I keep seeing these crazy “Garage Mahals” on TV and on Pinterest and Facebook and wonder what some of these people do for a living to be able to afford such palatial showrooms.

For many people, just having a one- or two-car garage is luxury enough, but it will still never be an “anything Mahal” as long as it’s being used to store stuff like seasonal gear and lumber. That certainly doesn’t mean it can’t be a comfortable place to get work done or even hang out and watch a movie with a couple of friends.

The problem with the big showrooms that you see on TV and online is that they’re exactly that: built for show and not for work. If you work on your car or if the place is a multi-purpose space that’s use for word-working, for example, you’re just never going to keep it clean enough (let alone organized enough) to call a showroom. So, might as well give up, right?

Just the opposite.

The first step is de-clutter. I know, I know, it’s obvious, but I live by the rule that if I haven’t used something within the last year that I should either sell it, give it away or store it so I’m not tripping over it. I think if you took a little stroll around the garage you would find plenty of things that haven’t been used in five or 10 years, yet alone one. You’ll also find a lot of stuff that could/should be living in the basement of the house and not the garage where it’s just creating traffic-flow and clutter issues. A pile of winter tires might seem right at home in the garage, but they will stack just as nicely out of the way somewhere in the basement, along with golf clubs and those five half sheets of drywall.

Let’s say you’ve done all that and still feel like there’s too much crap in the way. You might think you really need a bigger garage, but what you actually need is more isolated storage space, like a small shed or a mini barn with lots of shelves. You can attach something to the side of the garage, with big wide double doors on the outside and a connecting door to the garage, that will house the mower, surfboards, air compressor and paint cans, freeing up tons of room to get around the vehicles in the garage to get work done.

A slightly larger external space, perhaps eight feet by 12, could also be used to cut wood, spray-paint parts and pieces and to work your bead-blasting cabinet (so as not get dust and overspray all over the cars you just washed). The separation will do wonders for the workspace and cleanliness inside the garage and likely save you running the lawnmower or pressure washer into the side of the car by accident. Or worse.

Next up is a toolbox . . . that you actually have to use. Yes, go look now and you’ll likely find half the drawers completely empty and tools scattered around the garage. Instead of making a hundred trips back and forth with tools, grab a large plastic bin and go gather them all up and take them to the toolbox in one trip. Remember, the toolbox isn’t just for wrenches and screwdrivers. The lower drawers are great for hammers and various power tools such as saws. And if there are empty drawers left, just put something in them, like spools of wire, tape and boxes of hardware fasteners. There’s no point having a ‘vernier caliper drawer’ if you only have one small vernier caliper, so fill ’em up.
Next up is to get everything — everything — off the floor that doesn’t absolutely have to be on the floor. That will mean shelves and/or cabinets, which can be as simple as boards and hangers. The mistake I see most is putting the shelving levels too far apart. Do they really need to be two feet above each other when the average wax bottle might be 10 inches tall? It’s a waste of space. Tighten things up.

All you have to do after putting up one shelf is put everything on it that needs to be there and then hang the next shelf right above it. And keep going. I will say that things like wax bottles and other car-care products are easy to topple (which can make a mess and fall into the car), so it’s a good idea to put them in translucent bins and then build shelving around them. When you want some wax, pull the bin and dig out what you want. You can even package related materials so you can take them all to the designated work area. Put the stuff you seldom use on higher shelves out of the way with high-use items on the lower shelves.

That still leaves some odds and ends. Rakes, shovels, weed whackers and brooms should never, ever be stored near a vehicle, for obvious reasons, but you can fashion a crib out of wood or, or easily store them in a large metal garbage can and bungee-cord the handles together.

Now that everything is stored and out of the way, you have a clean slate ready to turn your garage into a functional space. That’s next time.

You can message Rhonda by logging on to and clicking the contact link. Wheelbase Media is a worldwide provider of automotive news and feature stories.

WallsThe trick to de-cluttering is knowing what to sell, what to give away and what to store and where. If you’re using the garage more than the basement to do stuff, it likely makes sense to move winter tires and unused parts out of the garage and into a space that’s less traveled. Adopt the attitude that nothing will be on the floor unless it absolutely needs to be there.

ShelvingWhat’s wrong with the shelving in this picture? Add a shelf and store twice as much.

StorageI need more storage space? Really? Start by filling up what’s already there. There’s usually plenty of storage hiding in plain sight.

Turning a cluttered garage into usable space, on the cheap