How to build a cat shelter with plastic bins

Winter weather can be deadly for our feline friends.

If you’re  a cat lover like me, it can be difficult to ignore the feral kitties that come begging for food. Sometimes these felines come knocking, but for whatever reason we just cannot welcome them into our homes. That doesn’t mean we can’t help.

The colder months are creeping in on us. Whether you have feral cats that roam your yard or just prefer letting your pets explore the outdoors, plastic bins can be used to make some inexpensive, very cozy kitty homes.

How to build a cat shelter

The easiest way to create a DIY cat shelter is by stacking two different sized plastic bins. Use a large plastic bin as the main unit, cutting  entrance and exit holes. Then place the smaller bin inside and cut matching holes. From here, fill the space between the bins with your choice of insulation to help maintain body heat. Put the lid on the smaller bin and place more insulation on top. Next, put the lid on top of the large bin and – voila – kitty house!

Ideas for insulation include: blankets, foam insulation and straw. If you’re not sold on the plastic bins, consider:

  • A styrofoam cooler
  • Picnic cooler
  • Storage bins

What to keep in mind

When building an outdoor shelter for family or feral cats, remember:

  • Keep shelters away from dogs!
  • Keep shelters out of sight from any indoor cats you may have. When indoor kitties get a glimpse of other strange cats roaming around their domain, it may trigger some aggressive behavior inside the home.
  • Consider cutting two entrances so cats have an escape if confronted by opossums, raccoons or other rodents.

Photo courtesy

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Go paperless with the help of plastic bins

The idea of a paperless kitchen can be overwhelming — and usually it inspires the same thought process. “A paperless kitchen,” the first thought typically is, “… that means more laundry!”

How does this relate to plastic bins? Bear with me.

Yes, if you decide to make this transition, you will be using – and washing – more linens. But if you utilize the right pieces and organize yourself, you will be only be doing laundry just as often as you were before. The easiest way to keep laundry at a minimum is giving yourself somewhere to throw kitchen rags when you’re done with them – some sort of plastic bin, perhaps.

I cannot recommend the Cabinet Door Mount Waste Bin enough. This handy bin hides out of sight while keeping dirty rags covered and consolidated. The handy design mounts to the inside of any standard cabinet door. Add one – or two – to control kitchen clutter.

Find this product and more like it at

Plastic Bins to Keep In Your Car

Collapsible CrateWe all sing the praises of how useful plastic bins are for storage around the home, but what about in the car?  Turns out they can help with so many things outside of the home as well!

Here is a run down of how to pick and what to use for different types of plastic bins in your car:

  • Collapsible Crate – These fold flat and can be used for everything from keeping grocery bags upright to eliminating your use of grocery bags all together!
  • Lidded Plastic Box –  A small, file size lidded plastic box is a wonderful thing in the trunk of a car.  There are a million plus uses for it.  Here, just a few that I can think of:
  • Extra Shoes – after a day in the mud (or after an unfortunate step in doggie waste), you can rest assured that your carpet and upholstery will remain stain (and stink) free thanks to extra shoes and a container in which to put the dirty ones.
  • Hiking/Nature Kit:  If you find yourself spending more and more time outdoors these days, why not stock your car with essential tools for enjoying nature such as a frisbee, binoculars and sunblock.
  • Emergency Kit – This goes without saying, every car should keep a fully stocked emergency kit for both roadside emergencies and weather emergencies.  Toss a first aid kit in there as well for last minute injuries and illness.
  • Kids Kit – Not just for the trunk, plastic bins find uses all over the car.  In the front passenger seat, moms and dads can set up a kids kit for unexpected delays in the car.  Stock it with items such as snacks, water, coloring supplies, toys, and a few good kids music CDs.  Next time you find yourself in traffic, you will be thankful to have all of this stuff on hand to avoid messy tantrums that are caused by bored, tired or hungry little ones.

Now that you have your home storage under control, get a grip on that car where we spend more and more time these days with some handy, compact plastic bins!

Plastic Bins WITHOUT their Lids…what to do with them?

reg-44212Maybe you have an old plastic storage box lying around but are missing the lid.  Or maybe  you have an old keg bucket with rope handles that you don’t need anymore for its original use.  Or perhaps you stumbled upon an old plastic garbage can in the garage that you don’t use anymore.  If you find any of these treasures lying around the house, inside or out, and want to do the responsible thing and reuse them, instead of throwing them away, you are in luck.  A beat up old plastic bin can serve many purposes around the home.  Here are a few of my favorites:

1.   Collect Rain Water – On the west coast, we are living with extreme drought conditions.  So whenever we get a chance of rain, I line up a few of these old plastic bins (ones that do not have holes in them) outside to collect precious drops of water, which I can then use a few weeks down the road for watering my veggies when the ground turns dry.

2.  Yardwork – If you live with  lots of weeds, as do I, you know that they do not pack down into a small footprint.  Weeds, as their name suggests, are wild by nature, and when you try to fit them into a small container, they simply bounce right out.  Save yourself some trouble by putting that large old garbage bin to work.  Roll it over to your weeding site and back up to the yard waste bins when you are done to avoid too many trips.

3.  Garage Sorting – These big bins, although not great for longterm storage anymore, can be used effectively as sorting stations in the garage.  For example, you might have three of them lined up at the side of the garage.  One says “Dump”, one says “Give Away”, and the other says “Sell”.  This allows you to keep the garage somewhat neat and tidy!


Plastic File Boxes for Tax Time

reg-1250203058-17740It’s almost that time of year again when those W-2s start rolling in!  Be prepared for taxes every year by using a special box designed just to hold tax information.  One of the best uses of  plastic bin is as a file box, and never fear, there are, of course, plastic file boxes designed to hold hanging files, so you don’t have to worry about simply shoving all of your important tax related documents into one big plastic box (although you can if you want to, it is not recommended for obvious reasons).  There are many different types of plastic file systems, here is a run down to get you started, mentioning all types that are readily available on the market:

1.  Plastic Drawer Systems:  Oftentimes, the bottom drawer of a three drawer plastic drawer system will be equipped with tracks built in to hold hanging files.  If you choose these, they are a great storage option in the home office, but be sure to find one with a caster that rolls with the file drawer (so the whole unit should have five casters total).  This ensures the drawer will roll smoothly under the weight of all those documents!

2.  Large Plastic File Boxes – For the average home, you will need 3-4 of these file boxes but they are much more affordable than a traditional metal file cabinet and, best of all, they are portable.  What I love about this is that you are not tied down to the office when it’s time to tackle that filing pile – simply take the appropriate box with you into the living room and file away while enjoying some television!

3.  Portable file boxes – Like the Iris Flip Lid Letter File Box, you can take it with you down to the accountant’s office for help with your taxes or down to the office – wherever you need it most!

Plastic Bins for Cat Boxes

reg-1274823109-139090Did you know that plastic bins make great litter boxes in a pinch?  Here is how I know this:  About a week ago my cat came home with an abscessed wound from fighting.  So of course he has to stay inside for a few weeks.  The problem is that he is normally a mostly-outdoor cat, running around the property and keeping the rodent population down.  Since I already have an indoor cat, and the outdoor cat needed to be kept in the laundry room for his inside stay, I had to come up with a second litter box on the spot.  So I went out to the garage, grabbed and older plastic bin from the corner that was not being used, filled it with litter and stuck it in the bathroom.  And guess what, the cats love it!  And when my outdoor cat’s indoor stay is over, I can simply recycle the old plastic bin.

What unusual uses have you found for your plastic bins over the years?

Plastic Bins for Christmas

Plastic Storage Box with Wing-top Lid If we are going to talk about a “season” for plastic bins, Christmas has to be near the top of that list.  Besides the summer, in which we see a huge influx of demand for plastic bins and boxes due to people cleaning out their sheds and garages, December (And more importantly January), demand for plastic boxes soars!  Why?  Because in January people are taking down their holiday decorations and scratching their heads, trying to figure out where to put them!  Plastic bins serve a very important role when it comes to holiday storage, as they provide rigid hard sides and edges to protect seasonal decorations, which tend to be both sentimental and breakable simultaneously.  My pick this year for best in Christmas Storage is the  Wing Top Plastic Box (shown above).  This multi tasking wonder features that important rigid plastic like we were talking about, and has many other features to get excited about:

1.  Removable Lights Storage – Included with the box are corrugated cardboard reels for winding Christmas lights around to keep them tangle free.  If you don’t need special lights storage at the moment, read on…

2.  Ornament Storage – These hard plastic boxes are absolutely essential for holding your breakable holiday decorations.  Wrap any breakables carefully in bubble wrap to avoid breakage while stored in here, and don’t store glass globes as they are simply too breakable – a specially designed ornament holder is much better for those.

3.  Stackable – Easy to stack, these wing top plastic boxes can be kept in the back of a closet, out in the shed or in the garage.

4.  It’s Red! That’s right, red = easier to find when the season comes around again next year!

5.  Easy close tops – the tops of these plastic bins are some of the easiest to open and close – no pinched fingers and struggling with a stubborn locking lid.

Plastic Bins for Gift Wrap

Iris Holiday Underbed ContainerDuring the holidays, many of us can agree that our homes turn into a blizzard of wrapping paper, bows, ribbons and scraps.  A nice thing to do is in advance of the busy Christmas season (and by that I mean pre-Thanksgiving), set up a corner of your office, playroom, bedroom, closet or anywhere else you can find a small space to get all of your gift wrap in order before the season starts.  Starting with a plastic bin is a great first step.  A plastic box is great for wrapping paper storage as it will protect the paper from moisture, which means that come January you can throw that box into the garage to stay hidden until next Christmas (assuming you don’t need it for birthday presents in between).  The Iris Underbed Storage Container one of my top picks.   It can be stored under the bed, but it doesn’t have to.  It could also be kept under a dresser, buffet, or even out in the open.  The main thing to remember is to measure your longest roll of wrap before purchasing a box to see if it will in fact fit.  I really like this particular box also because it is color coded for Christmas.  So you can easily spot it in the garage or storage shed or under the bed when the season comes around again.  To really stay on top of things, stock your wrapping paper organizer with rolls of tape, scissors and a large gallon size zip up bag to keep ribbons and bows contained and under control.  If you find that your rolls of paper are simply too long (and believe me they do exist), instead of a box with a lid such as this one, go for a tall narrow (cheap) garbage bin that can store rolls upright in the back of your closet or pantry.  It doesn’t provide protection from moisture, however, so you will need to keep it in a dry environment.

Plastic Bins for Photo Storage

Set of 5 Metro Document BoxesIf you’re like me, then you can take lots of pictures and even print lots of pictures, but getting them into a photo album?  Not so much.  I have dozens of cute cardboard photo boxes stacked in my closet full of memories, and frankly they are just going to have to stay there until the kids get a little bit older and I have the time to sort and display them.  I came across this Set of 5 Metro Document Boxes which are made of acid free plastic, what a great idea for photo storage!  They are safe to keep your pictures in as they are acid free, and have a sleek, modern look that would be fine even left out on the desk in the office.

Note that they are not tall enough to accommodate pictures standing up, so they must be laid down in stacks for storage in these boxes.  The set of 5 gives me plenty of room to expand and the black and silver design makes them a great choice for exposed shelves in the living room, office or bedroom – keeping the pictures close at hand but still put away and visually clutter free.  So file this post under the heading “plastic bins come in many different shapes and sizes” – definitely a far cry from the usually large rigid plastic boxes we feature here, but equally as important to a well organized and balance, calm home.

Other uses for these boxes?

  • Document Storage – their originally intended design, keep stacks of papers, files or easy accessible materials in them.
  • Kids Room – Maintain peace in the playroom or bedroom, or wherever else your kids play by keeping markers, crayons, paints and other arts and crafts supplies organized, sorted, and out of sight.  They would even work for small toy storage (think legos, cars, figurines and more)

Happy Organizing!

Overhead Storage for Plastic Bins

MonsterRaxIn the garage, you are missing out on maximum storage and organization if you haven’t yet taken advantage of your ceiling.  Overhead storage systems in the garage offer one of the best ways to gain extra storage while simultaneously clearing up the floor for you, a great way to make space for parking your car in the garage.  There are many different types out there, here are some of them:

1.  Hoists – Great for storing bikes on the ceiling but still allowing for easy, regular access, a ceiling hoist does the heavy lifting for you, giving you the benefit of ceiling storage without the hassle of climbing up on a ladder.

2.  Hooks – For anything else that can be hung on the ceiling, think camping gear and seasonal summer fun items, large screw in hooks can be installed right into the ceiling.

3.  Ceiling Shelves – If you have stacks of plastic bins in the garage that you want to get off the floor, a ceiling shelf, like these MonsterRax overhead storage systems, is the way to go.  You can put plastic bins up on the shelf.  This is a great idea for longer term storage items such as out of season clothing or holiday decorations.  MonsterRax is a great choice in this category as it has the highest weight capacity in the industry thanks to a durable heavy duty steel construction and center cross bracing.  A long lasting weather resistant powder coated finish ensures longevity even in moist, weather heavy garage areas.

4.  DIY – If you have ceiling rafters and don’t want to purchase a whole system, you can make your own by mounting plywood to those ceiling rafters.  Be careful not to go too heavy with stored items up there and secure with screws to avoid the shelf falling down.

Do you use the overhead space in your garage?