Step-by-Step Guide to Organizing a Cluttered Garage

Andreea Draguleasa
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Got a messy garage? I guess that sounds a bit redundant, right? The truth is a packed garage is more often than not a place where, aside from parking a car, we dump items we can’t find a spot for inside the house. It would be a shame not to tap into its full potential though.

For instance, instead of treating it as a place for all those boxes you’ll “definitely sort someday”, how about making it as organized and welcoming as any other part of your home? No worries, we’re here to guide you through it step by step. By the end, you’ll know how to organize a cluttered garage and find everything in it with your eyes closed.

Plus, why stop at garage storage? Go ahead and transform parts of your once-messy garage into a workshop or a neat space for your hobbies. Just put your rarely used belongings in a storage unit and make it a climate-controlled one if you have stuff that needs to be kept at just the right temperature and humidity — think antiques, electronics or photographs.

For everything in between, we have all the garage organization ideas you need and 10 easy steps to make the magic happen.

Step 1. Set Aside Ample Time

First things first, let’s carve out some time. Tidying up your garage isn’t something you’ll knock out in a quick afternoon. How about this weekend? Or maybe a couple of days next week? Find a spot in your schedule where you can really get to it without rushing — it will make all the difference.

Step 2. Declutter

Alright, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and make important decisions. Here’s a simple way to break it down:

Keep: If it’s useful, necessary or sparks joy, it stays.

Donate/Sell: In good shape but not for you? Let it find a new home via a charity or a garage sale.

Discard: Broken, outdated or just plain junk? Time to say goodbye for good.

Pro Tips: Start the garage organization with the obvious stuff to get momentum and be honest with yourself. Haven’t used it in over a year? Probably time to let it go. Not sure how much to charge for it? We have a guide for pricing items.

Step 3. Plan, Prioritize and Create Zones

Now, with a bit more space to breathe, let’s get strategic. Crafting a plan for your garage means thinking about how you use it day-to-day. What do you grab often? What needs to be within easy reach, and what can be stored up high or tucked away?

Break your garage into “zones” based on what you do there. Here are a few garage organization ideas to get you started:

Garage Zones Purpose
Workshop For all your DIY projects and repairs.
Storage Seasonal items and things you use less often.
Gardening A spot for all your gardening gear.
Recreational Sports equipment and outdoor games.

Sketch a quick map of where each zone will go. This doesn’t have to be a work of art, just something to guide you.

Step 4. Group Similar Items

With your zones laid out, it’s time to group like with like, to make your life easier when looking for something. Goodbye, messy garage!

Category What to Group
Tools All your hammers, wrenches and screwdrivers in one spot.
Sports equipment Balls, bats and bikes together so you can grab and go.
Gardening supplies Pots, soil and tools ready for planting season.
Automotive supplies Car care items all in one place make maintenance a breeze.
Seasonal decorations Keep holiday decorations organized by season.

As you group items, place them in their new “zone”. Seeing everything come together will give you a great sense of progress in your garage organization project.

Step 5. Invest in Storage Solutions

With your garage zones defined and items neatly grouped, the next step is to bring in the right storage solutions, to maximize every inch of your garage storage area.

First of all, consider a range of wall-mounted shelves, pegboards and hooks to make the most of your walls. Hanging bikes or seasonal gear can save a ton of floor space. Oh, and before you buy anything for storage, measure your available area to ensure everything fits and there is enough room to move around. Though organized, it can still feel like a packed garage if you don’t create aisles.

Storage Solution Description
Storage racks and cabinets Both will keep things organized and off the floor, but storage cabinets are great for storing items that you want to keep out of sight.
Pegboards and hooks Ideal for hanging tools for easy access. You can also use them for lightweight items like backpacks, aprons or coats.
Storage bins Whether plastic containers, boxes or repurposed crates, they are great for keeping small items of the same type tidy and easy to find.
Slatwall panels Install them yourself or find a contractor and don’t forget to get some accessory kits to go with. A garage slatwall looks good and helps organize sports equipment like bikes, surfboards and other heavy-duty items like leaf blowers or baby strollers.

Step 6. Label and Categorize

Now that everything’s found its place, it’s time to make sure it stays that way. And what better method for that than good old-fashioned labeling?

  • Always label the outside of each bin, shelf or cabinet.
  • For smaller items, like your collection of screws, nails and washers, think about using a repurposed library card catalog.
  • Even clear totes need labels. Sure, you can see into them, but you won’t catch every detail at a glance. Consider durable, humidity-resistant labels. Got a Cricut machine? Create custom vinyl labels. No Cricut? No problem. Check out Etsy for custom labels.
  • Ready to level up? QR code labels are where it’s at. They allow you to scan and keep a detailed list of what’s in each tote — titles, descriptions, quantities and where it’s located. All you need is a free app and those QR labels.

Step 7. Optimize Lighting

You need good lighting in your garage storage area, not only for finding things easier but for you to have a safer place to work and move around in. Plus, it makes every task just a little bit easier.

The first thing you can do is see where your garage is darkest and start by adding more lighting fixtures there. Sometimes, you will need light in a spot without a fixture so make sure you also have a portable work light handy.

Pro Tip: Replace incandescent bulbs with LED lighting fixtures. You get more light with less energy consumption and a longer lifespan.

Step 8. Maintain Regularly

Got everything just right? Great! Now, let’s keep it that way. Regular check-ins on your garage can stop clutter from creeping back in.

All you have to do is mark your calendar for a quick decluttering and tidying session every few months. Also, once you finish a project, take a few extra minutes to put everything back where it belongs.

Step 9. Safety Considerations

A well-lit garage storage space is a good start safety-wise. But you should also be mindful of hazardous substances — they need special attention to keep your home safe.

For starters, your garage is not a good place for propane tanks, fertilizers, weed killers, paint thinners or antifreeze. They pose risks of leaks or worse, fires and explosions. What you can do is find a safe spot for these items. It can be a locked utility room, a basement or a well-insulated shed. Most importantly, make sure they’re out of reach of children and pets and stored in conditions that won’t lead to temperature-related mishaps.

Extra: Check that anything heavy is stored safely so that it can’t accidentally topple over.

Step 10. Make It Functional and Enjoyable

Congrats, you’ve just managed to turn a cluttered garage with tools scattered everywhere into a well-organized spot for extra storage and a dedicated spot for your hobbies. How about adding a few personal touches now?

  • Consider adding a rug, some comfortable seating or even a mini fridge for those long projects. 
  • Hang up some posters, paint the walls in your favorite color and/or display your collections. This is your space, after all. Make it feel like it.
  • A Bluetooth speaker for tunes or a smart TV for those DIY YouTube tutorials can transform your garage into a place where you want to hang out.

The bottom line is, whether you’re into woodworking, gardening or simply need a cozy nook for your morning workouts, go ahead and tailor your garage to fit your hobbies and lifestyle.

Now You Know How To Organize a Garage Like a Pro

The above 10 steps are your roadmap from a cluttered garage to storage clarity. Not too shabby, right? We’ve gone through decluttering, zoning and even spicing up the place to reflect your style. And don’t forget that a little attention now and then will keep your garage storage area in prime condition.

Just a heads up that for all those treasures of yours that need a bit more TLC: the way to go is climate-controlled storage. Enjoy your revamped space!

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on April 23, 2024 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Andreea Draguleasa

Andreea Draguleasa showed an affinity for foreign languages and literature at an early age and started writing when she was 6. She studied journalism, advertising, and public relations at the University of Bucharest and worked as a content writer for a tourism agency and as a journalist for a magazine in the hospitality industry until 2010. After seven years as marketing manager for a Home & Deco online shop, she realized that learning something new every day brings her the most joy, so she went back to researching and writing informative articles. Through her experience traveling the world, she's picked up tips and resources she now shares on self storage solutions. When not writing about home organizing and storage, Andreea spends most of her time reading, playing video games, and spoiling her cat.
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About the SpareFoot Blog

The SpareFoot Blog offers tips about self-storage, information about storage auctions, advice about home organization, news about SpareFoot and much more.
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