Condo Blues: 6 Smart Strategies to Organize a Garage and Workshop

Sunday, February 1, 2015

6 Smart Strategies to Organize a Garage and Workshop

Our garage and workshop was an unorganized mess!  I put the organize the garage project off for long time because I was overwhelmed by the clutter. Where do I start? Ack!

six steps to an organized garage

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By accident or design (I’m going to go with by design because it sounds like I had a plan all along instead of a make it up as I go along series of happy accidents) I broke my big garage organization project into several smaller, less overwhelming projects.

Guess what? Three days later (I had a lot of stuff to deal with) I had an organized workshop I can use without tripping over anything. I discovered some things I thought were working weren’t and why. I made changes according my needs and organization style. My garage is now neat and stays that way.


This method worked so well on helping my clear my garage clutter madness that I’m using it to organize other parts of my house. You can too!

How to Organize a Garage Without Getting Overwhelmed

1. Create an incentive to get the job done in a reasonable timeframe.

I parked the car on the street to give me room to work. Parking in our garage is more convenient that on street parking because my neighbors take the spaces in front of my house with the SUVs they refuse to park in their driveways.  My incentive was to get the job done quickly so I can have my 100% guaranteed in house parking space back as soon as possible.

Cluttered garage BEFORE

2. Create a garage and workshop storage and organization plan by honestly asking and honestly  three simple questions about your current space (read the full tutorial here.) This doesn't take very long.

 Don’t skip this step! It creates the road map of creating garage work and storage space that works for you and your organization style.

The photo below shows what the garage looked like after we first moved in. Let’s call this Garage Organizer Plan: Phase One.

I made changes. This is what the current Phase Two turned into.

3. Create or revise new work and storage zones based on everything you learned in Steps 1 and 2 and based on your personal work and organization style.

  • You store like items together and where you plan to use them in the room as much as possible.
  • Store the items you use most often on lower and easily accessed areas. Items you use less often or annually like holiday decorations can be stored  higher or at less accessible places. 
  • Don’t create an storage and organization based on what you think you should do or is most popular, do what works for you and your organization style.
I outgrew the baby food jars everyone said I should use to store screws and hardware. You’ll see by how much in Step 4. The jar idea isn’t a bad one. Turns out I need to use bigger jars!

    By the way, we aren’t shopping for organizers yet. We have to do Step 4 first. 

4. Do a big quick sort of items by grouping like tools and items together. This was a quick, one hour sort and grouping of like items in temporary piles to see what you have and how much room those like items will need in the final organized garage.

You should also have Donate, Recycle, Toss, and Sort Further piles in addition to your piles of sports equipment, gardening, grilling, etc.

hardware storage
The 8 billion screws I found throughout the project went into this Sort Further pile. That way I didn’t lose momentum picking through a pile a detailed doodads and get stuck with big piles all over the 

5. Buy, build, repurpose, or upcycle any new garage and workshop storage items you need. I finally made the storage workbench I wanted from recycled kitchen cabinets. I’ll give you the details in a later post.  Other than a few quick builds, I just needed to rework what I had and where it was stored.

wood pallet workbench
I was ready to buy a few new garage organizers until I realized I have a tools, a pile of wood, and loads of screws and sandpaper I kept finding as I worked. *forehead slap!*

I’m not ruling out buying new garage or workshop organizers. I want to give the new organization  a test run first. I just decluttered, I don’t want to junk it again with things that don’t work for us!

6. Load your items into their new storage homes by zone.

All hand tools, power tools, and hardware are in the new workbench.

recycled tool storage bench
I like to store my tools in their cases. The toolbox holds screws and hardware sorted into spaghetti sauce jars. It is a complete grab and go when I need wall anchors and such for a project inside the house.

The black shelves and garden hand tool organizer stay in their original place. I reorganized the shelves using what I learned in Step 2.

labled garage storage
The Need it Now Shelves by the door hold household things we use often with empty space for room to grow!  I hung our folding chairs near the car so we can pop them in them in the trunk and take them with us to events.

Throughout the the process, I added to and built/repurposed from my Donate, Recycle, and Toss piles.  Only after I had everything I wanted to keep in its new home in the garage did I take my Donate, Recycle, and Toss piles to their respective homes and parked the car back in the garage.

label garage storage
I know it looks anal retentive but labels keeps me honest in a lazy way because it makes me put stuff back where it is supposed to go. Husband doesn't pester me about not finding things either. It is labeled!

I think label makers are the cornerstone of family harmony and marital bliss.

The show shovel, ice melt and electric show shovel hang on prime wall real estate by the garage door so Husband can grab everything he needs where he is going to use it on the driveway.

snow tool storage
I added a screw on gamma lid (you can buy them from Amazon) for easy access to the ice melt in the storage bucket. The jug of kitty litter goes into the car trunk during winter. Learn why in my post 13 Things to Have in Your Car for Winter Snow and Ice Emergencies.

There are a few tweaks and additions I’d like to make to the garage like adding a dust collection system, more lighting, and drywall. They will have to wait until I finish the bathroom remodels.

Which I can because I now have room to work!

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