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The word garage comes from the French verb that means “to shelter.” It has been used to mean “shelter for a vehicle” since the advent of the automobile. Yet really, your typical garage is so much more than that. After all, can you think of an area in your garage that’s such a catchall for, well, almost everything that you can’t find a place for elsewhere?

It’s true, the garage for most of us has become a cluttered storage space. Many of us aren’t taking advantage of all the space a well-organized garage can afford. Rather, we throw odds and ends in there haphazardly and live with the shame of a space that befits an episode of Hoarders.

Well, you don’t have to live in shame anymore. Following are a few easy-to-follow steps that will help you utilize your garage storage space to its fullest.  Make it a mean, lean, organizing machine.

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Step 1: Measure It

When you’re looking to maximize the space available in your garage, you need a good idea of what you’re working with. If possible, clear out the garage completely. Then take comprehensive measurements of both the floor space and the wall space.

If you have exposed rafters or a loft in the garage, get a measurement of that as well. You’ll also want to know how much space your vehicles will take up in the garage (if you plan on storing there there). According to Ben Cochrane of Go Auto, the average sedan these days measures 13 ½ feet. SUVs can be as long as 16 ½ feet. So find out what you’re working with!

Next, pull your vehicle in and then suspend a tennis ball from the ceiling so that it just touches the front bumper. Mark off the perimeter of your car by placing masking tape around it on the garage floor. (I’d make sure to add about a foot or so on each side to give you some wiggle room – are you going to park exactly the same every time?)

This will help make sure you don’t crash into any storage units you decide to put in the leftover space. Once you know how much floor space your cars will take up, you’ll know how much more room you have left to work with.

Cluttered Garage

Step 2: Declutter

Before you bring your possessions back inside, it’s a good idea to get rid of anything that you’re holding onto but probably won’t use anymore. For example, if the kids are all grown up, you probably won’t need their old sports gear anymore.

Make some tough choices and get rid of anything that’s just gathering dust and not really useful to you anymore. This means opening up old boxes, too. Anything you don’t need anymore can be sold off at a rummage sale or donated to local secondhand shops. Having trouble letting go? Assign someone who has no emotional attachments to your things to be the voice of reason during the process.

Step 3: Build Up

After you’ve made allowances for your vehicles, you’ll want to make the best use of the floor area that you have left. The best way to do this is to build up. That means take advantage of the whole area, not just the floor space. Take stock of what kinds of items you’ll be keeping in your garage and then think about how to optimize their storage.

Heavy-duty shelving is great for anything you want ready access to. Look for shelving that will hit about a foot or so beneath your ceiling for optimum maximization. But remember that shelving isn’t the best storage solution for all of your belongings. Pegboard is a relatively cheap and easy material that works great for any items that can be hung up. Cords, rope, tools, and the like will take up less room hanging vertically on a pegboard than they will lying horizontally on a shelf.

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Step 4: Look Up

Finally, look up to the ceiling for extra storage space that’s often underutilized. Many garages already have lofted areas or attics. These spaces are great for stowing items that aren’t used very often. If your garage has exposed beams or rafters, some sturdy particleboard laid between them make some fantastic extra storage.

If your garage has a finished ceiling, you can still make great use of it. Locate the support beams and sink hanging hooks into them. The ceiling makes a great spot for stowing away bikes, canoes, sports gear, and other bulkier items.

With a bit of hard work and an organizational eye, you can transform your garage into the kind of multifunctional space that it was meant to be. For more on Overhead Garage Storage Solutions, check our overview over there.

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Adria Saracino is a marketer, freelancer, and blogger. When not consulting businesses on content strategy, you can find her pinning away interior design.

* Stock image via Bigstock