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Simple Garage Organization For a New School Year

Twenty-five percent. There’s a statistic floating around that says, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, twenty-five percent of the people with a two-car garage have filled it with so much stuff that they can’t even park a car in it.

Well, you could count us as part of that percentage – at least, until last weekend. We purchased our first home last summer, and since then, our garage has been a storage unit for all of our excess boxes, our items that hadn’t yet found a place, and all of the things that we stared at and wondered, “Should we keep this?”.

In the meantime, summer rolled around again, and every afternoon, I would go get in my van, parked in the driveway in 100+ degree heat, and while the sweat was pouring down my face, I would wonder why in the world we hadn’t made time to organize our garage yet.

So, last weekend, that’s exactly what we did – finally. I was determined to get it done in time to start the new school year with a bit of organization under our belt. (And I admit my husband was a key factor in this garage project, since he’s the handy one – so, thank you, honey!) Hopefully some of these ideas can inspire you if your garage needs a little TLC.


Yes, this was our crazy garage before we got started. I know – it’s terrible. The first thing we did was drag everything out onto the driveway so we could assess what we had, what we wanted to keep, and what we should throw or give away. Once we knew which items were keepers, our goal was to find a place for them while still preserving space for the van.

In addition, we also had to address our laundry area, which is in our garage. Our house was built in the mid-1970s, and none of the homes in our neighborhood were built with a laundry room. They simply have an extra little slab at the back of the garage, and a nook for the washer and dryer between the wall and the hot water heater. But our washer and dryer didn’t quite fit into the nook – they were too wide – and so our washer and dryer were pulled out of the nook, all the way to the edge of the slab. This left a big, empty waste of space behind them, a clumsy space to navigate, and no room for me to organize, fold, or otherwise care for the laundry. You can see them in the “before” picture above, back in the left-hand corner.

We decided that the best solution was to go vertical. By stacking the washer and dryer, we could scoot them back into their assigned nook, and still have a little bit of space left next to them for some organizational helps. My husband built a shelf above them, for extra storage, and then added a hanging rod, a pegboard, and a table to their left. I plan to purchase a rolling utility cart to store the detergent, stain remover, and other laundry essentials under the table. We’re so happy with the way that the laundry area turned out.


My husband is an amateur woodworker, so he chose to have a workbench on his side of the garage, rather than using it to park his car. We organized many of his tools on the wall with a large pegboard, but there were still a lot of items leftover that needed a home – and a safe one, at that, out of the way of little hands.

So we decided to repurpose an old dresser. The dresser belonged to my grandparents, and while I love it for its heritage and beauty, the drawers carried a strong odor of old moth balls, and there was nothing I could do to eliminate it. But I couldn’t bear to simply get rid of the dresser, and my husband needed a spot for tools, so this solution was a win-win for us both.


We also wanted a little spot for backpacks near the garage, so going in and out on our way to and from school could be streamlined as much as possible. My husband built this simple hook rack with a little ledge on top, using cedar planks from the hardware store, and installed it on the wall next to the door into our garage. It turned out beautifully.

After this, we only had a few items left that needed a home: the bicycles, the wagon, bike helmets, a ladder, and some balls. Our garage isn’t very wide – there’s really not much extra room in there from side to side – so, again, we realized that going vertical was going to be the best solution. We wall-mounted the ladder, added hooks for helmets, and hung up the wagon and the adult bicycles from the ceiling. We decided to leave my girls’ bikes on the ground on my husband’s side of the garage, since they ride their bikes every day, multiple times a day…easy access is a necessity there!


Finally, we were almost ready to park the van inside. The only thing we still needed was a way to manage the garage door itself. We wanted something that provided safety and security, and we wanted to take advantage of the new high-tech options that offer smartphone connectivity, but we already had an existing garage door opener.

So, we installed a device called the Chamberlain MyQ Garage. It works through our smartphones with our existing opener (and almost any opener manufactured after 1993), and allows us to open and close the garage door from anywhere in the world. I love this because if I’m not at home but a repairperson or delivery person needs access to our garage or home, I can easily open it for them once they let me know they’ve arrived.

With the Chamberlain MyQ Garage app, I can also receive notifications when the door opens and closes, which is an added security measure. And I like that I don’t have to keep a garage door opener in my van. Instead, I can just use the app on my phone to open and close the door. We can also go on family bike rides with just our smartphones and easily open the garage door upon our return. Simple.


Looking at the garage now, we feel amazed at everything we were able to do in one weekend. We got rid of all the junk that we no longer want or need, and that’s a great feeling. I’m so excited about being able to park the van in there – AND we were able to find room for the things we wanted to keep, too. Vertical storage is key if there’s limited space, so making use of wall and ceiling hooks was a lifesaver. And knowing that our garage door is now secure gives me real peace of mind.


We’re ready for the new school year – or at least, our garage is. It was one hot, sweaty, hardworking weekend, but it was definitely worth it.

Disclosure: I acknowledge that Chamberlain is partnering with me to participate in the Real Simple 2015 marketing program (the “Program”). As a part of the Program, I am receiving compensation in the form of products and services, for the purpose of promoting Chamberlain. All expressed opinions and experiences are my own words. My post complies with the Word Of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Ethics Code and applicable Federal Trade Commission guidelines.

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  1. Tammy

    Our garage is in need of a good cleaning and a little organization right now, but thankfully we’ve always been able to park our two vehicles in it! It doesn’t matter so much in the summer, but in the winter we don’t have to clean snow off our car before we go somewhere (though the driveway is a different matter!).

    Your garage organization looks great! I don’t have a smart phone but that garage door opener sounds pretty nifty.

    • Katie Fox

      Thanks! Yes, I’m in central Texas so I don’t know anything about the snow problems… 🙂 but I can imagine!

  2. Alissa

    I think there is great freedom in accepting your priorities and therefore the limitations they create. Like, your husband wants the workbench more than a space for his car in the garage. Priority, limitation… path forward!

    We had the same problem – sitting stymied looking at our garage for almost a year because we just couldn’t figure out how to fit everything in there with our two cars. Then, we realized our:
    Priority (bikes needed to be locked up in the garage)
    Limitation (two cars will not fit with the number of bikes we own and use)
    Path forward (one car in a two car garage and the other half converted to shelving, bike storage, and a near daily “bike workshop.”)

    Once we made that decision, the garage got organized in one weekend! And, I’m no longer looking at the garage and feeling like a failure because we have one car in the driveway. We DECIDED to keep one car in the driveway, so it’s exactly where it’s supposed to be.

    • Katie Fox

      Yes, that’s the thing about the statistics…there are plenty of people I know that have made a choice to use their garage for other purposes, and just keep their cars in the driveway. It all comes down to intentionality…if the garage is just filled with junk that never gets used, that’s one thing. But if you’re CHOOSING to use the space for something else, then that’s another thing entirely. My husband is much happier having a space for his woodworking than using it to park a car. I like how you phrase it: priority, limitation, path forward!

  3. Logan

    To keep things better over the winter put these in your garage:
    -Garage heater (to make sure your garage stays a decent temperature in the winter)
    -De-humidifier (to make sure the tools and other things don’t rust in the winter and humid summer days)
    -Garage mat (to catch the snow and salt from getting on the garage floor)

    • Katie Fox

      Those are great tips for anyone who deals with snow and ice. Thanks!

  4. JB

    Looks much better and is much more functional. Hanging the bikes is a great way of getting them off the floor. We’ve done that vertically on a wall. I would say though that a paint job on the walls – even just white, would make the space look much cleaner and organised which would soothe the eyes!

    • Katie Fox

      Thanks! I know, we’d love to paint the walls someday – we thought it was pretty strange that the walls were finished out that far but then no farther… Most garages I’ve seen either have the studs exposed or they’re completely finished out – ours is in-between! Maybe that’s next summer’s project… 🙂

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