Storage, organizing key to reclaiming and cleaning up garage

  • By Martha Stewart Living Magazine
  • Wednesday, May 7, 2008 5:30pm
  • Life

Garages were created for cars, but people park a lot of other stuff there as well.

Shovels, sports gear, pet supplies — you name it. The catchall can quickly turn into a dumping ground, which is why organization is essential.

Fortunately, with their high ceilings and open-frame walls, these utilitarian spaces can take on many storage solutions while still leaving room for cars. Compact or movable task-specific zones can help to make the most of the space.

Start by claiming every vertical inch. An exposed frame can provide endless shelving for small objects. To hold tall, lightweight items, including garden stakes, loop bungee cords around screw hooks fastened to adjacent studs.

Place rakes and snow shovels on a wall-mounted track system. Some track systems come with tiered shelving for storing objects that don’t hang easily, such as tool kits and buckets.

Store bikes by mounting hefty steel hooks to a central support post. If there isn’t one, consider ceiling-mount hooks.

Think logically about where to put things. For example, in summer, a beach chair will get more use than a snow shovel, so hang it up front.

Rather than ignore the narrow strip of wall between the garage doors, try turning it into a mini auto-care station. Mount two wire baskets for storing assorted engine fluids, as well as sponges, squeegees and other car-cleaning essentials. Place metal receptacles nearby: one for trash from road trips, the other for holding rock salt for icy mornings.

If you’ve been meaning to set up a recycling station or a spare pantry, consider placing it against another wall. Attach casters to a thick piece of plywood to create a rolling platform for the recycling bins. A large metal office cabinet could double as the pantry. Attach to it a clipboard with magnets for keeping inventory of pantry supplies.

Putting a mudroom along the wall of an attached garage makes perfect sense. After all, it’s better to remove wet, muck-covered shoes and outerwear before you enter the house. What’s more, a garage’s rugged walls and durable concrete floor can shrug off minor spills and scuffs.

The whole family will use the mudroom, but in most cases it should be designed primarily for kids, with plenty of room for storing book bags and jackets. Mom and Dad can definitely take advantage of it, too — for example, when extra coat space is needed for parties.

A painted pine storage chest would provide a convenient perch for removing muddy boots. Add metal bins to the inside to organize sports equipment, either by season or family member. Above the chest, add pegs for hanging coats, caps and knapsacks.

Placed by the door leading into the house, a dry-erase calendar, a magnetic message board and a small basket for outgoing mail will help keep the lines of communication open. Boots will air out quickly and cleanly in a door-side tray, which you can create by setting a wire rack inside a baking sheet. Place a flower bucket, which doubles as an umbrella stand, beside it.

Install a shelf high on the mudroom wall to create space for objects that won’t be needed on a regular basis, including a cooler for picnics.

You can also set up task-oriented areas such as potting stations. Place them beside windows so you can take advantage of the natural light. If that’s not an option, or if you plan to use the space in the evening, mount a desk lamp with an adjustable arm to the wall nearby.

For the potting station, install at hip-height a table supported by a hinged bracket, so when the surface is not in use, it drops down against the wall. To supply water, either hook up an extra-long garden hose to a nearby exterior spigot or keep a large watering can on a shelf above the station and fill it as needed.

A concealed-mount cafe-curtain rod slipped into a window frame or between two studs makes a handy twine dispenser; you can also hang a metal bucket from the rod for storing scissors and plant markers. Metal bins outfitted with casters are perfect for stowing potting soil, fertilizers and other garden supplies.

Questions should be addressed to Ask Martha, care of Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 11 W. 42nd St., New York, NY 10036. E-mail to

&Copy; 2008 Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc.

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