How to Install Closet Organizers

Did you ever see one of those ads with a picture of an immaculate closet and wish yours could be a bit tidier? You may never need to store five identical shirts on a closet rod, but a closet organizer can help you make the most of the space you have and keep your stuff in order. Many companies now offer modular closet systems you can install for yourself at moderate cost. If you do the job yourself, you can create a closet that's truly customized to your belongings and lifestyle.


  1. 1
    Notice how you use the closet and the room. Is it a bedroom where you will store mostly clothes, or does the room have some other purpose, like a craft room, play room, or computer room?
    • Notice which side of the closet you naturally approach or open first, especially if it has two doors. Your preference may be because of the room layout or your tendency to be right- or left-handed. Plan to put the most frequently-used items where they're easiest to reach.
    • Look familiar?
      Notice anything that ends up in piles or hanging on doorknobs in or around the closet.
    • If you just moved in, try using the room and the closet as-is for awhile. It's not that much trouble to empty a closet when the time comes to work on it, and you'll learn about your usage patterns.
  2. 2
    Measure your closet and determine how much space you have to work with. Measure height and depth in addition to width.
    • Check where the studs are because this will also help determine your plan. The mounting screws must go into studs and not just drywall.
    • Also, measure how much the frame of the closet and how much it overhangs the space inside.
  3. 3
    Look around at available closet systems, to get ideas and to have in mind the elements that are available to you. Give some consideration to the choice of materials.
    • Compare materials. Metal wire shelves are inexpensive and reasonably strong, but they may not have the aesthetics of finished melamine. Melamine and manufactured wood products can be finished to resemble wood, but they are generally costlier and heavier than wire.
    • Decide whether appearance is important. It may be important for a large, walk-in closet in a master bedroom or for any exposed storage that is acting as a closet. In a broom closet, on the other hand, it may not matter.
    • Compare costs of different systems and stores. Home improvement and hardware stores often carry closet organization systems. So do container and organization stores, not to mention IKEA. Shop around.
    • Note what parts are in stock at your local store(s) and what other pieces can be ordered.
    • Pick up a brochure or catalog showing what parts are available, so that you can decide which parts will fit your closet. While you're in the store, get a price list or write down prices of the parts you think you will use.
    • Understand what's involved in assembling the different systems and make sure you're up to the task. Most of them are fairly straightforward, aimed at do-it-yourselfers.
    • Ask which pieces (shelves, rods, and even support rails) can easily be cut to a custom length if the standard length doesn't quite fit your closet. Many of the stores selling closet systems can even cut the pieces for you, so ask if cutting is available and how much it costs.
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    Plan your closet, making sketches, and eventually scale drawings, as you go.
    • For your final plan, draw to scale. In general, you will draw an elevation of the closet, the view you will have when you open both doors, but you should also check the depth to make sure that hanging items and shelves fit.
  5. 5
    Determine how much hanging space you will need. In a clothing closet, hanging storage will probably occupy most of the space and cost relatively little, so plan it first and give it an ample share of the space.
    • Measure your existing rods and how much clothing you have, in rod length occupied by hangers, adding enough space to slide hangers apart for easy hanging and selection.
    • Arrange hanging storage so that it hangs well back from the door. Remember that rods for hanging clothing need clearance both in front of and behind them.
    • Plan in terms of upper and lower rods, with rods for longer hanging items like dresses and bathrobes. Many closet systems will allow double hanging for shorter items such as pants and shirts. Measure how long your longest garments hang.
    • If this is a shared closet, consider how you can use the closet system to divide the space, giving each user their own rods, shelves, and so on. Try to divide the space equitably, but consider who will store more belongings there.
  6. 6
    Decide whether to include drawers or sliding baskets in your closet. This depends on whether you will be storing clothing or other small objects in the closet. Drawers and baskets are among the more costly items you can install in most closet systems.
    • Another source of drawer storage.
      If you have a dresser, captain's bed, or other storage elsewhere, you may not need drawers in the closet.
    • Bins organize craft supplies.
      Placing bins or baskets on shelving may be a cheaper, more flexible option for storing and organizing small objects in a closet. Choose drawers if you need frequent access; shelving if you don't mind a bin-and-basket approach, or if you need flexibility.
  7. 7
    Figure out how much shelving you can include and what will go on it. Measure the height of the tallest objects that will go on shelves to help determine the spacing.
  8. 8
    Plan storage for larger items. Do you keep a clothes hamper in the closet? Do you want it to be built in or loose?
  9. 9
    Plan any special-purpose storage. Will you make space for sports equipment? Will you put your DVD player out of sight, in the closet?
  10. 10
    Plan any work areas that will go in the closet. Will this closet house a sewing machine or computer? Be sure to leave space for the user of these items to access them comfortably.
  11. 11
    Check the space above the rod. If this space is also near the top of the door to the closet, make sure that the shelf up there is shallow enough that objects can pass through the space between the door and the shelf.
  12. 12
    Plan shoe storage for clothing closets.
  13. 13
    Decide which parts you will need of the system you have chosen.
    • Incorporate starter kits, if they are available, with a few basic accessories. Often, buying several items as a kit costs less than buying them individually, so compare prices. For a larger closet, you may be able to combine multiple kits with a few connecting pieces.
    • Shelves can usually be shortened if the standard lengths don't quite fit. Often, the store selling the shelving can help you to cut it down, particularly for metal wire shelving.
    • Consider the height of the user. Kids may not be able to reach upper shelves and rods until they grow. Shorter people and people in wheelchairs may want certain rods and shelves lower, too.
  14. 14
    Make a list of the parts and kits that you will need, based on the sketch. Include any hardware (screws, etc.) that is not in the kits. Take this list to the store.
  15. 15
    Purchase your closet parts. Take a vehicle large enough for the widest and longest parts.
  16. 16
    Empty the closet and clear the area around it for working. You'll also need some floor space away from the project to assemble things like drawers if you're using them.
    • Now is the time to paint the closet, if you want to.
    • Lift sliding doors off their tracks for better access.
  17. 17
    Locate the studs in the wall and mark them. It is very important that your mounting screws go into studs and not just drywall.
  18. 18
    Locate the support rails. Depending on the closet system you choose, these will generally be horizontal or vertical metal rails. In any case, make sure that the holes where you will put the screws line up with studs.
  19. 19
    Use a level and a tape measure to get the support rails vertical or horizontal (whichever yours require) and aligned with one another.
  20. 20
    When you have the supports where they should be, mark the hole locations on the wall with a pencil. You may be able to mark right through the mounting holes. Mark the bracket edge location, if you want.
    • Mark holes so that you can find both the horizontal and vertical location after you remove the bracket.
  21. 21
    Drill pilot holes in the wall where you have marked. Make them about the same size or a little smaller than the minor diameter (smaller diameter) of the screw thread.
  22. 22
    Install the support rails. Line them up again and drive long screws through the brackets and into the walls.
  23. 23
    Assemble drawers, modular shelves, cabinets, and any other pieces that require assembly before they are hung up. Most closet systems will come with instructions specific to the design.
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    Attach the closet pieces to the support rails. Read the manufacturer's instructions for specific details.
  25. 25
    Secure the shelves, rods, etc. to the support rails or to the walls as required. Here again, secure into the wall studs or, if necessary, use bolts designed for use in drywall.
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    Add any finishing touches, such as drawer pulls, hooks, etc.
  27. 27
    Arrange adjustable shelves. For laminate shelves on adjustable pegs, make sure each shelf has four pegs and that all four are pushed in all the way and have the flat side up, supporting the shelf. Screw them in if the peg design requires it.
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    Wipe or vacuum up dust and debris from the project.
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    Line shelves or drawers, if desired. Shelf liners can keep wooden and laminate shelves looking nicer longer, block moisture and spills, keep things from sliding around or, in the case of metal shelves, take up the space between wires so that smaller objects don't fall through.
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    Move into your new closet.
    • This would be a great time to organize the contents of your closet or storage space and throw out what you don't need.


  • The detail of your planning should correspond to the complexity of your project. If all you need is a couple rods and some shelves, a quick sketch should do it.
  • Keep your budget in mind throughout the planning process. When you have a basic plan, total up the costs before you head for the store. This is especially important for larger closets: all those little pieces can add up fast!
  • If you have a flat expanse of concrete or asphalt at hand, you can use it to help you plan. Take the measurements of the closet walls, and using kid’s sidewalk chalk, draw the wall on the surface, marking the studs and anything relevant. Now you can do a trial layout of the closet components, laying them against the surface as though it were the wall. This will let you see potential problems and likely give you better ideas. You can simply the move the pieces around rather than having to draw them to scale again each time.
  • Not all closet systems need to go in closets. They can also help to create laundry areas, garage, and pantry storage, and they can be combined with cabinets or other enclosed storage.
  • Have another person nearby to hold things while you adjust, mark, and screw things in, and to help with long and heavy items.
  • An attic hatch.
    Some closets have access hatches for attics, crawl spaces, or pipes. There's no reason you can't put loose objects in front of these (hanging garments, laundry hampers, or shoe racks), but plan permanent fixtures, like built-in shelves, around these openings.


  • Make sure that closet systems are designed to take the load and make sure that the support brackets are securely installed into a stud with the recommended number of fasteners and spacing. Then, make sure that shelves and other units are correctly installed on the supports.
  • Always work safely with tools.
  • A closet organizer can only do so much. If you have way too much stuff, you'll need to sort through it and remove items to get the most of your organization system.

Things You'll Need

  • Stud finder
  • Screwdriver
  • Pencil
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Tape measure
  • Level, plumb bob, square
  • Safety glasses
  • Closet organizer system brackets or rails
  • Shelves, rods, and other closet organizer components
  • Handles, hooks, and door or drawer pulls, as necessary
  • Bins, shelf liners, hangers, etc. (optional)
  • A hacksaw (for cutting rods and metal shelving) and circular saw (for cutting wood or laminate shelves), if you need to cut any pieces yourself.
  • Mounting screws, if they are not included with your closet system. Choose long wood screws if you are mounting the closet system into studs and drywall screws with anchors if there are places you cannot screw into studs.

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