Cardboard Cubbies




About: Let's see...I am an old woman trapped inside the body of a nubile young woman with orange hair. I am constantly crafting...most of the time I'm working on one project and building another in my mind. I am ...

Do you have a lot of stuff, and not a lot of space to store it in? Do you lack the cash flow required to hire an organizer or find that perfect storage system? I have stumbled upon the perfect (read: free) cure for clutter.

I was trying to clean around my sewing stuff one day. I recall trying to shove things behind a bookcase just to get them out of the way, but I was having a hard time. I went around to the other side of the bookcase to pull out the guilty obstruction, and found 4 (of many) flattened boxes. It was at this time, I heard a ringing in my ears, and everything went white. I had the sensation I was floating, and I heard a voice all around me booming, "Cubbies!"

I awoke several hours later with a slight headache and a mission. That mission was to build...

Cardboard Cubbies.

Step 1: Supplies

OK, so here are the supplies I used:
X-acto knife with a bigger rounded blade, for cutting cardboard
A ruler, or solid straight edge, for cutting straight lines
A Glue Gun, for gluing box flaps
Many, many glue gun sticks, ammunition for the glue gun
Spray paint, for the inside of box
Any sort of paint, for outside of box
Paint Brush, for obvious reasons
A solid surface you don't mind getting paint on, to protect your rented floor, I used...surprise! flattened boxes.
A frightening amount of sh...stuff.
An iPod to keep you entertained. I listened to Jello Biafra and the Melvins...It was motivating and very diy appropriate.
A curious cat that should not be so close to knives, spray paint, hot glue guns, etc.

*Cat can be replaced with any domesticated animal, or clingy person.

Step 2: Prepare the Boxes

Be very careful when using an x-acto knife to cut cardboard...or anything for that matter...

I have found that the #10 x-acto blade works best for cutting thick materials, but use whatever you got around...
Using your straight edge, remove the flaps from the of the box. Don't throw the extra pieces away, 'cause we'll use 'em in the next step...

Step 3: Summon the Cardboard Cubbie...

Grab your glue gun, 'cause we're going to glue those bottom flaps down. First, you want to fold down your two longer flaps to be sure they line up correctly...If one side overlaps the other, the box will list to one side (scope the finished picture, the far left top box), also, it doesn't look as clean. You can use a piece of tape to make sure those two flaps stay flush while you are gluing.
Then you'll apply the glue to the shorter flap, then quickly flip the box over and press the flap down from inside the box. If you press from the outside those long flaps are going to bow in under the pressure and you won't get good contact between the glue and the cardboard. Scope the 3rd picture if I'm not making sense. Repeat on the other side.
When all your flaps are glued you want to check to make sure they're not lifting in anyway. Wedge the tip of your glue gun in between the flap and the box, squeeze some glue on that mother...(Once again if I am being nonsensical, picture 4 is worth a thousand words).

Step 4: Hulk Your Cubbie Out!

Now we're going to glue in those flaps we cut off the top of the box in step 2 to add strength (Read: so your cubbies don't sag under the weight of your sh...stuff). Basically you want to glue the short flaps onto the short sides and the long flaps on the long sides... Try and place your flap along the center of the box, going from left to right. This should be simple, as it's the only way they fit logically.

Step 5: Now the Fun Part...!

Any part of the procedure that includes spray paint is the fun part to me. We're going to paint the inside of our boxes so they look extra cool when they're full of stuff. Also, people won't look at them and automatically think "boxes."
Being cheap and lazy, I gave the inside of my boxes a pretty light spray, and they came out lookin' hella bling...*cough, cough* sorry...

Step 6: Add More Color!!

Give the outsides of your boxes a coat paint that will contrast nicely with the inside of your boxes. I used some army green leftover from house painting that, paired with the gold, preserved our Paris-Hilton-as-Political-Terrorist palette.
To save time, consider only painting the sides of the box you will see. It saved me tons of time, and I tracked half as much green paint throughout my apartment...
Once you have finished your painting, let the boxes dry thoroughly. If you stack 'em together while they're still wet, they'll basically glue together, and you lose the modular aspect...

Step 7: Stack 'em Up and Shove Sh..stuff In!!

Pat yourself on the back for being so patient during the drying process...Sometimes, that's the most taxing time of a craft....drying time...
Set your cubbies up, and fill 'em in! I was surprised that I had to actually look for more stuff to put inside them (thus clearing up space in other rooms!!)...

Step 8: TA-DAH!!!!

You have successfully made furniture from cardboard boxes. And hopefully you think it looks as good as I do.
Here are some variations:
Use different sized boxes for a more visually interesting look.
Finish the raw edges of the boxes with some copper tape, ribbon, strips of paper, colored duct tape, fabric cording...basically anything that is flat and could be glued....
If you know how, make an instructable on how to add some LED lights, or just buy some pop lights to showcase your sh...stuff
Add extra cardboard between the rows of boxes to strengthen them further.
I'm leaving a box open so there's a spot for that damn cat to hang out while I craft (I switched the two boxes so the empty one was on the bottom)...

I myself plan to add curtains to mine so I don't have to stare at my sh...stuff, so keep your eyes peeled for an instructable on that...
I'm also considering some sort of lid so when I have to move again, I can just slam lids on those puppies and be done with it.

Additionally, this is my first instructable, so please, please, please lemme know if I left anything vital out or committed some heinous faux pas...Good luck and have fun!



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    28 Discussions


    2 years ago

    That looks simple and fun and i am excited to make it. My friend has a messy house and needs storage, so i am super excited to do this project. :)


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Haha! I was hoping that staring at the antifreeze boxes (boxes with a 'shelf' in the center to balance the heavy bottles, also doubly strong than normal cardboard, and you don't even usually have to modify them much aside from cutting the top flaps off!) at work and getting the idea to use them as modular shelving was a novel one, however you have beaten me, my dear genius! Regardless, this is brilliant, as I was sort of trying to figure out how to.. un-boxify them in appearance. Mmmyess.

    *strokes her chin and ponders* XD


    10 years ago on Introduction

    What happened to people using milk crates? Free, reusable, and you don't need to spray paint, which makes for a healthier solution all in all.

    2 replies

    too true! But, they're also easily returned. If I were to move to a different city, I'd definitely drop my collection off somewhere appropriate, and "find" some at my new destination.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I really like this instructable. Not only very useful and adaptable, it was entertaining, too! I see my office space / craft table having some modular box shelving in its near future!

    If you want to make lids for your box-shelving, I saw another instructable here that shows how to make boxes. You could easily make lids using his methods.


    11 years ago on Step 1

    "Curiosity killed the cat" was the theme sog for "Peeping Penguins" .. Gotta love Max Fleischer. :-)

    3 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Step 1

    And we have a winner!! You get free instructions on how to make cardboard cubbies and the confidence that comes with being able to identify a random iggy pop song!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I think this is a great idea. I love the gold but i might cover mine with fabric.