I’m about to be a dad, in a little less than two months and counting. In addition to getting the baby’s room ready, I’ve taken on the task of organizing my garage. Call it my form of nesting. This task is not a small one, being that I’m Outside’s Gear Guy and have spent years acquiring and testing about every piece of outdoor gear you can think of. As of right now, I’m still working through the cleanup, but I wanted to share some of the tips I’ve learned over the years.
Consider Your Car
This is the first thing you need to decide: Does the car live in the garage? The answer to this will totally change how the garage gets organized. A big part of the decision depends on where you live. Own a house in Southern California? Your car is probably fine on the street. Live in Bozeman, where it snows all the time, or Dallas, where hail can ruin everything? In that case, you’ll need to squeeze your car in with your gear. I live in Oregon, where it’s fine to leave my car outside, and because it will be hard to get a baby out of the car when it’s parked in the garage, we’ve decided to keep the garage car-free.
Invest in Shelving
Every available inch of wall in my garage has shelves, which maximizes my space. I’m a big fan of Gorilla Racks, because they’re relatively affordable, easy to assemble, stable, and hold a ton of weight. I’m not afraid to load them down with coolers, car camping stoves, and other bulky items. If you’re on a budget, check out these affordable plastic shelves that snap together in five minutes and are great for lightweight bins.
Use Your Vertical Space
The ceiling in your garage is valuable square footage. I’m currently in the process of getting a Racor PHL-1R Ceiling Storage Lift, which will store my rooftop tent. If you have a pitched or otherwise high ceiling, you might also consider it for hanging bikes, surfboards, kayaks, and other bulky items that are hard to store on a wall or the floor.
Don’t Be Afraid to Wrench
This tip relates to the one above. Installing a rooftop tent holder or hooks for your bikes involves turning screws. Thankfully, the stakes are usually lower in your garage than they are in your living room. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake, redrill, reposition, repeat.
Keep Everything Accessible
By accessible, I mean you should be able to get at your gear without effort. Don’t store your gear two or three layers deep. You shouldn’t have to move one bin to get to the next. If you have a car in the garage, make sure you don’t have to pull the car out to reach your most frequently used gear.
Bins, Bins, Bins
Bins are a key part of organization, and they’re so important that they get a heading unto themselves. All my shelves are filled with bins that hold various parts of my gear. For example, all my car camping cooking gear goes in one bin. All my base layers go in another. I like 18-gallon bins—they hold a lot of gear but aren’t so big that they’ll topple me over when I try to get one off the top shelf. When possible, I prefer clear bins so I can see inside. Even with clear bins, I’m militant about labeling. I slap on a piece of duct tape and write the contents so there’s never any guessing. My go-tos, for those who are curious, are the Sterilite 18-gallon bins, which I buy in bulk.
Plan for the Seasons
If you have a small garage or a garage with a car inside, make your seasonal gear the most accessible. It’s okay to have your skis in a hard-to-reach spot in July, but your bike, helmet, and pump should be at the ready. Vice versa in December.
Build a Drying Station
I live in Oregon, so water is a problem. I need to be careful about drying gear like jackets and skins so they don’t get ruined. A dedicated drying station in my garage is helpful, because it’s easily accessible and prevents me from forgetting about my gear on the outdoor clothesline. No need to get fancy. Just string up a section of paracord along one wall to drape things over.
Create a Donations Bin
Some gear eventually needs to get passed on. Instead of letting it clutter your garage, organize it into one bin. When it’s time to pass the gear on to friends, Goodwill, or your local charity, everything is in one spot and easy to transport.
Keep Your Garage Clean and Welcoming
By this I mean sweep the floors, get rid of spiderwebs, and maybe add some extra lighting. All these things will keep your garage feeling like an organized space and help you cut down on the clutter.