A faux garage in Cambridge

or how I decked out my storage unit

Our storage unit in the shared, unfinished basement of our 1890 condo had turned into a dark, scary dumping ground for stuff we didn’t need (but didn’t want to deal with) and a whole bunch of stuff we did need but couldn’t access! Time for a fix!

Constraints

  • nothing stored against the (damp, dusty, floodable) walls and floor
    • floor storage units are tricky because of the uneven, crumbly floors
    • wall storage units are tricky because there are no actual walls, and the exposed “studs” are >18” apart
  • everything sealed because of said dampness, dust, and silverfish (ew!)

Storage Requirements

  • easy access to:
    • all 4 bikes and helmets
    • bike accessories
    • kids’ outdoor toys
  • organized storage for:
    • holiday accessories
    • car camping
    • sentimental items
    • backpacking gear
    • beach stuff

Storage unit Yikes. :expressionless:

It occurred to me that our problem is a widely-cited reason for parents to ditch urban living and move to the ‘burbs for space (like a garage). :anguished: I spent several post-kids-bedtime evenings over the course of two months heading down to our storage unit to take measurements and scour the internet for inspiration pictures and products that might meet our requirements.

Here is how the space looks now:

Storage unit HUGE IMPROVEMENT! :heart_eyes: :relaxed:

The Process

After deciding on the solution, I ordered everything I (thought) I’d need in advance. My parents watched my 2- and 4-year-old for ~36 hours over the weekend, and that was my timeframe constraint to finish all construction.

Storage unit Step 1: Move our junk out of our unit, AND relocate everyone else’s junk that had been blocking access to our unit.

The floor: We first laid down these interlocking deck tiles. I didn’t realize how uneven the floor was until we moved all of our stuff out. Our in-the-moment decision was to fill the giant ditches with foam mats. (TBD if that was a good idea…) I borrowed a circular saw and tabletop jigsaw to cut the tiles to fit into corners, against the 130-year-old stackstone foundation, and around support posts.

Storage unit 11:42 P.M. My only picture before loading everything back in (so you can see the floor).

The shelves: The lack of drywall and nonstandard stud spacing limited our wall shelf options drastically. The optimal solution given our constraints was this Everbilt heavy-duty wire frame system where we could cut the 12’ shelves to size exactly with a bolt cutter and had flexibility with where the vertical rails attached to studs. IMHO, this is overpriced for what it is (but was the only way to have shelves that spanned this full “wall”).

Storage unit No front vertical supports = flexible bin size and access to move and put things away easily.

The slat wall: How do we get four bikes to fit? :persevere: Vertical storage! :smile: I went with the Proslat system because I could cut the slats to fill the whole wall and hang helmets and the bike pump with the hanging bikes.

Storage unit We needed to add vertical support framing for the slats to take the weight of the bikes. It was snowing during construction day, but it was the only time we had to get the project done! :muscle:

Storage unit SUCCESS! How cute are those little 14-inch and balance bikes? :bicyclist: In truth, my 4- and 2-year-old can’t get their bikes on and off this wall (yet). But the grown-ups can finally walk in to help them, though!

Getting rid of stuff

Surprise? The biggest and most time-consuming part of this project was getting rid of stuff! I…

  • made trips to our local recycling center to get rid of broken appliances and spare metal parts.
  • drove out to Roxbury over two nights to recycle scrap wood and warped wood risers at a construction debris dropoff site.
  • returned (years overdue) unused supplies to Ikea.
  • donated an absurd amount of white paint to our local Somerville theater group.
  • sold extra wall and flooring tiles on FB Marketplace
  • gave away unused furniture (folding chairs, carts), baby items, construction materials (grout, wood floor finish, paint samples) and so many other things on the FB Buy Nothing Cambridge group.

My proudest moment of this project has been that nothing ended up in the trash.

Final touches

Storage unit Shelves reloaded with organized, labeled bins (my fave) !

Storage unit Kids’ corner for kids to access their stuff! This big mesh shoulder bag is AMAZING for heading outdoors with babies.

Storage unit I have had this set of drawers since my freshman year of college, and it continues to work for us! I popped off the bottom drawer and keep small, highly-accessed items here now.

Storage unit An extremely annoying thing to store is our amazing Saris bike rack (with its straps and hooks catching on everything). A fancy pillow purchased years ago came in this clear PVC bag with handles, and storing our bike rack in this has been perfect :astonished:.

Cost breakdown

Item Cost (+ tax/shipping)
Everbilt shelves, shelf brackets, vertical supports, horizontal hang tracks, end caps 750.35
ProSlat 8’x4’ set 212.49
interlocking deck tiles 212.48
ProSlat bike wall hooks 63.73
two used clear ball bins 57.20
sukkah and s’chach storage bag 56.39
bolt cutter 50.97
wood screws and metal joint supports 43.66
IRIS 74qt WeatherPro box 37.20
two 110qt clear bins 31.85
ProSlat other wall hooks 30.80
long “underbed” 56qt box 30.68
heavy-duty long cable ties 21.23
extra 2x4 lumber for wall studs 19.55
SOLD baby carrier backpack +175
SOLD baby beach toys, beach tent, and kiddie pool +50
SOLD 10 sq ft of porcelain tiles +50
SOLD clip-on high chair +35
SOLD camp tent storage bag +15
TOTAL $1293.58
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