From the folks at HGTV to our friends on Pinterest, we’re bombarded every day with new ideas touted as “life hacks” that are all but guaranteed to make our routines easier. Often, life hacks involve ideas that are so simple you can’t believe you didn’t come up with them yourself, and they frequently rely on either affordable or existing items you more than likely already have around your home.
Among the many places embracing these life hacks can pay off is in your garage. If you’re like most of America, your garage may have inadvertently become a dumping ground for toys, sports and weather gear and who knows what else that has accumulated over the years, and because we don’t typically hold our garages to the same standard as we do the rest of our homes, when stuff piles up, it it tends to stay that way.
It doesn’t have to, however, and with a little time and attention, you can free up space for parking, playing, painting or any number of other purposes or endeavors. So, without further ado, here are seven essential garage hacks that will have you breathing, moving and parking easier in no time.
1. Keep cords and ropes contained with some simple knots.
If you’re still finding yourself tripping over cords, and particularly if you’re dealing with those really long ones that are intended for outdoor usage, here are four easy steps that will help you save space and restore order to your chaotic garage.
• Connect the male and female ends of the long cord.
• Make an overhand knot near where the connection was made.
• Make a continuous chain of slipknots until you’ve gathered up almost all the cord.
• Tie off the end and hang it somewhere out of the way until you need it again.
That’s it! For additional step-by-step instructions along with photos of the process, click here.
2. Reduce dents and dings with a pool noodle repurpose.
Have you ever wondered just how many uses there are for a foam pool noodle? To blow your mind, search the term on Pinterest, but for today, it’s time to focus solely on the garage. If you park in a particularly small space, you can minimize your chances of dinging or damaging your car door, your car’s paint or the paint on the walls of your garage by cutting a pool noodle in half and then securing the halves to the walls on either side of your car or truck. What you’re doing is creating a bumper that provides protection for both your vehicle and your home – and for an incredibly reasonable price.
3. Keep loose cords organized using a plastic hanger.
You know those plastic hangers that have the little hooks that grip onto your pants? They can serve double-duty as cord-keepers. If you have an old extension cord kicking around in your garage that is constantly tripping you up, cut off the hook of the hanger and then wind the cord around it. You can secure either end using the clips used to hold up your pants, and kiss yet another safety hazard goodbye.
4. Add some above-the-door storage space.
The space that appears directly over your garage door is one of the most underutilized in the garage. Adding some simple shelving here is a great way to maximize what may be limited space while giving you another place to store goods that can stay within close reach, should you need them. Avoid storing anything too heavy in this spot, but towels, tarps and related goods are all fair game.
5. Keep loose cords organized using a toilet paper roll.
If you uncover more of those pesky cords you can’t quite bring yourself to throw away (because Murphy’s Law dictates that, as soon as you do, you’ll need them again), head back into your home and snag yourself a toilet paper roll. Next, simply roll the cord you want to store into a tight, taught bundle you can stuff inside the tube, and stack the tube on a shelf somewhere up and out of your way for safekeeping.
6. Easily identify power tools with the “bread tag” trick.
If you’re someone who likes to get your hands dirty in the garage, then odds are, you have some power tools in there that are plugged in or charging away at any given time. To make things easier and enable yourself to put your hands on the right tool when you need to unplug it, snag one of those little plastic tags that are used to hold bread bags fresh and together. Write the name of each tool on it, and then wrap it around each cord for quick and easy tool identification and organization.
7. Pack away fishing and camping gear using PVC pipe.
If you’re someone who likes to get out and enjoy the great outdoors every now and again, you may well find yourself tripping over fishing poles, camping poles and similar goods and gear on your way to do so. But, no more. PVC pipes are a great way to keep your long, thin poles and related equipment up and out of the way, not only so that you don’t trip over them, but also so that you don’t find yourself in the middle of the woods somewhere, one tent pole short. Simply affix some pieces of piping to your ceiling, and add in your fishing poles, tent poles and other gear for out-of-the-way storage. If your garage door ceiling is made of metal, however, skip this step – if temperatures get too hot up there, your fishing poles can suffer damage.
Now that you understand these easy hacks and how to implement them, here are some ideas for how you can maximize the space you have and make the most of your garage space, year-round.
Decide You’re “Over” Overcrowding.
We’ve all seen them – the people who have so much stuff stacked inside their garages, that you’re convinced they have everything under the sun in there…except enough space to actually park a car. Heck, you might actually be one of those folks, but you don’t have to be. In addition to doing yourself a disservice by not parking your car inside, away from the heat of the sun and the elements, you may also be endangering yourself and your family in keeping that overcluttered garage in such poor condition.
An overly cluttered garage presents a fire danger, but it also boots your chances of accruing property damage due to people not being able to forge a clear path through the garage space. So, to alleviate the problem, you can either call in the aid of a professional, or get the job done yourself. Should you choose to go the latter, more affordable route, consider taking the following steps in doing so.
- Assess the situation and purge whatever you can. Depending on the last time you organized this space, you could find a multitude of things you are now ready to part with. Sell them, donate them or give them to your friends.
- Determine your needs and goals. Are you trying to free up enough space to fit your car or truck inside? Are you looking for your garage to fulfill multiple purposes, such as serving double-duty as a work space? Determining your endgame will help drive your strategy.
- Opt for storage furniture over stacked boxes. It makes things much easier to find (particularly if you use labels), and it’s safer to boot. If space permits, consider adding a loft where you can keep gear you only need to pull out for use now and then.
- Check out your walls. Are there better ways you could utilize your wall space? Adding some simple pegboards is a cheap and easy way to create organized storage for tools, rakes, garden gear and bikes, and you can store things above eye-level – all you need is a footstool to make things a foot or two above your head easily accessible.
Photo by Rubbermaid Products
Kicking the clutter in your garage to the curb can free up ample space for just about anything, from parking to a new workout machine. It also reduces your chances of stumbling over something and suffering a serious injury as a result, so devote a day or two to the job, and reap the benefits for years to come.
Maximize a Small Garage Space
All too often, garage space is sacrificed for the sake of the home. In other words, to get the most out of it, you need to utilize every nook and cranny of it you possibly can, and here are some steps you can take to help make that happen.
1. Draw out a layout.
Sometimes, putting things down on paper allows you to see what you otherwise wouldn’t. You don’t have to be an architect to design a simple layout, however – just determine the size of any shelving or cabinets you plan to add, and then perform the appropriate calculations to ensure you have enough space to spill park and move around.
2. Label, label, label.
You know why your garage might be messy in the first place? Because you, like just about everyone, didn’t label everything from day one. Also, it’s probably messy because of its small size, which can make organization seem impossible. When you want to put your hand on the right tool at the tight time, having everything properly labeled can prove a major timesaver.
Photo by Dean Hochman
3. Consider adding loft storage.
By adding several feet of loft storage above your head in the garage, you can create a great place to store seasonal decorations, sports gear and other items you may only need intermittently throughout the year.
4. Aim high.
Odds are, you have ample space far off the floor that you can utilize without giving yourself something new to trip over. Try and install new shelving above the height of the doors of your car – you’d probably rather have to pull out a small, collapsible step ladder now and again then only be able to open your car door a few inches to enter or exit.
5. Think tall, in terms of cabinets.
When your garage is so small, you need to think upwards. Installing some tall cabinets is an easy way to store things in a vertical manner, freeing up what little space you have to work with. Ideal for housing nails, screws and similar small items, tall cabinets serve an important purpose, and they also boost garage aesthetics.
Cabinets are not the only option for garage storage, however…which brings us to our next section. Cabinets, or shelves?
Garage Organization: Should You Opt for Cabinets, or Shelves?
The first step in most garage organization projects involves simply getting everything up and off the floor. Once you go through and determine what to purge, what to sell and what to keep, you’ll have to find new homes for everything that falls into that “keep” pile.
Adding cabinets or shelves to your garage space is generally affordable, and it presents a great way to get your gear out of your way so that you can maximize the space you have. Go for cabinets, shelves or a combination of the two, and enjoy the following perks.
Installing Garage Shelves
Shelves are an ideal way to store goods you don’t want tripping you up or getting wet on the floor, and they can prove especially helpful when it comes to storing large or awkwardly shaped items that won’t fit easily within closable cabinets. Shelves are also versatile, and they can generally be cut or customized to fit in whatever space you’re looking to fill. Consider opting for 16” shelves as opposed to 12” models, as the larger ones will give you room to store big plastic tubs and the like.
Photo by Robert Nelson
Installing Garage Cabinets
Cabinets are a great option if you are looking to store some smaller goods in your garage, and you want them out of your line of vision. In addition to giving you a place to tuck unsightly items out of the way, cabinets provide considerable protection, and they are obviously better than shelves when it comes to keeping bugs, critters and other potential pests at bay. Cabinets can also improve the overall aesthetic of your garage space, both by removing clutter off the floor and by hiding your jumbled-up mess of belongings from public view.
Regardless of whether you ultimately go for shelves or cabinets, consider what type of items you are storing, and where. Reserve higher cabinets and shelves for the things you only need occasionally, and keep the lower cabinets and shelves freed up for the goods you want to be able to place your hands on at a moment’s notice.
So, now that you know how to organize your garage using things you’ll find around the home, combat overcrowding, maximize a small garage door space and determine whether garage cabinets or shelving units will better fit your needs, it’s time to tackle the job. Whether you’re looking to simply use the garage space for its intended purpose or get it in shape to serve as an auto shop, an art studio or another kind of extension of your home, utilize these tips and instructions, and streamline and simplify the entire process.
NOTE: We’ve updated a previous version of this article that was published in Feb 2015.