I encourage our boys to keep stuff in their proper place.
Puzzles in this plastic bin. Random Star Wars toys in that bin. But inevitably, it’s difficult to find things once they go in the bin. You have to pull out stuff and place the things you don’t want in the other box. Because of this storage dilemma, I’ve been on the hunt to find a suitable and cost-effective storage of shelving unit for our kids’ stuff. But who wants to pay $-$$-$$$? If you’ve got the time, some crafting supplies, and a local store that is willing to
donate (give you) cardboard boxes (they were going to toss them away anyway), well, why not make a storage unit or bookcase out of cardboard?
large cardboard pieces
Aleene’s Tacky Glue
pencil or pen/marker
ruler (long or t-bar)
Contact liner or wrapping paper (not shown)
Clear packaging tape (not shown)
duct tape (white)
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Step 1. Find suitable cardboard boxes and/or large cardboard pieces.
I picked up four Downy boxes from Costco for free. I also picked up a large one piece that Costco uses between boxed layers, also free.
DIY HINT: It’s important to choose the right cardboard box. When you go shopping for the perfect cardboard box, I like to find ones that have a sturdy backing and bottom, especially for this project, since your kids will be using it and holding objects of varying weight.
Step 2. Layout and Design.
You need to decide how you will design and layout your boxes. In my case, I had four of the same boxes.
Step 3. Secure the sides of the box.
If you picked up the Downy box, this box has an additional cardboard piece inside. I cut that piece of cardboard into two (where the crease is marked). Using Aleene’s Tacky Glue, I cut to size and glued the smaller piece to the side of the box. Below, you can see why I added another piece there – to create stability and for design purposes.
NOTE: You only need to do this on one side. See Step 2 photo above. Here’s why.
Remember your design? You only need to add one piece to the left and one to the right for each layer of shelving you make. This means, two left and two right sides.
Step 4. Tape the boxes together.
Here’s the easy part. Tape the boxes from the inside. Take the lower U-part as well on the inside to stabilize your box. You should do this two times. At this step, you will have two layers of boxes to work with.
Stack one box layer on top of the other, making sure that the boxes match up on all sides. Next, using clear packaging tape, tape where the box layers meet – all the way around.
Step 5. Cut out the rounded edges on the inside.
Trust me, you will thank me for this. Using an X-ACTO knife, carefully cut out the rounded edges to make the shelving a rectangular shape.
It will look like this when finished:
Step 6. Add a top.
Using the large flat cardboard piece, I measured and cut the top to size (mostly cutting from the left and right side). You can see partial double layer for the top piece. I scored the cardboard piece to create the double layer. Then I scored the cardboard piece on the back end to cover the back of the now four boxes.
Step 7. Cover the box.
This step gets a little tricky. It’s like wrapping a present with several openings.
DIY HINT: Think about your fabric pattern. I used a chevron design, so I needed to be aware of which way the design on fabric would lay on the box. If you are using a solid piece, you will have a much easier time wrapping the boxes. (See my Cardboard Kitchen Tutorial 2.0 Project to see how a solid piece makes your construction time go much faster.)
Here, I wrapped the top and sides. I left most of the back exposed since it will be facing the wall. I cut and taped (using Scotch tape) to wrap the colorful paper to the inside of the box.
Carefully matching a new piece of wrapping paper, I added another piece of wrapping paper to the front of the box.
With the pieces matching, I taped it to the box, so that I can securely cut away at the openings.
Using an X-ACTO knife, I cut from the top to the middle. I also cut away to the corners, so that I can ensure that everything is covered. I cut the large piece of wrapping out and taped the wrapping paper to the inside of the box. I used packaging tape because it will be stronger than using Scotch tape.
Step 8. Add duct tape to the edges.
You don’t need to use duct tape. You can use clear packaging tape the secure the edging if you like. I had leftover white duct tape from a LEGO hands project sitting around, which would help clear out my crafting drawers.
Measure, cut, and place white duct tape to the front corners of the box. It helps with the bumping and bruising over the next several years of play.
Measure, cut, and add duct tape (teal, shown below) for the inner parts of the box.
Cut and wrap teal duct tape to the inside of the box (x4).
Step 9. Voila! Project complete!
You now have a functional and pretty storage or shelving bookcase for your little ones to organize their rooms.
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QUESTION: So how long will this cardboard box last? It all depends on your little ones. Our cardboard kitchen is still going strong after a year of play. Our first cardboard kitchen lasted about two years before one friend thought that the kitchen was a present and started to tear away at the contact paper. I didn’t wrap the corners on the first cardboard kitchen, which was why it was easy to start tearing away at the paper. Thus, covering the edges and corners of any box is key to making it last. Also, when the cardboard box is done or if you are moving, you can toss it and make a new one at your new place. Now, who doesn’t love that?
Got questions about this project? Ask in the comments below. Want to share how your cardboard bookcase/storage unit turned out? Let me know in the comments section. I would love to see how it turned out.
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