3 Steps to a Successful Garage Makeover

If a messy garage is driving you crazy, here’s how to steer things back on course.

Garage Makeover Ideas

Let’s face it. For most of us, the garage serves as a dumping ground for old paint, broken toys, and boxes of clothes awaiting a ride to the local thrift store. No wonder our vehicles feel the squeeze—provided they can fit inside the garage at all.

If the thought of organizing your garage fills you with dread, take courage. Here’s how to break the task into three steps, so you can curb the chaos once and for all:

1. CLEAR THE CLUTTER.   Begin with a serious cleaning, if possible hauling everything onto the driveway. Group items you’re eliminating into four piles: toss, recycle, donate or sell. “Be brutal when you are sorting,” advises Erin Gentry, Associate Public Relations and Consumer Engagement Manager at Rubbermaid. “Get rid of anything you haven’t used in the past year.” If parting with perfectly good items proves paralyzing, find motivation in a moneymaking garage sale or gain satisfaction from helping a favorite charity.

Here are additional sources to get you started:
1-800-GOT-JUNK: This national franchise will remove everything from appliances to tires to trash, donating and recycling whatever is possible. (Ask the hauler to obtain a tax receipt if you are donating to a charity.)
earth911.org: Check here to find local recycling centers where you can safely dispose of paint and chemicals.
donationtown.org: Use this site to match your items with a local charity and arrange pickup.

2. MAKE A PLAN.   Now that the garage is empty, avoid the common mistake of hastily rushing out to buy organizational products. First consider whether the space could benefit from a fresh coat of paint. Then begin grouping items by task or interest. “Your pots, fertilizer, and garden hose should be grouped together for a gardening zone,” says Tim Keaton, Head of Brand and Product Marketing for Gladiator/GarageWorks. “And your golf clubs, soccer balls, and baseball bats should be kept together for a sporting zone.” Other logical zone groupings include holiday decorations, kids stuff, and a workshop area with space for a sturdy bench, plus pegboard or cabinets.

Once you’ve determined what zones you’ll need, work logically to fit them in where they’ll be easiest to access. For instance, it makes sense to keep garden equipment and the lawn mower by the door leading to the yard. Plan to store frequently used items close at hand. Stash seasonal items like holiday lights in higher, harder-to-reach spaces [such as using this overhead storage bin system – SA]:

Garage Makeover Ideas - Ceiling Storage 

3. CHOOSE TAILORED SOLUTIONS.   Now that you have a plan, put it into action with smart organizational products that require minimal effort to use. The good news is there are plenty of options, from inexpensive DIY hooks and chrome racks to customized, professionally installed systems priced in the thousands. Here are key categories worth considering (and be sure to see the video at the end);

Garage Makeover Ideas Photo:  Rubbermaid

Wall systems, such as those from GarageTek, Rubbermaid, Schulte and Gladiator/GarageWorks, wrap any or all sides of your garage with panels that can be outfitted with your choice of accessories, including ball holders, bins, cabinets and hooks. Though some systems can be priced in the thousands, they do offer excellent flexibility and get everything organized and off the floor. Models that use tracks or rails are easiest to install.

Storage cabinets range from freestanding units to modular wall-hung models. Locked cabinets are ideal for storing toxic items, while tall cabinets make great use of vertical space. Look for the versatility of adjustable shelves to ensure you can store everything from camping gear to automotive parts.

Workbenches provide an ideal spot for home improvement projects, repairs, and woodworking. Models may be wood or steel and might include cabinets, lighting, or pegboard backs.

Racks help get all kinds of items off the floor. Specialty racks include space-saving corner models and overhead platforms that attach to the ceiling. The latter is ideal for holding memorabilia or off-season sports equipment.

Consider the following very helpful storage systems:

Garage Makeover Ideas - Storage Racks     Shelves are among the most common and versatile storage solutions, providing “see, grab, and go” functionality that keeps frequently used items at the ready. Choose from metal, plastic, wire and wood models in freestanding or wall-mounted options. Invest in deep shelves for larger items like snow tires.

Hooks are easy to use and inexpensive, and in different sizes they are tremendously versatile. Small hooks can hang keys, twine, and hand tools, while larger hooks can get bikes, cords, and equipment off the ground.

Bins and tubs stash toys, holiday decorations, craft supplies and more. Choose stackable ones with lids to eliminate dust, and be sure to label each clearly to avoid having to dig around.

Perforated hardboard offers an easy DIY solution for hanging tools. Pre-drilled holes accept pegs or hooks. Look for options in wood fiber, wood, or metal.

Wall Solutions Pack   Wall Solutions Pack     A storage solution with built-in flexibility, this wall system includes eight pieces of GearTrack® Channels (more than 21′), assorted hooks and bins, plus a 2′ gearbox you can arrange any way you wish. Available at Gladiator GarageWorks, $429.99

  Overhead Storage Rack      This industrial-strength rack attaches to the ceiling, maximizing unused vertical space. Ideal for stashing off-season and other infrequently used items, the racks come in a range of sizes, from 2′ x 6′ to 4′ x 8′. Available at SafeRacks, $139-$269

    Ceiling Bike Hoist       Raise and store your bike, kayak, or extension ladder using the same principles you would to raise and lower a mini blind. The smooth pulley system has an automatic mechanism to prevent accidental release. Available from OrganizeIt.com, $34.99

   The Bench Solution      If you want a functional workspace but only have limited room, this wall-mounted workbench conveniently folds down when not in use. Measuring 60″ x 24″ on the surface, the solid butcher-block bench can hold up to 400 pounds. Available from BenchSolution.com, $399.99 for workbench and IdealWall kit.

   Power Tool Holder     A handy addition to Rubbermaid’s popular FastTrack storage system, this power tool holder gets bulky equipment off the floor. The soft grip coating protects stored items from scratches. Available from Rubbermaid, $10.99

Many thanks to Bob Vila, The Dean of Home Renovation & Repair Advice

How to install the Rubbermaid Fast-track system (video):


How I Furnished My Entire House for $716.97

I’m too cheap to buy new furniture, and too style-conscious for an egg-crate coffee table. So I found an affordable middle ground.

A few years ago, I moved to another state carrying only what I could fit in my car: a few boxes of clothes, a stack of books, and a coffee mug. Since moving is expensive – even when you don’t actually move anything – I had to find a way to furnish my entire house without draining what was left of my meager savings.

I started shopping furniture websites and realized I’d have to spend $4,473.73 to get just the basics. That wasn’t happening, so I took an alternate path through garage sales, flea markets, and clearance racks – and I saved a ton of money. Here’s how.

The living room…

1. Couch and matching chair

How to buy cheap furniture   I got lucky with my living room furniture. My friend offered to give me his old but decent couch-and-chair set for free. I was off to a good start.

  • Rooms to Go: $879.98
  • Donation: Free!
  • Total savings: $879.98

What I learned: For some reason, it’s not embarrassing to ask friends and family if they have furnishings they no longer need – maybe because they tend to stash the stuff in a garage or spare bedroom, since throwing it away or even donating it to charity is such a hassle.

2. Coffee table and end table

After weeks of searching with no luck, my good fortune was starting to fizzle. But then I found a near-perfect coffee table and matching end table at a garage sale.

  • Havertys: $399.99
  • Garage sale: $26
  • Total savings: $373.99

What I learned: Websites that host garage sale ads – like Yard Sale Search and GarageSales.com – are an easy way to find local sales in your neighborhood.  But don’t forgo looking for them yourself. I found the best ones by driving around looking for “garage sale” signs.

3. TV stand

For something that just holds up a TV, media stands are overpriced in my opinion. But I found one for next to nothing at a flea market.

  • Rooms to Go: $299.99
  • Flea market: $45
  • Total savings: $254.99

What I learned: Flea markets can be hard to find on your own, but a few websites – like FleaPortal and Collectors.org – maintain a database of different indoor and outdoor flea markets across the country.

The bedroom…

4. Mattress and box springs

A queen-size mattress and box springs don’t come cheap, but I still found a good deal at Sam’s Club.

  • Mattress Firm: $578
  • Sam’s Club: $394.99
  • Total savings: $183.01

What I learned: My local Sam’s Club had a few mattresses in stock, but I found a better deal by going to the Sam’s Club website. The website had at least double the stock and some pretty good prices.

5. Bed frame, headboard, and footboard

Originally, I had my heart set on a modern bed from Pier One, but I found a nearly identical piece for less than half the price at Overstock.com.

  • Pier One: $489.90
  • Overstock: $170.99
  • Total savings: $318.91

What I learned: By signing up for Omail before you shop, you can save even more on Overstock.com. I received a 15-percent-off coupon within a few days of signing up for the email list – and I was able to use it on my first purchase.

6. Nightstand

I stumbled across a nightstand on clearance at Wal-Mart. I was hesitant to buy furniture and socks from the same place, but the piece has held up well and looks great.

  • Pier One: $199.95
  • Wal-Mart: $24.99
  • Total savings: $174.96

What I learned: The beginning of the school year (around the end of September) is the best time to look for clearance deals on furniture and home decor at mega-stores like Wal-Mart or Target. Why? Because those stores stock a ton of accent furniture and home decor items to sell with their dorm collections. Since they don’t keep the dorm-room sections open year-round, the leftovers get put on clearance after school starts.

The kitchen…

7. Table and four chairs

I scored a dining room table and four chairs on the last day of a garage sale. I haggled a bit and got the price down from $100 to $50.

  • Rooms to Go: $799.99
  • Garage sale: $50
  • Total savings: $749.99

The office…

8. Desk and chair

At first I wanted a huge wood desk and matching chair – until I saw the cost. Instead, I found a desk and chair set on Freecycle. They’re not exactly what I wanted, but you can’t beat free.

  • Havertys: $649.98
  • Freecycle: Free
  • Total savings: $649.98

What I learned: I had heard of Freecyle but hadn’t used it before. Then I read Freecycle: Is Free Stuff Worth the Fuss? and gave it a shot. Works as promised.

9. Bookshelf

When I mentioned that I liked the bookshelf that the flea market was using to hold smaller items, the cashier offered to sell it to me for $5.

  • Pier One: $149.95
  • Flea Market: $5
  • Total savings: $144.95
Furniture storage in Eschelbronn

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bottom line: It took some legwork – and a lot of early-morning garage-sale hunting – but I ended up only spending $716.97 for an entire house full of furniture. Considering what I was planning on spending, I saved $3,730.76 (or enough money to pay my rent for four months.) Knowing how much I saved, I’ll probably never buy from a furniture store again.


This article by Angela Colley appeared in Money Talk News, 2/22/12.

Angela Colley