Garage storage solutions to cure clutter

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | November 21, 2013

"Cars have been banished from 75 percent of garages to make way for…mostly forgotten household goods." That is what studies by UCLA's Center on Everyday Lives (CELF) found as reported in a book published in 2012 titled "Life at Home in the 21st Century." According to Elinor Ochs, director of CELF, their researchers found "…food, toys and other purchases exceeding the confines of the home and overflowing into garages, piled up to the rafters with stockpiled extra 'stuff. '" And they were not talking about hoarders, just normal families with clutter problems.

If your garage is headed in that direction or is already there, it's definitely the time to consider some serious storage options.

The obvious garage storage solution: shelving

Many of us look at the garage and see plenty of floor space on which to pile household overflow. When stuff starts toppling over, the simplest solution is to invest in some shelving on which to pile it more neatly -- or at least so it stays put and you can navigate around it. You can find used shelving of varying quality and sizes at garage sales and on Craigslist for as little as $10 -- and sometimes for free just for taking it away. You also can build your own from lumber. But if you've decided that today is the day the stuff gets picked up and organized, you want something now. If you're having trouble deciding what kind of shelving is best for you, then narrowing your options down to shelving material you want and weight capacity you need could help:

Metal shelving: Both Home Depot and Lowe's sell a 72-by-48-by-24 inch heavy-duty, 5-tier, metal shelving unit from Edsal rated at 1,000-lbs. capacity per shelf for around $90. For about $12 less they sell a similar model with particle board shelves rated for only 800-lbs. per shelf.

Plastic shelving: Plastic shelving of the same height and depth listed above -- though about 36" wide instead of 48" -- runs about $50 per unit at Home Depot.

Mesh shelving: Uline sells a chrome wire-mesh 4-tier unit 72-by-48-by-24 for $197 that's rated to hold up to 800 lbs. per shelf.

Garage wall organization systems

Sports equipment like surfboards, bicycles, and golf clubs as well as most outdoor tools and gardening equipment -- hoses, rakes, and shovels -- do not adapt well to shelving. If you haven't already erected shelving around the entire garage, leave some space for a wall-mounted hook organizing systems that is perfect for keeping many irregular-shaped items off the floor or from toppling over all the time.

You are probably familiar with Pegboard and hooks, which has been a popular way to organize tools, especially in the garage, since the 1950s. Newer versions of pegboard come in more durable materials than the masonite pegboards of old, which tended to chip and wear out, especially around the holes in which the hooks were inserted. You can find a 48-by-96 inch piece of white pegboard hardboard for about $18.00 at Lowe's. Home Depot offers Wall Control, galvanized metal pegboard starting at $35.00 for a two-piece pack, which measures 32-by-32 inches when installed. The Wall Control system features holes and slots that accept ¼" pegboard hooks as well as slotted tool board accessories. If you've already got pegboard and just need more hooks, Harbor Freight Tools sells a pack of 50 for $5.99.

Rubbermaid's FastTrack® Garage Organization System is a variation on the Pegboard and hook system, but instead of a board with holes to hold the various hooks, the FastTrack® system uses a series of heavy steel construction rails installed across the studs for stability. Each rail holds up to 1,750 lbs. The robust accessories used to hang odd-shaped objects on the wall feature an extensive array of hooks including a clever "cord manager" used for rolling up lengths of electrical cord or rope. There are bicycle hooks and even hooks designed for securing power tools. You can even hang children's toys. Walmart sells a starter kit with six different hooks and two 48" lengths of rail for around $60.00.

Overhead garage storage solutions

For those who are thinking how lovely it would be if everything on the floor could just vanish from sight there is overhead storage. Again, you could spend a few days, weeks, or months contemplating how to build overhead garage storage space, but there are a number of excellent ready-made products on the market that save you the trouble. Prices start around $50 for a 45-by-45 inch ceiling shelf at Walmart, or you can pay as much as $260 for a 4-by-8 foot heavy-gauge steel overhead rack from MonsterRAX at Hayneedle.com that holds up to 600 lbs.

For those who want to wake up tomorrow and, without lifting a finger, miraculously see the floor of their garage so they can coat it with one of those lovely colors of epoxy paint and pull the car back in, there are companies like Major D. Clutter, garage storage specialists. They are "…thoughtfully sensitive to your needs and will work closely with you to properly store those important keepsakes, sporting equipment, tools, gardening supplies, bikes, and whatever else you want to have handy." It would appear that fairy godmothers are still among us.

Whatever size your garage is and whatever shape it's in, the variety of storage options should have the space looking spick and span in no time.

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.