Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Cart creates huge amount of LEGO storage in 2 feet of floor space.

With three boys, I've been battling an ever-creeping LEGO problem for several years now. I've looked for storage solutions online, at LEGO shops, at home improvement stores and big-box retailers. This year, I realized it's not the loose bricks causing the problem. It's the finished creations.

There are hundreds of ways to store loose bricks, from buckets, to open bins, to plastic totes, to tool boxes. But where do your children store those finished creations that took hours to build? Those creations become precious works of art. Once they fall apart or are destroyed (sometimes by a younger sibling), many can't be easily rebuilt because the pieces become impossible to find.

In my house, there simply isn't enough display space to accommodate the imaginations of three boys. My first solution? Cookie sheets, sometimes called bun pans or jellyroll pans. They are light enough to carry, sturdy enough to build on, have four edges to contain the bricks and are large enough to hold all the pieces of a work-in-progress. They are the perfect portable building surface. They also easily slide under the bed for out-of-sight storage.

The problem with my first solution? My boys got so many LEGOs for Christmas this year, I found myself without any free cookie sheets. Every single one of them held a LEGO work-in-progress. There were so many building projects, they no longer fit under the beds. I had cookie sheets AND loose LEGOs covering the floors, bookshelves, dresser tops and under-the-bed spaces. My boys' bedrooms became so clogged I couldn't reach their beds to change the sheets.

So I problem-solved my first solution, inspired by a Pinterest find. Megan, founder of OmahaHa!, had the same LEGO conundrum in her house, and found the same solution with the same cookie sheets. She also discovered the same frustration. Cookie sheets work to a certain extent, but still take up valuable surface real estate. She decided if you can't build out, build up, and turned a second-hand bun pan rack into a mobile LEGO storage cart. It's a truly inspired idea.
(To see Megan's original post:

I worked at a bakery during my college years, so I knew exactly what Megan was talking about. Bun pan racks come in half or full sizes and can be end-loading or side-loading. The full-size racks are a little over 5 feet tall and have around 20 rails, spaced a few inches apart, specifically designed to hold cookie sheets! They also have a relatively small footprint and wheels, which makes them ideal for small rooms.

End-loading bun pan rack
Dimensions: 20" x 26" x 69"

Unfortunately, a local search for a used bun pan rack didn't turn up anything that wasn't missing several rails. I wasn't willing to wait for anything ordered online to arrive, not to mention new ones are pretty expensive. I also have a tiny house. Even the slimmest bun pan rack would seem cumbersome in my boys' rooms.

So I took Megan's inspired solution one step further. I built my own slim-lined version of a bun pan rack. I started with the dimensions of the cookies sheets, factored in how many rails I wanted, how much space I wanted between each rail and went from there. I made the cabinet out of one 4'x8' sheet of plywood, several 8' sections of pine trim for the rails and a couple 8' lengths of 1x2s for the framework. I also added wheels to make it mobile.

 Voila! My LEGO cabinet. Look at all that storage!
Final footprint: 14 1/2" x 18 7/8"! It may be small, but it's mighty!

But I wasn't done yet. I'm a firm believer in waste-not, want-not. I had some leftover pieces from cutting the trim for the rails. I painted them, hot-glued flat LEGOs to the top, added some Velcro Command strips to the backs, and stuck them to one side of the cabinet for mini-figurine storage. The boys can take off a rail, switch out their figurines and snap the rail back onto the cabinet. Neat and tidy. Love those Velcro Command strips!

Mini figurine storage

All in all, this cabinet has been such a huge success, I may just have to make another.

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