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Need Help Tackling Your Garage?? Here’s Albie’s 5-Step Organization Process (And The Products She’s Using In Her Garage)

Welcome to one of the least sexy transformations I have planned for the hygge ranch, and also, the one I’ve been the most excited about for the past couple of months. 

And FYI… the hygge ranch is what I’ve dubbed our home since (1) it’s a ranch-esque style of home and (2) my design ethos is very hygge inspired. Now back to the garage…

Before

If there’s one thing you need to know about me it’s that I hate chaos and disorder. This is in large part because of my anxiety — with so much outside of my control, keeping things organized and orderly is my way of controlling something… anything. All of the projects that we tackled since moving into the hygge ranch — the living room, launderette, media room, bonus bedroom, and kitchen — were back-to-back and starting to take a toll on my mental health. Things were in a constant state of disarray and I had very little control over anything, especially when it came to the kitchen renovation… but we don’t need to relieve that trauma… just head here to bask in the reveal.

design by albie k. buabeng (me!) | photo by ellie lillstrom | from: reveal alert: how albie designed the hygge inspired luxe kitchen of her dreams (+ what she learned along the way)

With my mind chaotic and my home just a hot mess, I knew the only way I could get a handle on things would be through the garage.

We have a 2-car front-facing attached garage…. and it’s gotten A LOT of use! In addition to it being a place of storage for our grocery backstock, automotive tools, and all things home improvement, the garage is also where we receive deliveries, break down boxes, do DIY projects, and house my husband’s military gear. 

The Garage Works Hard Y’all. 

The kitchen renovation was when it really hit me how dysfunctional the garage really was and how much-untapped potential it had. With the right systems in place and some intentional organizing, it could totally transform the way we use the rest of the house. Once we wrapped up the renovation, we decided to take a break on major projects and redirect all of our energy so we could pour into the garage before taking on any more projects… because we definitely have a long list of projects ahead!

My priorities were purely functional — no razzle, no dazzle — with a focus on cleaning and organizing. It’s easy to hear “garage transformation” and to expect brand new floors and muraled walls and all kinds of custom upgrades. 

Not this garage, lol.

Tackling The Garage Would Be A 5-Step Process:

  • Purge
  • Clean
  • Sort
  • Zone
  • Organize

And because there were no design or styling priorities — strictly utilitarian! — I could make choices based on practical measures answering the following questions:

  1. Will this fit the space?
  2. Can this work with what we already have?
  3. How does this simplify our lives?

Major Key: Organizing is all about simplifying! 

Anything other than making our lives easier would just be us shuffling things around and wasting time!

Step 1: Purge

Since we’d “just” moved in, there wasn’t much to purge. We didn’t accumulate anything new & instead we needed to get rid of the stuff that piled up from our projects — boxes, scrap wood — as well as things we thought we’d use but turned out we wouldn’t. This entire process involved a combination of a few trips to the local dump and selling things online. We were not afraid to get rid of things that no longer served us, no matter how good they were, because someone else could now benefit from them. One of our biggest sales was the cabinets that were in the garage. Since the cabinets were there, we planned to keep em and replace the counters, but the truth is… WE DIDN’T NEED EM! I suspect these cabinets were the original kitchen cabinets before the previous homeowners updated the kitchen before our update lol. We ripped em out and listed em, and 24 hours later they were gone! 

Things we didn’t throw away or sell, we knew we could repurpose, like the 8’ x 4’ old brown pegboard. Yeah, we could’ve kept using it as we’d been doing for the past couple of months, but it was hung somewhere we didn’t want it and the size was inconvenient for the way we wanted to store things. 

We took it down and have plans to use it in the garden shed for the outdoor tools… whenever I get around to organizing out there… stay tuned!

Step 2: Clean

You guys…do you know how much dirt, dust, and debris can accumulate in a garage? A LOT. Like a lot a lot. And it’s like sand… it just gets into everything! So much of what was in the garage was covered in thin layers of dust and debris from the projects — especially the drywall installation — there was no way it could ever really look put together ever after things were put away. Plus who wants to touch anything when it’s filthy?!

The cleaning consisted of wiping, dusting, sweeping, and more wiping… so much wiping. 

Once everything was sufficiently wiped down — and I say sufficiently because this is still a utilitarian garage project after all — I could look at it once again with fresh eyes and feel safe in there with a clean tee… just in time for Step 3.

Step 3: Sort

I naively thought this part of the process was going to be quick and painless… it wasn’t lol. I had to pull out pen and paper to take inventory of what’s in the garage and, spoiler alert: I still haven’t really gotten into the weeds of sorting things out but a superficial sorting is better than no sorting at all.


My sorting yielded the following categories…

  • home decor
  • seasonal decor
  • in triage projects
  • military gear
  • automotive essentials
  • home improvement essentials
  • pantry backstock 
  • paint supplies
  • everything else that I’ll deal with later

This was, by far, my least favorite part of the process, and not because I don’t enjoy sorting — because I do! — but because in a space like the garage there are just so many small miscellaneous unidentifiable objects…so many things that I had to just guess what they were. How can you sort when you can barely identify? Because it was best that I do this with my husband — these are his things, by the way, because I am not nor do I have any desire to be the one who uses the garage… I’m just here to put everything in its proper place!

Step 4: Zone (With Renders Of My Future Garage)

With so many different types of things being stored in the garage, zoning is a natural part of the process — these things need to have dedicated spaces so that getting to them is effortless and instinctual. I decided to create three major zones — using each of the walls — and then within each zone, subzones. 

The Three Main Zones Are: In The House, Home Improvement, Important But Not Urgent. 

P.S. there is no “science” to naming my zones… literally just “how can I remember what goes here?” 

1. “In The House” is the wall that’s shared with the house — on the other side of that wall is our flex space — and so that houses things that are more likely to come in and out of the house and/or impact the house more… think pantry backstock and coat rack. It’s also where my husband’s uniforms will live, which come in the house when it’s time to wash them. 

2. “Home Improvement” is the left wall and home to 99.5% of our tools — everything from screwdrivers to hand saws — as well as anything else that would likely be used as part of a project. The subzones in this area are scrap materials, paints, and tools. And no zone is complete without its own miscellaneous section. 

3. “Important But Not Urgent” is the last wall and exactly as it sounds — everything here is important but nothing there is pressing. For context, the sub-zones include military gear, outdoor tools, seasonal decor, and triage for new projects. Do you see where I’m going with this?

The most important consideration here is having subzones that are easy to maintain so that everything is easy to corral and put away. The point is to work smarter, not harder.

Step 5: Organize

This is my favorite step y’all. Why? Because it’s where all my previous (sometimes messy) hard work finally gets to come to fruition. It also consists of a sub-step that is totally my jam — SHOPPING! If you follow me over on my blog — which you should! — then you know I have been design daydreaming about the garage for quite some time now. Being an ambassador for The Container Store was the icing on the cake because it was my first stop for window shopping all the things for the garage. 

1. 6’ Utility Track | 2. 2’ Utility Track |3. Swinging Pegboard | 4. Stationary Pegboard | 5. Harwood Workbench | 6. Pegboard Hooks | 7. InterMetro Black | 8. Clear Storage Totes | 9. Extra Large Turntable | 10. Stacking Storage Bins | 11. Canvas Cart | 12. Mesh Pull Out Basket | 13. Boot Tray | 14. 3-Tier Cart

I shopped for solutions that would be practical, above all else, so that all of the previously listed steps wouldn’t be for naught. No sense in doing all of that if things end up on pretty but not helpful solutions. Can storage be both? Absolutely! In places like the kitchen and the launderette, I prioritized stylish storage solutions. In the garage, I just wanna organize!

When all is said and done, this space will be one that can handle all of the things I outlined, and do so in a way that supports change and growth as we continue to get settled into the hygge ranch — there are projects in the pipeline and things we still have to fix aka #oldhouseproblems, in addition to just our day to day necessities. While there’s always room for some fanciful upgrades, sometimes a practical space just needs practical solutions. Plus, I have lots of other spaces that’ll call for some before & after magic… but before we can get there, things need to be pulled together in here.

With the fall season around the corner, getting the garage pulled together feels like the perfect catalyst for a fresh start. P.S. can we make “fall cleaning” a thing aka a second “spring cleaning”? 

Have you tackled a garage project? If so, drop your tried and true tips. Or if you’ve been avoiding your garage at all costs, I’d love to know what’s keeping you from getting started. 

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Ally
1 year ago

WOW! Thank you so much for this, it’s brilliant. I never thought of organizing a garage this way. We’re in escrow right now on a house w/2 car garage and this gives us a chance to do it right, for the first time ever.

Elisabeth
1 year ago

Albie (and EHD crew), thank you for this! We all get so preoccupied with “pretty pictures” reveal posts that we can lose sight of what a design blog can do: teach about function and process! I loved this, and will be using your tips!

Rusty
1 year ago

I really like the step-by-step progress photos! Makes it real.
Great tips n tricks for a doable DIY!!!😊

Rusty
1 year ago
Reply to  Rusty

And…this comment was voted down because….WTF?!?!

Alice
1 year ago
Reply to  Rusty

What are you seeing that I’m not? I see one upvote and no downs.

Rusty
1 year ago
Reply to  Alice

Someone voted the comment down. It’s beyond my comprehension as to why.
Once someone upvotes, the down vote/s are balanced out.
Thanks, people, for the balance.😊

Susan
1 year ago
Reply to  Rusty

Maybe it wasn’t intentional

Betsy
1 year ago

I find this so interesting. I bought my house to have a garage for parking my car. I wouldn’t look at a home if it didn’t have a garage. Is your car(s) going in the garage? I’m just nosy. For someone who doesn’t like chaos, may I suggest closed shelving, and not open shelving. I can deal with chaos, but all of the open shelving in my garage made me crazy. I ended up ripping it all out, and going with closed Gladiator storage. I have one small space that is open, with a work table on the top. But besides the yard stuff that is hung on the wall, I am so pleased with the closed cabinets. Maybe not the prettiest, but all the stuff if hidden away.

V
1 year ago
Reply to  Betsy

I think this is very regional. No one in my Southern California neighborhood uses their garage for their car. Those go in the driveway. The garage is too valuable for storage or converting to living space. ADUs are really hot right now. My in-laws in Wisconsin, however, definitely use their garage for their cars, for obvious reasons.

Erin
1 year ago

Love this! Particularly appreciate your walking through the zones and categories – helps me think about the possibilities. Can’t wait to see the final results in all their simple, orderly glory 🙂

Roberta Davis
1 year ago

I kinda have the same zones in my garage, which is also utilitarian. I recently swept and washed the floor, a year after moving in (should have done it sooner- it was left filthy by the prior owners). I have a sort of pet peeve about garage usage. I just moved out of a condo (townhome) community where the units all had double, forward-facing attached garages. Many of them were completely filled floor to ceiling with so much crap, there’s no way anyone could know what was even in there. And then, of course, too many cars so that they not only needed their driveway, but also parked one or more cars in the very limited guest parking on the street. We moved a year ago into a house in a neighborhood of 34 very similar houses (as far as size, style and floorplan). Most of them have 4-car garages (2 wide by 2 deep). There are still several neighbors who have their garages so full of stuff that they park on the street! Call me crazy, but I like to keep my cars in the garage. First, it keeps them protected from the weather. Second, it keeps them protected… Read more »

Alice
1 year ago
Reply to  Roberta Davis

I live in a city area where if you don’t put your car in a garage at night you will get up the next morning to find that your car no longer has a catalytic converter, and possibly no tires. I never thought about the remote and the papers making it easy to find and break into a house so thanks for the PSA!!

Roberta Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  Alice

a lot of catalytic converter thefts here, too

emma
1 year ago
Reply to  Roberta Davis

I don’t even have my own attached garage (I live in an apartment building) and I still won’t keep the garage remote in the car. Just put it on your keychain folks!!

Teresa
1 year ago

Our big 3 car garage originally had open shelving and long counters with open storage underneath and it did not take long for that to get just absolutely filthy just from general dust, wood shavings from using power tools and leaves blowing in when we opened the doors. We ripped it all out and installed closed storage and are much happier now. We used the 3 of the tall Husky cabinets and a tall stacking tool chest from Harbor Freight and it has been worth every penny. Peg boards look nice but honestly it’s just easier to keep things clean with tools in drawers and cabinets. Plus if you’re in a humid climate like we are then your tools won’t rust as quickly.

Hannah Gokie
1 year ago

Albie, this is so much how I felt! Our garage “reno” was the best thing I think we ever did for our house. It was such a waste of space before, and now having a place for everything is so helpful — especially when it comes to keeping it clean! I wrote a mostly-picture post on the finished product on my blog: https://gokienotes.blogspot.com/2020/09/garage-organization-after.html

Julie
1 year ago

Totally agree with this! We recently moved into a new home and our garage was actually the first ‘room’ organized. I love it! We also went with closed Husky cabinets (totally worth it!) and a mix of open shelves. I tried our best to think of the flow of how we would access things to try to put certain items easily reachable/near the interior door and season items up off the floor. Good luck and looking forward to your finished space!

Jean
1 year ago

Fantastic!! I am always dealing w the garage as things in life add and subtract. We have so much sporting equipment!! Fishing and kayaking and hiking and camping and all sports!! Also I have tons of stuff for large parties and events. Might be time to purge but I’m waiting for a few more years. Thanks for the photos!

Jean
1 year ago

Also I’m waiting to remodel my kitchen and then using the old cabinets in the garage. 🙏🙏

Eliot
1 year ago

This is excellent. I don’t have a garage, but I fully intend to apply your principles to a nightmarish basement storage area. It gives me hives just to think about it–the clutter! the filth!–but I’ve been putting off tackling it for ages. Clearly, I just need to break the project into manageable pieces as you’ve done here.

MKP
1 year ago

I’ve lived in my house for almost 12 years and my garage floors and walls look similar to yours. The floors were never stained so they just look like the 60 year old concrete that they are with lots of stains. Walls are painted but are totally dinged up. And there’s no trim at all where drywall meets floor so there is so much dirt/dust/leaves that gets caught in that space. I’m about to do a big renovation and one extra thing that’s going on the list is staining the garage floor, repainting the walls and getting some trim at the bottom of the walls. I may even add it around the ceiling if the price is right. I’m thinking basic 1×6 boards with no fancy mitered corners. Just something to keep debris out at the bottom and make the top look a little finished for purely aesthetic purposes. And even if we don’t paint the walls/add trim, I am DEFINITELY getting the floors stained a nice medium gray. That will make the space look so much cleaner even when it is it’s usual jumbled mess.

Sally
1 year ago

Our contractor suggested getting heavy duty metal shelving, with adjustable shelves on casters. Best thing ever. We then use plastic totes WITH signs saying what’s inside. When it is time to clean, you just roll them over, sweep/vacuum/blow and you are done.

1 year ago

this was sooooo useful. Thank you, i really appreciate you breaking it down for us with the step by step process!

Annak
1 year ago

Would love to know the paint color /type and the flooring you’re considering in your design mockup.

Christie
1 year ago

This was so needed for me personally! My garage is looking totally out of control. Thanks for the ideas & motivation!!! Loved this post, and the reminder that it’s ok to get rid of “good” storage pieces like your cabinets if there’s something that will work way better for you personally (ie sell or give away to someone who actually needs/wants them). Thank you!!

KD
1 year ago

I echo others…this is so helpful and functional! Thank you for spelling out your process.

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