November 27, 2022

How To Make Your Own Closet Organizer

Most of us know the frustration of scratching through piles of clothes. You may have given up on folding your clothes properly because they'll only get messed up again. And what about those times when you're on your hands and knees searching for the partner of the shoe you want to wear? Ugh. Let those frustrating times be a thing of the past. 

You can bring order to your closet without paying someone else to make or install an organizer for you. Making your own trendy closet organizer is a great DIY project that should not take too long if you plan it carefully. The best part is that you can save money and make it according to your needs. Let's find out how. Bring on the DIY closet organizer project!

What You Will Need To Build Your Own Closet Organizer

To make your own closet organizer, you will need:

  • Board: either plywood, MDF, or natural wood
  • Trim for the edges of the board
  • Carpentry saws. You can get the boards cut at a woodworking supply store if you do not have any.
  • Sandpaper
  • A level
  • A tape measure
  • The correct fixtures for joining
  • A pocket hole jig
  • Blocks for supports
  • Screwdriver (electric is helpful) or a hammer/nail gun
  • Wood filler
  • Paint and paint brushes or equivalent
  • The finishes you want, depending on your design

How To Build A Closet Organizer From Scratch

There are different ways to build a closet organizer, but they tend to follow a similar method. This article will focus on using MDF or plywood boards for building the structure because it is more cost-effective.

1. Design And Measure Your Closet Organizer

Building a closet organizer from scratch requires some planning. First, you will need to design and do a rough plan of how it will fit into your closet before you can measure the boards. 

How To Design A Closet Organizer

As enthusiastic as you may be about your DIY project, it is always a great idea to design it before buying the materials you think you need. You will save yourself some money and time by planning what you need and comparing prices ahead of time.

When you design your closet organizer, it is best to first think about what you need to store in it. You can determine what you need by asking yourself these questions:

  • Do I need hanging space? If so, how much?
  • Will I store my shoes in individual compartments or on a shoe rack?
  • What do I want to organize? Handbags? Scarves? Underwear? Clothes? Linen?
  • How many compartments or shelves will I need?
  • Do I want drawers, or are shelves sufficient?
  • Will I need space for containers such as storage crates?

Another consideration is the quality of materials and the color scheme for the closet. Most DIY closet organizers are made from plywood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF). These materials would require painting and trim to neaten them up. Alternatively, you can go for solid wood, which can be costly, or other materials, such as steel shelving, for a more industrial look.

Once you have done some homework, you can start looking for inspiration. The internet is full of closet organizer ideas. You can shop with your eyes and change these ideas according to your skills and finances. A search on Pinterest or YouTube will yield many options and hacks to help you design your closet organizer and maximize your closet space with space-saving options. 

Measuring The Space And Board Needed For Your Closet Organizer

A simple way to get an idea of how to plan and measure within the closet space is to use painter's tape, as this handy DIYer shows in her video.

To measure accurately, you will need a measuring tape and a level to ensure you get the lengths correct. If you measure without ensuring the lines are level, your cut boards will not fit into their designated spaces.

If you plan on having drawers, you will need to look at the various drawer rails available to see which would work best in your design. You will also need to buy the necessary fixtures and fittings to join and finish your closet organizer.

2. Cut The Board Into The Correct Sizes

If you cut the wood, you should have the correct carpentry saws. Depending on the size of the board you buy, you should plan how you cut the wood so that you have as little waste or offcuts as possible.

Alternatively, you can have the board cut to size at a woodworking shop or store where you bought the board. Just make sure your dimensions and quantities are correct when placing your order.

Suppose the closet organizer will be in a bedroom. In that case, it is recommended you do not choose plywood that contains formaldehyde adhesive. Formaldehyde adhesive gives off an unpleasant air pollution smell that is not ideal for a bedroom.

3. Create Pockets For Securing The Boards Together

To create a more robust closet organizer that won't disassemble itself, you should join it securely. If you use solid wood, you must create pockets that can house the screws that fix the boards together. You can do this with a pocket hole jig or ask your local woodworker to do it after cutting your boards. Otherwise, pilot holes for plywood and MDF are sufficient.

4. Sand The Boards For A Smooth Finish

Shelves should be smooth to prevent your clothes from snagging on splinters or sharp edges. You can sand the cut boards using a handheld or block sander. The edges will still be rough depending on the board you use, but you should be able to run your hand over the surfaces without feeling any sharp bits.

5. Assemble The Closet Organizer And Install Shelf And Rod Supports

According to your design, you can start to preassemble your closet organizer to see if everything fits as you planned. You will first need to put your shelf and rod supports against the walls, as it will be challenging to reach those spaces later. These supports provide extra support for shelves and a larger and stronger surface to attach hanging rods securely.

When installing these supports, you will need a tape measure and a level to ensure your shelves and rods are level. 

The type of screws or nails you use to fix the wall supports will depend on the kind of wall or material they will be attached to. Make sure you use the correct fasteners for the job. You should also make sure the supporting wall is strong enough or reinforced. We will discuss installing wall supports in more detail later.

6. Remove The Boards For Trim And Painting

Some DIYers prefer to paint their closet organizer before it is installed, while others prefer to paint it afterward. It depends on personal preferences, the tools at hand, and the finishes you want to put on your closet organizer. However, you can save time and contortion by painting the boards and adding the trim before installing them.

Adding Trim To The Edges

It is advisable to put trim on before painting the board. You can use veneer strips, or you can use natural wood for a more solid look. If you are using veneer strips, ensure the roll of trim you buy is wide enough to cover the width of the board it must go on. Then, you will need to measure the length of trim required according to the edge's size and add a bit extra. 

Before adding the trim to the board, it should be sanded with a sanding block. This will assist the trim to be flush with the board. Then, the trim can be applied using a nail gun or an iron, depending on the type you have bought and the desired finish. 

If you use veneer trim strips that need an iron, the setting should be on cotton with no steam. The iron's heat will melt the adhesive on the back of the tape, causing it to bond with the edges of the board. You will need to wait for the glue to cool down to set.

Once you have applied the trim, you will probably need to trim the excess. You can trim the excess overhangs with sandpaper or a blade, but these can have messy (and dangerous!) results. For a neater and less risky finish, you can use an edge banding tool specially designed for this purpose and relatively inexpensive.

Painting The Closet And Closet Organizer

When the closet is empty, you can paint the back and side walls more efficiently to match the newly painted organizer. This is especially useful if pencil lines or scuff marks are on the old paint. In addition, painting the shelves and vertical boards before installation will help you to get an even paint finish. 

Another benefit of painting the shelves and boards before installation is that you will not need to use yards of painter's tape. It will save you the added preparation time and time spent on finicky painting and contortionism.

To avoid an unpleasant paint smell in your bedroom, you can use paint with no Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC).

7. Install The Closet Organizer Securely

Now that the shelves and boards are fully prepped, you can securely install them into the closet. Putting all the pieces in place should be easier since you have already checked that everything fits and have made the necessary adjustments.

Most of the time, it is recommended that you put in the top shelf first as it can be pretty tricky to maneuver it into its space. Then, depending on your design, you can preassemble the shelves before installing them in the closet. Or, you can put your vertical boards in and insert the shelves. It depends on the space you have to work with, your tools, strength, and flexibility.

As you put a board or shelf into its space, you should constantly check that joined boards are at a right angle (90 degrees) and that they lie or stand level. You can use clamps to hold the shelves or panels in place while you join them with fasteners. Power tools will speed up the joining process, but you may have to use a screwdriver for the hard-to-reach areas.

Suppose you are satisfied that your closet organizer is secured within the closet and attached to its supports. In that case, you can attach the hanging rods to the supports you installed earlier. Hanging rods can be plastic or metal, but they may need to be cut to length depending on the width of your new hanging space.

8. Use Wood Filler And Paint To Cover Blemishes

If you did not put on trim and paint your closet organizer earlier, now is the time to do it. You can attach the strips with a nail gun if you prefer to add a natural wood trim like pine or poplar for a chunkier look. 

The chances of a few unsightly holes or rough edges in your closet organizer are pretty good, despite your carpentry skills. You can do touch-ups by filling the gaps with a wood filler and sanding them smooth once dried. Where needed, you can do touch-ups with paint before adding the finishing touches.

9. Add The Finishing Touches

If your closet organizer has drawers, you must install them and add the handles or knobs. Other finishing touches include storage containers, baskets, racks, or other hacks or objects you wish to add to help organize your closet.

How To Attach A Closet Organizer To A Wall

How you attach your closet organizer to a wall will depend on the wall. Many houses in the U.S. have interior walls made from drywall or plasterboard, fixed to a wooden or metal framework called studs. Studs are usually spaced 16 to 24 inches apart.

When you attach your closet organizer to a wall, you must ensure the supports are fixed to the studs behind the plasterboard. Otherwise, the wall won't be able to support the weight of the closet organizer when it is packed. We don't want you to be squashed by your closet organizer, please.

Before you design and install your closet organizer, you need to determine where the studs are and install your supports according to your design. Older houses with plastered walls may make the job of finding studs a little more complicated, but you can try the following options:

  • Knocking along the wall. Listen for hollow vs. solid sounds.
  • Use a metal detector if you have access to one. It will show you where the screws are hidden.
  • Use an electrical socket for reference because it will be mounted on a stud.
  • Finally, use a stud finder if you have drywalls. They are not as efficient on plastered walls, though.

Your design should be planned around the supports you must install. Having these supports installed before you assemble your closet organizer is better to prevent it from collapsing. If you install the supports afterward, you may miss the studs. The result? A collapsed closet organizer and a hole in your wall. Let's avoid that drama.

Is It Better To Buy Or Build A Closet Organizer?

Building your own closet organizer can be easy and relatively quick for people with moderate DIY skills. However, it may be better to buy a closet organizer if you do not have the time, patience, tools, or skills to do so and you really need to declutter your closet.

Some bought closet organizers allow you to construct them in a way that suits the closet space. However, many of them can be flimsy, or they may not use your closet space as effectively as a solid, more personalized design.

Suppose you prefer to buy a closet organizer instead of building your own. In that case, you can see your options at the stores listed below, but hopefully, you will try your hand at making your own.


If you want to make your own closet organizer, the good news is that it is not an impossible feat. There is no need to call in the professionals or settle for a generic shop-bought organizer. Instead, with a few tools and materials, plus patience and planning, you can design and create one that suits your needs and budget and maximize your closet space. 

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Written by


An interior design professional with a Master's degree in Architecture and 14 years of practical experience.
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