Creating Deep Storage In a Rental
It’s a question I get quite frequently: how do we handle “deep storage” in our rentals when the available space changes from home to home. Admittedly, this is one of those rental life nuisances that I never had an easy or elegant solution for. More often than not, we don’t have near the storage space we need and usually come up with an “I guess this will do” setup that is never as functional (or pretty!) as I like. However, in this home, we finally implemented a solution that is working so brilliantly that I wish we had done it much, much sooner in our rental journey. Today, I’m showing you how we’re creating deep storage in a rental, but it’s chockfull of ideas you can likely use, no matter what kind of home you have!
You guys know I like to show you super pretty and inspiring photos, but today’s images will not quite fit that bill. These are shots of our dark, unfinished basement (the same space I showed you HERE). Nonetheless, I’m super proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish downstairs, so I’m putting aside my standards to give you a peek!
Up until this home, we have never had great deep storage options in our rentals. We’ve dealt with (far-too-shallow) garage shelves, awkward cabinets, good storage areas filled with the landlord’s property (grrrrrr), and most commonly: nothing at all.
This has left us reinventing our deep storage solutions every single time, often adapting our stuff to fit the space and shelves provided. The results are almost-always imperfect, with things crammed wherever they can fit, boxes precariously stacked in corners, and/or a big ol’ “stuff” pile that is all-too-easy to continuously dump onto.
I’m not gonna lie. Although I would have loved a finished basement in this home, I was beyond giddy at the idea of actually having storage space. Real storage space that wasn’t our garage and could easily (and nicely!) accommodate all the
crap wonderful stuff we lug around from home to home to home. After moving in however, even I was surprised how quickly a big open space like an unfinished basement filled up and became essentially useless thanks to piles of random stuff everywhere.
So we did something we’ve never done before (and I wish we’d done SO much sooner): we invested in our OWN storage system of good shelves + perfectly-fitting bins.
Shop Our Basement Storage
Here is what we bought for our deep storage:
- Heavy-Duty Shelving
- Sterilite 20gal Latching Tote (x13)
- Storage Box Labels (printed on this sticker paper)
Why We Invested in Good Storage Shelves as Renters
I can’t tell you how many different kinds of “deep storage” bins I’ve bought over the years. The last time we were in VA (10 years ago!), I bought really big ones because we had the garage space for it. But when we moved to NC, they didn’t fit the storage room so most of them got nixed. In CA, we had to get rid of all large storage bins completely because they didn’t fit into the built-in cabinets that came with the house.
Now in this home, with a huge unfinished basement, we needed some way to store all our deep storage in a way that was not just functional and easy to maintain…but more importantly: that could move with us so we can finally stop reinventing the wheel every single time!
After a lot of research, we invested in two of these heavy-duty Husky-brand storage shelves. Although it was a fairly big investment (both in cost and weight for future moves), we felt like it was the right move for our rental storage situation. Here’s why.
No Walls Needed
Not only is vertical storage almost-always the answer in creating more space (anywhere!), but these shelves are free-standing. This means we don’t need to ever worry about having (or damaging!) drywall just to install some good storage. These shelves can be setup wherever we have open walls (or even studs!), leaving floor areas open and clear.
The Good Stuff
These shelves are large and sturdy. It is a bit scary to invest in something so big and heavy when you can’t predict where you’ll be living in the next 3, 5, or 10 years. But in the past, we’ve chickened out of such a commitment, buying smaller/lighter shelves instead. And every time…we’ve been incredibly frustrated at the lack of true functionality they provided. We didn’t just want a single shelf to hold some holiday decor…we were finally ready for a system that would hold exactly what we needed, every time.
These shelves are fairly modular. A single shelf measures just over 6′ wide and 2′ deep. Even if future homes don’t have 12+ feet of expanse to setup two side-by-side, there’s a good chance we can set them up separately (like on either side of a garage). In the event we don’t have any basement, garage, or attic space for them, they break down really nicely and can be wrapped/stored fairly compactly. Additionally, The Home Depot has carried these shelves for ages, so should we decide we want/need more, it’s a safe bet we’ll be able to find them in the future.
Bins & Boxes
This next piece might be the one I am most excited about. Since we now have our own shelves that we can setup anywhere, we are no longer reliant on shelving that comes (or doesn’t!) with a home. As such, we could hunt down perfectly-fitting bins and sort and store our stuff, knowing we won’t have to reinvent it over and over and over.
Finally, this *should* make moving easier! First, so much of our deep storage is now already boxed up. Movers rarely re-pack storage bins unless we ask them to, so this investment should saves us on boxes, paper, and packing hours for future moves.
Additionally, it should help us get settled so much quicker. I will no longer have to figure out how best to store my wedding dress and Easter baskets and high-school year books. It’s already figured out.
FUN FACT! This concept is really similar to what we’ve done in my office. Years ago, we invested in several cabinet+drawers units that can be arranged in any number of ways. I outfitted them with perfectly-fitting organizers once, and now I don’t have to reinvent how I store my craft supplies each time we move.
A Closer Look at Our Deep Storage Shelves
So what all is on these shelves? All sorts of stuff!
When we were first cleaning out our basement, it became apparent that we needed both open shelving AND bin storage. As much as I want to put everything into a bin because it looks so neat and clean, there are just certain items that don’t work well in bins. After playing around with the shelves themselves, we determined that we could best use up every available inch if we dedicated the bottom two shelves to categorized bins and the upper two shelves to open storage.
I already had 3 of the navy bins and loved how nicely they fit on the shelves (both width- and height-wise). I went to find more and (of course!) couldn’t. The grey+green bins were the next best-fitting option; they really do allow us to store so much more on a small footprint, filling up each shelf so perfectly.
TIP! Placing bins on shelves (not stacked on top of each other) is key to keeping a storage area tidy. If bins are too hard to get out or put away, you’ll be much more inclined to let things pile up instead!
The left-hand shelf is primarily all holiday decor (which is actually kind of embarrassing considering I don’t decorate a ton for each holiday). I’ve purged and purged and purged but still find that we have a pretty good collection of trees, ornaments, garlands, outdoor lights, and more.
The right-hand side is quite a mixture of things. The very top shelf holds luggage and my wedding dress, while the next open shelf down holds most of the bins, baskets, and dividers that didn’t get used in this house (I almost never get rid of these things because we might always be able to use them in the next home!) The bins underneath hold everything from camping supplies, memorabilia, party supplies, extra throw pillows, and more.
To give you some reference, these two shelves sit along the back wall of our basement, right next to the fitness area I showed you a few months ago.
Is this all of our “deep storage”? Mostly! Admittedly, Greg has started to grow a small pile next to the shelves of some military stuff and items his Dad keeps sending over from his childhood home (you can see it in the far right above). And I have a cedar chest that was mine as a kid that holds all my baby clothes, year books, and other mementos. We also have all sizes of little boy clothes on another shelf that’s installed under the basement stairs. I initially tried to talk Greg into a third big shelf, but he worried about indulging ourselves with too much storage (is there such a thing?!?) that we would then fill up.
In the Garage
I want to finish quickly with a short discussion about our garage. In almost all of our past homes, our garage has served as our “deep storage” area (and I for-see that being a situation in our next home as well)…so we are well-accustomed to not parking our cars in the garage. However, we’ve also learned that a big open garage is an invitation for piles to accumulate and quickly spiral out of control. So after living for months with so much on the ground (aaaaaalll the wheeled toys!), we decided to apply the same free-standing, vertical storage concept to the garage as well.
We purchased the 3-tier version of the same basement shelves so we can hopefully mix-and-match in future homes. Like in the basement, we love that they are sizable and sturdy enough to hold a lot of heavy, odd-sized items; and we particularly like that they don’t require us to drill into the dry-wall but still perfectly fit along the outside perimeter of the garage. Although I don’t (yet!) have these shelves looking as snazzy as the basement ones, they’ve allowed us to keep our garage picked up and even park one car inside!
Without a doubt, finding spots to efficiently and functionally organize “deep storage” items in a rental is super tricky. We’ve tried all sorts of things over the years, yet it took me 8 homes to finally figure out that we don’t have to rely on the home to have storage and can invest in our own instead. I realize not every rental has extra space like garages, basements, or attics to accommodate shelves like these. But even thinking back to the homes we’ve already lived in, these shelves would have worked every single time.
If you are in need of deep storage in a rental, I challenge you to look around and see if there is a garage, attic, wall, hallway, spare room, under-stair nook or even a shed you can use. Then outfit it with a good yet flexible storage system. There’s a good chance it will work no matter what home you find yourself in down the road, and I believe it to be well worth your investment!