DIY Toy Storage Bins

Updated: Feb. 22, 2023

Storage for a family on the go

FH13SEP_GOBINS_01-2 garage toy storage diy toy storage ideasFamily Handyman
These bins are great for sports gear and handle all kinds of miscellaneous garage clutter. Shelves and cabinets are great places to store kid stuff, but when you're in a hurry (and kids always are), it's nice to just throw and go.

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Throw & Go Bins

I wanted something with a little character, so I loosely based the design on a row of old bins at my grandmother’s country store. It was worth the little bit of extra effort to build something that brings back good memories yet serves a practical purpose in the present. These bins have worked so well that my wife requested a set for her gardening supplies.

Cut the parts

Cut the sides, top and bottom from 3/4-in. plywood using a table saw or circular saw. I used “BC” plywood, which is good enough for paint, but you may want to buy birch veneer plywood if you plan to use stain.

This project requires a full sheet of plywood plus a 2 x 4-ft. section. Many home centers carry 4 x 4-ft., and some even stock 2 x 4-ft., so you don’t have to buy two full sheets. However, they charge a premium for smaller sheets, and you won’t save more than a few bucks. I bought two full sheets and used the leftover on other projects. The same goes for the 1/4-in. plywood-you only need a 4 x 4-ft. sheet, but a 4 x 8-ft. is a better value.

The fronts of the bins get the most abuse, so I built them from a solid 1×6 pine board. Solid wood holds up better than a plywood edge. You can rip down the two center boards when you’re cutting up the other parts, but hold off on cutting them to length until the top and bottom boards are in place. That way you can cut them exactly to size.

Cutting diagram for 3/4′ plywood

Use this diagram to lay out your cuts on your sheets of 3/4′ plywood.

Mark the side profile

diy toy storage ideas

Photo 1: Lay out the side profiles

After measuring and marking the location of the bin fronts, use a square to mark the recessed portion of the front.

Photo 2: Connect the dots

Use a straightedge to connect the dots. You only need to lay out one sideboard. Once it’s cut, that board will act as a pattern for the rest.

This part of the process seems a little tricky, but it’s really quite simple if you follow these directions. Hook a tape measure on the bottom front of one of the side boards. Measure up and mark the edge of the board at 0, 4 in., 15-1/2 in., 19-1/2 in., 31 in. and 35 in. Now go back and measure over 4 in. at the following locations: the bottom, 15-1/2 in., 31 in. and the top (Photo 1). These marks represent the indented portion of the side. Start at the end of the board, and connect the dots (Photo 2). It’s just that easy.

Side layout

Use this diagram and these measurements as a guide for laying out the side profile.

Cut and sand the sides

Photo 3: Cut two at a time

Clamp two sides down and cut them both at the same time. That way, if you make any small cutting errors, the pair of sides will still match up. Make most of the cut with a circular saw, and then finish it off with a jigsaw.

Photo 4: Sand at a time

Smooth out the cuts before you unclamp the sides. Make sure to keep each pair together when you assemble the bins.

Clamp two side boards down to your work surface. Arrange them so the best sides of the plywood will be on the outside of the bins. Use a circular saw to make most of each cut. (Sometimes it’s necessary to hold the blade guard up when you start a cut at an angle.) Finish the cuts with a jigsaw (Photo 3). A handsaw will work fine if you don’t own a jigsaw.

Sand the edges with 80-grit sandpaper while the sides are still clamped together (Photo 4). Use one of the two cut side boards to mark one of the other uncut sideboards, and repeat the process.

If you’ve already chosen a color for your project, now would be a good time to sand and finish all the parts. That way, you’ll only have to touch up the fastener holes after assembly. Some of the plywood edges may have voids, which can be filled with wood putty or patching compound.

Assemble the bins

garage toy storage

Photo 5: Assemble the bins

Build the bin sections before you install the top and bottom. If you have a brad nailer, make assembly easier by tacking all the parts together before you drive in the screws.

Lay out two of the sides back to back with the good side of the plywood facing down. Using a straightedge, mark lines between the notches to serve as a reference line for the bottoms of the bins. The bottom of the whole unit will serve as the bottom of the lowest bins, so fasten the bottom on to the second lowest bin first. Align the board above the reference line.

I fastened the bottoms and the fronts with three 1-1/2-in. brads. Once it was all put together, I came back and reinforced it all with two 2-in. trim head screws in each side of every board.

Once the bottoms are in place, come back and install the 1×6 fronts (Photo 5). Align them flush with the outside edge of the plywood. You’ll notice a small gap between the bin bottom and the front. This makes assembly easier, especially if your side cuts weren’t perfect. It won’t be noticeable when it’s up against the wall. Once the first bank of bins is done, assemble the second one.

Bin overview

Use this diagram as an assembly guide.

Finish Garage Toy Storage Bins Up

Fasten the top and bottom flush with the outside edges of the bins. Again, I drove three brads into each sideboard and came back and secured them with a couple of trim head screws.

Use the 1/4-in. plywood back to square up the project. Start with the two factory-cut sides of the plywood, and start fastening it to either the top or bottom, making sure it’s perfectly flush with the edge. Then fasten one side, working away from the previously fastened top or bottom, straightening and nailing as you go. I installed one screw through the back into each bin bottom for a little extra support. Before you finish the other two sides, set up the project and check that things are square.

Measure between the two banks of bins, and cut your center boards to that size. Pin them in with brads and secure them with a screw. The centerboards can be located anywhere you want depending on the type of items you’re going to store.

If your project is going to be sitting on the concrete, you may want to install a couple of strips of treated lumber on the bottom. Rip 5/8-in. strips of treated lumber and tack them onto the perimeter of the bottom.

You can screw the project to the wall if you know your kids will be using it as a ladder, but it’s pretty stable as it is. All that’s left is to go tell the family that there are no more excuses for throwing stuff on the floor.

Additional Garage Toy Storage Information

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Air compressor
  • Air hose
  • Brad nail gun
  • Chalk line
  • Circular saw
  • Clamps
  • Cordless drill
  • Drill bit set
  • Dust mask
  • Extension cord
  • Framing square
  • Glue
  • Handsaw
  • Hearing protection
  • Miter saw
  • Nail set
  • Orbital sander
  • Paintbrush
  • Safety glasses
  • Sanding block
Screw gun,
Tape measure,
Table saw,
Wood glue

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • 1 1x6 x 8' pine board
  • 1 sheet 4' x 8' x 1/4" underlayment plywood
  • 1-1/2-in. 18-gauge brad nails
  • 2 sheets 4' x 8' x 3/4" BC sanded plywood
  • 2-in. trim-head screws
  • Gallon of paint/primer