1. Define your goals and think about how you use or want to use the space. This is really important to figure out before you start moving anything. Your goals for the space will give you a purpose, keep you focused, and help you when you get stuck on decision making.
Think about how your household uses this space or how you'd like this space to be used. What is working and what is not working in your garage? Do you need space to park a car? Do you need a place for kids to put sports stuff? Are shoes kept out here before entering? Do you store (or want to store) pantry backstock items? Do you need to keep space for holiday decor items?
Whatever makes sense to store in your garage depends on your house and how your family functions. Just make sure you have a clear idea of the big categories you want to be stored out here before you begin.
2. Declutter before buying any product. This is really important because you'll have a clearer idea of what kinds of organizing products you'll need. I find it best to declutter garages in chunks of three hours as to not get overwhelmed or burnt out. But if you work best doing it all in a weekend or two, do it! Whichever way works best for you, just be sure to schedule this time on your calendar to stay accountable.
The clutter in your garage didn't happen overnight and decluttering won't either. Be patient and kind to yourself. It's sometimes helpful to picture the room as divided into four quadrants and work on one at a time.
If you have a ton of stuff stored in your garage and one of your goals is to park a car in it, keep this in mind when making decisions on what to keep, toss, or donate. By remembering your goals, you'll be able to weigh the pros of keeping items versus having more room in your home. You can either have more space or keep your items. But not both.
Bring extra-large, sturdy trash bags in and get to work. Start going through items and move things you want to keep into a pile, toss what's garbage, and move items to donate into a section or designate some bags. I'd suggest actually opening bins and going through them except for sentimental items or holiday decor that you've used within the last year. Save sentimental items for another time as this can be distracting, time-consuming, and emotional.
Hauling away the junk can be done two ways; you can either take it to the dump yourself or hire a junk removal service to take it for you (highly recommend if you have the funds to spare!). A garage can be a lot of work to go through and it's nice not to have to worry about a dump run. If you are someone who likes to see immediate progress, consider having all the garbage and junk completely removed from the space when you are done with half of the room. This can help you stay motivated and be able to picture the end result. Doing so may also help you see if you are decluttering enough stuff. If you are going to do dump runs and donation runs yourself, remember to schedule time in your schedule so that you actually get it done.
3. Utilize your vertical space whenever possible. Whether you have a small or large garage, going vertical with storage will maximize your space and give you more floor space (and who doesn't want that?!).
Invest in deep shelving (between 18"-24" deep) that utilizes your ceiling height. You don't need shelving that hits the top of your ceiling because you can use the top shelf to store items. I usually look for shelving that leaves at least 14"-16" of room to the ceiling.
Remember to measure your available space to determine the width you need. I love getting shelving where the shelf heights are adjustable so they can change with your needs over time. Here is my favorite adjustable shelving from Lowe's:
If you have the room and a ton of gardening tools, the Rubbermaid Fastrack storage system is another one of my favorite ways to use wall space and get things off of the floor. The system comes with a track that you mount on your wall and then choose from various hooks to hang your items on that you can snap on and off the track. As your items change, you can move and swap out the hooks without drilling holes each time.
(Pictured below on the right side of the garage.)
This track comes in lengths of 32", 48", 84" and has tons of hooks to choose from. Choose what you want to hang first before buying the hooks.
Hardware comes in the kit but not when you purchase the track alone. Be sure to purchase the hardware for the FastTracks if you don't already have some.
Here are the hooks I use the most in clients' homes.
10" Multipurpose Hook- great for stacking brooms, shovels
Dual-Handle Hook- great for rakes, brooms, and long-handled items (hold 2)
Utility Hook- great for ropes, hoses, chairs, extension cords
Vertical Bike Wall Hook- great for storing your bike vertically
Ladder Hook- holds one ladder (up to 50lbs)
11" Multipurpose Hook- great for bundling ropes, hoses, extension cords
Power Tool Hook- great for awkward power tools, leaf blowers, etc.
4. Invest in weathertight bins. Don't go cheap on bins for sentimental items or any items that you want to keep all moisture, dust, and critters out of. My go-to weathertight bins are from The Container Store (pictured below). They come in all sizes from 6.5 qt to 156 qt and they stack securely onto one another.
For anything you don't care about being weathertight, these totes by Sterilite work wonderfully. They come in clear if you are someone who likes to see what's inside at a glance or plain black or white if you are trying to reduce visual clutter.
Having all of the same color of bin really helps reduce visual clutter in garages.
Whichever shelves you are using, be sure to choose the shelves first before purchasing bins. This will allow you to measure the height, width, and depth of the shelves and get bins that maximize the space. Choose bins that are as close to the maximum depth as possible. (FYI- This is one of the perks of hiring a professional organizer! They know so many different products and measurements and choose ones that maximize your space so you don't have to spend the time searching.)
5. Organize smaller categories with my favorite multipurpose bins. These are great for anything that can be exposed or that you want to be easily accessible. The tall height is perfect for categories like cleaning products, painting supplies, cords, car accessories, etc. and the handles make them easy to pull out.
Pictured above are the Medium and Large sizes. (You really shouldn't need the Small size in a garage but this size is perfect for storing kids craftbooks, comic books, and colored or printer paper!) The XLarge size is also great in garages.
You can find these Multipurpose bins in all sizes here.
6. Label everything! Labeling is the KEY to maintaining a system and helping everyone know where things go. It can be as simple as making them with painter's tape or notecards with clear packing tape over them. If you are wanting a more put-together look, my favorite label maker is this one: Brother P-touch CUBE Plus PT-P710BT Versatile Label Maker with Bluetooth® Wireless Technology. You can print labels up to an inch thick which makes them easy to read and the labels are easy to remove as your needs change. To make your labels, you design them in the Brother app and then they print from the device. Small learning curve but very easy to use after that!
It took me awhile to realize that there are two different apps that you can use. One is called "Brother iPrint&Label" and the other is "PT-Design&Print" app. I use the Brother iPrint&Label App because you can make the font larger without using a border.
Now, let's do the darn thing! You've got this. Organizing your garage can be a huge undertaking but if you break it down into smaller chunks it will be much more enjoyable.