By one definition, a garage is nothing more than “a shelter or repair shop for automotive vehicles.” However, for many of us our home garage doubles as a workshop or even an escape. Most commonly, though, the garage doubles as a storage space for random stuff. As the years tick by, garage organization can become a daunting task. Thankfully, we at Simpson Strong-Tie have put together this brief but handy guide on how to organize your garage and reclaim some valuable real estate.
The depth of your strategy will depend on how far gone your garage is. Do you have so much clutter you can barely fit one car in a two-car garage? Are you considering a garage sale or donations? Make sure you line up dates and charities in advance. If you have too much to be able to sell or give it all away, you might also want to consider renting a dumpster or scheduling a hauling service like 1-800-GOT-JUNK.
Consider also how you will organize what you plan to keep, and how it will fit back into the garage. We have several storage suggestions below, but make sure you have a plan in advance so you aren’t simply shoving everything back in unorganized.
Make sure you allocate the appropriate amount of time for clearing out the garage. Depending on the severity of the situation, it might not hurt to have two days set aside, just in case. Plan far enough ahead to allow time for any garage sales you might want to host or for borrowing vehicles you may need to haul items you want to donate.
Try to enlist help from family and friends. Not only can they help with the heavy lifting, but they can also help keep you on the path of purgation. If you’re planning to donate items, one person can deliver the donations while you keep organizing.
Clean-Out KonMari Style
Marie Kondo wants you to ask, “Does it still spark joy?” When you’re looking at a garage full of tools used for household chores, it’s hard to wrap your head around the concept of anything “sparking joy.”
However, consider the humble weed whacker. Would you feel joy if you looked out upon your patio and saw weeds encroaching where they shouldn’t? Probably not. Does it not fill you with joy to have a useful tool to whack those weeds into submission?
On the flipside, consider the pedal-powered sharpening stone wheel you purchased years ago while getting into the medieval-tool-sharpening movement. Sure, it sparks, but does it spark joy? More likely it sparks regret over youthful expenditures at the Renaissance Faire. You now know it’s far easier to use a small angle grinder with a metal grinding wheel to sharpen your throwing axes, so out with the sharpening stone!
That’s how to decide the worth of the mundane tools we keep in our garage. The same goes for everything else in the garage, from old paint to piles of cardboard to expired car batteries and so on. Once you’re ready to determine whether something still sparks joy, here’s how to apply the KonMari method to your cluttered garage.
Organize Your Stuff by Category
It can be detrimental to the ultimate goal of clearing out the garage if you don’t first know what you have. Separate all the power tools, sports equipment, gardening supplies, vehicle maintenance equipment, etc., into individual piles. This will help determine if there are duplicates while also making the purge less intimidating. If you aren’t coaching Little League, do you really need 13 baseball gloves? How did you end up with 43 packages of marigold seeds? Why are you holding onto those 28 expired sparkplugs?
Next, break those piles down into three broad categories: Keep; Sell or Donate; Junk.
The “Keep” pile can be divided into two sub-piles: For the garage or for somewhere else.
The sub-piles should be fairly self-explanatory. For example, if you have a gardening shed in the backyard, it’s possible some gardening tools may have migrated to the garage. Those should go in the “elsewhere” pile. Not ready to part with your record collection? A garage is a terrible place to store vinyl because it can warp in the changing temperatures. Put it in the “elsewhere” pile and find a better environment inside the house (or, if you aren’t willing to commit space to protect Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass’s Whipped Cream & Other Delights from the elements, perhaps it isn’t bringing you joy anymore and would be a better fit in the junk or the donation pile).
We live in a time where listing items for sale online is easier than ever. You can put items on Craigslist, Nextdoor, Facebook Marketplace, or LetGo. Before you do that, ask yourself how much of what you have in your garage is there because you thought you might one day put it up for sale? Do you have time to create listings for every single thing you want to sell? Do you have the time and patience for meeting with potential buyers? Will plotting how to sell your old stuff slow down your effort to declutter? If you don’t have a solid online sales plan, consider a garage sale or maybe even skipping the hassle altogether and tossing most of the stuff straight in the giveaway/donation pile.
You might not be the only one thinking about cleaning out a garage. Check in with your neighbors and see whether anyone’s interested in a community garage sale. It’ll take a bit of coordination, but it’s a great opportunity to meet your neighbors and have a cookout. Bonus: At the end of the day, you can take the tags off anything that didn’t sell and offer it up free to neighbors. Be wary of taking any of your neighbors’ unsold items in return, though, because it could defeat your original purpose of having a sale — to help you cut your overall load of clutter way down.
Donate it. It’s as simple as that. Hosting and planning a garage sale can be a roadblock to the main objective. Pack up everything you don’t want and drop it off at the local Goodwill. If you have sports equipment, consider donating it to a local sports organization. Your local library may be able to sell old books that don’t otherwise have retail value. Some towns also have tool-lending libraries that may be happy to receive functional tools from community members. Perhaps the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts could put those old fishing poles and tackle boxes to good use?
Let’s be honest: If an object’s been collecting spiderwebs in the corner of your garage for more than two years, the chances are high that it’s already lost whatever value you placed on it when you purchased it. You don’t need it anymore. The only family finding value in that pile of cardboard in the corner is a family of mice who are treating it as a condo. Toss it. If you still have a use for that can of Pantone Vivid Fuchsia you purchased in 2001, you might have more things to worry about than decluttering your garage. Check with your municipality on their guidelines for safely disposing of paint, or just donate it to Habitat for Humanity.
Organize How It Goes Back In
Cool, now your driveway looks like your garage vomited. Hopefully you created a map back to civilization before embarking on this much-needed adventure. This can be as simple as grabbing a piece of graph paper and creating the layout. The video below by Young House Love shows an easy way to lay out a basement with storage solutions. The same system can easily be applied to your garage.
We aren’t going to send you to IKEA or Target to buy cheap storage. Nope, we’re Simpson Strong-Tie, so we’re going to show you how to use our solutions to build several sturdy, long-lasting storage options.
Need extra space? Look up! If you have a high ceiling, there might be undiscovered storage space above the garage door. All it takes is 2×4 lumber, plywood and Simpson Strong-Tie® Rigid Tie® RTC2Z connectors.
Building this 4′-wide shelving unit is fast and easy with 2×4 lumber and Simpson Strong-Tie® Rigid Tie® RTC2Z connectors. Create an organized, sturdy shelf unit that’s ideal for the garage or basement. It can be built in different lengths to accommodate your needs and is strong enough to hold the heaviest boxes or tools.
You can find extra storage on the back wall of your garage by using the space above your car’s hood. This simple, unique way of creating a strong storage unit is made easy with 2×4 lumber and Simpson Strong-Tie® Rigid Tie® RTC2Z connectors. Custom-size the width and depth to fit your storage needs while leaving plenty of room for your car.
If your garage is also your workshop, we have the perfect solution utilizing connectors, boards and shelving. Now you can keep all your tools organized right on the wall.
Building this 4′-wide workbench is a cinch with 2×4 lumber and Simpson Strong-Tie® Rigid Tie® RTC2Z connectors. Create a sturdy workbench to act as a storage center and workstation. It’s ideal for the garage or basement and can be built in different lengths to accommodate your needs.
Maybe you value mobility in a workbench? We have the perfect plans for a simple mobile workbench using screws and plywood. This workbench comes with drawers to hold items so they don’t fall when you’re rolling the workbench around your garage.
What You Should Avoid Storing in Your Garage
Unless you want to provide a new home for Mrs. Brisby or Charlotte, avoid storing paper products like books, magazines, cardboard and newspapers. In addition to mice and spiders, you could also get the worst of the worst: silverfish. No one wants nightmare fuel living in the garage.
Photographs, Artwork or Vinyl
Fluctuating temperature changes can have a significant impact on these items of value. Over time, they’ll likely warp, crack or become discolored. Keep them somewhere temperature-controlled.
Human and Pet Food
Do you want ants? This is how you get ants (and other varmints). Depending on where you live, even storing canned food in the garage may be questionable. Humidity can cause the food to spoil at a faster rate.
This is an “only if…” situation. You can still keep your brewskies in the garage if you have the right type of refrigerator. It’s great that your grandmother’s Frigidaire from 1981 is still clunking along, but if the garage temperature dips below 50°, you’re entering the danger zone. Additionally, that vintage fridge is likely acting as a major energy and money suck. See how much with this handy fridge calculator. If you’re still committed to fulfilling your childhood dream of owning a home for the sole purpose of having a fridge in the garage, though, worry not! 3 Good Ones has an in-depth article on how to select a Good Garage-Ready Refrigerator. You have options.
Keeping It Tidy
Congratulations! Now you have a ship-shape garage, so make sure it stays that way. We recommend placing both a spring-cleaning and a fall-cleaning date on your calendar (especially if you live in a snowy or rainy winter climate). That way, you’ve bookended the summer and can make seasonal adjustments.