trash session.

Sorting to get organized

Your first task is to SORT things out. This is also the perfect opportunity to throw out stuff that isn’t needed. This step is a fast organization step to actually sort or categorize things. All you need to do is:

Scan and mentally categorize: Take a quick look at everything you have (don’t sort anything yet). All you need to do is mentally categorize things for now.

Setup your category boxes: Get some empty bins or cardboard boxes, or simply areas on the floor for each category. Add labels to them for general categories of items like office, family (pictures, etc), Tools, Miscellaneous, etc.

Miscellaneous box:  Always have a miscellaneous box during the sorting step. If it takes more than 10 seconds to decide where the item goes, throw it in the miscellaneous box. Start sorting: If you are sorting through boxes of old stuff, go one by one, empty them and place the items in their category. Get through this step. Don’t worry, if later you want to resort it into more of different categories it will get easier and easier.

Donate Box: Sometimes you can’t bear to throw something out but you know you won’t use it either. Solve the problem with a donate box. It gives you a quick way to keep sorting and not feel guilty.

Trash Box: While you are sorting is the perfect opportunity to throw out things that you don’t need. I prefer to be aggressive here. If it hasn’t been used in 1 year – throw it out.

Trashing items:  General rule of thumb: If you haven’t used it in 6 months, throw it out. We had items that came with us from a former house. This means it survived a 1,000-mile move then sat in the garage for four years. Imagine how many times I moved that group of items out of the way only to find something else. What a waste of time!!!

PROTIP

Get paper office boxes or cardboard boxes, set 4-6 of them out on the floor, Add labels to them for general categories of items like office, family (pictures, etc), Tools, Miscellaneous, etc. As you go through the items in your garage, take only seconds to decide where it goes and toss it in the right box. If you can’t figure out where it goes toss it in the miscellaneous box. The point here is to quickly sort. Most importantly throw things out you don’t need.

INSERT DRAWING OF BOXES HERE

Step 2: Planning

Before you take on your garage organization project – plan it out. 

You can plan only after you know what you need to store. That way your storage ideas are based on reality vs guessing. This is why we sort and trash items first as described above.

Plan by your storage by frequency of use

Frequently used items
These go where you have NO obstructions. You do not want to move something out of the way each time. Remember First Order Organization? That’s where you can grab anything you need without moving something else out of the way. Rarely used items
These go in hardest to reach storage space. These are your true store and forget things like holiday decorations, old books, etc all go into true storage. Think garage ceiling or a garage attic if you have one.

Plan dedicated zones for activities you do most

We often organize things and spaces into zones. If you are a gardener, it would be efficient to have a gardening zone. Instead of having a box of fertilizers on one side of the garage and shovels on the other side, it is more efficient if everything in one spot?

Think in terms of your most frequent activities.

Gardening Zone: If you are a gardener, you might have some tall tools like rakes hanging on the wall. Store your smaller items in a bin directly under or next to those rakes. You’ve just created a one spot for all things gardening zone.

Trash Zone: Keep trash bags, trash cans, recycling bins all in one zone. So you aren’t chasing these items across the garage.

Other zones: Sports zone, tool zone, you get the idea, whatever your activities are, find a way to manage that storage in one central place.

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PROTIP

To maximize space on shelving units measure your bins and shelves before buying them. Make sure three (for example) will fit on one shelf so you aren’t left with open unused space.

Consider the height and accessibility of your storage

Eye-level storage: Things that you access frequently and want to quickly scan to find.

Arms reach storage: We recommend putting a row of shelves with plastic bins just above eye level so that you can pull them down easily. These are things that you don’t use too often but do want them to be accessible.

Under counter or floor level: We suggest having heavier or bulkier items in plastic bins on the ground level. These bins can be under counters or on bottom shelves where they can act like drawers so that you can pull them out easily.

Out of reach storage: For items that you really don’t use often. Some examples are ceiling storage, attic, or any other area that is not easily accessible.

PROTIP

Make it really easy to toss items into plastic bins or cardboard boxes on the top shelving units by leaving the lids off.

Measure your floor and walls

Now you’ve got a sense of what you need, now let’s find out how to store it in your garage. The first step is to measure. 

Garage Floor Space Plan

We drew these floor space plans in Google Docs, but they could have been done even quicker by hand. The point is to plan out the areas you need with some convenient degree of accuracy. 

 

Hiding items vs out in the open storage

The key to a tidy-looking space is uniformity and less clutter. Hiding things on cabinets make for a more tidy and less distracting appearance. On the other hand, they’re harder to get to. This is where in sight storage is helpful. Things like wall slats are great and necessary for larger items like rakes, etc. But we generally recommend you “hide” as much as possible so that it is not 

Electrical

Before you truly organize, consider your electricity. Not everyone needs or can afford to go through this step. That’s ok. Even if you are not prepared to spend lots of money, take a moment to consider electrical now. After you organize you’ll wish you had lighting and outlets in certain spots. Giving this some thought now will help you out more in the future.

Short of calling an electrician, you can do a lot on your own. 

Overhead LED track lights

There are plenty of DIY solutions to add overhead or other types of lighting. Some examples include led lighting strips for the ceiling and 

[PROTIP] Add remote-controlled switches to lighting (XXX) so you don’t have to fight to get to the switches. Then hang the remotes by your door for easy access. 

Outlets or extension cords 

There are plenty of ways to place outlets without calling an electrician. For example, there are extension cords with outlets spaced every 12 inches

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Step 3: Buying Storage Equipment

At this point you should have a good idea of what you need to buy. Below you’ll find suggestions for different storage for garages

Overhead or ceiling mounted storage racks:

Overhead is good for things you don’t need often. Get it off the floor and out of the way. Think Christmas decorations, etc. There are many types of overhead storage. Typically they are made from metal rails that attach to the ceiling joists. Many have accessories that allow you to hang things like bikes on the bottom side. Some even have pulley systems so the shelving raises and lowers. 

  Pros Cons
Ceiling mounted storage Keeps things out of the way

Makes use of unused space and increases storage capacity
Items are difficult to access

A ladder is required for access

Wall Storage Systems

Wall storage comes in too many varieties for us to recommend what should be stored on a wall. Instead, another way to think of it is, you already know what you need to store because you did your sorting and planning. Based on your needs decide what type of wall storage you’ll need. Rather, how much of a few kinds you’ll need. Most people could use more than one type. Like a combo of cabinets and wall slats

Wall Slat Systems

These are horizontal slats that allow a variety of hooks and accessories to be mounted. The flexibility of these systems is outstanding. Since the slats have both vertical and horizontal flexibility you can design your own storage. 

  Pros Cons
Wall slat systems Keeps things out of the way

Makes use of unused space and increases storage capacity
All items are out in the open
Individual items take up lots of space

French Cleats Systems

These are sort of old-school or DIY versions of slat systems. The cleat is a wood rail placed on the wall. An endless variety of hangers, boxes, etc are then hung on the cleat. Since french cleats really do require building them yourself we’ll skip this for this article.

Wall Rail or Track Systems

Track or rail systems are typically one horizontal rail or track that gets mounted to the wall. On the track, you can hang a variety of hooks, brackets, and supports for the storage of different items. Some examples include tools hooks for tall or short items, hanging baskets for balls, other sports equipment, There are specialized hooks for ladders etc. Track systems are great for their versatility but they do take up a lot of wall space. We recommend using track systems for the items that you want to be in reach at all times. Many items that are not often used should not be stored on tracks since they take up a lot of space and these items are better stored out of view. 

  Pros Cons
Wall Rail Systems Flexible and customizable
Can hang odd-shaped items easily
Take up lots of space for items that might otherwise be stored in a more efficient manner.
Rails are rigid. So you may need more than 1 to provide the flexibility you need.

Closed Cabinets

Cabinets with doors are highly desirable because they can hide items from view when you pass through the garage. If you already have these, great! If not, keep in mind that cabinets—be they freestanding or wall-hung, with countless material and style options—tend to cost more than other solutions. Consider mixing and matching with another system from this list to both lower costs and successfully store even the bulkiest items.

  Pros Cons
Closed Cabinets Keeps items out of site providing a nice clean look Typically can not store bulky items

Freestanding adjustable shelving

Adjustable free-standing shelving is almost a must. We are keen on the metal style where your shelves can be raised and lowered. It is really flexible but there are a few tricks to getting the right kind for your needs. The main thing to consider is size. Height usually isn’t a problem. Depth and width were you can make decisions that make organizing more efficient. For example, you might fit only two plastic bins and a half. If only you could get that third bin in there. Which is out point, measure before buying to make sure you can maximize the space

  Pros Cons
Freestanding Adjustable shelving Great flexibility
Can be easily moved
Can create fake “drawers” by plastic bins on shelves
Typically can not store bulky or tall items
Takes up floor space

Wall-mounted adjustable shelving

Adjustable wall-mounted shelving is also likely to be in your mix. It is one of our top pics because of its flexibility. You can place boxes on the top shelves, smaller items at eye level, and even arrange shelves below waist height to act as drawers by placing bins.

  Pros Cons
Wall-mounted adjustable shelving Great flexibility
Can be easily adjusted up and down to accommodate bin heights
Can create fake “drawers” by plastic bins on shelves
Typically can not store bulky or tall items

Pegboards

Good old pegboard. Used for generations to store and display nearly any kind of item. These boards are inexpensive and easy to install. By hanging and outfitting pegboard with a custom combination of compatible pegs, hooks, clamps, bins, and shelves, you can use this utilitarian method to store and organize just about anything of modest weight. The downside is that everything is exposed and ads to visual clutter. 

  Pros Cons
Pegboard Flexible and inexpensive Adds to visual clutter
Can only hold lightweight items
Many Items take up unnecessary space

Bad use of pegboards

Ok, the after photo is better than the before. But, look at all the wasted space on that wall. If that’s all you have to store then great. Somehow we doubt that the case. 

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Bad use of pegboards

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PROTIP

Use pegboard for smaller items that are needed often and can be tightly arranged

Wire Shelving – Stay away 

We do not recommend wire shelving for anything really. Why? Because it is typically mounted directly to the wall. Which means it cannot be adjusted. Wire shelves also so not hold much weight and will sage over time. There are plenty of better solutions. 

Freestanding shelving units

These are great solutions. Very flexible, shelves can be raised and lowered. We’ve got a few hacks to make these units even more flexible. 

PROTIP

Make your shelving easy to move by putting your shelving on wheels. Make a simple plywood base with wheels on the bottom. Place your shelving on top of the base. Make sure to put the wheels under the shelving legs and one wheel in the middle for adequate support.

PROTIP

Create drawers by using plastic bins that fit in your shelving units. You can simply pull the bin out like a giant drawer.

PROTIP

 If you do use the drawer idea you’ll find that lids get in the way when you pull the bin out like a drawer. You can’t get into the bin because the lid is in the way. Removing the lid can be a hassle if they are locked in the back. The tip is to either leave the lids off or cut the back locking tab off. That way you can easily remove the lid.  

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PROTIP

Measure your bins and shelves BEFORE you buy. This way you’ll avoid dead space when bins don’t fit well on shelves.

Ultimate Guide to Garage Organization Ideas 2020 Edition PROTIP

To maximize space on shelving units measure your bins and shelves before buying them. Make sure three (for example) will fit on one shelf so you aren’t left with open unused space. 

Floor space: Keep it off the floor

The perfect scenario is that you do not have anything on the floor. Crazy to think this is possible but it is. The less you have on the floor, the less you have to move, and it makes cleaning the floor an absolute breeze. 

Specialized

Kayaks

Stand up paddleboard storage

Wall-mounted kayak storage racks are a good option because they allow you to store items underneath. 

Ceiling lifts are, in our opinion, the best option because they take up the least amount of space. 

Sports equipment storage

Tall items

For tall items like bats, hockey sticks, etc. we recommend a tall bin. Yes, there are lots of ways to store singular bats for example on racks but they take up a lot of space and you need specialized brackets. A tall bin will allow you to store many tall items in one space. 

Ball storage

Again, a plastic bin is a great solution. Especially one that is tucked into shelves so it can act as a drawer. 

Bungee cord containers or ball corrals

Bungee cord containers are another great solution. You can easily DIY this one by building a simple structure out of wood and attach bungee cords to the face. The bungee cords will keep the balls contained while letting you slip the balls through the cords or dropping them in through the top. Here is one DIY solution from the Family Handyman. 

 

Bicycle Storage Racks

There is a huge amount of bike storage racks available. Our recommendation is to hang bikes on hook-style racks keeping them off the floor. 

Ladder Storage

You may have a ladder that you use frequently. If you can find a spot where you can slide it between other items that would be the best way to store your ladder. 

Larger ladders are best stored horizontally higher up and out of the way. The trouble is it’s hard to hoist them up there. 

Toy Storage

Hang the larger odd-shaped items with straps

For the larger odd-shaped items like tricycles, big wheels, etc – we say hang them. Find some kind of strap and hook solution. There is always a way to string the strap through the toy and then hand the strap onto a hook mounted on your wall. Again, keep them off the floor. 

Stroller Storage

The solution here is similar to larger toy storage. Find some sort of strap where you can loop around a part of the folded stroller and hang the strap on the wall. It doesn’t need to be up high, just enough to get it off the floor but still easily accessible. 

Tool Storage

For the occasional DIYer, we have some basic solutions. For those of you that have deep hobbies like woodworking or automotive, we’ll need a separate article to handle that. 

Rolling Carts

Workbench

Storage for shoes

 

Garage Attic Storage

Garden

Whether you are a serious gardener or just a homeowner who needs to take care of the yard; you’ll need to store your garden tools. They are notoriously cumbersome to store. Tall rakes, lawnmowers are bulky, etc

Rakes, Brooms, and handheld garden tools

For these tall items, we recommend a solution that allows you to store many of them on one hook. That is not to store each one separately in a horizontal fashion – it takes too much space. 

Save space with a deep hook style solution

Here is one example by Gempler Link

 

INSERT BROOM RACK PHOTO HERE

 

Lawn Equipment Lawn Mowers, weed wacker

Storing lawn tools is a bit of a pain. 

 

Lawnmower

For folding lawn mowers, create a small shelf not too high off the ground. Rest the mower on the shelf and tie the top of the mower on a hook with a strap. 

 

Weed Wackers and other tall lawn equipment

This is where a track system is a great option. Store these items vertically on hooks. 

 

Wheelbarrow Storage

Don’t you hate these odd-shaped items? Luckily we’ve got a few good tips here to accommodate your wheelbarrow storage

Mini Shelf – Rest the front tip of the wheelbarrow on a shallow shelf, hooks, or any ledge type thing you have.  Then, when you push the wheelbarrow against the wall mark a line where the top edge meets the wall. There, you can install a hook, that you can turn down when you want to lock your wheelbarrow into place. 

What is the best garage organization system?

The one that makes frequently used items easy to find while keeping most items out of sight. Professional garage storage systems like (XXX) are the best. You may not be able to spend that much on your garage. Your next option is mix and match storage which will also provide a great solution. This guide will help you.

How can I organize my garage cheaply?

The least expensive way is to use shelf standards and cardboard boxes. A cheap step up is to use plastic storage bins. Adding basic hooks to your wall will also add flexibility while keeping costs down.

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