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Home Organization Tips and Storage Tips

7 of our favorite projects to help you cut the clutter

FH09JUN_GETORG_01-2Family Handyman
7 simple, low-cost projects guaranteed to get your stuff organized. These editor favorites solve pesky storage problems in the kitchen, bath, office and closet. Best of all they take less than a day to build and won't break the bank.

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Time
A full day
Complexity
Beginner
Cost
$51–100

Bathroom shelving unit

Bathroom shelving unit

Store bathroom necessities or décor item on these attractive shelves.

Photo 1: Nail the spacers

Nail the spacers and shelves in place, starting at the bottom and working your way up. Place the bottom spacer 1 in. from the lower edge of the backboard.

Photo 2: Strengthen the shelves

Strengthen the shelves by driving screws through the backboard into the shelves and spacers. Drill screw holes with a countersink bit.

In a small bathroom, every single square inch counts. These shelves make the most of wall space by going vertical. The version shown here, made of cherry, cost about $100. But you can build one for $50 or less if you choose a more economical wood like oak or pine. All you need is a 6-ft. 1×4, a 6-ft. 1×6 and a 6-ft. 1×8.

Cut the middle spacers and the shelves 12 in. long. Cut the bottom spacer 11 in. long to allow for a decorative 1-in. reveal. Cut the top spacer to fit (ours was 7-1/4 in.). Measure 1 in. from one edge of the backboard and draw a guideline for the shelves and spacers along its length. Nail the bottom spacer in place, leaving a 1-in. reveal at the bottom edge. Center the first shelf by measuring 3-1/4 in. in from the edge of the backboard and nail it in place. Work your way up the backboard, alternating between spacers and shelves (Photo 1).

On the back side, use a 1/8-in. countersink bit to drill two holes, one at the top and one at the bottom of each spacer. Drill two holes spaced 1 in. from each side of the backboard into each shelf ledge. Drive 1-1/4-in. drywall screws into each hole (Photo 2). Paint or stain the assembled unit. If you’d like to clearcoat it, use a wipe-on poly or spray lacquer—using a brush would be really tough. Mount the unit on the wall with two 2-1/2-in. screws and screw-in drywall anchors (E-Z Ancor is one brand). Drive the screws where they won’t be seen: right below the bottom shelf and right above the top shelf.

Adjustable spice shelf

Spice shelf inside cabinet

A clever space saver!

Photo 1: Nail the ledgers together

Nail the back and side ledgers together, then nail on the side shelves. Measure between the side shelves and cut the back shelf to fit.

Photo 2: Install the shelf

Set the spice shelf on adjustable shelf pegs. You may have to remove an existing shelf so you can tilt the spice shelf into place.

This in-cabinet spice shelf puts small containers at eye level and still leaves room in the cabinet for tall items. The materials will cost you less than $10. You’ll need a 4-ft. 1×3 for the top shelf and a 4-ft. 1×2 for the bottom ledger. You can find shelf pegs at home centers in two sizes, 1/4 in. and 3/16 in., so measure the holes in your cabinet before you shop. The secret is to assemble the shelf outside the cabinet and then set it on the shelf pegs.

Measure the sides and back of your cabinet and cut your shelf and ledger pieces. Subtract 1/8 in. from all sides so you can fit the unit into the cabinet. Attach the sides to the back of the bottom ledger and put two nails into each butt joint. Then nail the top shelf sides into place and pin the shelf back at the corners to hold it flush (Photo 1).

To install the shelf unit, carefully fit one end of the “U” into the cabinet, holding it higher at one end, and shimmy it down until it sits firmly on top of the shelf pegs (Photo 2). Shift the pegs up or down to adjust the shelf height. We sprayed a quick coat of lacquer on our shelf before installing it.

Cabinet door message board

Handy message board

It’s hidden behind the cabinet door so no one has to see it but you!

Photo 1: Cut the board

Cut the dry-erase board from the back to avoid chipping the plastic-coated face. Use a framing square as a guide to get a straight cut.

Photo 2: Spray adhesive on the board and door

Spray adhesive onto the door, metal and dry-erase board. Carefully position the metal and board as you stick them to the door—once they’re in place, you can’t move them.

A sheet of metal and a dry-erase board can turn any cabinet door into a convenient message center. You’ll find 2 x 2-ft. lengths of plastic-coated hardboard (often called “whiteboard”) and sheet metal at a hardware store or home center. Larger hardware stores will cut the sheet metal to your specifications. Be sure to get steel instead of aluminum so magnets will stick. Including a can of spray adhesive, this project will cost you less than $20.

If you cut the metal yourself, wear gloves to protect your hands and use tin snips carefully. Use a metal file to smooth any ragged edges. If you don’t have a table saw to cut the whiteboard, flip it over, mark your measurements and use a jigsaw to cut it from the back to prevent chipping or splintering. To get a straight cut, use a framing square as a guide (Photo 1).

To mount the metal sheet and whiteboard to the inside of the door, take the door off its hinges, lay it flat and carefully mask off the area where you want to spray the adhesive. Follow the directions on the can to apply the adhesive to the door, metal and whiteboard (Photo 2). Mount the pieces, press firmly and let dry.

Cutting board rack

Cutting board rack

This rack makes finding and storing cutting boards easy.

Photo 1: Nail the parts together

Nail the base rail to the sides, then nail on the face rails. For a quick, clear finish, spray on two light coats of lacquer.

Photo 2: Mount the rack

Mount the rack on the door with L-brackets. This is easiest if you remove the door. Be sure to predrill screw holes in the door stiles.

You can make this nifty rack for less than $10 and mount it inside a cabinet door to stash your cutting board out of sight. It goes together in a snap since it only requires a 6-ft. 1×2 and two L-brackets.

Measure between the door stiles to get the maximum width of your rack. Make sure the rack will be wide enough for your cutting board (or spring for a new one). You’ll also need to mount the rack low enough so it doesn’t bump into a cabinet shelf when the door closes. Cut the bottom and face rails to match the space between the cabinet door stiles.

Cut the sides 7-1/4 in. long. Nail the sides to the base. Then nail the two face pieces at the top and bottom to complete the rack (Photo 1). The easiest way to mount the rack is to take the cabinet door off its hinges and lay it down. Predrill the screw holes for the L-brackets and mount the rack to the cabinet door using a 1-in. L-bracket centered on each side of the rack (Photo 2).

Magnetic office supplies holder

Magnetic office supplies holder

Organize your small office supplies in this great-looking holder.

Photo 1: Install the magnetic strip

Clamp the magnetic strip in place, drill pilot holes and drive in the screws that come with the strips.

Photo 2: Glue on the washers

Glue fender washers to plastic or aluminum jar lids so they’ll stick to the magnetic strip. Skip this step if your jars have steel lids.

Here’s a perfect way to organize all those paper clips, rubber bands and pushpins. All it takes is a magnetic knife/tool holder strip, small jars with lids and a few fender washers. (The strips cost $15 to $25 at bath stores, hardware stores, home centers and online retailers.) You don’t even need the fender washers if you buy jars with steel lids that will stick to the magnet on their own.

Clamp the magnetic strips to the underside of a shelf or cabinet. Drill pilot holes and screw the strip into place (Photo 1). If the jars have steel lids, fill them with office supplies and stick them up on the magnetic strip. If the jar lids are aluminum or plastic, use cyanoacrylate glue (Super Glue is one brand) to attach a fender washer to the top of each lid (Photo 2). After they dry, fill the jars, stick them up on the magnet and think about some other project to do instead of the work waiting for you on your desk.

Tie, scarf and belt organizer

Handy closet organizer

Customize this organizer to suit your accessories.

Photo 1: Drill holes

Drill scarf holes with a 2-in. hole saw. Clamp the plywood tightly against a piece of scrap wood to prevent chipping as the hole saw exits the plywood.

Photo 2: Cut slots

Use a 5/8-in. Forstner drill bit or a sharp spade bit to punch out the ends of the slots, and then finish cutting them out with a jigsaw.

Clean up a messy closet by hanging your ties, belts and scarves on our 3-in-1 closet organizer! All you need is a 2 x 2-ft. piece of 1/2- in. plywood ($10 to $15), a wooden hanger and a hook (we took ours out of the hanger).

Our organizer is 12 in. wide and 16 in. tall, but yours can be taller or narrower. To get a nice curve at the top, use the wooden hanger as a guide. Center it, trace the edge and cut it out with a jigsaw. Make a pattern of holes, slots and notches on a piece of paper and transfer it to your board. Use a 2-in. hole saw to cut the holes, making sure the board is clamped down tightly to keep the veneer from chipping (Photo 1). Use a jigsaw to cut out the side notches. To cut the slots, punch out the ends with a 5/8-in. Forstner drill bit (or a sharp spade bit) to prevent chipping, and then use a jigsaw to finish cutting out the center of each slot (Photo 2).

Sand the hanger and apply several coats of sealer or poly to smooth the edges so your scarves and ties don’t snag (this is the most time-consuming step). Using a 1/4-in. round-over bit with a router makes the sanding go faster. Drill a small hole into the top of the hanger for your hook, squeeze in a bit of epoxy glue to hold it and then screw it in.

Laundry room ironing center

Laundry room ironing center

Compact, convenient and simple to build.

Close-up of ironing board hanger

Photo 1: Mark the shelf positions

Place the sides next to each other and mark the shelf positions. For easier finishing, sand all the parts before marking and assembly.

Photo 2: Assemble the cabinet

Glue and nail the back and shelves between the sides, then add the top. After painting or staining, screw on hooks for the ironing board.

To keep your ironing gear handy but out from underfoot, make this simple ironing center (about $25). All you need is a 10-ft. 1×8, a 2-ft. piece of 1×6 for the shelves and a pair of hooks to hang your ironing board.

Cut the back, sides, shelves and top. Align the sides and measure from the bottom 2 in., 14-3/4 in. and 27-1/2 in. to mark the bottom of the shelves (Photo 1). Before assembling the unit, use a jigsaw to cut a 1 x 1-in. dog ear at the bottom of the sides for a decorative touch.

Working on one side at a time, glue and nail the side to the back. Apply glue and drive three nails into each shelf, attach the other side and nail those shelves into place to secure them. Clamps are helpful to hold the unit together while you’re driving nails. Center the top piece, leaving a 2-in. overhang on both sides, and glue and nail it into place (Photo 2). Paint or stain the unit and then drill pilot holes into the top face of each side of the unit and screw in the hooks to hold your ironing board. Mount the shelf on drywall using screw-in wall anchors.

Required Tools for this Project

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

  • Brad nail gun
  • Clamps
  • Cordless drill
  • Framing square
  • Glue
  • Hole saw kit
  • Jigsaw
  • One-handed bar clamps
  • Tape measure
You may also need spring clamps.

Required Materials for this Project

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

  • 2 x 2-ft. plastic-coated hardboard (often called “whiteboard”
  • 2 x 2-ft. sheet metal
  • 4-ft. 1x2
  • 4-ft. 1x3
  • 6-ft. 1x2
  • 6-ft. 1x4 hardwood
  • 6-ft. 1x6 hardwood
  • 6-ft. 1x8 hardwood
  • Fender washers
  • Magnetic knife/tool holder strip
  • Painter's tape
  • shelf pegs
  • small jars with lids
  • Super glue
  • two L-brackets