There are plenty of DIY gear storage solutions out there for those with a little creativity.
Bob Frye/Everybody Adventures
This, I’m finding, is how the other half lives.
No, we’re not talking finances. My wife and I haven’t suddenly come into any wealth.
But space, well, that’s another matter.
We married relatively young and had two sons in short order. As a result, we went from renting an apartment to renting a home to buying one. We gained a little extra room at each step.
And I mean a little.
So capacity for storing outdoor gear and gadgets was and is always at a premium. Going on a family campout or a Scout once meant looking under beds, searching through closets, rooting through dressers, and combing the garage to gather all that we needed.
These days, though, our children are grown, living in other states and, in all likelihood, never coming back full-time.
Now, don’t get me wrong. That’s tough. I miss them.
But with each pickup truckload of their stuff that goes away, we’re finding what it’s like to have a bit of territory of our own.
And baby, it’s wonderful.
Especially lately, I’ve been figuring out ways to maximize it at the lowest possible cost (one son’s still in school, after all).
Here are some things working for me.
In years past, our one-car garage was a repository for every wayward piece of equipment that was otherwise homeless. And that was maddening.
Getting to the backpacks, for example, meant first having to move the bikes out of the way, while collecting mess kits meant rummaging through assorted boxes and bins, all of them buried under something else.
Using 2x4s and plywood, I built shelves to hold decoys, paddling equipment, camp kitchen supplies and more. Now, everything has a place.
It didn’t cost a lot either. I built multiple shelving units of various sizes, 24 inches deep and between 4 and 8 feet tall. Yet none ran me more than maybe $50 in materials.
You can buy shelves, too, of course. But making your own provides the advantage of customizing them to fit specific spaces and specific items.
Shelves don’t really add much to organization if all you do is haphazardly throw stuff on them.
Our solution is to invest in lots of plastic totes.
A few are especially sturdy, bought to protect things like lanterns, or of odd sizes, to hold odd-shaped things. Most, though, are of the generic, $5, this-is-what-was-on-sale variety.
But each has its niche. We’ve got a “paddling” tote, for example, full of dry bags, throw bags and J-racks for holding boats on the roof rack. A “camp kitchen” tote holds utensils, plates and cookware. A “snow” tote has gaiters, ice cleats and gloves.
Some are clear. Others are not, but have duct tape labels identifying the contents within.
Provided that you put things back in the correct tote after using them, they’re great for keeping things separated and organized.
We remodeled our kitchen a few years ago. Six months later my mom did hers.
I gobbled up a bunch of the old cabinets from both and hung them in the garage. Four line the back wall. Three others hang on the sides, above the work bench and around the upright freezer.
One holds backpacking tools. Another of the same size contains cover scents, bug spray and the like.
And those are just the little ones.
Do you know how many of those plastic fishing lure boxes you can get in a regular-sized cabinet? (I do, but won’t tell, lest I lose the high ground I occupy when teasing my wife about all of her shoes.)
Combined, they’re great for storage, well worth the $30 worth of concrete wall anchors it took to hang them.
You needn’t spend a lot to get similar ones. Scouring online marketplaces, newspaper classified ads and garage sales often turns up garage-worthy cabinets available for free or for pennies on the dollar.
Don’t have a garage? You can repurpose furniture to take advantage of small spaces.
I don’t need another gun cabinet (not yet, anyway, but hope springs eternal). Nor do I need an antique wooden clothes locker. Or a stand-alone clothes closet.
Yet I bought one of each in the last few years, spending as little as $15 and never more than $40.
Then, using less than $20 worth of wood glue and/or wood screws and ½-inch square dowel rods for braces, I installed shelves made from either plywood or 1×3 planks left over from another project.
All are now great for holding ammunition, gun cleaning tools, archery supplies, binoculars, water purifiers and more.
Odds and ends of furniture like this — cabinets, closets, lockers, dressers, armoires, bureaus – is available on the cheap in all the same places you find wall cabinets. And you can stain them or paint them to blend in with whatever else you have.
Hooks and straps
The same canoe, kayak, paddleboard and bicycle that offer such freedom in spring, summer and fall can become an albatross in winter.
For example, for several years we stored our boats on top of sawhorses. That was iffy at best – unless you count constantly crawling over or under them as exercise – and problematic at worst, like when I, you know, actually needed the sawhorses.
Hooks and cam buckle straps are our answer.
Put hooks capable of handling the weight in the rafters of a shed or garage and, with cam buckle straps, you can hang boats or bikes upside down and out of the way. Likewise, put hooks in wall studs and you can use cam buckles to hang kayaks on their sides.
Often you can really maximize space by hanging one boat directly under another.
Total cost? Maybe $20.
Taken all together, these few cheap, simple remedies really helped us get our gear organized and in order. At the same time, they revealed a bit about what we most often use and don’t – and thereby could sell or donate – and what we might still want or need.
Like, say, one more tackle box full of goodies.
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