I don’t know about you, but there was a time for us when the garage was a continuous catch-all. When we were remodeling our old house. Then when we were moving (boxes EVERYWHERE!) And then again when we were unpacking in our new space (same boxes, different location). Tripping over said boxes, adjusting tools, juggling bikes, trying to put in cabinets to help organize the space. . .  I began to feel like I was going through the five stages of grieving trying to get my garage space straight. First, I was in denial of the mess. (If the door stayed shut, maybe it just wasn’t there . . . That is until I needed a tool of some kind. Then it was all too real). Then the second stage – trying to get to the side yard access door, I was angry that I had tripped over my daughter’s bike yet again. Third, I found myself bargaining with the storage cabinets, trying to unpack them from their shipping boxes to create space that I knew somehow they would help free up. Fourth, depression set in. I moped and convinced myself that I would never have a clean garage, I was destined to live not being able to park my car in the garage ever again (becoming ever so much more overdramatic…). Finally, I came to the fifth stage, acceptance . . . in my case, this meant accepting that not all was lost, but that I needed to get myself out there with a plan and a resolve to work on making the garage the space I knew it could be. 

The garage in your home can be utilized to become a versatile space. But to make those dreams a reality, there are questions you should ask yourself before you dive in to ensure lasting success. The answers to these questions should help you create a plan along with a specific end goal in mind. Whether you want to have an organized space for your tools, to create an area to relax and entertain, or simply have room to park the new car, beginning with this list will direct you toward your goals.  

1. Do I Need to Keep Everything in My Garage? (How Can I Free Up Space?) 

When you’re finally in project mode, getting ready to tackle the garage, ask yourself, “What do I need to part with? And what do I need to keep?” Are there old tools that you haven’t used in a long time? Are there old paint cans standing in the corner? Do you (like me) have a pile of wood scraps that you keep thinking you’re going to use for a project? Do you have old kids’ toys that they have grown past, but you just haven’t had a chance to get to? If you can get rid of some stuff, then you won’t have to find a place for it once you get the garage organized. My suggestion would be to make “give away,” “put away”, and “throw away” piles, and make sure everything you have accumulated makes it into one of these three places. This can simplify your things and move two piles either straight to the dumpster, or to a good home – not yours! You may also find that some things would be better suited to store in your laundry room, a closet, or even the kitchen! In our catch-all space, my wife suggested that we keep things like lightbulbs and rags in the laundry room, rather than on a shelf in the garage. Viola! Free shelf for more garage-y things!  

2. What Do I Want to Do With the Garage? 

This may seem like a simple question here, but often I think that we don’t always follow the suggestion to “begin with the end in mind.” Here is where you can dream big – or maybe just practical! Is it simply moving and organizing enough space to park your car? Would you like a man cave with a TV for watching the game – complete with a mini-fridge and a couch for you and your buddies? Or do you aspire to have better storage for hobbies – a gun safe or a bigger workbench? Maybe you just need a coat rack to make sense of the scarves and boots in the winter. Or a place to hang your kayaks. I suggest making two lists to cover both – your dream garage, and your practical one. What would be fun? And what would make your routine easier? If you have a spouse and a family, maybe a brainstorming session would help get the ideas flowing. Having these lists will help with the planning phase and move you closer to the end goal.  

3. What Specific Hobbies, Sports, or Seasons do I need to Account For? 

So, I already listed some hobbies you may have that require space and storage and dreams. But I encourage you to take this a step further and look at a calendar year start to finish. You may discover that there are other things you need to think about storing or dedicating a shelf to. Christmas for example usually comes with a box or two (or five, as the years go by) of decorations and lights. Or maybe as summer gets closer, you realize that you have stockpiled various yard games, camp chairs, or fishing poles. Getting your space cleared out to park the car or have that man cave means that each of these things needs to have a storage home that’s out of the way until their turn comes to receive more frequent use. Think about grouping these items by season when you store them. This may change the flow of your garage completely. “Day-to-day” storage that sees more use can be easier to access than “seasonal.”  

4. Do I Have Kids? What Phase of Life are the Kids In? 

As a father of young kids, it has been interesting to watch how the playthings change as the kids get older. Our outdoor play collection started with the basics – a swing, sidewalk chalk, water tables, and strollers. As the kids have grown, these began to shift to bigger kid bikes, scooters, and trikes. And, you guessed it, these clutter up the garage in unexpected ways. I’m also trying to anticipate the next wave of sports equipment that may be taking over in the next few years.  Soccer, basketball, bats, and gloves . . . who even knows? But I still need a plan. This may be you too. Think through what you have and what you may have in the future and designate a corner, a shelf, or a storage bin that the kids can have access to. We rounded up the balls and the jump ropes and made it routine to keep them in one play bin. The scooters and bikes also found “parking spaces” and hooks that everything goes back to when we are done outside for the day. This can look different in each person’s garage. The point is to ensure that everything has a home. This will, again, free up extra space for other things you want to accomplish.  

5. What Kind of Garage Storage Solutions Do I need to Explore?  

Garage storage solutions are HUGE for getting your space organized! We have explored this topic in-depth on this site because there really are so many great options to look at! But for our purposes here, I will just give you a brief run down to help you get started. As ever, take a good look at your space and the things you need to store. And then ask yourself, what would work best for both? Do you need storage cabinets? A rolling tool chest? Some kind of wall shelving? Or maybe overhead storage? Do you need bins? Hooks or racks?  

It may feel overwhelming, at first. But here are some ideas to get you started:  

We looked extensively into overhead storage so we could take advantage of our high ceilings in the garage. And we also bought garage storage cabinets so that I had a place to put my larger woodworking tools. It took some planning, but we are happy with the results that these storage options provided.  

6. What Specific Garage Dimensions and Limitations Do I Need to Work Within? 

While you are looking at storage options, this next question is key. What dimensions are you working within your garage? And what things might you need to workaround? Most garages have certain fixtures, doorways, plumbing, and electrical that can’t be easily moved, so you will have to work around these. Things you may be contending with could include entry and side doors (how much space they need to open is an important thing to consider!), your water heater, a water filtration/ softening system, a dust collector (for my fellow woodworkers), garage door tracks, light switches, and power plugs. Things like this are important to give attention to because you need access to them to keep your garage functional. A well-hung shelf that impedes the side door entry will be more of a frustration than a solution. Or storage bins that block the power plug will be irritating when you need to use the shop vac. If you want your game TV in a certain corner, you need to be sure that you can run power to it! This may alter some of your initial plans but will make the overall outcome better. 

7. How Can I Utilize the Side Walls in My Garage? 

Sidewalls are often overlooked real estate when you are looking at storing things in your garage. This is where things like pegboards, clips and hooks, and magnet strips can really make a striking difference. We’ve seen everything from organized rakes and brooms, to extension ladders and hoses find a home with the right kind of way to secure them. Check out our article 12 Ways to Create Garage Sidewall Storage for more ideas.  

8. Am I Expecting to List My House Soon? 

I realize this question may take you in a different direction but hear me out. Some of you may not be in the “dream garage” phase. Your goals may be taking you elsewhere, and that’s great! As you are prepping your house to list, know that the garage can be a selling point for potential buyers. Providing a clean, blank slate can make your house more marketable. And yes, this means cleaning it out completely and maybe making improvements. Things that can be eye-catching, and not too expensive, can include a fresh coat of paint, epoxy on the floor, bright lighting, or storage options, like cabinets or shelves. Answering this question will again help you plan for what to do with this space, giving it some appeal for potential buyers, and possibly a higher asking price at the end of the day.  

9. How Do I Know I’m Ready For This? 

If you have a dream to utilize your space, you are already half-way there! This means that you already want some things to change and have some vision for where they could be. Creating a plan based on the questions we outlined above will get you moving in the right direction. Of course, to make the plan a reality, you have to be willing to put in the time, the ingenuity, and make a budget for your storage solutions. Set aside some Saturdays, set aside some dollars, call some buddies who will help you sort, or store, or put together. One project at a time and your garage will soon be the space you imagined it could be.