According to organizer pros, only 25% of homeowners are able to park their car in the garage due to other things cluttering the garage! In addition, one in four report feeling embarrassed by how their garage looks, and they try to keep the door closed so no one can see the mess.
The average car costs $33,500 - one of the biggest purchases you’ll make. Sadly, many of us are forced to park our cars outdoors instead of parking them in the garage because our garages are full of clutter. Parking your car in the garage has a lot of benefits, here are a few:
- Protects your car from sun, acid rain, and bird droppings
All of these things can cause the finish and surfaces of your car to prematurely degrade.
- Protects against theft
Cars that are stored in garages are less susceptible to getting broken into, or stolen.
- Stay out of the weather!
When you return home from a long day at work, it’s not fun to park outside and have to get out into the rain or snow before heading into the house.
Here are some ideas on how you can stop being embarrassed by your garage, and get your car back under roof. Some of these lessons come from personal experience - just a few weeks ago I went through this process and got my car back into the garage.
7 tips to regaining your garage:
1) Sketch a plan.
Even a quick sketch on the back of a napkin can help. What are the things you absolutely would want to store in the garage in a best case scenario? Would you like the car on the left, or the right? Is the lawn mower going in front of the car, or beside it? List your non-negotiable items that you know have to end up in the garage. For example, I recently did this exercise, and one item I had to make sure I had room for was the backup emergency generator. That’s a heavy item that has to have floor space, and has to be close to a door or window for ventilation if I need to start it up.
List items that you think you can store on the walls or ceilings, and estimate the amount of hardware / hangers you’ll need. Go to the hardware store and buy the shelves, hooks, and hardware you think you’ll need. Another great item to pick up at the hardware store is some stackable bins with lids on them. If you get clear containers, it’s much easier to find what you’re looking for after you’ve organized the garage.
2) Get everything OUT of the garage.
This requires a full day, so set aside a day that you know you can dedicate to this project. You may want to invite some friends or family over to help you with this. When I did this, I didn’t invite anyone over for a few reasons - one, I was embarrassed by how bad the mess was, and two, I find it distracting to have other folks around. For me to get into my organizational state of mind I need to spend a little time in the space without any distractions.
The goal is simply to get the garage EMPTY.
In the four different garages that I’ve organized this step has been the most freeing and inspiring. Taking everything OUT of the garage is the best way to start a garage organization project. You can actually SEE everything that you own, for one. Another benefit is it that it sets you up for success in Step 3!
3) Sort all your stuff into four piles:
- Donate - Goodwill, local church
- Sell - Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, Craigslist, etc.
- Toss - 1-800-GOT-JUNK or contact your local municipality
I’ll caution you that this step is exhausting and a bit draining. It’s easy to get decision fatigue at this step. You’re making hundreds of decisions in a short amount of time. Even though I didn’t invite anyone into this process when I did it, my advice is that you may want to have an objective third party join you to help you make some of these decisions.
- The little red wagon that the kids used when they were young? Donate.
- The 80 year old handheld wood plane that your great grandfather handed down to you? That’s a tough call - probably keep.
- The pool floaty with a hole in it from two seasons ago? Toss.
- The super duper bread maker you got for Christmas five years ago and never used? Maybe you can sell it.
Lay down tarps or blankets on the ground and physically put these piles of stuff on each tarp, to keep the piles from spilling into each other and help visually separate the piles.
4) Keep things off the floor.
Before moving things back into the garage, install hooks, hangars, shelves and hardware to keep things OFF the floor. Your floor space is precious, and you should aggressively defend it. Even if you pare down your stuff, if you put it all back on the floor of the garage you still won’t have room to park. Here are some things you should consider getting up off the floor:
If you use your bikes a lot, you may want to invest in a wall mounted rack that is easy to use, but find a way to get your bikes up off the floor.
- Kayaks / Canoes / Paddleboards
These can take up a ton of space in the garage, but if you get them up off the floor it makes a huge difference. You can buy a ceiling mounted boat rack, or you can craft your own with some ratchet straps and hooks.
- Yard Tools
It’s worth getting a wall mounted hook system to get your shovels and rakes up off the floor. This also keeps them easy to find when you head out to do a little work in the garden.
- Toolboxes and Storage Crates
Put these items on shelves along a wall so that you can easily find what your looking for while minimizing the floor space used.
When you are considering what should get stored up on the wall or ceiling, think through how often you need to access it. If you use your fishing rod three times a week, you obviously won’t want to store it in a place where you’ll need a ladder or a step stool to reach it. Things that are rarely used can be hung up in more difficult to reach places.
A few weeks ago I learned of a wheelbarrow mounting kit! A wheelbarrow is the perfect example of something that takes up a lot of floor space but doesn’t get used very much. Since we only use our wheelbarrow a few times a year, I mounted it up on the wall with the mounting kit. Now it’s up and out of the way, but I can still get to it when needed.
5) Use a pegboard.
The lowly pegboard is still one of the best ways to organize small items in your garage. It’s cheap, and keeps your small hand tools at hand. It takes up no floor space, and allows you to customize the hook spacing to fit your needs. Hang up things like extension cords, etc. as well. Along with a pegboard, consider a wall mounted small parts organizer. These have a bunch of small drawers for things like screws, washers, etc. Clear plastic drawers let you see what’s inside.
6) Label everything.
One thing that contributes to clutter is not knowing where things are kept. I’ve found myself buying things that I already owned, simply because I didn’t know where to find it. Get a label maker and put labels on your storage bins and shelves so you can keep track of where everything is. This will save you money and hassle over time, since you won’t have to make a trip to the store to buy something that you already have, but can’t find. It will also make you more productive in the future. When you tackle your to-do list you’ll be able to finish more quickly because you won’t waste time looking for your tools and supplies.
7) Consider a separate storage shed.
You may find that despite your best efforts, your ‘KEEP’ pile is still pretty big. If so, consider a separate storage shed in your yard. You can apply the same organizational tips to your storage shed so that you can optimize that as well. A shed can usually be fitted with an overhead garage door, or with a standard utility door to best suit your needs. A ramp at the entrance makes it easy to store things like a motorcycle, zero-turn lawn mower, or ATV.
A storage shed with a garage door can act as a standalone garage, or it can be an overflow for your existing garage. You may choose to put things like bikes, kayaks, and generator in the shed, which makes it a lot easier to make room for your car in the garage.
There are a lot of benefits to having your garage organized. I already mentioned protecting your car from the elements, but here are a few other things you’ll enjoy after organizing your garage:
1) Watching a thunderstorm
Open the garage door and sit in a lawn chair looking out at the rain. This is a simple pleasure that takes me back to childhood, watching storms with my dad.
2) Entertain friends / kids / neighbors
A neat and clean garage is perfect to use as an extension of your house when you’re entertaining. Set up some folding tables, throw down a table cloth, and you can host a party. Throw open the big garage door, and you’ll have plenty of ventilation and it won’t feel cramped.
3) Place for the kids to play when the weather is bad
When it’s raining outside, it’s nice to be able to have a place where the kids can hang out. I used to have a remote controlled race car that I’d run around in the garage and entertain myself for hours. Mom wasn’t too keen on me running it in the house, as I recall, but the garage was the right place for it.
What Do You Think?
I’m sure you can think of many other ways you would use a well organized garage - please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what other benefits you would enjoy with a spacious, clean, and organized garage!