Tips & Tricks

Open Sesame: Converting Your Garage into a Usable Storage Space

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Garages have come a long way since their initial inception as converted carriage houses. What was once a shelter for horses and tack is now an integral part of 82 million houses across the U.S. But somewhere along the way, the average garage became less “personal parking space” and more “clutter depository” – today, it’s estimated that a whopping 1/4 of Americans can’t even fit their vehicles in their garages, let alone use their garage storage space. For most, the space is simply too littered with unsorted stuff (we see you, hula hoops, we see you).

But what if your garage wasn’t a cluttered, claustrophobic catastrophe? What if it was an organized, pristine, storage-ready machine (with room for your car, to boot)?

That’s right: Garage storage and organization is possible. But depending on the state of your garage, you’ll need to give yourself sufficient time to tackle the project from start to finish. This might require setting aside an entire weekend, or breaking it up into chunks. But with a bit of elbow grease and these garage storage ideas, you’ll be showing off your renewed garage-turned-storage space in no time:

Tend to any leaks, excess moisture, or damage before making your garage storage-friendly

Before you dive in, make sure your garage is actually up to becoming your new storage shed. You wouldn’t want to clear out the space, invest in storage boxes, and pack all your stuff up…  only to discover a leaky corner is going to drip all over your fave holiday decorations.

Grab a flashlight, and get ready to investigate and remedy any water damage or spots in need of general repair.

Figure out what you want to store in your garage

Knowing the function of the garage will help you determine the organizational layout. Are you going to store excess pantry items, like the KitchenAid you’re not using while you’re on the Whole 30? Or maybe the garage is going to be your family’s new sports center, and you need to make room for bikes, roller skates, a treadmill, and soccer gear. You could be setting up extra space for your growing wine collection (be sure to use a designated fridge!). Heck, maybe you just want to fit your car in there again.

You might even be able to make a little extra cash by renting out your newly-reno’d garage. Check out Neighbor, where you can list your space to connect with renters in need of storage. Who knew the garage could count as a side hustle?

Donate excess items or host a garage sale

Now that you know what your garage is for, you know what it’s not for. Kick any items that don’t belong to the curb – literally. Break out the heavy-duty trash bags, put on some rubber gloves, and get to sorting. This may be the least-fun part of organizing your garage, but we guarantee it will also be the most rewarding.

Devon Burton of ZeroChaos in Portland, Oregon, recommends sorting objects into four piles: Trash, recycle, donate, and sell. (Pretty self-explanatory – but if you want a little inspo for the “sell” part, here’s how to successfully host a garage sale.)

Once those piles are sorted, don’t waste any precious time you could be using to spiff up your garage. Schedule a Dolly Helper to pick up any items you’re looking to donate; we’ll drop everything off at your preferred donation site. Dolly Helpers can also remove and haul away your junk, including both trash removal and responsible disposal.

After you’re done decluttering, do a quick clean to eliminate cobwebs and other ickies that could be lurking in the garage.

Start zoning your garage for different categories

Image Source: Crazy Wonderful

Now that you’ve decluttered and determined what your the new purpose of your garage storage space will be, start envisioning zones for each section of your newly cleared space.

Rachel Rosenthal, professional organizer and founder of Rachel and Company in Washington, D.C., advises categorizing your items before you start storing them. “Group like items together: tools with tools, light bulbs with other home utility items, tennis rackets with baseball bats, etc., so that you can get a visual of what you are working with.”

Then, decide where each category will go. Those tools could be great on a hanging pegboard; your bike, helmet, and bike pump can go in another corner. Will the entrance to your home be converted to a mudroom? Make space for a bench, hanging coat rack, and doormat.

And if you’re planning to park your car, make sure to leave it its own “zone!”

Get ready to take some #shelfies

Now comes the fun part: It’s time to start storing.

Rosenthal suggests doing so based on accessibility. “Are you grabbing gardening tools every weekend? Stick them on a shelf within arm’s reach near an exit so that it’s easy for you to grab and go,” she says. But if you have other items that aren’t used as much, like tents you only camp in once a year, tuck them up on a higher shelf so they don’t take up valuable space. “For kids items like sports equipment, outdoor toys, and bikes, keep them in the safest and most easily accessible area of the garage.”

Since the climates of most garages are less regulated than are homes, you’ll also want to make sure items are snugly packed in boxes. The Container Store has an entire section devoted to products for garage storage.

But before you go crazy browsing through the garage section at The Container Store, Burton advises exercising some self-discipline. “People often get excited and want to go purchase things first.  That comes after you’ve done some preliminary work” – i.e., figured out exactly what and where you’re going to store in the garage.  

Or avoid the storage box temptation altogether and try your hand at some garage storage DIY. This floating shelf tutorial from Home Depot would be perfect for storing frequently-used items, like pet food or sunscreen.

Otherwise, several cubby-type shelves – like the IKEA Kallax – work great for grouping items together. For example, one shelf can hold outdoor toys, another seasonal clothes, and a third for anything car related. Store smaller items, like nuts, bolts, and other drop-’em-and-you’ll-lose-’em odds and ends, in labeled canisters or repurposed tins.

Look for additional, hidden storage spaces

Fresh out of garage shelving space? Burton suggests looking into a ceiling-mounted rack for rarely used things, like holiday decor, memory boxes, etc. (Plus, having stuff on the ceiling just looks really cool). She advises storing items in clear snap-lid labeled boxes, which will help maintain order and keep objects dry.

Above the door is another great storage space – you can add a shelf for storing items you don’t need as often. Bonus: You’ll need a ladder to reach up there, and ladders are – you guessed it! – another great storage tool.

There’s more to garage organization than tossing those old hula hoops in some cardboard boxes. If you need help dropping off donations, hauling junk away, or transporting a full shelf system from the store to your spiffy new garage, schedule a Dolly Helper. You’re just one Dolly visit away from your dream garage storage space.

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