12 Simple Storage Shelving Ideas For Small Spaces

Updated: Nov. 13, 2023

Need more room for your stuff? We've found some DIY storage shelves that solve storage space problems, like fun hidden shelves.

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Shelves are a great storage solution, but sometimes you don’t have enough available. Fortunately, you can DIY storage shelves for any room!

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Room Divider Shelves
Via Walmart.com

Heavy-Duty Utility Shelves

Store-bought shelving units are either flimsy, hard to assemble or awfully expensive. Here’s a better solution. These shelves are strong and easy to build.

We sized this sturdy shelf unit to hold standard records storage boxes ($4 each). If you want deeper storage, build the shelves 24 inches deep and buy 24-inch-deep boxes. If you prefer to use plastic storage bins, measure the size of the containers and modify the box shelf and upright spacing to fit.

Refer to the dimensions shown to mark the location of the horizontal 2×2 on the back of four 2x4s. Also mark the position of the 2×4 uprights on the 2x2s. Then simply line up the marks and screw the 2x2s to the 2x4s with pairs of 2-1/2-in. wood screws. Be sure to keep the 2x2s and 2x4s at right angles.

Rip a 4 x 8-ft. sheet of 1/2-in. medium-density fibreboard (MDF), plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) into 16-in.-wide strips and screw it to the 2x2s to connect the two frames and form the shelving unit.

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Family Handyman

Narrow DIY Storage Shelves: Stud Space Cabinet

When you can’t find a convenient nook for a set of narrow storage shelves, you can often create one by recessing the shelves into the wall itself. Choose the location for your shallow shelving unit before you build the project to make sure it will fit.

Start by looking for a space with no obvious obstructions. Locate the studs with a stud finder. When you’ve found a promising spot, cut a 6-in.-square inspection hole between the studs. Use a flashlight and a small mirror to inspect the stud cavity for obstructions. You often can modify the size of the cabinet to avoid obstructions.

When you find a good space, mark the perimeter of the opening and use a drywall keyhole saw to cut it out. Measure the opening and subtract 1/4 inch from the height and width to determine the outer dimensions of your behind-the-door shelves.

For standard 2×4 stud walls with 1/2-inch-thick drywall, build the cabinet frame from 1x4s that measure 3-1/2 inches wide (see illustration). If your walls are different, adjust the depth of the frame accordingly. Then add a 1/4-in. back. We screwed 1/4-in. pegboard to the back so we could hang stuff from pegboard hooks. Add casing that matches the trim in your house.

Drill holes into the sides to accept shelf supports. Shelf supports fit in 3mm, 5mm or 1/4-in. holes depending on the style. Install the cabinet by slipping it into the opening, leveling it and nailing through the trim into the studs on each side. Use 6d finish nails placed every 12 inches along both sides.

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Family Handyman

Behind-the-Door Storage

The space behind a door is a storage spot that’s often overlooked. Build a set of shallow shelves and mount it to the wall. Plus, when you open the door they become storage shelves with doors!

Measure the distance between the door hinge and the wall and subtract one inch. This is the maximum depth of the shelves. We used 1x4s for the sides, top and shelves.

Screw the sides to the top. Then screw three 1×2 hanging strips to the sides: one top and bottom and one centered. Nail metal shelf standards to the sides. Complete the shelves by nailing a 1×2 trim piece to the sides and top. The 1×2 dresses up the shelf unit and keeps the shelves from falling off the shelf clips.

Locate the studs. Drill clearance holes and screw the shelves to the studs with 2-1/2-in. wood screws. Put a rubber bumper on the frame to protect the door.

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FH07JUN_482_50_056 joist space saver storage solution wire shelving
via merchant

Joist Storage Space

Don’t waste all that space between joists in a basement or garage. Screw wire shelving to the underside of the joists. You’ll need an 8-ft.  x 16-in. length of wire shelving and a pack of plastic clips. Don’t forget that wire shelving also looks great on walls. And this storage solution won’t collect dust! Find more basement shelving ideas.

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jun_2007_014_t_01 closet organization sweaters shirts

Closet Nook Shelves

Salvage the hidden space at the recessed ends of your closets by adding a set of wire shelves, which are available in various widths.

Measure the width and depth of the space. Then choose the correct shelving and ask the salesperson to cut the shelves to length for you. Subtract 3/8 inch from the actual width to determine the shelf length. Buy a pair of end mounting brackets and a pair of plastic clips for each shelf.

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Shoe Storage Booster Stool

Build this handy stool in one hour and park it in your closet. You can also use it as a step to reach the high shelf. All you need is a 4- x 4-ft. sheet of 3/4-in. plywood, wood glue and a handful of 8d finish nails.

Cut the plywood pieces according to the illustration. Spread wood glue on the joints, then nail them together with 8d finish nails. First, nail through the sides into the back. Then nail through the top into the sides and back. Finally, mark the location of the two shelves and nail through the sides into the shelves.

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recycling can storage tower
Family Handyman

Stacked Recycling Tower

Five plastic containers, six 2x2s and screws and one hour’s work are all it takes to put together this space-saving recycling storage rack. The frame fits containers that have a top that measures 14-1/2 inches x 10 inches and are 15 inches tall.

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FH07JUN_482_50_076 sandwich bag parts organizer
Family Handyman

Assemble a Sandwich Bag Parts Organizer

Keep screws, connectors, nails and other small parts in sight and handy with this resealable bag holder. You can build it out of a 3/4-in.-thick scrap of plywood.

Start by cutting two pieces of plywood as shown. Draw lines one inch apart across the shorter piece with a square, stopping one inch from the edge. Now cut along the lines with a jigsaw. Screw the two pieces of plywood together and screw the unit to the wall. Fill resealable bags and slip them into the slots.

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Two-Story Closet DIY Storage Shelves

There’s a lot of space above the shelf in most closets. Even though it’s a little hard to reach, it’s a great place to store seldom-used items. Make use of this wasted space by adding a second shelf above the existing one.

Buy enough closet shelving material to match the length of the existing shelf plus enough for two end supports and middle supports over each bracket. Twelve-inch-wide shelving is available in various lengths and finishes at home centers and lumberyards.

We cut the supports 16 inches long, but you can place the second shelf at whatever height you like. Screw the end supports to the walls at each end. Use drywall anchors if you can’t hit a stud. Then mark the position of the middle supports onto the top and bottom shelves with a square and drill 5/32-in. clearance holes through the shelves. Drive 1-5/8-in. screws through the shelf into the supports.

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back of door storage
Family Handyman

Back-of-Door Organizer

The back of a door that opens into a utility room or closet makes a handy hanging space. The trouble is, most doors don’t offer a good mounting surface for hardware. The solution is to screw a piece of 3/4-in. plywood to the back of the door. Add construction adhesive for hollow-core doors.

Cut the plywood three or four inches shy of the door edges to avoid conflicts with the doorknob or hinges. Now you can mount as many hooks, magnets and other storage gizmos as you like. Want more behind the door storage?

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Double rail closet storage clothes storage ideas for small spaces

Double-Decker Closet Rod

All you need to gain a lot of hanging space in your closet are two metal closet brackets and a length of closet rod. If your existing closet rod is at least 66 inches from the floor, there’s enough space to add a second rod below it and still hang shirts and slacks. We placed the top of the rod 35 inches from the floor, which allowed just enough room to hang two levels of pants.

Locate studs on the back wall of the closet with a stud finder. Then attach metal brackets to the studs. Use a level to align the brackets along the top. Space the brackets no more than 32 inches apart.

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Glass Shower Shelf

Tired of shampoo and conditioner bottles cluttering the rim of your tub? This tempered safety glass shelf on a cable shelf bracket is an easy solution.

The cable shelf bracket requires only two screws for support. If studs aren’t located in the right positions, use toggle bolts to anchor the shelf brackets. The glass hangs on the cables. Order a tempered glass shelf from a local glass company. We installed a 3/8-in.-thick, 12-in.-deep shelf.