Get Organized by Building This Simple, Low-Cost DIY Storage Unit

Distressed by too much stuff and nowhere to put it? Join the club. In our modern, material world, excess items seem to have a way of proliferating, taking root, and never leaving.

If you have used up all of your shelves for storage and need more room, you may have shopped online for storage units but were discouraged by their high cost. On the other hand, DIY plans for low-cost storage units and shelves abound on Pinterest and other design sites. But these tend to be overbuilt monsters, requiring hundreds of pounds of 2x4s and plywood. Is there an easier way?

Yes, there is. In about one day, you can build this storage unit at a fraction of the cost of the metal units you found online. And unlike those massive DIY plywood units, this one uses lightweight wood and incorporates standard-size plastic storage bins. Rather than using unwieldy full-size sheets of plywood, you only need to buy two small, manageable sheets of plywood which are usually pre-cut at most home centers. All materials can be carried home in a hatchback car or larger vehicle, or on a roof rack.

DIY Storage Unit - Completed Storage Unit

Flexible, Easy to Build (and Use), Light Storage Space

You will get over 100 cubic feet of storage, divided into two sides. The left section has two stacks of bins, each stack four to five bins high.

If you hate unstacking and restacking bins to find the right one, you will be delighted to know that these bins each have their own separate cubby. This means that you can take out any bin you want without having to disturb the other bins.

On the right side are two open shelves for large, loose items that do not fit in the bins.


To build this unit, you will need clear, open wall space that is a minimum of 8 feet wide by 7 to 8 feet high. Because this is a project of tight tolerances, it is highly recommended that you obtain a laser level. The level should project both a horizontal level line and a vertical, or plumb, line. Also, because so much wood much be cut, you may want to obtain an electric miter saw, to speed up the work and make your cuts more accurate.

Tools You Will Need

DIY Storage Unit - Tools You Need

  • Tape measure
  • Laser level
  • Cordless drill
  • Electric miter saw (or hand saw)
  • Drill bits
  • Drill driver heads for screws
  • Bubble level
  • Clamps
  • Pencil
  • Straight edge (Optional)
  • Laser measuring tool (Optional)

DIY Storage Unit - Materials You Need

Materials You Will Need

  • 10 2x2s (8 feet long)
  • 5 2x3s (8 feet long)
  • 3 2x4s (8 feet long)
  • 1 lb. 1 3/4-inch screws
  • 1 lb. 3-inch screws
  • 8-10 18 gallon storage bins (23 1/2-inch long, by 18 3/8-inch wide, by 16 1/8-inch high)

1. Attach Furring Strips to Back Wall

Begin by attaching three horizontal furring strips to the wall. The purpose is to provide a stable base on which to build the remainder of the storage unit.

DIY Storage Unit - Stud Finder

Find Studs

On the wall, locate at least three studs within an 8-foot-wide expanse. Use your stud finder to locate the studs and mark them with a pencil or with small pieces of removable painter’s tape.

Attach 2x4 Furring Strips

DIY Storage Unit - Furring Strips

Screw the three 2x4s to the wall horizontally and on level. Check for level with your laser level or bubble level. Place the 2x4s at the following heights, measured from the floor to the top of the 2x4:

  • Bottom: 24 inches
  • Middle: 60 inches
  • Top: 80 inches

2. Cut the Lumber

DIY Storage Unit - Cut The Lumber

To save time, you can cut all of the lumber at once.

You will need:

  • 8 2x2s (Cut to floor-to-ceiling height)
  • 1 2x2 (Cut to 40 1/2 inches)
  • 1 2x2 (Leave intact. Do not cut this one)
  • 5 1x3s (Cut all to 2-foot lengths)

3. Attach Vertical 2x2s to the Furring Strips

DIY Storage Unit - Vertical 2x2

Attach four of the ceiling-height 2x2s to the furring strips. Keep them perfectly vertical by shooting a plumb line with your laser level. Working from left to right, place the boards at the below distances. Measure from the left side of one board to the left side of the adjacent board.

  • Board 1: Align with the left end of the 2x4 furring strips.
  • Board 2: 19 1/2 inches
  • Board 3: 19 1/2 inches
  • Board 4: 49 1/2 inches

DIY Storage Unit - Ledger Board

4. Attach Ledger Board to Ceiling

Attach a 2x2 ledger board on the ceiling in front of the furring strips. The purpose is to secure the front section of the storage unit.

Measure 24 inches from the back wall to the first (or, back) edge of the 2x2 ledger board. Attach to the ceiling joists with 3-inch screws.

5. Attach Front 2x2s to Ledger Board

DIY Storage Unit - Front 2x2

Attach the remaining ceiling-height 2x2s to the inside of the ledger board (the side facing the back wall) with 3-inch screws. Attach the boards parallel to their companion 2x2s on the back wall furring strip.

6. Attach Front Brace on Left Side

DIY Storage Unit - Screw Brace Left Side DIY Storage Unit - Brace Width and Height

Span the three left 2x2s with the 40 1/2-inch-long 2x2 as a brace. Screw the brace into the 2x2s at 17 inches from the floor and keep it level by checking with your bubble level. This 17-inch height is critical because it needs to be high enough to clear the bottom storage bins, which will rest on the floor.

DIY Storage Unit - Rails Left Side

7. Attach Rails to Left Side

Each storage bin has two rails, left and right, that allow the bin to hang independently of the other bins.

For each storage bin, attach two rails to the inside of the vertical 2x2s. Rails should be level in all four directions. Attach with the 1 3/4-inch screws. Clamps are a great way to hold the rails in place as you make pilot holes before adding the screws.

Horizontal placement of the rails is already set in place; you have nothing to do. You only need to place them vertically.

Vertical Placement of the Rails

DIY Storage Unit - Vertical Placement of Rails

Setting the rails in place requires no measuring tape at all. Instead, you use the bins themselves to set the heights.

As you work your way up, use the storage bin below to establish the height of the bin above it. First, lay down a couple of 1x3s on top of a bin as temporary spacers.

Next, rest a storage bin on top of the 1x3s. Now, you have the storage bin perfectly set in its intended place. It is just a matter of placing a rail on each side and screwing them into place. Continue upward until finished.

DIY Storage Unit - Storage Bins DIY Storage Unit - Attach Supports

8. Attach Supports on Right Side of Unit for Shelves

With the left side of the storage unit finished, it is a simple matter to add the two open shelves on the right side.

You have four remaining 1x3s, each 24 inches long. Screw these into the 2x2s, at level with two of the furring strip 2x4s. You can choose any of the three levels.

The supports need to match the level of the 2x4s because the 2x4s provide back support for the plywood shelves.

After doing the top and the bottom, you can slide the pre-cut plywood sheets into place.

DIY Storage Unit - Screwing Plywood Sheets

Get your life organized with this low-cost, easy to build DIY storage unit that uses standard-sized plastic bins.