One third of two-car garages have so much stuff stored in them that there’s only room to park one car, a Department of Energy survey found. Garages often become junkyards for storing everything from car parts, tools and painting supplies to old furniture, boxes, sports equipment and anything else that doesn’t fit in the house. This can pose not just an inconvenience and an eyesore, but also a fire hazard. About 6,600 residential fires a year originate in attached garages, accounting for 2 percent of all residential fires, according to National Fire Incident Reporting System data. To avoid potential fire hazards, win back your parking and storage space, and raise your property value, here are a few tips for organizing your garage.


Empty and Clean the Garage

AskMen writer Justin Pugh recommends that you start cleaning your garage by emptying it out. This gives you space to work with, a chance to clean dirty surfaces, and lets you see everything you need to organize, as well as what can be thrown out. If it’s not practical to completely empty your garage, at least designate a specific area where you can temporarily move and sort items.

As you empty space, sort items into piles to save you time organizing later. Include one pile for junk that can be thrown out. To help you decide what to throw out, set some rules. For instance, you might decide to throw out everything you haven’t used in the last five years and everything you can’t conceive a foreseeable use for.

Once your garage is empty, clean the walls, floors and storage equipment. Vacuum, sweep, dust and spray any accumulated dirt. Open doors and windows to air out your garage as you clean.

Organize Your Storage Space

The next steps are to install storage equipment and start moving things back in. One key is making the most of your vertical space. Turn your walls into extra floor space by adding hooks and shelves. Heavy-duty steel shelves are good for bulky items. Add pull-out drawers on the undersides of shelves for smaller items. Use cabinets for hazardous materials.

For items that are too large to be stored on shelves and that aren’t needed too often, such as lumber strips or camping gear, use rafter space. Bikes can be hung on wall racks. For smaller items, use boxes, bins and bags. Use vacuum sealers to get the most out of storage bags.

To store your tools, a prefab workbench can provide you with convenient drawer, cabinet and shelf space. Tool racks, carry-it-with-you tool cases and tool-totes can save you additional space.

Take Care of Safety Concerns

Garages often contain materials that are potentially hazardous if not stored correctly, and one of your priorities should be making sure these items are stored safely, the DIY Network says. As you clean your garage, be sure to attend to some essential safety items.

Chemicals such as pesticides, paints and auto fluids should be kept in their original containers rather than in old food containers. These items should placed out of reach of children and pets on a high shelf or in a locked cabinet. Road salt and antifreeze can also be dangerous to pets and children and should be stored safely. Get rid of any rugs or tarps that have become soaked with car fluids. Gas grills with propane tanks and anything else with propane should be moved at least 10 feet away from the house and outside of attached garages. Extension cords used in garages should be rated for outdoor use due to potential garage moisture. Install a smoke alarm in your garage to alert you to any chemical fires, and replace the batteries annually.

Also see: 13 Tips for a Clean, Clutter-Free Office

Items that can cause injury also should be stored safely. Ladders should be hung on wall hooks or leaned against the wall horizontally rather than vertically. Gardening tools should be stored vertically on wall hooks. Toys and balls should be stored in small bins at a low height where children will not have to risk climbing to reach them. Mark any steps with white or reflective tape that can be seen in dim lighting.