How to Install a Closet Organizer

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Install a closet organizer to make finding your clothes easier in the morning. (Photo: @MargJohnsonVA via Twenty20)
The closet is seldom the first place people think of when it comes to renovating their home. A closet is often “out of sight, out of mind,” as the old saying goes, but it’s also a small part of your home that you probably access every day. There’s a lot to be said for a well-organized closet; installing a system of hangers and shelves can shave minutes off your daily morning routine, which you would normally spend searching for that one shirt or pair of pants.
Whether you’ve fashioned a closet organizer yourself or are using a ready-to-assemble kit, the process of prepping and renovating the closet should unfold in a similar fashion.

Prepping Your Closet

Step 1: Take all of the items out of your closet. Before you work on the closet itself, you’ll need to clear it out first. Put all items safely to the side so they won’t get in the way while you’re doing your renovations.
It is recommended that you set down items by category; placing shirts alongside other shirts will streamline the process of putting everything back. If it’s come to the point where you’re considering a closet organizer, taking everything out may take longer than you think.
Step 2: Remove any current shelving. If your closet has any shelving you don’t want to include in your organizer, remove it with a screwdriver. When you’re through with this step, the closet should be as empty as possible.
Step 3: Smooth out the walls. Your closet has probably seen a lot of use; wall dents and dings can often add up over the years. Fill up these imperfections with wall spackling. Afterwards, using sandpaper or an electrical sander, you should smooth out the walls.
In addition to making your closet look nicer, it will make it easier to make your measurement markings when it comes time to map out the new organizer.
Step 4: Paint the closet. Once you have removed everything from the closet, now’s a better time than any to repaint it.
If the closet was painted at any point after the previous shelving was installed, there will be mismatched colors on the wall. Painting the closet will sweeten the deal and make the finished product look that much better. If you do paint the closet, you’ll have to wait until the final coat is dry before taking your measurements and markings.

Putting up Your Closet Organizer

Step 1: Determine your needs and design your organizer accordingly. Whether you’re building an organizer from scratch or going off a kit, you should start off by having a good idea of how you would like to set up your closet.
Is your closet mostly cluttered with shoes or toys? Prioritize shelf space in your organizer system. Have a few too many shirts than your closet can currently handle? Make room to install a hanger rod. Everyone’s wardrobe is going to have different proportions and storage requirements.
Although closet shelf space is generally versatile enough to stow anything from shirts to shoes, you can streamline the organization and save your clothes from getting wrinkled if you hang them up appropriately.
Step 2: Choose between DIY or buying a ready-to-assemble organizer. At this stage, you should also choose between using a ready-to-assemble kit or going DIY.
Something store-bought will ideally take the guesswork out of the equation, giving a professional look at a fraction of the cost. On the other hand, while a DIY installation requires a lot of skill, you’ll be able to custom-tailor a piece more specifically to your tastes and the dimensions of the closet itself.
If you do buy parts from the store, commit to using the parts of one manufacturer; there’s no guarantee that pieces from different manufacturers will be compatible with one another.
Step 3: Measure and make wall markings. There should not be any guesswork by the time you start thinking about putting up parts of the organizer.
Measurements should be done beforehand up against the wall in order to get a clearer mental picture. If you’re installing an organizer kit, you should measure out the given dimensions in the instructional booklet to visualize where the screws and brackets should be placed.
If you’re putting up hanger rods from wall to wall, you should measure how long the prospective hanger will be; unless you’re working with a ready-to-assemble kit, you’ll need to cut a rod to length yourself.
Step 4: Mark drill spots on the wall according to your measurements. With a pencil, mark the points where you’ll be hanging the tower shelves and situating the hanger rods on each end. Use a carpenter’s level to insure the markings are at an equal height.
Take care to use as much of the real estate inside the closet as you possibly can; place top brackets as close to the ceiling as possible, or leave enough room above to create a new de facto shelf. After all, an organizer system is meant to maximize the use of space.
Step 5: Drill in studs and brackets for the shelving. Using the light etchings you made as a template, drill holes into the wall. It is recommended that you drill in pilot holes first, then screw in the appropriate studs and wall brackets manually with a screwdriver.
Make sure the brackets are tightly screwed and accurately placed. If you mess up the placement, a best-case scenario might mean you’ll have to undo your work and try again. At worst, it might mean the entire organizer could come crashing down once the shelves start taking weight.
Step 6: Assemble and install the organizer shelving. You can assemble the shelves once you have the appropriate wall brackets ready for them.
If you’re using a ready-to-assemble kit, you should follow the instructional booklet accordingly; fortunately this is often a straightforward process.
Generally speaking, larger shelves should be installed first, and you can work your way down to the smaller intricate parts as needed. If you’re going full DIY, you may need to cut your wood down to a uniform size before securing them to the brackets with screws.
Step 7: Install side shelving. For an added step, attaching further smaller shelves to the side walls of the closet can help maximize your storage space.
The extent of this step will depend entirely on the scope and proportions of your project, as well as how wide and deep the closet is.
Step 8: Install the shirt-hanger rods. Drill in the studs according to the place-marker etchings you drew for your hanger rods. It’s recommended that you do this after putting up any tower shelving because it will give you the option of using the shelf walling itself as a drillable surface.
Next, cut any hanger rods you’re using down to their appropriate length with a saw, according to the measurements you took. Lastly, set the rod in with the set screw and lock it in. Provided that it’s been installed correctly and tightly, you should be able to hang as many shirts as you desire without worrying that the hanger will buckle on you.
Step 9: Save storing your accessory items for last. When you installed your closet organizer, you most likely started with the largest shelves first. The same principle rings true for your clothes.
While suits and pants occupy a lot of space, the small size of articles like socks and underwear means that they offer a lot more flexibility with storage. Once the big-ticket items have a home, you can think about storing the small stuff.
Once your organizer is up and running, you should experiment with different organization methods. Any improvements can feel trivial in the overall scheme of things, but even a mild innovation can have lasting effects on your daily life for years to come.