Closets, DIY, Organization, Storage

How I Transformed My Master Closet in 10 Easy Steps For Under $500

Do you dread going into your closet?  I’m a pretty organized person but I had taken my old closet as far as it would go without some serious help.

I should probably explain what I mean by “as far as it would go”.  My house was built in 1995 (not extremely old, but not new) and I had the standard shelf and hanging rod in there. So over the last few years I did my best to stack, organize, color code, etc., all that I could.  I really did a lot in there – like acquiring shelves and cubes for shoes, hanging everything possible on the walls and storing things in boxes I had around the house.

Whoever designs standard closets should realize that we want to do more with our closet than hang some stuff. Like, really?  Where do they expect us to put shoes? Scarves? Purses? Belts? Enormous amounts of fitness clothes? (ok, maybe that’s just me).

A couple years ago I decided the solution was to purge as much as possible and even after getting rid of the stuff I hadn’t worn in years, my closet was still pretty full.  So I did what any other freakishly organized person would do – I made a trip to my local Container Store to look at their closet systems and set my goal on saving $1800 (yikes!) to SOMEDAY get my dream closet. There’s nothing wrong with spending $1800 on a cool closet if you have the money, right?  Unfortunately, I didn’t have the money at the time.  Or at least not to spend on a closet while my oldest daughter was starting college – it just didn’t seem right.

Fast forward two years – I’m at Ikea (Cuz’ why? Cuz it freakin’ rocks) and noticed they had closet organization stuff. The next day I measured my closet, took inventory of what I had and went back to Ikea, notes and tape measure in hand. I looked, touched, measured everything they had and brought home a product brochure that showed every piece they carried with measurements and a break down of some of the possible configurations. 

A week later I finished installing my dream closet, did it all by myself for under $500!  Scratch that one off the goal list!  

Now I have places to store everything AND got rid of my bedroom dresser and my under bed storage too!  

Most standard closets are made with a shelf and one rod for hanging clothes.

Standard Closet – one shelf, one rod for hanging clothes.
This was my closet – a moderate sized 8 X 5.5 walk-in.

I tried my best to organize it and didn’t do too bad but I had so much wasted space. I hated this old dresser.

Ikea Dresser Parts – Yikes!
Ikea Dresser Parts – Take a deep breath… you got this.

Are you intimidated by things you have to assemble?  It’s a little daunting the first few times but after that you get the hang of it. Follow the instructions one step at a time and you may find it’s easier than you think. If you get stuck, google it and watch YouTube videos or call the company for help.

Want to get your closet organized?  Here’s how to do it:

  1. Measure the space in your closet and write down the dimensions (draw it on a piece of paper if it helps you to visualize it.)
  2. Get rid of everything you don’t wear, don’t like or is out of style. My rule: If I don’t feel fabulous wearing it, I don’t need it!  I don’t care if your grandmother made it for you – if you don’t like it, get it out of your closet – it’ll mess up your happy closet vibes!
  3. Measure what you have left. For example, I measured how many inches of hanging clothes I had (and how long they were), and I separated it by items. For example – 28” of hanging slacks and jeans, 30” of tops, 17” of suit jackets and cardigans, you get the idea. Then do the same with your shoes – count your pairs of shoes and boots. How big of a box do you need for purses and gym bags – or whatever you have. Count it, measure it.
  4. Go to your store of choice and get information on their closet organization systems – I used the Ikea ALGOT system but I’m sure there are others out there you can build yourself. See how it works, talk to sales associations, ask questions, look at all of your options. Take photos, write down measurements and bring home a product brochure if they have one (these have detailed parts lists and measurements). I even purchased a few of their storage boxes and a couple of the mesh drawers so that I could see what fit in them. This was extremely helpful because I realized that although my sweaters fit in the one big mesh drawer, storing them in two smaller ones worked better, and my winter shoes and boots fit better in the big mesh drawer. I needed the largest box for my purses and bags but could use the smaller one for bathing suits. Will a dresser fit in your closet? If so it might be a good use of space to use a dresser and build the closet storage system around it.
  5. Sit down with ALL of your information, paper, pencil and eraser and start putting the pieces together. Planning your closet is the most challenging part. I rearranged mine three or four times before I got it right. Use your space from floor to ceiling to figure out how it will work best. Do you need shelves, drawers, boxes? Can you reach your clothes if you double hang them? Do you have some long dresses or skirts that need more space? Can hats go on a shelf or do you have room to put them in boxes?  
  6. Do the math, then re-do the math, then do it again!  Don’t forget that some systems require an inch on each side or an inch between shelves. The system I used required an inch for each external upright and ⅝” for each internal upright. So for example, my closet is 96” long along the back wall. I wanted to have four 24” sections. Luckily the consultant at the store pointed out that I needed to allow space for the uprights (the vertical pieces the brackets attach to). Oh crap, back to the planning stages!  Ultimately I was able to fit three 24” sections and a 15” section with some space on one end for hooks – which worked out great. Don’t stress about this part – I spent a couple evenings working this through to figure out what would go where and how to get everything I wanted.
  7. Gather the materials. In additional to all of the closet system parts (which the store can help you determine), your going to need some tools.  I used a level, a hammer, a drill with a phillips bit & a drill bit, a hammer, a step stool, a tape measure, a pencil, screws, and dry wall anchors.
  8. Demo your old closet. Take everything out of your closet then disassemble the existing racks (you might need a small pry bar for this).
  9. Fix holes & paint if you need to after the demo portion.                                    
  10. Create your new closet. Follow the system instructions to begin installing your new closet system. You CAN do this yourself just give it plenty of time and patience. If you don’t understand one of the steps, google it and watch YouTube videos – they got me through it!

Once your have your system in place you can enjoy the fun part of organizing all of your things!  

I repurposed my old shoe cubby for scarves and tank tops and had just enough room on top for my Zumba hats. I have mesh drawers for boots, tennis shoes, two for sweaters and one for t-shirts. I also reorganized my files and office supplies from my bedroom by replacing a small file cabinet with these three organizers that now contain notepads and pens, envelopes, stamps and one for “papers/receipts to be filed”. The black box next to it contains hanging folders for receipts, tax info, etc.  Notice I made a special shelf above the floor for my laundry basket just high enough so that my schnauzer Moose can’t steal anything to chew on!

On this side of the closet I have Ikea Algot shoe racks where I can store 6 Zumba high tops, and 10 pairs of work flats. Above that, suit jackets, then boxes. In the corner I have just enough space for dresses and skirts. On the right side a double hang and box storage above for purses and bags, extra blankets, etc. In the front of the picture you can see the corner of my new matching dresser where I store under garments & socks (with beautiful drawer dividers from Ikea), work out leggings and sweats and more, sleep wear and more.

ALL of my hanging clothes can be seen in this picture. I hang ALL of my pants and ALL of my fitness tops and jackets. As you can see I really don’t have a lot of clothes. Purging EVERYTHING you don’t need or don’t wear will help you get and stay organized!

Remember – with a project like this – take it one step at a time even if it takes you a month of weekends to finish it – it will be worth it when it’s all done and you too can say, “I did this myself!!”  Then enjoy your beautiful closet and it’s happy vibes.

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