Organizing 101: Oh, that Garage (with no room for the car!)


By Sophia Noll


Summer is just around the corner and what a great time to get the family involved in clearing out the garage which has become a spillover from our house clutter … much like a dam’s spillway. Stuff goes in but never comes out! This abundance of garage clutter robs us of our peace of mind on a daily basis, not to mention how dangerous it can be … “Nearly 4 in 10 adults have tripped over an item in their cluttered garage, 27 percent have hit an object when opening a vehicle door and 22 percent have accidentally hit something when parking,” according to a survey cited by the Lehigh Group.


Photo:Unnar Ýmir Björnsson via Flickr

Photo:Unnar Ýmir Björnsson via Flickr

I have stood in client’s garages and seen such a wide array of items like stacks of papers, unwanted electronics, sports equipment, garden equipment, tools, future yard sale items, broken items and so much more. At times it’s like going on an archeological dig that says a lot about what we humans do with our money and time. “The garage shouldn’t be a place to store your good intentions, Joe Walsh explains—equipment for some future self who may one day have time to tinker with the family cars or learn to reupholster the living room furniture. Instead, it should reflect your current life.”


So let’s put on our digging clothes and start evaluating what needs to go and what needs to stay. Keep, donate, recycle, throw away, and yard sale are great sorting categories to work with. Remember to put like items together and if you have duplicates they can be put in the yard sale grouping or give-away bin. Do we really need six glue guns? Try to pick a weekend where there is no rain in the forecast since all the items will be pulled out of the garage into the yard and driveway. Also make an appointment for the following Monday for your favorite charity to pick up the donated items.


The garage, unlike a house, usually doesn’t have closets so mapping out the garage and assigning zones is the first action to take once you have sorted all the items and taken inventory of what you need to store. For example, sports zone, tool zone, garden zone, and so on. The location of the zones is important too and can be based on how often items are used and where they are used. An example would be placing gardening items near the door that leads to the outside or hand tools for those repairs inside the house would be kept near the door that enters the house. A trash can placed near the car makes it easy to throw away items before they have a chance to enter the house. Recycling bins can be staged by the door leading into the house which makes transitioning from car to house less cumbersome. Whatever does not fit in a designated zone will have to go!


Try drawing the zones out on paper. Take some masking tape and mark off the assigned zones. I don’t recommend purchasing storage items until you know the lay of the land. Don’t forget to go vertical and overhead. Make the most of vertical space with wall-mounted pegboards and wire grids that hold everything from sports equipment to garden tools. Using color in garages helps to visually differentiate areas. This helps in knowing what goes where, making it more likely that items will be returned to their place. So why not paint the peg board orange and have an orange tool zone! Your walls can hold shelving and there are hanging storage units that attach to the ceiling which opens up lots of real estate for storage of items that are not needed on a frequent basis like holiday decorations.


There is such an array of storage units and devices for garages these days. Take a stroll through the box stores and the internet to get ideas on ways to store your items. I always recommend sturdy shelving, not those plastic units. You want the shelving to be strong and able to handle the weight of your items. I am a huge fan of the steel shelving units that are adjustable and hold a lot of items. Plastic bins fit nicely on them as well and don’t forget to label what’s in the bins for quick finding. Place the items that are rarely used at the highest levels. Try to stay away from using cardboard containers since they attract rodents and insects.


Did you know that there is actually a day declared “National Clean Out Your Garage Day”? Yep, it’s the Saturday after Labor Day. But why wait until then to bring order to your garage? If you don’t want to tackle the job by yourself then call a Professional Organizer like myself. Otherwise it might become an overwhelming task that gets abandoned half way through.


I leave you with this poem that made me chuckle. It was written by a 5th grader by the name of Kevin Walsh:


“What’s In My Garage?


A birthday gift hidden and never found,
A violin that never made a sound,
Boxes full of something or other,
Maybe someone’s long lost brother,
The lost city of Atlantis,


Or a six foot preying mantis,
A couple million science tests,
Maybe Blackbeard’s treasure chest,
A bubbling pit of tar and muck
Or maybe just a car and truck.”



Sophia (In Its Place) has been organizing people’s lives for the past ten years from Maine to Asheville. She specializes in Organization, Personal Assistant, Household Management, Staging Homes, Senior Downsizing, and Concierge Services. Sophia offers free consultations and can be contacted at 828-333-3045. Spring is a wonderful time to tackle those organizing jobs! Give yourself the gift of Organizing!!!


Next month I would love to address any questions that you might have about “organization.” Please address your questions to and I will try my best to answer as many as I can 🙂

Written by Sophia Noll