Whether you’re just setting up your van to live in or you’re looking for new van storage ideas you know that organizing your space is extremely important. If your contents aren’t organized very well you’ll be falling over yourself or you’ll find yourself moving half the contents of the van just to get to the one thing you need that always seems to be behind everything else.
Storing items in your van home can be as simple as using plastic totes, plastic drawers and milk crates.
In this article, I’ll share a few “rules of thumb”, give you more details about using totes, drawers and crates for storage along with a few tips n tricks to consider when setting up your van to live in.
A Few Rules of Thumb
When organizing your van there are a few rules to live by to keep your tiny house on wheels in tip-top order.
These are no brainer rules but I’ll say them anyway:
- The items you use most should be readily accessible.
- Items rarely used can be placed where access may not be as easy.
- For the items rarely used, consider whether or not you need the item in the first place.
- Any item that can be used for multiple purposes is a winner!
If you’re new to van life there WILL be a learning period. You’ll most likely re-organize your van several times before you find a method that works best for you.
Don’t let it discourage you. It’s simply part of the process and you WILL figure it out.
Just keep moving forward!
Simple Van Storage Ideas
The nice thing about living in a small space is it’s very easy it is to keep it clean and tidy.
A downside of living in a small space is it’s very easy for it to become disorganized.
There are 2 key factors to keeping your van organized and your sanity intact:
- First, everything must have a place (the van storage ideas I’m about to share with you will help with that).
- Second, be as diligent as possible about putting things back where you got them!
Here are a few simple van storage ideas:
In my post 5 Ideas For A Simple DIY Camper Van Bed – Easy Van Conversion I wrote about a fellow van-dweller who only used plastic totes – for everything!
His entire conversion consisted of totes.
He used totes for his bed, as a work space, for storage and, well, everything.
His use of totes probably leans toward the extreme side but the take-away is that we can use most anything in our van conversion and we can keep it simple.
Totes come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. They easily store under the bed, in a corner, in drawers, on the passenger seat or anywhere your imagination can come up with.
If you’re considering using cardboard boxes instead of plastic totes… I strongly recommend you DON’T!
The boxes can become damp which means the contents can become damp and ruined.
Where there’s dampness there’s also a chance for mold. Certain creepy crawlies also love damp areas and spiders love cardboard boxes whether they’re damp or not.
Good places to find plastic totes are garage sales, thrift stores, dollar stores, Walmart or Amazon.
All-In-One Plastic Drawer Sets
My list of van storage ideas also includes plastic drawers. These drawers are a lightweight storage option for your tiny home on wheels.
Drawers can be found the same places you find the totes that I mentioned above. Plastic drawers come in a variety of sizes and colors.
If you’re wondering how to keep the drawers from sliding around… velcro and duck tape will work wonders!
In the image below you can see how plastic drawers fit perfectly under the table.
Three separate all-in-one drawer sections were used – the section on the left comes in a tower of 4 drawers, the middle section has 5 drawers and the one on the right has 3 drawers.
In a closer view (below), you can see how the drawers are attached to the table legs with double sided velcro.
Double sided velcro sticks to itself and is a very useful item for many, many purposes. I recommend the Velcro name brand as other brands I’ve tried aren’t as strong and don’t hold as well.
The orange rectangles on the left side of the image show where double sided velcro was wrapped around the table leg and through the side of the plastic drawer frame (you’ll need to take the drawers out in order to wrap the velcro around the frame).
Double sided velcro was also used to link each drawer section together (shown in the orange rectangle on the right side of the image).
The purple rectangle shows how the drawers are kept closed while in transit. Some people use bungee cords but, in this case, a combination of industrial strength sticky velcro and double sided velcro were used.
Industrial strength velcro is more expensive but it works best and it’s very reliable.
Here’s how the velcro set up works on the plastic drawers:
- Cut industrial strength velco into 1 1/2 inch long strips by 1/2 inch wide. These measurements are approximate and don’t need to be exact.
- Stick one piece of industrial strength velcro on to the side of the drawer. This is where you’ll be attaching double sided velcro later on.
- Stick another piece of industrial strength velcro on to the front of the drawer. This is where you’ll be attaching double sided velcro later on.
- Now, attach double sided velcro to the industrial strength velcro that you just stuck to the side of the drawer.
- Pull the double sided velcro around so that it attaches to the industrial strength velcro you stuck to the front of the drawer.
- Cut the double sided velcro leaving about 1/2 inch to grab onto when you want to open the drawer.
If you’re confused, just follow the steps I’ve outlined above without actually sticking the velcro on to the drawers until you get an idea how it works and you know where you want to place it.
In case you accidentally stick the industrial strength velcro where you didn’t want it, believe it or not, you can remove it fairly easily and restick it.
To open the drawer just pull the double sided velcro from the front and open the drawer (you don’t need to remove the entire piece of velcro – just remove it from the front so the drawer opens).
An optional way to keep the drawers closed is a clip:
But You Can See What’s In The Clear Plastic Drawers!
The plastic drawers in the images above are clear and you can see what’s in them.
If you’re like me and don’t want all your junk in plain view there’s an easy fix.
Go to Walmart and buy whatever color poster board you like. The poster board comes in single sheets and is inexpensive (currently around $1 a sheet depending on the size you get).
Measure to the best of your ability and cut the poster board to size. Then, slide the poster board in to the front of the drawer.
If you don’t cut it exact… no worries! It’s a pretty forgiving process but try to cut it bigger than needed rather than smaller. It’s much easier to trim it down.
You don’t need tape or glue. The posterboard simply stands by itself in the front pocket of the drawer
Individual Stacking Plastic Drawers
Some plastic drawers come in a single, all-in-one piece consisting of multiple drawers. But, there’s a brand (Sterilite) that also has individual stacking drawers allowing you can make your own custom plastic drawer set.
The problem with individually stacking drawers is they simply stack on top of each other and can move or tip while in transit.
There’s a simple fix for that! It’s velcro and duck (duct) tape.
In my own van, I have these individual drawers by Sterilite. I love these drawers because they come in various sizes and I can make the drawer set how I want it and to fit where I need it to fit.
I found these drawers at Walmart but not all Walmart stores keep them in stock. Amazon has the drawers as well.
I connect the drawers together with white duck tape (I probably use more duck tape than needed but I want it to stay together).
Why white tape? Because that’s the color of the drawers but any color that trips your trigger will work!
I simply pull the drawers out and wrap duck tape around the frames until I’m satisfied that it’s sturdy and won’t come apart.
The tape has never gotten in the way of opening and closing the drawers.
To attach the plastic drawer unit to the wall, I place a strip of industrial strength velcro on the back of the plastic drawer set and another strip of industrial strength velcro on the wall of my van. Then, I connect them together and this is how I keep the drawers from moving.
My van walls are bare metal and the velcro works well.
Another item in my arsenal of van storage ideas is milk crates. Some people call them egg crates but, whatever you call them, they’re an easy storage option for items that don’t easily fit in drawers or other places.
Walmart has an inexpensive knock-off type of milk crate that works well. The crates are typically found in the office section and can also be used to store hanging files.
The large crates work nicely under the bed and they are stackable.
Mini Milk Crates For Wall Storage
A simple way to add more storage on the wall is mini milk crates!
I happened to find these mini-milk crates in the office section at Walmart.
I thought they’d work well for extra storage in an otherwise wasted space so I bought a few and came up with a way for them to hang on my wall.
It worked so well that I ended up going back to buy more!
To hang them on the wall I use Command strips and hooks. I position the Command strip hooks so that the open loop of the crate hangs over the Command hook.
I use the bigger Command hooks and the crates have never fallen off – even when the driving gets bumpy.
Although they’ve never fallen off, as a precaution, I don’t put super heavy or breakable items in these crates.
When needed, the crates easily lift off and gently slide back on to the hooks.
The Command strips work on metal, wood and other material but, as with anything you do, you’ll need to determine if they’re the right item for your van setup.
What Do I store In The Mini-Crates?
The items I store in my mini-crates changes as I move around the country.
I typically store clothing or items that I’m currently using. The mini-crates make it very easy to grab-n-go and I don’t have to dig around for the items I need.
When I’m camping in the desert the crates might hold my fuzzy or thermal socks and other cold weather items (in the winter months it can get downright cold at night in the desert!).
But, when I’m hanging out on the warm Florida coast, I like to keep tee shirts, capri’s and other warm weather items handy.
More Van Storage Ideas and Tips N Tricks
There are a few additional words of wisdom I’d like to share about storing items in your van.
- Store items with the pre-notion that it could be affected by the elements (aka the weather).
- Never use cardboard boxes to store items. The cardboard is subject to the elements and can get damp and/or draw bugs.
- Use plastic baggies for items that don’t fit well into plastic bins or drawers. Or, use the baggies to organize bulky items that you put in bins or drawers. The baggies also help protect the items from moisture and unwanted critters.
- 2 gallon or 2.5 gallon ziplock bags are great to have on hand because they hold and protect bigger items. This size of bag can be found at some Walmart stores but, if all else fails, Amazon usually has it.
I prefer the 2 gallon baggies over the vacuum seal bags because they’re easier to manage and much less of a pain to seal (I also don’t have a vacuum cleaner to suck the air out!).
One thing I keep in a 2 gallon baggie is a complete change of clothing. I keep it in the back, under the bed so that I’m not tempted to use it for every day use. This way I always have a complete outfit that’s clean and in good shape. I’ve only used it once but I was glad I had it for a situation where I needed to look “presentable”.
There are more ways to store items in your van than what I’ve shared above (like a mesh cargo net strung across the ceiling). You simply need to let your imagination run wild!
I like to keep it simple so I’ve given you the basic van storage ideas that many van-dwellers (including myself) use in one form or another.
As always, feel free to tweak these ideas to meet your own personal wants and needs.
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