Dear Kathi,

I have a garage for the first time and I want to organize it in the most practical way. What are your suggestions? I’m sure some things are supposed to be in the front and others in the back. I need to do laundry and park my car and would like it to be functional and easy to keep tidy.
Keith, San Marcos


Determine what activities will take place in your garage before you begin to plan the layout. Your garage will include a laundry area, but will it also store sports equipment, garden supplies, holiday décor? Will it feature a workout or workshop area?

Once you have listed the different items you will keep in your garage, you can create a practical plan for each zone within your space. For instance, position your laundry area closest to the interior door. Gardening supplies and lawnmower should be towards the front or side of the garage to keep the dirt toward the outer perimeter and away from the laundry zone.

Every garage should include some type of storage. Does your garage have pre-existing shelving or cabinets? If possible, use an entire wall for storage. Use every inch of vertical space, ceiling to floor and if possible wall to wall. Buy the tallest available cabinets or shelves to totally optimize the space along that wall. If you still have overhead space after installing these cabinets, consider running another shelf above to hold holiday boxes or tax archives.

Cabinets/shelves are typically 20-24 inches deep and should fit easily along the wall where you will park the car. Using this wall for storage will keep lawnmowers etc from banging into your car door.

When you think your plan is complete, look again at the space above each zone. You can never have too much storage. Consider adding more shelving in the areas that have empty wall space or above the garage door. There are companies that specialize in overhead garage door storage units. This storage area works well for large items like skis, extra lumber and building supplies.

Bicycles can be hung from the ceiling using a hook, pulley and rope system. Use a boat cleat to tie them off to a sidewall once they are hoisted above head level. A quick-release rappel cleat (found at any outdoor store) will quickly attach or release the bike from the rope.

When you design your laundry area, install shelving above the washer and dryer. This will hold your extra cleaning supplies and possibly paper towels and toilet paper if you buy it in bulk. If there is extra space, consider adding a thin rolling shelf between the machines for everyday detergents and fabric softener.

Make sure to have some type of large horizontal space in your laundry zone. The ultimate solution is to buy or build a large 36″ high counter top. This will help your back and provide a convenient space to fold and hold laundry. If space is tight, an ironing board will also work for folding laundry. This board can be stored vertically and hung on a wall when not in use. You could install an ironing board system that fits in between your wall studs. It lives behind a door and folds open when it is needed.

Garden supplies can be stacked neatly in two rows of large plastic bins with lids. Extra potting soil, mixes and pots can be stored in the two bottom bins. Tools, seeds and bulbs can be stored neatly within the top bins. Sectionalize your smaller items within the larger bins with ziplock baggies and smaller shoebox size bins. Keep an empty plastic bin on top of this stack to use for potting plants. By the time you have stacked three of these bins on top of each other, you have a convenient waist-high workstation.

Feel free to write again if you need additional information about planning your garage. Have fun and remember, a little build-out and preplanning will make using your new-found space much more enjoyable.

Kathi is a professional organizer, image consultant and event planner based in San Diego California.

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San Diego Professional Organizer