Reclaim Your Garage or Shed by Organizing It

They hold our most dangerous possessions (think saws and hazardous chemicals), our most nostalgic (think yearbooks and old baby clothes), and our most neglected (think moving boxes and broken toys) — yet many of us treat our garage or shed as a dumping ground, rather than a useful storage and organization space. In fact, a quarter of Americans can’t even park their car in their garage because it’s too full of junk, even though usable garages increase a home’s value by 13 percent.

Our best piece of advice about your garage space is this: Organize it as soon as you move in. Don’t give yourself any time to allow the garage to become a glorified junk drawer. When you do clean it out, here are our top 10 tips for organizing your garage or shed:

1. Plan and prioritize your space.

The first step to successfully organizing your garage or shed is to create a plan for the space. Decide what your number one priority is before you start trying to organize. Maybe you want to store seasonal camping supplies or display your sporting memorabilia in your shed, or maintain a workspace for projects in the garage. Or maybe your priority is simply being able to park your car in the garage. Whatever you decide, you’ll never organize properly without a plan.

2. Purge the unused and unneeded.

Now that you know what you want to use your garage or shed space for, move everything out and begin purging. Organize your possessions into three piles: keep, donate, and toss. This step may be difficult, but it’s critical for successfully organizing your space. If you’re having a hard time deciding what to toss and what to keep, use this Good Housekeeping guide.

3. Create zones.

Photo by Peter Dutton/Flickr
The key to a clean and organized garage or shed is finding a place for everything. Use the six-zone system to map out spaces where you can keep items in similar categories together, according to how often they are used. Keep items you use every day near the entrance to the house, and stash items you use only once a year in more difficult-to-reach spots.

4. Think vertical.

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You only have so much floor space available, so to avoid “floor creep” and piles of clutter, use your vertical space by stacking items on shelfs. You’ll open a large space in the center of your garage by storing items this way — which is just what your car (or workshop table) needs. You can buy or build wall-mounted shelves or standalone shelving units to make the best use of your vertical space.

5. Use small containers.

Now that you have all those shelves ready to hold your possessions, organize them in color-coordinated or clear plastic containers. Use several smaller containers rather than two or three bigger ones to make it easier to organize and find specific items.

6. Take advantage of wall space.

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Shelves are great, but don’t cover every wall with them. Instead, make use of available wall space with a pegboard and magnetic strips to get tools and gadgets off the floor and in a spot that will be easy to find. It’s easy to make you own rail organizer or create storage systems for tools using PVC pipe and wall hooks as well.

7. Look up.

Still need more storage room? Look up. Ceiling space is often underutilized in garages. You can easily add storage in the dead space above the garage door track. Hang bikes, outdoor summer toys, and other bulky less-frequently used items from the ceiling to save even more space.

8. Move dangerous items up high.

Chemicals like fertilizer, weed killer, or paint thinner need to be kept out of reach of curious children and pets. Move chemicals and other dangerous items to a top shelf or locked cabinet, and make sure you separate flammable items from propane or gasoline. When you’re ready to discard these items, don’t throw them in the trash. Use the recycle guide at Earth 911 to find local recycling options for hazardous waste.

9. Properly store antiques and heirlooms.

Antiques and heirlooms need to be stored properly. Learn how to care for your treasures and properly maintain things like books, textiles, and paintings that you want to preserve for future generations. Your papers, photos, and scrapbook keepsakes also need the right storage — those items are prime nesting grounds for rats and roaches. Keep them in locked, airtight containers.

10. Label everything.

Once you get everything organized, put labels on every container as well as the spaces for items hanging on your pegboards or wall hooks. This will help you easily find what you’re looking for — and encourage you to put it back where it belongs when you’re finished. This takes a lot of up-front work, but the rewards are worth it.

Garage and shed storage doesn’t have to be pricey or elaborate. Take a weekend to implement these best practices for storage and reclaim your garage or shed.

Featured photo by Rubbermaid Products/Flickr

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