How to Build a Closet Organizer
A place to get your life in order
by Kayleen McCabe and Jerod Ellison
Most closets don’t amount to much more than a hole in the wall with a door. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a shelf and a closet rod. It’s up to you to make your closet function for your storage needs, which makes this easy-to-build organizer an essential DIY project. It provides the flexible storage space for most items you’d put in a closet. Although this organizer might not be the right size for every closet, you can easily alter the dimensions to meet your needs. Of course, it’s also possible to change the number and size of the compartments.
Tools and materials
You’ll need only basic tools for this project: a circular saw and straightedge fence, or a table saw, a drill/driver (I used a WORX SwitchDriver to speed up assembly), a pocket-hole jig and some common hand tools. I built the organizer using 1×12 finish-grade pine (actual size is 3/4 x 11-1/4-in.) although MDF (medium-density fiberboard) works well if you want a painted finish. When you purchase lumber, be sure to check that it’s straight, flat and as knot-free as possible. A word of caution if you use MDF: it’s very dense and heavy, and cutting it creates a lot of fine dust. Finally, the trim-head screws I used (see materials list) are attractive and inconspicuous. They require a star-head driver bit that’s usually supplied with the screws.
Construction and finishing steps
All the connections are butt joints, which are simple to cut but require straight, square edges. That’s why you should use a fence with your circular saw and a fine-tooth crosscut or combination blade to minimize splintering. You should also check all the cuts with a square because being even a little bit off can turn into a big error. For consistency, cut all pieces of the same dimension at the same time, starting with the longest pieces first and working your way to the smallest. Stack like pieces on top of each other to check for any deviation. Sand all the parts before assembly with 120-grit or finer sandpaper. A power sander makes this job faster and more pleasant.
Once all the pieces are cut and sanded, mark the joint locations. To do the assembly, It’s best to work on a smooth flat surface. Start the assembly from the center section and work your way out. Use a small bead of glue and drive three or four screws into each joint to fasten the shelves to the vertical members; then add the top and bottom. To assemble the cubbyholes, you’ll need to use a pocket-hole jig to drive screws from the bottom of the shelves into the cubbyhole dividers. Once you’ve completed these subassemblies, you can fasten them to the vertical dividers before adding the side shelves and sides.
You could leave the wood unfinished but a good film finish provides protection and makes it much easier to clean. I used a one-step polyurethane finish that combines stain and varnish to simplify the process. Although the organizer works as a freestanding unit, you might want to anchor it to the closet wall to prevent any possibility of it toppling, particularly if you have small kids or pets.
You might find that organizing your organizer is more work than building it. Getting your life in order tends to be addictive, so this project might be the start of a very good thing.
(all parts 1×12 finish-grade pine or MDF)
No. Part Size
2 Top/bottom 3/4 x 11-1/4 x 78 in.
4 Sides/vertical dividers 3/4 x 11-1/4 x 70-1/2 in.
2 Cubbyhole dividers 3/4 x 11-1/4 x 35-1/4 in.
2 Center shelves 3/4 x 11-1/4 x 33-1/2 in.
4 Side shelves 3/4 x 11-1/4 x 20-3/4 in.
8 Cubbyhole shelves 3/4 x 11-1/4 x 10 in.
GRK No. 8 x 1-1/2 trim-head screws