Published On October 22, 2017 | Last Updated February 23, 2021
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How to organize a garage that you actually use

We’ve all seen pictures of spotless garages, with painted floors and fancy organizing systems.  The walls are snow white, the lighting is amazing.

The thing is, there’s hardly ever anything in these”dream” garages.  Where’s all the stuff that real people use?

For the rest of us, we know the floor is going to get oil spots on it.  The walls are going to have dirt marks from garden tools.  We need space to store bikes, and toys, and tools, and what not. And maybe even have room for the car.

If your garage is a complete mess, you may be overwhelmed thinking, “How am I going to organize my garage?!?” If that’s the case, plan to set aside a full weekend to tackle the project.

Get yourself in the mindset that this will be what you will spend your time doing for the chosen weekend.  Make a point not to let yourself get distracted, or discouraged.  You’ll get through it, and feel great when it’s done.

How to organize a garage
A garage organized for real life, and still has room for the car.

These tips will work for a small garage or a large garage. It doesn’t matter what size of a garage you have, you still want to use the same ideas.

1.  Create Garage Organization Zones

Consider how you have used your garage in the past. Do you tend to do specific tasks in certain areas? For example, do you find yourself doing gardening projects by the door because it’s closer to the yard? Or storing your lawn mower and garden tools there? Do you use power tools and a work bench closer to the home where you can go inside quickly?

It’s okay to have certain areas of your garage set aside as zones for certain tasks. You do not need the entire garage to store everything you have in an uncluttered fashion

Organize garage zones
Create zones and keep things for the same task together, like this zone for gardening tools.

Some common garage organization zones can include:

  • Gardening tools
  • Power tools
  • Workbench
  • Wood working area
  • Food storage
  • Toys

If you try to tackle the whole space at once, you will feel overwhelmed. Choose one area to start with. Once you have got that zone cleared out and reorganized, then you can start on another area.

By finishing one section at a time, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment that will help to keep you motivated to do more.

2.  Clear Out the Space

Before you can organize a section, you will need to completely clear it out. And I do mean completely remove everything!

You cannot look at a space and think of a fresh start if it is not empty so that you can see how much space you have.

Start by moving everything out of the area. It is best if you can move all of the stuff outside into the driveway or the yard to get it out of the way while you work.

Garage organizing
Move items out of the garage to the driveway or yard to make space to work.

This is another reason why it’s a good idea to work in sections. If you pull everything out of the garage at once, you may not be able to get it all put away again that same day.  Especially if there was an unexpected rain shower or severe heat. And you probably don’t want to leave things outside overnight.

When you work in sections, you will have logical stopping points that won’t have you doing more than you should in a day.

Clutter control checklist

3.  Garage Sorting Ideas

As you move things into the driveway and yard, start sorting them into categories. Especially if you didn’t already have garage zones before.

Put all the garden tools in one spot, and bikes and toys in another. All of the power tools can go in one corner of the yard, while winter items could go in another. 

Trash should go straight into the garbage can, so make sure you have one nearby with plenty of strong garbage bags to handle the heavier items.

Be sure to make a donate or sell pile. Because some of the stuff that you want to get rid of could help someone else out. Or make you money to pay for the organization systems you want to install in your garage. Selling items on eBay, Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist can help you make some money.

Don’t feel that you need to drive the stuff to a donation center. Many of them will come to your home for a complimentary pick up.

Helpful Tip: If you know that you are getting rid of a lot of items, schedule a pick up time in advance of the day when you organize. Many donation centers only pick up on certain days of the week in certain areas. You don’t want to have a huge pile to donate, and then have to move it back into the garage for another week before they come.

Here’s some helpful tips on how to donate your old snow blower, which can be among the most challenging items to donate.

4.  Find the right storage

Many messy garages are messy simply because there isn’t enough storage.  Everything ends up in a pile.  You’ll need to implement some storage methods, but they don’t have to be fancy or expensive.

I use lots of different types of storage at home.  Below are pictures from my own garage.

It doesn’t look like a magazine, but it’s really practical, and well organized.  These are economical solutions, too.  This is organizing for real life.


Sturdy shelves are handy for storing flower pots, hand tools, and more.  Potentially hazardous items go on the top shelf, out of the way of little hands.

These budget friendly heavy-duty plastic shelves are a simple way to create a lot of storage space.

Garage storage shelves
Shelves in the garage can be a good place to store kitchen supplies or dishes that aren’t used often.

Tubs & Bins

Big plastic bins are great for things like Christmas decorations, and seasonal outdoor items.  This keeps items contained, and clean.  These are always on sale after holidays, and you may also find them in thrift stores.

You can also repurpose small bins meant for storing children’s toys.  These are perfect for small items.  Whatever doesn’t have a home somewhere else in my garage goes in a bin.

Peg Board

Peg board and the pegs are really inexpensive to buy, and very easy to hang.  It’s a tool-lover’s dream.

Though it takes some initial effort to plan the layout and put everything in place, it’s worth the effort.  Everything is easy to find, and easy to put away again.

Organize tools with peg board
Peg board is a very inexpensive way to keep tools handy and organized.


For tools that can’t easily be stored on peg board, drawers are a good option.  Mine hold a socket set, a collection of clamps, and some small power tools.  Drawers are also great for collections of small items.

How to organize tools
Drawers work well for storing small items, as well as some power tools.

Old Cabinets

Save your cabinets from your kitchen remodel, and put them in your garage.  Instant storage and great work space.

You can make a really handy work table from a kitchen cupboard, and a scrap piece of countertop.

If you’re not planning a kitchen remodel, you can also get old cabinets at really reasonable prices from salvage shops.  Try your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

Repurpose cabinets for garage storage
A work table and storage made from an old cabinet and scrap countertop.

Hooks, Hooks, Hooks

You can never have enough hooks in the garage.  Use them in the ceiling to hang bicycles out of the way.  I have a hook to hold my ladder, and hooks to store outdoor furniture when it’s out of season.

How to store a bicycle
Hooks in the ceiling keep bikes off the floor and out of the way.

You can also use hooks for storing garden tools. I bought inexpensive U-hooks, and screwed them into a scrap piece of lumber. I then screwed the lumber into a couple studs. It’s the perfect way to keep the garden tools from falling all over the place.

Nails make handy hooks for pruning sheers and hand saws. Everything garden related is kept in one place.

How to store garden tools
Hooks screwed into scrap lumber attached to the wall are perfect for storing garden tools.

Maintain Order

Once you’ve worked so hard to organize your space, you’ll want to keep it that way.  Make it a habit to put things back where they belong when you’re done using them.  Teach your family to do the same.  If you bring something new into the space, create a designated place for it.

This can be hard when you get busy and don’t feel like you have time to put things away.  But take the few extra seconds to do it now, and you won’t have to spend another whole weekend doing it later.  Be sure to download your free copy of our Clutter Control Checklist, to help you stay in control of the clutter.

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3 Comments on How to Organize a Garage that You Actually Use

  1. I really liked the idea of setting up old cabinets to store your garage belongings. My wife and I want to get our garage organized because we don’t want to have the car sitting outside. Since we recently got our kitchen renovated, I will rent some tools to fix the broken cabinets that were left out and use them as storage compartments.

    • That’s great, Ron! Not only will your garage be more organized, you’ll keep those old cabinets out of a landfill. Good luck with your project!

  2. I want to organize my garage a little bit better this May. I want to expand the amount of storage I have so I can get some good food storage. Thanks for suggesting that I get some shelves and possibly a workstation. If I had durable shelves I could also put really heavy things on it.

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