And a closet — behind closed doors — is a great place to practice do-it-yourself skills.
Caleb Jones enjoys DIY projects, including the kitchen pantry closet he built when he moved to Philadelphia two years ago.
“I quickly realized Manayunk homes lack storage, and I needed to make do with my very small closet,” he said.
His plan to maximize space in the 8-foot-high, 27-inch-wide, 19-inch-deep pantry included shelves, cubicles, and drawers. Knowing that his largest items were paper towels, a nitro brewer and air fryer, he used those height measurements to space shelving. He also considered the weight of items he might store, like a case of beer or soda.
“Then I decided what I use most often, things like Ziploc bags and spices I wanted on the middle shelf,” he said. “Things I don’t use that much, like shopping bags, could go on the very top or along the floor or side.”
Once he finalized his plan, Jones bought wood and headed to Philadelphia Woodworks, an open-access community wood shop in Manayunk, where he had plenty of space to build and the use of tools. His pantry project cost about $200.
According to the 2021 Houzz & Home Study, the 12% of homeowners who renovated their closets spent a median of $1,000, a 43% jump from the year prior. Fall is the season when people choose to do a deep dive into their closets, according to Pinterest.
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“Every year, searches related to organization and routine spike twice — once during the new year as resolutions are in full swing, and again right before fall as people get inspired for a midyear recharge,” said Swasti Sarna, Pinterest senior insights manager.
If you’ve been wanting to try a DIY project, a closet is a great place to start because it’s smaller in scale and also hidden behind doors, said Rebecca Celhar, whose blog Hello Central Avenue is dedicated to DIY projects on a budget.
If you don’t want to cut your own wood, big box stores and online sites sell organization systems that range from completely ready made to custom components where you choose the style, size, and makeup, and then install them yourself. They start around $75 and run up to several thousand dollars, depending on the size and components.
“It’s important to plan out where everything is going to go first, rather than buy a system and make your things fit,” said Celhar, based in Moorestown. “Be sure you have space for all your clothing, including the length of dresses. Will your shoes be in shelving units or on the back of the door?”
Figure out the flooring in the space first, advises Anthony Brinn, president of ABC Closets in Hammonton. If you are going to change it, do that first, or consider a hanging system that does not go to the floor.
“Determine your budget, create a plan, and prioritize,” Brinn said. “Assess your items and your needs — if you have a lot of hanging or if you need a lot of shelves for shoes or folded items. Sketch out what you want — hanging high/low, drawers or shelves. Then shop around for designs and materials.”
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Once you create your plan, you can search whether there is a ready-made system that works for you or if you will need to build your own. There are pros and cons to each choice.
“Once you get a ready-made system into your home, all you have to do it put it up,” Celhar said. “It takes some time, but it’s already cut to size, and you’ve already decided how you want it to look. But you can’t always get exactly what you want in color, materials or exact dimensions.”
You’ll have more flexibility in a closet you create yourself, in the number of hanging bars, drawers, shelves, and hooks you include, as well as the color and finish. But building yourself takes time, effort and some expertise. In either case, you’ll need tools. Ready-made systems include a measuring tape, drill, level, screws, and anchors to attach the components to the closet walls. When building it from scratch, you will also need a hammer, screwdrivers, and perhaps a compound miter saw, Celhar said.
And don’t forget the vertical space, including the height of the wall or back of the door for shoes, jewelry or belts. Be creative with things that aren’t typically seen in a closet, like peg boards for jewelry, cut down and painted PVC pipe or shower rings for scarves.
A closet reorganization is the perfect time for discarding and donating things you no longer need.
“It’s painful,” Celhar said. “You think, ‘I might lose the 20 pounds, or this might come back in style, or I might save money by keeping this.’ But it feels better when it’s gone.”
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YouTube has many tutorials on every step of the building process, or help is available from professionals at a place like Philadelphia Woodworks.
If DIY isn’t right for you, there are advantages to hiring a professional. “Each closet is exclusively designed for you and your needs,” Brinn said, “and you get a professional designer and professional and efficient installers.”
But if you choose to do it yourself, “keep it simple,” Jones said. “When it’s overthought or too ornate, there’s just something else to go wrong.”