Being Womanly

DIY Saturday – PVC Tote Storage Organizer


When I started this blog I said that I would include different kinds of posts…including craft ideas. This will be my first post of something my hubby and I actually did in our garage. It was one of the first ideas I pinned from Pinterest and it was inspired by the following picture:

by Studio 5

This seemed like a perfect solution to our problem. We have over 50 totes of various sizes stacked in our garage…most of them holding Christmas decorations. (I go a little crazy at Christmas time.) Anyway, it never failed. Regardless of how we planned, we would always need the tote at the bottom of the stack. At the end of Christmas, we would take extra time and put the totes back in a particular order…knowing how we typically decorate the house. It didn’t matter…we would still need totes at the bottom of the stack. With a system similar to the above, we could access every single tote individually…whenever we needed it.

Now, the above picture looks wonderful because all the totes are the same size (and color). My totes all hold approximately the same capacity (18 gallons), but since they were all purchased at different times and from different manufacturers, they are different colors and their outside dimensions varied. And, even as OCD as I am, I wasn’t about to go out and purchase brand new matching totes. So, I needed to come up with a universal ‘cube’ which accommodated all of my totes. And I did!!

However, I want to explain that the above system is not cheap but it is extremely easy to assemble. Using 3/4″ PVC, the pipe by itself cost under $100 and we ended up with two large completed racks on both sides of our garage. What cost over $400 were the various connectors. Our local Lowe’s and Home Depot did not carry the connectors we needed. They did have alternatives but we calculated that they would cost approximately the same as we would be using two for every one in our design. And we would have been making many more ‘cuts’ in the PVC. We even went to a local plumbing supplier and while they could have gotten us what we needed, it would have cost over double what we paid from our supplier online. I’ll talk more about the connector’s later but search for your connectors online as that will be the cheapest way to go. But, if you aren’t a carpenter or experienced building shelving with wood, this is a comparable alternative to wood shelves.

My plan was designed as a cube with a connector in every corner. It was 17″ high by 17″ wide by 13″ deep. The cube is shorter in depth because you want the totes to rest on the bottom edges. Here is a picture of how it started and how it progressed.

As you can see, there is a connector in every corner. Some are 3-way connectors, some are 4-way and some are 5-way. For me to calculate what I would need, I actually made a diagram on paper and calculated quantities for each one. I had to put it down on paper or I couldn’t visualize it. I would suggest that you do the same. Measure your space and work accordingly.

Here are pictures of what I mean by 3-way, 4-way, and 5-way connectors:

These did the trick. I’m sure by looking at them, you can see how and where they would be used. And, the wonderful thing about this PVC project is that you don’t have to glue anything. Everything snaps into place, but it can be taken apart if you want to adjust your bins or take it with you when you move. And because we only had two sizes to cut of the PVC pipe (17″ and 13″), hubby was able to cut it all at once with a chop saw, and then we could just assemble. The assembly went VERY fast. Here is a picture of the finished product:

Now we did one last thing. We had originally written on the totes what was inside using permanent marker. And, sometimes we changed what was inside so that meant we had to scratch it out and write something new. I wanted everything to look as neat and consistent as possible. So, first we took some elbow grease…okay…a LOT of elbow grease… and scrubbed off the markings. (Note: Even permanent marker can be removed. You can Google “how to remove permanent marker from plastic totes’ for hints on how to do this.)

Then, we attached some adhesive pocket sleeves on the front of each tote. I found these at Gaylord Brothers (

The ones I selected were 2″ high by 3-1/2″ wide and were about $23.00 for 250 of them. This was much cheaper than any of the file drawer labels or brackets that I found.

Using my label maker and some 3 X 5 file cards cut to fit the sleeve, I labeled each tote. To be sure that these sleeves line up, I measured from the bottom of the tote. When you have different size totes like we have, the top will be at various heights. But the bottom will always be the same. And the best part…if I need to relabel what’s in a tote, I can just change out the card.

Here is some pictures of the finished product:

As you can see, we actually adjusted one column of cubes to accommodate one of our Christmas trees. Originally, we had planned for this to go horizontally, but the cubes on top of it started bowing. Once we changed it to a vertical set-up, it worked perfectly. That’s what so wonderful about this system. You can take it apart and adjust it as needed.

I hope I’ve inspired you to organize some of your totes. Thanks for visiting my first DIY Saturday project.