Get It Done: Overhaul and Organize Your Garden Shed

Consider these tips for outdoor storage space that’s accessible and attractive

By Jennifer Christgau-Aquino / Courtesy of Houzz.com

The sun’s shining and your garden’s calling, but you’ve got to get to your tools first. If you have a garden shed, lucky you. But if it looks anything like mine, you might start thinking that your weeds are more attractive than the prospect of climbing over rakes, brooms and shovels to reach your implements. Here’s how to get your shed back in shape.

Project: Organize your shed
Time: Half a day

Tip: It’s important that everyone who uses the space be part of the task, says Jennifer Dusina of Organized Living, a company that specializes in custom organization tools for the home, garage and storage units. This way, the whole family participates in deciding what to keep and where those things are supposed to go.

Evaluate Your Needs

Your first step in reordering a shed is to decide what’s essential to keep in it. Sheds are usually small, and most people try to stash too much in them, says Bob Trainor, owner of Garden Tech Horticultural Services, a landscaping company that builds sheds and other garden structures in addition to doing garden design and installation. 

Be realistic about what you can store in there. If you’re building a new shed, take stock and make sure you pick a size that will accommodate your needs. For instance, you may require space for your lawn mower or outdoor patio furniture during winter. 

Store things where you use them. Don’t put your rakes and brooms inside your garage if it’s far from your garden. Likewise, don’t shove your power tools in an outdoor closet if your workbench is in the garage.

Take inventory. Instead of pulling everything outside at once, Dusina suggests concentrating on one wall at a time so that the project isn’t so overwhelming.

Create piles. Set up four categories: donate, keep, relocate and toss.

Be ruthless. Ask yourself: Do I really need three rakes, five hammers and two string trimmers? How often do I use the rototiller and tile saw? If it’s once every few years or even once a year, you can sell these tools on Craigslist or at a pawnshop, saysJames Angus, a homeowner who recently reorganized his garage and shed, and has a blog about do-it-yourself home improvement. He suggests renting items as needed instead.

Consider Your Storage Options

Now that you’ve got your stuff down to the bare minimum, evaluate your storage options. 

Look overhead. Think about putting things up high that you don’t use on a regular basis, Trainor says. This 10-by-10-foot shed features an overhead shelf, allowing the homeowner to stash items that aren’t regularly needed.

Hang things. Tools such as shovels, rakes and sledgehammers can go on a wall. You can use a track system with hooks, as shown. For a cheaper version, hammer heavy-duty nails or drill hooks into studs in the wall. Make sure you allow enough space between your tools so that you can easily pull them on and off the wall.

Bring in buckets. If you don’t have the wall space to hang long tools, you can house them in large, deep buckets. Just keep the number of tools inside each one manageable so that you aren’t fighting to untangle your rake from your broom.

Get magnetic. For small tools, consider using knife magnets. They beat searching through a drawer for what you need and are a better way to dry items like paintbrushes, Angus says.

Use adjustable shelving.Keep things off the floor with shelves. Dusina suggests ventilated, adjustable shelving, as seen here. The grates allow dust and dirt to fall to the floor, making it easier to clean the space. And the adjustability allows you to change shelf height and placement as your storage needs fluctuate.

Trainor likes shelving for pots especially. These items easily topple and typically clutter the floor of a garden shed.

Steal from your kitchen.This homeowner uses large glass jars to store seeds. Dusina stashes hers in an accordion recipe file that she labels so she can easily find what she needs. If she harvests seeds from her garden, she puts them in old spice jars.

Angus likes to upcycle soup cans and salsa jars to house screws, nuts, bolts, small tools and more. It’s a cheap and an effective way to keep things contained, viewable and easy to access.

Use your doors. Hang baskets or hooks on the inside of doors to hold small items like twine, garden shears and gloves, Trainor says.

Corral chemicals and fertilizers. Place heavy bags of garden soil and fertilizer on low shelves or in heavy-duty bins that are easy to slide in and out. It’s wise to put chemicals in locked cabinets if you have the space. If you’re storing fuel and fertilizer in the same place, make sure that it’s ventilated and that the two aren’t near each other. Put supplies such as birdseed in metal containers with lids to protect them from rodents.

Consider smaller spaces too. Not everyone has room for a large shed. You may find that once you get the spot organized, you have items that still need a home. This storage unit was custom-built and houses frequently used garden tools.

Use the space under eaves. This is another clever way to store long tools if you don’t have the space inside your shed. They’re easily accessible, and dirt stays outside.

Think tiny. This small box houses frequently used tools and can be installed near garden areas.

Go outdoors. If you’re really tight on space, you could consider storing your tools outside. This homeowner used galvanized piping inserted in the ground to hold his implements. Trainor has seen this done with 6-inch PVC pipe too. Just be warned that storing tools outside means that they’ll deteriorate and rust faster, he says.

Keep It Clean

Because of what we keep in them, sheds can often look cluttered. To make yours easier on the eyes, paint it white or a uniform color. You’ll be able to spot things more readily.

Lighting. Don’t forget about lighting, Dusina says. If your shed doesn’t already have a fixture, get a battery-operated light, such as a camping lantern, which is a cheap and easy alternative.

Tidy up. Plan on spending time once a week or month, depending on how frequently you use your shed, to straighten up. (Angus takes about 30 minutes each week to put away recently used items.) This will help keep it tidy all year.