Simple Closet Organizer

Beginner Projects
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Closet organizers can be so expensive, or are often made of particle board. Yet they are so easy to build and customize to your needs. This is a large closet organizer, suitable for dividing up closet space.

As I was looking through our Community for inspiration (thanks Leah!) for today's plan (as paint dries on some of the "surprises" for the next few weeks  :)  ) and came across a request for a closet organizing system, it took me back to the days before I was comfortable with a drill.  And I assembled a closet system from out of the box like this one and considered it a major accomplishment.  And it WAS.  It took me hours to build it.  Yes, build.  With an allen wrench and instructions, but it was still building

And I spent hundreds on what is essentially just a bookcase made of particle board.  The inside wasn't even finished.

Today's plan is really straight forward and boring, not like Grace's closet (click for plans)

Built by Kristin - wow!  And BTW, Kristin, if you are reading this, I just gotta know what beautiful shade of pink that is?  It seems to have a calm gray undertone.  Love it!

Anyway, really boring - but so necessary.

I'd like to add more components to the closet system, but starting with this is perfect.  We have this system in our master bedroom closet (ha ha master right, it's four feet wide and behind the main door) and it holds so many things!  And I'm quite fond of the open design - makes for staking the Rams pants quite easy!  I use baskets for socks and underwear.

Dimensions are shown above. Customizable to suite your needs.


Shopping List

2 – Sheets of 3/4″ Particle Board (closet grade) or MDF or A1 plywood cut into 15 1/2″ wide strips, 8 feet long
You could also use closet shelving in any width as a substitute (for example 20″ wide shelves for a 20″ deep shelving system)
1 sheet 1/4″ plywood or MDF
1 – 1×2 26″ long
2″ screws
2″ finish nails

Common Materials
120 grit sandpaper
wood conditioner
paint brush
Cut List

2 – 1×16 @ 82 1/2″ (Sides)
6-1×16 @ 25 1/2″ (Shelves)
1 – 1/4″ Plywood @ 82 1/2″ x 27″ (Back)
1 – 1×3 @ 25 1/2″ (Footer)

Tape Measure
Speed Square
Safety Glasses
Hearing Protection
Circular Saw
Power Sander
Drill Bit Set


Step 1

Build the Box

Mark the sides as shown in the diagram. Then either drill pocket holes in all the shelves and screw the shelves to the sides or predrill holes in the sides and screw the sides to the shelves. Use glue and adjust for square.

Step 2


Attach the back to the box with finish nails and glue. Make sure you nail into all the shelves too for added strength and support.

Step 3


Glue and nail the 1×3 footer to the base of the shelf. Inset the footer slightly as shown in the photo.


Position the unit in the closet. Attach to a stud in the wall behind the closet using L brackets. If a stud is not in the right position, use drywall anchors to secure the shelf to the back of the closet.

Step 4

Closet Rods and Shelves

Now here is the sweet spot. With your scrap pieces of 1×16 leftover, you can build additional shelves in your closet! Simple use 1 1/4″ screws to screw a scrap piece of 1×3 to the side of the closet and in the same position on the side of the interior closet wall (or as shown above for a freestanding application, another closet shelf) and then lay a shelf on top! Screw down, and add a closet rod below.

Step 5

Step 6

And putting up closet rods is both easy ans attractive (and inexpensive) with closet rod flanges like these ones from Blue.


Jessica (not verified)

Tue, 10/12/2010 - 17:31

I already have a ton of your plans on my to-do list but I'm excited that you're doing a closet organizer. They are so expensive it's not even funny, and I desperately need one. This is another thing I'll be adding to my list.

Lara Fort (not verified)

Tue, 10/12/2010 - 18:28

in my husband & my first home, we had itty bitty closets - so we did something like this closet organizer to our 3rd bedroom. We turned it into a big walk in closet! I had the vision but had no idea how to execute it, so my father in law did the cutting, nailing, etc...I just drew out my vision & he brought it to life! I had 3 shelves like this on each end & one in the center...then one rack going in betweent them on one side, but 2 racks (one over the other) on the other side.

Katie (not verified)

Tue, 10/12/2010 - 18:41

I’ve been thinking about making something like this for awhile now, I wanted to use plastic dish tubs to hold socks and things and make something like this, same amount of shelves tall, but also 4 wide, maybe I can go off this to get started! I’m wanting to use the “family closet” idea and store everyone’s clothing in our laundry/storage room. Thank you!!

Kevin (not verified)

Tue, 10/12/2010 - 19:09

I am one of those that was asking for some closet organizer ideas. This is just great. Probably the hardest part for me is figuring out the right location in the closet to put things, and to work around the baseboards that are in our closets.

One question I have is.. Particle board, even MDF, will sag eventually, at least the shelves, correct? I was thinking of using 1x12 pine boards, $14.50 a pop, for my closet projects. Only problem is, they are only 12" depth. I just purchased a Porter Cable biscuit joiner, so I am toying with the idea of perhaps doing some edge-gluing of 8" boards to make 16" depths, or maybe even a bit less. Ever done anything like that?

Other issues.. all of my kids closets have the sliding 2 door setup. It's kind of a pain for closet organizers because the depth is about 20" max, and if you put a 16" depth box of shelves like in your design too close to the end of the door jams, you can't access the "hidden" areas on the left/right of the closet. Put them too close to the center, and your shelves overlap the center of the closet doors thus making it hard to access as well. I really just want to take those sliding doors off and leave it open, but my wife is not a fan of that, due to dust and such getting in there, and if the kids are a little less "organized", it exposes the mess to everyone who comes in.

Still, thank you for the idea, and keep them coming. Would love to see others post their pics of how they arranged their closet organizers.

Guest (not verified)

Tue, 05/31/2011 - 15:28

I had a closet with double door like that and I hated it, so I found some coordinating fabric and a large closet rod and mad a curtain instead. Covered the messy and got rid of those dang doors!


Wed, 08/29/2018 - 08:46

You could always take the doors off and use the barn wood sliding door plan to make you a door that is on the outside and would give access the entire closet and still hide the kids mess. I also read on the comment that the 16" is too wide you can change the plan by cutting the width of the side boards to the width you need to fit in closet and reduce the width you cut the shelves to fit the box. Hope this helps.


Wed, 08/29/2018 - 08:52

You could always take the doors off and use the barn wood sliding door plan to make you a door that is on the outside and would give access the entire closet and still hide the kids mess. I also read on the comment that the 16" is too wide you can change the plan by cutting the width of the side boards to the width you need to fit in closet and reduce the width you cut the shelves to fit the box. Hope this helps.

Melissa Brown (not verified)

Tue, 10/12/2010 - 19:54

We have the cheap home depot wire closet organizer in our semi large closet. And it's not all that functional. We've been toying with the idea of Elfa from Container Store, but this looks pretty easy and a heck of a lot cheaper. I've got 4 things in my to do list from your site, and I can't wait to begin! I'll be sure to snap pics as we build!! Thank you!!

Laurie (not verified)

Wed, 10/13/2010 - 01:18

OMG, I was just staning in our closet over the weekend trying to design a solution. The particle board system I put together a year ago is falling apart. My biggest challlenge Re the two corners in our U-shaped closet. I would LOVE to know what you would do. THANKS ANA!!!

Nicole (not verified)

Wed, 10/13/2010 - 02:45

Seriously! You are the best. We are building a new house and don't have a closet budget...which means it comes out of our pocket. Similar ones that we've looked at are selling here in Minnesota for $400-$100 for some simple shelves and a few rods. I will most definitely be building this as my first project, followed by everything else in my saved plans! Yikes! Good thing this is a must and shoudn't take too long. Thank you!

Lea (not verified)

Wed, 10/13/2010 - 03:14

Do you have spy-cams in my house? You always seem to know exactly what my home needs, and this closet organizer system is no exception. My master bedroom "closet" (a reach in...NOT a walk in) is too small for one person's stuff, much less the stuff of two. Fortunately, I do have a "cubby" in the room that can be used to expand the length of it, and I'm getting ready to do just that. And as part of my planning, I've been looking at closet systems and grimacing at the cost. Definitely not in the budget. However, this plan can easily be modified to fit the space I'll have, it will be afforadable, and when I'm done I can look at it and say, "I did that!" God bless you and all you do. Welcome home!

Christy Miller (not verified)

Wed, 10/13/2010 - 04:17

Oh my goodness! You have just saved me Ana! We moved into our house (after remodeling the entire thing) last October and there is one closet that we haven't done anything to. It's huge! 8 feet wide and about 3 feet deep (we had to put the attic door in the ceiling here so that's why it's so big) This plan will be awesome for that giant closet. I'm thinking I'll want to make the shelving the 20" you suggested good enough? Also I'm confused on attaching the shelves to the wall with L-brackets...could you share a picture of this? Thanks for the awesome plans! The "boring" ones are sometimes the most helpful!

FMT (not verified)

Wed, 10/13/2010 - 04:56

Ana, Inspired by you, I built something similar in the master bedroom in our 104 year old house recently. I took back the space behind the 6ft knee wall and carved out a short 8ft closet. I added a shoe tower in the middle for support and cubbies in the narrow space on top for socks, under ware, and things… Thanks Ana! Love your work. You are a daily inspiration.
C:\Documents and Settings\fabiola_macias-telle\Desktop\FMT\BV Projects\2nd Brm 031410\2.jpg

darbynwoods (not verified)

Wed, 10/13/2010 - 05:56

this is one of the great projects for a kreg jig. by using it it will add addtional stabity to the unit and will not strip out over time and be more level due to you are puting in the screws from the inside and can use a short level to make sure you are plum and square

i could aslo see doing it with adjustable shevles.

do you have a link on how to do the holes from adjustable shelves with pegboard as a guide. the wholes on the pegboard are 1" on center.


Ginger (not verified)

Wed, 10/13/2010 - 06:07

Here are a few tips for those commenters w/questions (Ana hope you don't mind me chiming my former life I was a multi-million dollar sales designer for a well known closet company). Anyhoo, for the person wanting to go deeper w/shelves...don't do it! 14-16" deep is ideal since a folded garment will not be any larger than that and you do not want shoes double deep because trust me, they'll just collect more dust than usual. Deep shelves anywhere (except maybe the garage where big bins are utilized or maybe one 1-2 lower shelves in a linen closet for comforters) usually mean more disorganization as things get pushed to the back & forgotten. For corners, a lot of people tend to want to put corner shelving in, but you don't want to do that in a clothes closet (for a pantry those L shaped corner shevles are great though) because clothing hangs out past shelves & will hide the corner. Hanging is always best going into a corner (just pick which wall will go all the way into the corner & then on the next wall come out at least 27-29" from the corner before starting the new section). Usually you want things you don't use as often (long dresses, off season, etc) in that corner, then on the next wall shelves for the first section are ideal so you have even better visibility & access to that corner stuff (double hang is the worst thing to do on the other side of a corner because again, its blocking your view/access to that corner stuff). Another issue (something that finish carpenters in new construction violate all the time) is not putting your top shelf high enough which means you can't fit garments correctly in a double want your top shelf at 86" (higher for super tall folks) to be able to have the flexibility to hang mens shirts on both top & bottom bars (though pants over the hanger are ideal on top bar w/shirts on bottom since pants don't hang out as far so you'll have better view of the shirts). Following some of the best "rules" of closet design when doing it yourself can really make the difference in actually giving you more space, organization, & function...if you have the patience & skills to make it as adjustable as possible, you'll be even happier since seasons/wardrobes/needs/etc change over time. Anyway, hope these tips help (and I love what you did w/shelves on the doors of your daughters closet, brilliant)!

Sarah Kelly (not verified)

Wed, 10/13/2010 - 09:10

The link below is not a solicitation of any sort. I don't work for them, and I haven't even bought their product. (Who needs to after reading Ana's site!?!) They do, however, have a great design tool and galleries of ideas; those complement this project really well.

Laurie (not verified)

Thu, 10/14/2010 - 00:50

Thank you Ginger, I think I love you! I was wondering if crapping the corners and running the bar the length of the wall was "done". You have answered all my questions!

Tsu Dho Nimh (not verified)

Sat, 10/16/2010 - 05:31

Agree ... Fold your things the way you like them to be folded and make the shelves deep enough to hold them, with maybe an inch to spare. Remember that folded levis can go sideways on a shelf if you wear 48" inseams.

Measure your clothes on hangars and make the rods far enough apart that they don't run in to each other (living with a really tall person makes my aware of how annoying these issues are)

diymyhome (not verified)

Sat, 10/16/2010 - 11:15

I was going to share the exact same link as Sarah Kelly did above to I used their handy design tool just a few months ago, then just bought those melamine boards made for closets (with the peg holes in them for adjustable shelving) to create the closet we needed :) Happy organizing!

Jennifer Doherty (not verified)

Wed, 10/20/2010 - 06:27

Oh Sara, that link is fabulous! I like how they don't go all the way to the floor, so baseboards/trim aren't an issue at all. Huh! And being backless, you can see the paint color, and save some money - I always paint my closets to match the bedroom color. :)

Does anyone know how those are mounted since most of the cubbies appear to be backless? I wonder if there's are hidden horizontal supports at the VERY bottom and the VERY top that you can screw into studs through. Hmmm...

Jennifer Doherty (not verified)

Mon, 10/25/2010 - 09:26

Hi Ana! I'm in the garage setting up my Kreg Jig for the first time and I will be doing THIS project for my daughter's closet. I had all of my white closet shelving cut at Home Depot last night. So excited to put this together!!!

MY QUESTION... Your instructions say 2" screws... But for pocket holes, it seems like 2" screws would be too long. I'm looking at the Kreg Jig Quick Start guide and it recommends 1 1/4" screws for pocket holes with 3/4" material. I'm going to do a few tests right now, but wanted to see what you did.

Thank you!

Jennifer Doherty (not verified)

Mon, 10/25/2010 - 15:29

Ok, replying to my own comment, now that I'm halfway into this project. LOL :) Here are some tips for anyone else considering this project. :) I bought the closet shelving, white melamine coated particleboard with the predrilled peg holes, so all I needed to fasten is the top and the bottom. I designed the whole thing on Sara Kelly's hyperlink above to So much fun!!!

Tip #1: Read Ginger's tips above. The advice is fantastic!

Tip #2: When cutting (whether you or the hardware store), make sure the white edges match and the peg-hole sides are FACING EACH OTHER when you have them cut to length. Otherwise your peg holes won't line up when you go to put the shelf together.

Tip #3: If you are using a Kreg Jig, use #7 - 1 1/4" screws. I started out using the #8 screws, but noticed after two that the #8 heads were too wide and it was SLIGHTLY splitting the particleboard. *sigh* Not enough to do too much harm to the shelf, but..... I added a third pocket hole to each end just to be sure.

Tip #4: Wow, melamine is soooo SLIPPERY! Clamp, clamp and clamp again! The second your pocket hole screw hits the other board, it lifts and slips out of place. I used a scrap 1x2 board as a straight-edge, clamped to keep the melamine from slipping. The shelf still moved, but a lot less and I was able to put enough pressure on it to keep it lined up. SOOOO slippery! I am so glad I tested on scraps first.

Hope this helps anyone wanting to build these! My daughter loves her first shelf so far! :) :) :)

Andrea (not verified)

Sat, 02/26/2011 - 12:13


Thanks for the all the great plans, Ana. My to-do list is getting longer all the time. :)

I have one question if anyone can answer. What is the best way to handle baseboard where the shelf unit will be placed. Do you find that it is best to remove the baseboard? I am thinking I'd like the unit flush to the wall and removing it would be best. Thoughts anyone?



Laura Zambron (not verified)

Sun, 02/27/2011 - 16:54

Hello Ana and Brave DIYourselfers! After reading Ana's article in "FRESH HOME" magazine I am so inspired and am ready to rock a new closet space for my soon to be two year old son! My husband and I are in a two bedroom, two bath condo with very limited storage space. With our son's toys, cloths and furnishings we have no room to move.... as my husband often comments, "it's like a bomb went off in our home!" So, I'm looking to add a little something to his "walk-in" closet.

My question is this, what are my supplies to build drawers? I'm looking to include a "tower" of drawers, in lieu of buying a dresser. Any suggestions, tips or snags to watch out for?

Thank you to all who can help! Laura


Thu, 12/22/2011 - 01:00

Love it, but I was wondering how to add a door on a few of the cubbies. I want to lock up my purses :)

David Lathrop (not verified)

Sat, 12/31/2011 - 02:35

You can hang units on walls with a "French cleat." This is a pair of horizontal 1x2 or 1x3. The upper is attached to the back of the cabinet, usually just under the top piece (or the top shelf), and the bottom edge is beveled 45 decrees to form a hook. The lower is attached to the wall at the studs, and is beveled 45 degrees. The bevels are arranged so that gravity pulls the cabinet's cleat towards the wall. Instead of using an upper 1x3, you can simply cut notches with angled tops in the cabinet's uprights ends to match the french cleat on the wall. This helps two ways. You can attach a cleat to the wall the entire width of the installed cabinets (or closet system) and make sure its level; then anything you hang on it should automaticaly be level. Second, it lets you hang a cabinet on the wall and position it side to side before fastening it down. Also, it lets you loosen and readjust or rearrange things later if you want to.

Its best to leave the baseboard molding in place when doing add-ins. This way the add-in can be removed without having to redo all that molding (and match to original). Also, that modling is actually covering the rough bottom of the wall board, any uneveness of the floor (molding does flex some), and thickness of carpeting or other floor covering material.

[BTW, you might want to do thin molding along the back edges of add-ins, to cover any gaps between them and the walls. Even if they look straight, the walls may be curved or warped causing gaps between add-ins and cabinets. Also, it adds a professional look and covers any edge defects.]

You should notch the back of your uprights to go around the baseboard molding. [If you have carpeting, there is also a tack strip under the carpet that you may want to cut a notch for, especially with bookcases and such which will lean away from the wall.] There are three main ways to do this.

1) Simplest is to just measure the maximum thickness and height of the baseboard and cut a rectangular notch to allow for that (with a little extra). You can also angle the top cut of the notch if you want.

2) You can butt the piece (or some scrap wood) up to the baseboard, and use a drawing compass to copy the contour exactly; just adjust the gap and slide the point along wall drawing on your piece. Then use a scroll saw, jig saw or router to cut it out.

3) You can buy a "contour gauge" and use it. Less than $10 at most stores, its a stack of thin plates in a frame that clamps them in place. You can find them in the tool section of many stores; below is a link below (from Home Depot) so you know what these look like. Loosen the frame, push the guage against the wall, then clamp it down. You can then take it to where the piece is (say, flat on sawhorses in the garage) and copy the outline to the piece and cut it out. If you use a router, you can clamp the contour gauge to the piece and use it as an edge guide to avoid "cutting past the line."…

ideas for walk… (not verified)

Thu, 02/23/2012 - 19:56

Living in a messy world, this article really works for me. It opens my mind in closet designing with style. A lot of my friends were struggling with the same problem and now I can tell them with this great ideas.

Rusty Cottage

Fri, 07/20/2012 - 04:11

We had shoes, boots, grocery bags, dog food, cat food all at the bottom of our small back door closet. This fixed our problem and will post soon. (first post ever)

This is the most rewarding thing I have fixed in our home....Thank you


Fri, 07/17/2020 - 19:08

Anyone use a kreg adjustable peg hole shelf maker? I’m doing this and hoping it will work bc I love to adjust a shelf