Now Christmas is over and most of us are in the process of putting away all of those decorations. Every year we keep telling ourselves we are going to organize all of it better. If you are anything like us you have a few stacks of totes somewhere. In our case they are in the basement. So what happens during the year is the stack keeps getting taken down to find something. After going through 15 totes we either finally find whatever it was or just come to the conclusion that it was lost or thrown away. We just end up with a huge mess. By the time Christmas comes around again the Halloween decorations are on top of the camping gear that is on top of the Easter decorations that is on top of the Christmas decorations and the cycle continues.
This year we didn’t go out of town nor have any visitors over the Holidays so I had some more time to putter around in the basement and decided to tackle the organization issue. At first I was looking for any type of prefab shelving that could hold the majority of the totes. Most of the shelving wasn’t deep enough, tall enough or just too expensive. I found one system I liked made of PVC but it wasn’t adjustable. At most it could only hold 12 totes and would cost me just over $100. I just don’t see that as a good investment. Here is the other problem. If you’re like us your totes aren’t uniform. Over the last 20+ years we bought them as we needed them so they are different sizes.
So here is what I did. I took an inventory of what I had to deal with. The vast majority of our totes are 17” high or less. There are only a few that are bigger. They are also about 24” deep. The width varies but that really didn’t matter. My goal was to fit as many as I can with about an inch clearance above and I didn’t want them teetering over the edge.
I also have to consider that I don’t own a truck. To transport materials I have a crossover and a sedan that at most can handle boards 6’ long. With that in mind I drew up a design using 2’x4’s and OSB sheeting. Lowes will cut everything to size so I bought 2’x4’x12’s cut to 6’ and two 4’x8’ OSBs cut to 8 2’x4’ sheets. This worked out better than I though. I originally wanted to build one unit 8’ long and I am glad I didn’t. That would have been too heavy to move. I am considering putting in swivel casters with brakes but I think that may cause a stability issue.
Here is the best part. For about $75 worth of material I got more than twice the space that a prefab would give me. That includes wood and screws. The only specialty tool I used was a pocket hole jig. This allowed me to get a tighter joint with shorter screws. If you don’t have one you’ll need longer screws or carriage bolts for a tight fit. Please remember to predrill so you don’t split your wood. If you get the more expensive pressure treated wood you could probably get away with it but I felt no need for the extra expense.
For us, this is the start. I will need to make 3 more of these to be completely organized, holidays in one section, sports and camping in another, crafting section and the all-encompassing “I don’t know why I’m still keeping this” area. The way I put these shelves together will also allow me to take them apart without too much work. We are considering replacing our old totes with all clear ones that measure 13”H, 24”D and 17”W. If so I can raise each shelf a few inches and will be able to maximize the space used. I also get frustrated with the non-latching lids on these old ones. At $10 a pop I think I will just replace them as needed.
I’m curious to see alternate designs you came up with. Post your link in the comments. If anyone wants to help me get the Christmas lights off my house let me know. I pay in beer.