November 29, 2015

Organize your garage

Posted on February 23, 2010 by in In the Garage

Having every conceivable tool for a project does you no good if you can’t find the one that you need. Reorganizing may seem like a huge task, but the gains from having an organized workspace far outweigh the time invested to upkeep it. This week we’re going over how to clean out your garage, then organize it:

Clean out your garage

By clean out, I mean get everything outside. Put it all in the yard, or in your driveway if you have one, or go through this one bay at a time (putting clutter from one side to the other, working on one at a time). Once the garage is bare, start by sweeping the floors, clean the cobwebs from the corners, and you may even want to paint the walls. Any broken cabinets or shelves should be removed, and you’ll want to start from a good, clean slate here. Keep only fixtures that you intend to make use of.

Remove excess junk

Everyone has extra stuff lying around the garage. Anything that’s of value should have its picture taken and put into a box to be sold on ebay or craigslist as soon as possible.

Now that your garage (or bay) is empty, break everything down into three piles:


Maybe you have half a broom that could still be considered useful but you have a better one. Old gaskets, broken manifolds, old spraypaint, old oil, and anything else that isn’t likely to be needed can be thrown away. A good rule of thumb is If you haven’t used it in a month, put it in storage. If you haven’t used it in 6 months, get rid of it.


All those Christmas decorations, tool receipts, and once-a-year tools (most gardening tools are hopelessly underused) can go into storage. If you don’t have a storage area set up, it’s probably a good idea to get some big cabinets or even a shed to put this stuff in. If it isn’t absolutely necessary to have in your workarea, it should be out of the way. Cabinets are nice because they keep contents readily accessible but tend not to be in the way, and their contents are less likely to overflow into your workarea.


Figure out exactly what you plan to accomplish in this workarea, and limit the possessions you keep to what you’re planning to do in the space. Eliminate or pack away everything else. Personally, I need:

  • Hand tools
    • Metric wrench and socket sets (Hondas and Datsun body)
    • Multiple ratchets (3/8″ and 1/2″ drive)
  • Shop manuals (a small bookshelf should be plenty for this)
  • Air compressor (and a small shelf for air tools and the hose)
  • Low-profile Jack
  • Safety equipment
    • 4 Jackstands (if they aren’t easily accessible, you’re more likely to try to skip them… safety first!)
    • Safety goggles (you’ll use them much more if they’re on-hand)
    • Mechanix gloves (some people prefer disposable gloves)
  • Paper towel rack with shop towels (I don’t really care for shop rags, I like prefer shop towels)
  • Oil drain pan (if something springs a leak, you don’t want it to make a mess… always have a clean drain pan on hand)
  • Gojo hand cleaner (or whatever brand you prefer)
  • Sprayables shelf
    • WD-40
    • PB Blaster
    • Touch-up spraypaint (this is when I really appreciate having a flat black car)
  • Fluids shelf
    • 10w-30 (It’s the most universal of oils, I promise you’ll use it!)
    • Grease

Once you’ve established what you actually want in your garage, you’ll need to figure out how to keep it on hand without having it constantly in your way.  I have a few suggestions on cheap ways to organize your shop:

Wrench and Socket Holders

Many times, wrench sets and socket sets come with plastic ‘cases’ that just don’t cut it.  You may want to keep one of these sets under your driver’s seat, but in most cases I suggest ditching the locking case.

Hansen Global Regular and Deep Socket Tray – 3/8in. Standard

Final Pass

The main goal is to have everyday tools readily available, and everything else in accessible storage.  Clear plastic boxes and labels will save time and frustration in the future.  I’ve found that a big box to throw miscellaneous nuts and bolts into comes in very handy, especially for keeping the floor clean and uncluttered.  When you inevitably need some generic bolt to secure something in the future, you can just dig through your bolts bin rather than going to the hardware store.

I haven’t finished cleaning my garage, and I’m not convinced it’ll actually look much more organized when I finish it, so if you have a before and after shot of your garage cleaning, let me know!

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3 Responses to “Organize your garage”

  1. Steven 29 October 2010 at 12:23 pm #

    You’re a bike mechanic, too? I have that same Park Tools headset press, cable cutters, and chain whip.

  2. Jesse 29 October 2010 at 12:51 pm #

    That wasn’t a picture of my bike shop, but I had an identical set of tools, which is why I chose to use that picture for the post. Really, I just like working on mechanical things.

  3. gage 5 December 2010 at 8:51 pm #

    Nice write up! What kind of datsuns you own!? are you on

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