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Simple garage organization tips for better car and motorcycle care

You'll be surprised how useful your garage can be when it's clean and organized

A cluttered garage with tools on shelves and a dirty floor.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

For many people, garages are out of sight and out of mind. Who cares if they’re dirty, dark, or dingy? The majority of homeowners use garages to store items, not as the location for a block party. While garage organization can seem like a tedious waste of time, spending some time to get your garage in order will make it far easier to work on cars or other hobbies and could even help you find some extra space to store an extra engine for your track car, a new-to-you motorcycle, or another fun vehicle.

While we can lay out general tips to help you organize your garage, finding a way to get your garage in order is a personal thing. You may prioritize having space for all of your automotive tools, two cars to fit comfortably side by side, or lawn care equipment in an easy-to-access area. Everyone envisions their garage as being something that works for their specific needs, so a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. You can check out your friends’ garages or look up pictures online to get inspiration, but your garage is a personal matter.

A person sweeping dirt on a concrete floor with a red brush.
PawelEnglender / Pexels

Top tips for garage organization

Regardless of why you want to organize your garage, we’re here to help with these garage organization ideas and tips. They’ll get you started and on your way to having a garage that’s not an eyesore and actually functions.

Start by cleaning

No matter how dirty your garage is, the easiest way to start organizing your garage is to clean it. If you can’t remember the last time you cleaned your garage, that’s probably a good indicator that it’s well overdue for a cleaning. Get rid of things that are old, in bad condition, or don’t serve a purpose anymore. If they’re in good condition, consider donating them or selling them on Craigslist. A great way to do this is to create piles for each category.

Don’t just sweep the floor and call it a day. Think of this as starting fresh. If you can, empty the entire garage out, remove boxes, clear off shelves, and give everything a good scrub-down. This is also a great time to think about applying some new paint or updating the floors. If you have an unfinished garage, look into hanging some drywall. It’s a DIY-friendly task and can really change the way your garage looks. Plus, the garage is a great place to learn the skill, as it’s out of the way and no one will be scrutinizing your walls once shelves are up.

Organizing everything you have in the garage is a great way to take inventory and see the real condition of the garage. The boxes of Christmas lights you haven’t touched in a few years may have been hiding a rat’s nest. Maybe you saw a rotted-out section of framing after moving a shelf. Cleaning’s not fun, but it makes the rest of the process easier and gives you the opportunity to assess the condition of your garage.

Plan your space

Once you have everything out of the way, you can measure the space and start planning where to put stuff. If you really want to make sure that you’re making the best use of the space you have, you can plot out your garage’s dimensions on graph paper or an app for a more accurate depiction.

If you plan on putting your car or motorcycle in your garage, measure them and see how much space they’ll take up. Draw out where your vehicles will fit in alongside desired storage areas. After that, you can plan out where to put your shelves, a workbench, a cabinet, outdoor tools, a trashcan, and even overhead shelves. If you’re handy, you can even build some of this stuff, which adds a personal touch to your garage and can save you money.

You might think that planning out where things in your garage will go is overkill, but you’ll get a good idea of where to place things based on how often you use them and how easy they’ll be to access. For instance, if you enjoy working on your car, you’ll probably want to park your vehicle right in front of your tool chest. Or if building furniture and woodworking is your thing, you’ll want to have all of your equipment where you don’t have to move a lot of other stuff to work on long pieces of wood. Additionally, it doesn’t make much sense to park your car in front of your lawn tools, or you’ll have to move your car every time you have to do some yard work.

If you’re having trouble finding ways to plan out your garage, try to organize things based on zones. Organize everything automotive in one area, storage in another, yardwork in its own section, and so on.

Invest in appropriate storage

Not everything belongs on a box on a shelf. If you want your garage to stay clean and usable, you’ll want to make sure that everything has a place, and that everything is in its place. For automotive tools, that means having a cabinet or chest for everything to go into. For outdoor and gardening tools, you can hang them up on the walls. For items that you plan to store for a long time, use heavy-duty plastic boxes that you can label. Using a clear box with a label clears up any confusion about what’s on the inside.

This is also where taking inventory of what you have comes in handy. If you have a lot of tools that usually sit out, it may be a good time to invest in a new cabinet, toolbox, or some pegboard for the walls.

If you find that you’re quickly running out of space, you might want to look into going vertical. Shelves are a great way to do that, but you can also find ways to store items above your head with overhead shelves that hang down from the ceiling. These are great for storing items that you don’t use often and can increase the amount of storage space you have.

Be realistic

Every person yearns to have a garage that can fill the neighbors with envy. For people who like to entertain, they want their garage to be a party area with a massive projector and an impressive surround-sound system. For automotive enthusiasts, the dream includes a four-post lift or a cool display for their car. Woodworkers want to find a way to be able to stuff a planer, jointer, and full-size table saw into their garages. Everyone has a dream for their garage, but it’s important to be realistic.

A four-post lift won’t fit in a lot of garages, a projector doesn’t make sense if you plan to park two cars in your garage, and large woodworking equipment isn’t a good choice if you make one to two pieces of furniture a year. One of the main goals of organizing your garage is to keep it as open as possible and have few things taking up valuable space by sitting on the ground. You also don’t want to invest a lot of money into something when there are more affordable options that can do a similar task for far less. You can hang a nice TV in the garage, there are plenty of affordable hand-held planers on sale, and a decent set of ramps will give you some extra space to work underneath your car.

While having an arsenal of high-end tools at your disposal will certainly help you get your job done more efficiently, you don’t need them to finish the job.

Keep it clean

Once you’ve got your garage set up and put together, the rest comes down to maintenance. Try your best to keep things organized and clean. Make a schedule to complete a deep cleaning every few weeks and a reminder to blow out or sweep the garage after you work on a car or mow the yard. For people who hate cleaning their house, this will be the hardest part of the whole thing, but cleaning regularly is a good way to stay on top of the situation before it reverts to being the way it was. Making it a part of your spring cleaning routine is a great way to stay on top of it.

This is also a good time to plan out any seasonal changes to your garage flow. You’re going to be using your bicycle a lot more in warmer months than in winter. Think about ways to move the things you use more often when the seasons change and fit that into your cleaning schedule to tackle things slowly.

Biweekly cleanings are also a good way to keep an eye on things that you don’t use. If you can, have a section of shelving that’s home to items that aren’t used much. Over the course of a few months, see how often you use the items on that part of the shelf and consider getting rid of the items if they go unused for a long time.

Tools hanging on white wall by a thin piece of wood.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Additional garage organization tips

The five tips above are very detailed and the top garage organization tips to follow. Below are some additional pointers that can also help you organize your garage space.

  • Use clear bins: If you have a lot of things to store, such as loose items or smaller categories of things, put them in clear plastic bins for easy identification and protection from dust.
  • Optimize your floor space: Use rolling storage ottomans or cabinets for items you need to access occasionally, keeping them off the floor and maximizing space.
  • Use the corners of your garage: Install corner shelves or cabinets to maximize often-wasted space.
  • Invest in good lighting: Ensure proper lighting throughout your garage for safety and easier navigation.

Cleaning and organizing your garage is usually not on people’s fun things-to-do lists. But, if you have a home with a garage, you know that garage space can be extremely valuable. Whether you use your garage for projects or storage, keeping it organized is the best way to maximize its potential. Our list is by no means an end-all for organizing your garage, but it can help you get started on having the garage you’ve always wanted.

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Joel Patel
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Joel Patel is a former contributor for The Manual. His work has also been featured on Autoweek, Digital Trends, Autoblog…
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