10 practical solutions for a clutter-free outdoor space

A garden shed isn’t the only way to keep your outdoor spaces clutter-free. Here are 10 tips for a beautiful and better functioning garden


10 practical solutions for a clutter-free outdoor space

When planning our gardens, we often think about the pretty stuff such as plants, lawns, arbours or water features. Practical issues such as where to store the rubbish bins or lawnmower are often bumped to the bottom of the priority list.

When the garden becomes increasingly cluttered with toys, garden tools and bikes, we opt to hide it all inside a utilitarian shed that becomes an outdoor eyesore. If this sounds like your place, the good news is there are better ideas for garden storage – if you think outside the square.

1. Out of sight

If planning a new garden, try to think about storage at the outset. A good landscape designer will help you incorporate built-in storage places into outdoor living areas or utilise inconspicuous corners for stashing bins, bikes, firewood and tools.

With existing gardens, identify hidden outdoor spaces, such as secondary paths down the side of your house or vertical space on less visible walls, and use them for shelving, outdoor cupboards or just a few hooks to hang spades and tools from.

2. Built-in

Built-in bench seats are ideal places for storing outdoor cushions, plastic glasses, games (petanque, croquet etc) and pool toys. You can build or buy freestanding bench seats with storage space inside, but don’t stop there – think about building them into steps, garden walls, raised beds, outdoor fireplaces and even water features. If you have the space, you may even like to consider incorporating a small drinks fridge into your entertaining area to reduce those endless trips in and out of the house.


3. Box set

If built-in storage is not suitable for your garden, there are many freestanding alternatives available, including some that double as seating. Look for those designed for the outdoors or they’ll be at risk of deteriorating in a damp environment. For a more versatile option, consider mobile storage containers, shelving units and trolleys for storing frequently used items.

4. Kitchen rules

Try to keep stuff in the areas where you use it most. Outdoor fireplaces and cooking areas are ideal places to incorporate cupboards, shelves and drawers to store everything you need for al fresco dining. Open shelves are perfect for stacked firewood, while you could stash items that need to be kept out of the elements, or are less attractive to look at, in closed cupboards and drawers.

5. Down under

Utilise space beneath your deck by building storage lockers accessed from above via trapdoors. If you have a low deck or unused space beneath the house, build large drawers that can be opened from the side.

Use these to store plastic toys, hoses, plant pots and the like, but beware of using them to store cushions or anything that may be vulnerable to mould. A hidden wine cellar below decks can be a fine storage solution for wine buffs – and a real talking point at parties.


6. On the shelf

It may seem obvious, but well-positioned shelving is a great option for creating extra outdoor storage, particularly in existing gardens. As well as the usual places such as blank walls, shelves can be built into the angle where walls join, or within a recess in a stone, brick or concrete wall.

Buy shelving that is weather-proof (or adapt a unit you already have) and paint it the same colour as the wall it sits against to make it disappear into the background.

Be careful, though, to keep everything tidy if shelves are visible from entrances or outdoor living spaces – there’s nothing worse than looking at a jumble of old shoes and dusty plastic pots while sipping your evening cocktail!

7. Bucket list

Hang a row of buckets or pretty plastic containers on an exterior wall to hold toys and shoes. Label them to make tidying up easier. The kids can simply grab the bucket with their favourite toys and return it when playtime is over.

8. Recycle

Give a secondhand dressing table or chest of drawers a new life as garden storage. Use it as a potting table and store string, gardening gloves, small tools, secateurs and so forth in the cupboards and drawers. Paint it a gorgeous colour and display pretty pots on top to make it a feature in its own right.

Old pallets are another popular option for using vertical space in the garden to hang tools, pots and other paraphernalia. These too can be painted in bright colours to liven up a dull corner.


9. Bin it

Large plastic rubbish bins are a necessary but unsightly part of modern urban life. Hide them away in a purpose-built storage area, ideally made with materials used elsewhere in the garden such as timber or brick.

Cheaper materials such as trellis, bamboo or manuka poles can be just as effective. If space allows, build shelves within the storage area for garden tools and other items. You can also buy ready-made bin storage units.

10. In the shed

They’re often not particularly attractive, but a shed is the go-to option for most of us in the outdoor storage department. However, this can mean everything from lawnmowers to lilos are piled in together, making the space difficult to use.

If you have a shed, there are plenty of things you can do to make it more workable, such as hanging objects on walls, the door or ceiling (a good place for bike racks). Is there room for a set of shelves or cupboards in your shed?


If possible, sheds should be positioned unobtrusively in a corner that is not visible from the deck or other living spaces. If you can, avoid buying an enormous shed that will dominate your garden. Many purpose-built sheds these days are quite attractive, and if constructed in timber, brick, concrete or galvanised metal, can easily be painted to blend in with your fence or house.

Painting your shed a bright colour will only draw attention to it, which is fine if it’s a thing of beauty, but if not, you can try camouflage tricks such as training climbing plants over and around it.

Words by: Carol Bucknell. Photography by: Living4Media/One Shot, Alicia Taylor/

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