Your household probably relies on your garage for one of its main storage areas — so much so, in fact, that you may not even park your cars in there. Storage areas in your home can easily succumb to clutter so much that no one actually wants to get anything out of storage anymore. If it’s not right on the top, you can forget about using it, and that can make storing things in your home more trouble than it’s worth.

You need a system, a way to store stuff in your garage so that you can see it and get to it easily. And you need to design your system so that it’s easy to keep it that way. Here’s how to do it.

1) Make a Floor Plan of Your Garage

You’ll probably need to buy or build shelves, pegboards, hooks, bins, and other supplies for organizing your garage storage. First, make a floor plan of your garage. Include your garage’s dimensions and the location and size of switches, receptacles, windows, doors, and the space taken up by cars, if you park your cars in the garage. This will help you figure out where you can install shelving and racks, as well as where you can store items and groups of items.

2) Use That Wall Space

Keeping things off the floor in your garage will keep you and others in your household from just piling stuff up. Instead, use that wall space — install pegboards and racks, mount shelves to the walls, or install shelving units. Even with shelving units and cupboards, choose units with legs so you can clean underneath them. Don’t be afraid to maximize that overhead space, either, even if it’s just installing a plywood loft across the exposed joists to stash your Christmas decorations, or not installing anything and just tucking your old skis up there.

3) Get the Right Accessories

Most lists of garage storage ideas recommend some accessories to help you put your space in order, and for good reason. Bins, lockers, shelves, racks, hooks, and cupboards all expand your storage space and keep it neat. Some must-have accessories include:

  • A lockable cabinet (or cabinets) for toxic chemicals (like pesticides and antifreeze) and other dangerous items
  • Stackable plastic storage bins with lids
  • Jars for storing small items, like hardware
  • A label maker, or, if you have good handwriting, a roll of masking tape and a Sharpie

You can pick and choose from pegboards, shelving, overhead racks, and cupboards according to your needs. A pegboard is a good idea if you have a lot of tools to store in your garage. Shelves or overhead racks provide storage for plastic bins full of holiday decorations. Some systems are best for finished garages, while others work better in unfinished garages. Shop around to find the best storage solution for your garage.

4) Inventory Your Items and Store Them in Ways That Make Sense

Once you have your new storage system installed and you’re ready to put all your stuff back, inventory it so you know what you have. Store items in ways that make sense — put the stuff you don’t use as often, like Christmas decorations, in the hardest-to-reach places, and the stuff you use a lot in the easiest-to-reach places. Sports equipment, like bikes, closer to the garage door, so you can get it out more easily when you need it. Bulky items, like lawnmowers and grills, should go in the corners of the room so you don’t hit them with your car.

5) Designate Storage for Different Household Members

Each individual in your house needs to store different things, so to keep things neat and keep them from messing up your system, give each household member their own area to store the things they need to get to on a regular basis. A locker or bin, as long as it’s easy to get to and big enough, can provide storage for a child’s sports equipment, toys, and bikes. Older family members need a place to stash wet umbrellas, raincoats, reusable shopping bags, and other incidentals.

An organized garage doesn’t have to be a pipe dream. With a little forethought and the right equipment, you, too, can admire neat shelves of tools, toys, decorations, and sports equipment as you pull your car into your garage each day. It’s enough to make up for your long commute — almost.

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