When it comes to organizing areas of our homes, the one most often overlooked – perhaps on purpose – is the garage. In fact, it’s probably where all of our stuff goes after we complete a cleaning-out project.

It’s easy to stash our things in a room made for storage, but using the garage as a home junk drawer can quickly cause a big mess. If you’re ready to sweep up that pile of brooms, untangle the bikes, and finally figure out what to do with all those tools, then we have some tried and true DIY garage organization recommendations for you. And don’t worry, they’re all budget-friendly!

1. Set aside enough time to get the job done

This one may seem obvious, but sometimes people get so excited to tackle a home DIY project that they jump right in without a plan or enough time carved out of their day. Organizing a garage can be incredibly time consuming, so don’t kick things off at 10 p.m. unless you’ve got the coffee pot ready and no alarm coming early the next morning.

As a best practice, set aside a weekend or entire day — or at least a good five to six hours — to account for the clean out, organization, small fixes, and trips to the home improvement store.

2. Gather the right materials

Sure, the goal is to get things out of the garage, but you may need to bring a few things in to get the job done right. Some handy items to have:

  • Trash cans and heavy duty trash bags
  • Cleaning supplies: You don’t want to store dirty items, do you? This is a good opportunity to give your things a proper cleaning.
  • Notepad and pen: Make a list of what you’ll need to start your garage organization projects — like installing pegboards, hanging hooks, or loading up on plastic storage bins (more on these very soon).
  • Drills, hammers, and other tools you’ll need

3. Decide to declutter

You may not be ready to hear this, but you need to go through everything in your garage before you start an organization project. Yes, even that scary pile of lawn chairs, tiki torches, and bent rakes in the corner. It doesn’t have to be intimidating, though! You just need to get in the decluttering mindset

  • Instead of putting everything into one big pile or trying to tackle your entire garage at once, break the space into quadrants.
  • Sort through one section at a time, grouping items in categories: tools, lawn care, cleaning supplies, recreation, etc.

As you declutter, put things in a bin or box that can be donated. Maybe there are even some items you can sell. If something is irreparably broken, put it in the trash. 

Having trouble deciding what to discard? A good rule of thumb is that if you haven’t used it for a year, you won’t miss it.

empty PODS storage container

4. If it needs to stay, stow away

You may be wondering what to do with seasonal items like your Christmas tree, strands of twinkle lights, and that bulky turkey fryer. These are things that you only use once a year, but they’re taking up valuable garage real estate.

To reduce clutter but still have easy access to your things, consider renting a small storage unit or portable container.

This could be used for seasonal storage or serve as a short-term storage solution while you complete your garage organization project. For example, a PODS container can be delivered right to your driveway in no time. This gives you 24/7 access to all your stuff, just steps away, giving you time to sort all your stuff, add shelving, or even organize items for a garage sale

5. Contain yourself

Plastic bins are a quick and inexpensive way to optimize your garage organization. Once you’ve grouped your things into categories, put them into a bin and add a label. Not sure what you need? Use these tips for choosing storage boxes before throwing things into the first available bin.

6. Buy or build shelves

If your items fill up several plastic containers, stack them on shelves. You can purchase an affordable and sturdy storage rack at a home improvement or bulk store. 

Want to channel your inner carpenter? Watch this how-to video with steps for a simple one-person shelving project:

Once your shelves are in place, here are some quick tips for organizing:

  • When stacking your bins, put the most commonly used items on the middle shelf for easy access and anything hazardous or dangerous on the top rack so it’s out of the reach of children.
  • To store smaller items, like nails and screws, use a muffin tin or small plastic lunch containers with dividers. You can either keep these smaller containers at your workbench or inside a toolbox or chest.

7. Go vertical

A great way to make the most of your small space is by using pegboards, wall mounts ,and hooks for your smaller hand tools. Consider investing in a vertical bike rack to free up valuable floor space.

Pegboards are not only cheap and simple to install, but you can also paint them to create a more customized look. it’s important to note that pegboards can’t support heavier items.

8. Don’t stop until you reach the top

There’s valuable storage space right above your head. That’s right – the ceiling can be used for storing items like ladders, camping gear, seasonal items, and other things you rarely use.  Install racks or shelving close to the ceiling for large boxes, coolers, backpacks, and more. You can even put hooks on the underside to hang lighter-weight items.

This video shows you how to install shelves in the often-wasted space above the garage door: 

9. Create a workstation

After a successful decluttering session, you may find yourself with room for a small workstation. This doesn’t have to be an expensive or time-consuming project. Repurpose an old chest or desk and — voila! — you have a new garage workspace. Now you can tackle projects without messing up the kitchen table!

10. Get sporty

If your kids always drop their soccer gear by the back door or your husband props his golf bag on the garage wall, you could probably use a sports station. All it takes is a few racks, hooks, or open bins, and say goodbye to tripping over cleats or rolling the basketball out from under the car. 

Use a hanging mesh bag to contain loose balls, a few hooks to hold tennis racquets, or install a simple drying rack to air out that sweaty athletic gear. Looking for a place to store those tennis shoes? Here’s a how-to video for creating a low-cost shoe rack with PVC pipe:

It’s time to reclaim your garage. Turn the space from cluttered to clean with a few simple and cheap DIY fixes. Now you can finally get your car in there!

(Credit for image featured at top: @fitzjustrightny via Instagram)

L.B. Gabriel is a freelance writer living in Memphis, TN. Her primary goal is helping all companies — no matter the size — connect with their audiences in a fun and engaging way. Whether it’s Fortune 500 companies, global nonprofits, or local small businesses, she loves helping organizations craft the perfect message. See her work at lbgabriel.com.