Closet Organization / Comments and Recommendations
Everyone that either owns, rents, borrows, or is a squatter within a third party’s residence, will require a closet, or in many cases, countless closets, to store all their “ stuff “.
This means that, if you have a place to sleep, you will need some type of room to store your clothes and other personal possessions.
Closet organization and management is an important element in the majority of individual’s lives.
I have constructed hundreds of closets, by either contracting out the closet interiors, or personally installing shelving, coat racks, closet poles and other means of closet management, in far too many closets to identify, or even wish to imagine. Listed below are my comments and recommendations for closet shelving, racks, poles, drawers, etc. that will hopefully, help you organize and manage your closet space.
- Shoe storage / shoes have an organizational mind of their own. Women’s shoes will accumulate like rabbits in a closet, and will overflow out of any closet intended to store them. For some reason, women have a tendency to require and acquire, many more shoes than they can ever physically wear. Unfortunately, I will be in trouble if anyone in my family reads this webpage, however, most contractors, builders and interior designer will agree that the shoe element of interior closets, is an issue that will grow, as the use of the closet matures. I personally have a very lovely wife that requires countless sneakers. She will indicate that she is on her feet, for several hours each day, and that her sneakers are her “key “to comfort, as well as her daily performance. I have a future daughter in law, that happens to have a similar occupation as my wife, and also has a seemingly fetish for her footwear. The bottom line is that shoes have a tendency to multiply, and seldom do they see the local dumpster or goodwill container.
I will attempt to salvage my relationship with both my wife and future daughter in law, by stating that I also tend to accumulate shoes. For some reason, I think everyone has this accumulation tendency, not to remove shoes from their closets, even if not worn, and simply add to the boxes, or the piles of shoes that accumulate in these closets. Both of my sons have extremely large feet and their shoes, boots and sneakers take up considerable space.
Shoes, boots and sneakers take up an exceptional amount of space in anyone’s closet, and therefore are the first important item that must be managed and organized in a closet.
How do you organize, manage and attempt to discipline yourself when it comes to shoes, boots and sneakers within your closet?
- Weight, dirt and physical access, are three characteristics that mandate that your shoe storage, within the closet space, should be on the floor, under the other garments intended to be hung or organized in the closet.
- Due to the need to keep shoes, boots or sneakers together, you should have at least ten inches of width dedicated for each pair of footwear. Therefore any type of spaced footwear management system should provide at least a space that measures a minimum of 6 inches high, by ten inches in width. The depth of these cubicles should be a minimum of 12 inches and, in the case of my two sons, at least 16 inches. This depth will allow enough room to store the footwear in the cubicles, without them falling out. In many DIY manuals, television shows, or on the internet, the use of an open, angled display presentation showing the area required for footwear, is indicated. I personally disagree with this concept of an angled display of footwear. Although it looks wonderful, it takes up too much room, does not allow any type of stacking over the top of the rack, due to the angle, and also has a tendency to look messy, unless unnecessary time is devoted to straightening out your footwear rack. If straight cubicles are constructed, and the footwear is inserted, the heels of the footwear will be visually obvious, and this will allow the proper selection. To display the footwear, again, in my opinion, takes too much space and discipline in organization.
- It is best to provide a space elsewhere in the home, garage, mudroom, or entry foyer for the larger footwear that the family uses. Boots and outside footwear should be stored in an organized area, outside of the closets, in bedrooms, or changing rooms. A great place to store the exterior rain and snow footwear is along the walls of the garage or even between the cars. This storage in the garage will prevent the dirt, crime and moisture associated with footwear used outside from getting into the primary living areas. In addition, these boots, sneakers or work boots are not cluttering up the bottom of closets in the home.
- An excellent method for constructing open shelving for footwear is to use light plywood or ply- score, one quarter to half inch thick, with drilled holes for simple separation doweling. These dowels can be glued where the shelving is supported, and the entire assembly easily installed, under any of the stairwells in the home, alongside the garage walls, etc. Large or exterior footwear storage should be accommodated around the home, wherever there is room. Be creative when it comes to footwear storage, you will be surprised at the amount of footwear that can be stowed under workbenches, over the top of garage shelving units, or merely lined up along the side of the garage walls. Snow boots and wet galoshes are seldom worn, and they should NOT clutter up important space in the closet spaces of the primary home.
- Closet shelving / the installation of closet shelving is an interesting concept, which has developed as families have grown, and larger closets have become available in family homes. When space in a home was at a premium, and possessions were not as plentiful as they currently are, the closets were smaller, the spaces dedicated for storing “ stuff “ was kept at a minimum. The cost of the square footage within the home was closely monitored and kept at a minimum, the inhabitants of the home, simply didn’t have that many personal possessions. As society flourished, which allowed the ability to construct larger homes, the amount of personal material that each member of the modern family grew and the need for shelving in closet space increased.
What elements of closet shelving should be considered?
- The type of shelving is important. There are several, affordable and easily installed types of shelving, available at the local builder’s supply stores. Melamine shelving is a solid shelf, made up of particleboard, with plastic synthetic material called melamine laminated on the surfaces of the shelving. Also available is wire shelving that has a plastic coating that will prevent rusting or deterioration of the shelving. It is important to remember, that solid shelving of any sort will accumulate dust and dirt. The wire shelving, due to its openness, does not accumulate the dirt and debris as readily as the solid shelving. Plywood shelving can also be used; however the plywood will require either a clear sealer or paint to be applied to the surfaces, to prevent deterioration of the wood.
It is also recommended that a pre-finished type of shelving be used to accommodate cleaning and maintenance.
- Shelving support. The proper support of shelving within the closet is essential. All shelving should be supported directly to the framing within the closet. If the home is being newly constructed, I would recommend the use of full plywood sheathing applied to the framing, prior to the installation of the sheetrock within the closets. This will allow the installation of shelving anywhere within the closets interior. If the dimensions allow, in existing closets, I still recommend the veneering of at least a ½ inch thick layer of plywood sheathing, within the entire closet, for shelving support. This plywood in an existing closet would be applied to the surface of the sheetrock and sealed with a clear sealer or painted. In this manner, shelving brackets can be attached to the plywood sheathing, which is supported by the framing of the closet, making the entire assembly extremely stable.
If a full layering of plywood is not practical, then the installation of continuous pieces of wood, approximately 4 inches thick, should be installed horizontally across the framing studs of the closet. In this manner, the shelving will be supported by the studs framing the closet. Dependent upon the layout of the shelving, as well as the need for adjustment, the horizontal pieces of wood, or particleboard, can be used to directly support the end of the shelf against the wall, or they can be used to support vertical shelving brackets for the shelves. No matter how the shelving is designed, it is strongly recommended that the installation of this shelving be supported by the framing studs in the closet, and not simply the sheetrock sheathing. Support is the key element of success for any arrangement of shelving within the closet space.
If for some reason, the shelving supports cannot be directly attached to the framing studs of the closet, then it is strongly suggested that heavy molly bolts be used. Molly bolts are long bolts, which have a V type attachment that screws onto the back or the bolt. This V type attachment is designed and constructed, in a fashion, that when inserted into the wall, the V type attachment opens up within the wall, and when tightened, exerts pressure on the interior side of the sheetrock and provides a stable support for the fastener. The use of a spring assembly within the V attachment allows the spring to be squeezed closed as the molly bolt is inserted into the wall and forces the V attachment wings to spring out once the sheetrock thickness has been passed through.
Once again, it is extremely important that any shelving installed in the closet is properly supported by wall fasteners. Failure to properly support the shelving will only cause failure of the shelving and expensive corrections in a closet that is full and being used. This is not a good situation, especially if the shelves are full of material and are supporting other shoe racks, closet poles, etc.
Overboard is a good characteristic when identifying the proper installation of shelving supports for a closet! Too many supports is normally NOT an issue!
- Closet poles. The installation of closet poles should be arranged to accommodate both the short garments, as well as the longer garments. Each closet should be custom designed, depending upon the garments to be hung on the closet poles. Shirts, sweaters and coats, do not require the length of free hanging room, which pants, dresses, suits or long winter coats may. If properly managed and designed, a double tier of shirts can be installed, that will allow efficient accommodation of the limited space within the closet. Proper closet design will accommodate the shoe storage under the shorter hanging garments, or, if the height of the closet poles is managed properly, the shoe storage can also occur under the closet pole identified for pants storage or shorter garment storage.
As with the shelving, the closet poles must be properly supported. The weight of several heavy coats, or even multiple pairs of pants, can be extreme and the support of the closet poles is important. Like the shelving, failure of a closet pole in the middle of the night, will not generate marital bliss. In fact, I have witnessed closet poles actually snap under the weight of clothing. I personally prefer to use galvanized piping for the actual closet poles. I understand that this may appear to be overkill, however, the pipe will never snap like a wood pole.
The end conditions of a closet pole installation are important. The normal plastic closet pole ends that are meant to be screwed into the side walls of the closet will not work. They will either pull out or actually snap at the base of the bracket, where the closet pole is resting on. I suggest the use of a wood surface mounted piece, which is directly under the end cap of the closet pole or is positioned to allow the drilling of a hole directly into the wood surface support. One end of the closet pole will be inserted into the hole in one, end wall, of the closet support while the other end is slipped down into a slot, which has been cut into the other side wall support. Don’t forget the center of the closet pole. If the closet is over 4 feet wide, the closet pole or any pole within the closet, longer than 4 feet, will require a center support. Center supports are also available at the local builder supply store and should be liberally used. Once again, lack of support and closet pole failure is not something that any homeowner wants to experience, and the proper support of both shelving and closet poles should be of primary interest.
- Dowel hangers. The use of dowel hangers, or separate hooks, independently installed in various locations within the closet are both handy and extremely efficient to the hanging of pocketbooks, belts, scarfs, etc. I used to make, what I refer to as dowel hangers, by simply cutting up pieces of a length of dowel. Dowels can be purchased in the builder supply store in various lengths and diameters. Dependent upon what will be supported; normally the use or smaller diameters such as ¾ inch will allow the hanging of most miscellaneous items in the closet areas. The pieces of dowel are glued into a backer board of ¾ inch pine that has been drilled to accommodate the size dowels being used. I would drill straight through the board and insert the small piece of dowel into the drilled hole with a little glue. Normally the depth of ¾ inch is ample to support the dowel. However, if heavy items are being supported, the drilling of a thicker piece of backer board, will allow more weight to be placed on the dowel due to the deeper depth of the drilled hole. The shorter the dowels, the less actual torque will be applied at the connection between the dowel and the backer board. Visa versa also applies, so be cognizant of the length of the dowels being used. In addition, the longer the dowel, the more dangerous is this projection within your closet space.
- Net hangers. Net hangers are simply that, the suspension of netting from the ceiling of the closet or the side walls, to allow the storage of scarfs, hats, gloves, etc. The netting allows the visual identification of the material being stored due to its open matrix. The use of closed baskets and other types of storage boxes requires the removal of the box, to look inside and identify the item being stored. Care must be taken to ensure that the netting is properly supported or hung, to minimize the breaking of the net, or the failure of the supports to secure the netting, if an overly ambitious closet owner decides they love this netting and uses it to accumulate too much “ stuff “. The use of netting is a practical method for storing miscellaneous items, however, packing the interior of a net will only produce a confusing mess of “ stuff “. Netting is a wonderful idea and application for storage if it is used correctly. Incorrect use, and you may never find that scarf you stuffed under all the other “ stuff “ you stuffed into that handy netting.
- Ceiling hangers and supports. If the closet is constructed in an area of high ceilings, the space above the usable height within the closet can be creatively used to store umbrellas, walking canes, or any item that is not used on a daily basis. Once again, like the shelving, closet poles and the netting, support is an important element for anything that is hung over the head of occupants. The use of a threaded rod, hanger system, is strongly recommended for this storage accommodation. If a threaded rod is used to hang the storage system at the top of the closet, the threaded rod must be installed into the ceiling joist or framing of the closet ceiling. The use of a molly bolt is not recommended for any application that will produce a pull out force and not a shear force on the hanger. Please look up the difference between tensile strength and shear strength in the glossary, for further explanation of these type of stresses. You do not want to install any fastener that will encounter a pull out force unless you are sure of the stability of the material that the fastener has been inserted into. Wood ceiling joist is fine, sheetrock is not.
Any type of storage system that is hung from the ceiling must be carefully installed due to the danger associated with the failure of a system above the heads of inhabitants in the home. As with the walls, I strongly recommend the covering of the ceiling with plywood sheathing, installed directly into the ceiling framing. In this manner, any hanging ceiling brackets, threaded rods or other hanging system of support will not pull out of the support base.
- Drawers. In my opinion the installation of drawers within a closet, unless the closet is basically another bedroom, doesn’t make much sense. If the closet has enough room for a drawer to be opened and the contents properly exposed, then the closet is designed too large. I will agree with the use of drawers within a walk in closet, however, I would recommend that situation be resolved by the installation of an inexpensive bureau purchased from Ikea or other inexpensive furniture maker. The custom construction of drawers within what is being referred to as a closet is in my opinion a waste of money as well as space. The economical storage units that a manufacturer, such as Ikea offers, will provide all the drawers required or desired within a closet space.
Drawers are very expensive to construct, do not handle repeated closet opening and closings and generally take up a lot of space. However, they are sensible if there are smaller items requiring storage, that do not effectively store on an open shelf or in an open cubicle.
- Lighting. The lighting in any closet is important. The ability to choose the correct tie, shirt, pants and jacket is a function of proper lighting. This is my problem. None of our closets have the proper illumination, to properly select the correct combination of colors. At least this is the excuse I use. In reality, the lighting in any closet is easily accommodated with simple and economical fluorescent lighting installed on the ceiling of the closet. Standard strip fluorescent lighting can be easily installed and found at the local builders supply store. If you have decided to increase the capacity of your closet by the installation of ceiling storage, then the lighting in your closet may require some additional creative accommodations. Lighting in closets has become much easier with the advancement of LED lighting strips and modern light fixtures. It is important that the lighting in the closet is adequate to properly evaluate colors and patterns.
A clever means of controlling the lights in the closet, is to have a switch directly linked to the opening and closing of the closet door. Occupancy sensors can also be used; however, if you are not moving within the closet, an occupancy sensor may turn the lights off while you are still in the closet. The best and easiest control, is directly at the hinge side of the closet door, in this manner, when the closet door is opened, the light is on, when closed, it is off.
- Heat, cooling and ventilation. The environmental control of a closet interior is usually never required. No matter how important your HVAC subcontractor may indicate the need is, it is a rare instance, when the need for ventilation, heat or air conditioning is required in a closet. If the doors are normally closed, the closet space becomes a dead area that will not need to be accommodated by any of the mechanical means of temperature or air quality control.
If ventilation is a consideration or concern the use of a louvered closet door will accommodate air movement within the closet space. The accommodation, within a closet, for humidity or temperature control could be required, if furs or elegant silks and other wardrobe specialties are stored in the closet. If you are not storing these specialty items in proper storage elsewhere, then the humidity and temperature accommodations must be discussed with your HVAC subcontractor for resolution.
Closet organization and management, is an important element of any new home construction and design, as well as in renovation projects. Closets have become extremely important to the resale of modern homes and should be carefully considered when designing or renovating your home. Closets are important due to the growth of “stuff “and the need to accommodate this “stuff “
Remember, the physical support, for all closet accommodations, such as the shelving, closet poles or other miscellaneous accessories that you have installed, to hang and store your “stuff“, is extremely important. The overall satisfaction of your closets, will not be in their ability to properly and efficiently store all your items, but in the strength of the shelving, closet poles, and other accessories that you have installed for storage of all your “ stuff “. If properly installed, a closet malfunction will not occur during the middle of the night dumping all of your carefully stored and hung “stuff “on the floor of the closet.
Remember, the more stuff, the more storage, and the more dumpster material in the end!