Build and Install Your Own Closet Organizing System

Lead Image
What You'll Need
Tape measure
Level - laser level
Stud finder
Marking pencil
Drill driver and bits
Circular saw with wood blade
1x12 lumber
1x2 lumber
3 closet rods with hardware
Assorted wood screws
Drywall screws
Small corner braces - support brackets
Sandpaper to smooth rough edges
Wood glue - if desired

Getting organized is on many New Year’s resolution lists. While you can order a closet system and have it installed, or purchase a kit at a building supply store, you can work some smart savings and DIY experience into your organization resolution. You might be surprised at just how easy a closet organizer is to create.

Step 1 - Measure the Size of Your Existing Closet Carefully

Accurate measurements are the most important part of a successful DIY project. You will need the right measurements for your overall width and the length for the new closet rods you'll install. For the sake of these instructions, I am using the measurements for the closet system I installed.

My closet was 55 inches wide and a little over 2 feet deep. My results included a 12-inch wide center shelving system with one 21-inch rod on one side and two 20-inch rods on the other side.

Step 2 - Decide What Type of Organizing System Will Meet Your Unique Needs

You are only limited by the size of the closet space you have to work with. If you have a walk-in closet, you can double or triple this basic organizer idea. This example will divide a closet into three sections, one for long garments, one for a double hanging area, and a middle section for shelving.

Build and Install Your Own Closet Organizing System

Step 3 - Create Your Top Shelf

Measure and mark several points 84 inches from the floor on the back wall of the closet. Measure and mark the same height on both sides of the closet 12 inches out from the back wall. Use a level to draw straight lines for the wood that will support the top shelf.

Use a stud finder and lightly mark the location of the studs, a few inches below the shelf line. Cut a piece of your 1x2 lumber to the length of the back of the closet, mine was 55 inches. Mount this piece with the top of the wood matching the line you have drawn and use wood screws to anchor it to the studs.

Cut 2 pieces from the 1x2 11 inches in length. Place these on the lines on the side walls of the closet. This provides you with a brace to hold your upper shelf.

Cut your shelf piece to the correct length and slide it onto the bracing you created. You can use wood glue or toe-nail some screws to hold the shelf securely.

Step 4 - Build 2 Vertical Panels for Middle Shelves

This will be the hardest part of your system, and it's not that difficult. Place both of your vertical pieces flat on the floor, next to each other. These pieces should be just less than 84 inches long. Determine the number of shelves you would like. For these instructions, I am using 5 shelves, each 12 inches apart.

Mark lines on both pieces, straight across, for where you want to place the shelf supports. Cut 2 pieces from the 1x2 for each shelf support, 12 inches long. Line the top edge up to a line and use a couple of wood screws to anchor the support. You can use wood glue to hold it in place first. Repeat for each shelf on both verticals.

On the opposite side of each vertical, attach 3 corner brackets, top, bottom, and middle, so that when the piece is placed upright you can attach it to the back wall of the closet for support.

Alternative: You can drill 3/8-inch holes, about ½ inch deep, towards the front and back of each shelf line you have drawn. Cut 1-inch sections of 3/8-inch dowel rod and install these to support your shelves.

Step 5 - Install the Middle Section

If you are using 12-inch wide shelves, the exterior of the middle section will be about 14 inches wide. Remember, lumber marked 1 inch in thickness usually is not. Use a pencil to marked two straight vertical lines 14 inches apart. These will be the outside marks for the shelf system.

You may need assistance supporting the sections. Once you have one vertical in place, anchor the piece to the back wall of the closet using drywall screws and the corner brackets you installed. Repeat for the second side of the shelving, but double check your measurements first.

Step 6 - Add Shelves and Rods

The middle shelving section you have created should allow for 12 inch shelving pieces. Cut these pieces from your 6-foot section. You can use the number of shelves you have already decided on. Smooth the rough edges and simply slide these pieces into place.

Mount one closet rod at 82 inches from the floor (or 2 inches below the top shelf) on both sides of you organizer. Now decide which side you want the second rod on. Mount this rod at 40 inches from the floor. This allows you to hang full-length garments on one side and double the hanging space for shorter garments, shirts, skirts, or folded pants.

Now get your closet organized.


You can paint or stain your new closet organizer, or simply leave it as is.

If you have a small nightstand, you can use this inside your closet under the higher closet rod to work as a storage drawer.

You can also add a narrow shoe rack under the higher closet rod.

If you have a walk-in closet, consider using a small dresser in one section and build around it for unique and personal closet storage.