Welcome to Kelli's Olympic Nest's tale of how we are creating a home we love through thrifty DIY projects, crafty ideas, and a willingness to get dirty. In between, there's the stories reminding us to also live the life you love. 

Closet Challenge Part II: affordable DIY closet shelving

Closet Challenge Part II: affordable DIY closet shelving

How to increase closet storage space to a builder grade closet

Have you ever just jumped into a project only to realize it's a bad idea? This cheap DIY closet storage system began like that. Thank goodness, though, failure is all about about the process of success. This easy closet system only cost $86.48 and took about 1/2 a day to accomplishI am so excited to share this with you.  

Part I was about what not to do that led to goals and a design plan which you can hop on over and read about that here. With a clear vision and materials purchased, it's time to roll up my sleeves and get my DIY face on.

Our closet size is 10'Lx27"D and included one long wire shelf. I tried, really tried, to make that work. In fact I even wrote about 5 ways to organize your closet but it still looked like this...

builder grade closet before diy makeover .jpg
his side of the closet.jpg

Ugh. Cluttered. Cramped. Hard to find anything. U-G-L-Y...ugly.

I can do better.

When you are on a tight budget, designing a closet system for under $100 bucks is a challenge. Every since I participated in the $100 Room Challenge I knew I was ready for a repeat. Do a quick Google search for closet systems and you will quickly learn how expensive it can get to add a custom closet storage system. 

Here's the thing. Would I like to have a system like this...

Source: Overstock for $143.99

Source: Overstock for $143.99

or this...?

Source: Wayfair for $166..99

Source: Wayfair for $166..99


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But you have to work with what you got. So the goal here was to design a closet system that maximized storage space for practically nothing. Hey, and if it looked good, that's a bonus.

Originally the plan was to build a Billy shelving unit in the middle of the closet which you can read and get a good laugh here. But (why does there always seem to be a but?) when I got to Home Depot and started pricing things, I quickly realized it would have been cheaper to buy one of the systems above. 

So I started looking around and thinking outside of the box. What could replace the wood dowels (would have cost triple what I wanted to spend)? How could I add shelves without the framing and boards? 

The answer? PVC piping, closet rod brackets, and scavenging the scrap pile at home.

Closet System Materials Purchased:

  • 7 White Shelf and Rod Brackets $4.18 ea ($29.26)

  • 3 Closet Rod Side Wall Bracket $2.48 ea ($7.44)

  • 2 1x12x6 Common Board $16.94 ea (33.88)

  • 2 3/4"x10 PVC40 PEPIPE $2.71 ea ($5.42)

  • 1 72 in. x 1-1/4 in. White Closet Pole $10.48

Materials On-hand:

  • 1x12x6 Common Boards (1 painted and 2 that required contact paper to be stripped)

  • 1x2 scrap wood

  • white paint and paint brush

  • drywall anchors and screws

  • 1 1/2" wood screws

  • short screws (anchor shelves to Rod Brackets)

  • miter saw

  • tape measure

  • stud finder

  • hammer

  • cordless driver (or just a screw driver)

  • level

Step 1: Add shelves and clothes rod at each end of closet

add shelf to area above water heater access.jpg

First figure out where you want the shelf. Since the the hot water access is via our closet, that's what I used to determine the height of the first shelf. Measure the width and mark your 1x12 board. Use a straight edge to make a straight line then cut board (I used a miter saw). 

Measure and cut your cleats (what your shelf will be anchored to) the same width as the board. With your cordless driver, pre-drill holes into your cleats. 

shelf cleats pre-drill before using screws.jpg

Use your stud finder to locate the studs and mark where the screws for the cleats will need to enter. I used the drywall anchors and screws for the cleats since the studs did not align with where I wanted to anchor the cleats.

This is where you want to use your level. After you anchor one end of the cleat, use your level to make sure the cleat isn't slanted.

add shelves to bedroom closet.jpg

With your first cleat attached, lay the cut shelf on top and place the level on top of the board. Mark a line beneath the board where the other cleat will be attached. Repeat the process for installing second cleat. 

Paint the cleats. If you're really a stickler for details you might want to use wood filler to cover the screws. Me...I figured the clothes would cover this so I skipped this step.

I repeated these steps for the shelf on the other end of the closet. 

Step 2: add rod side brackets and clothes poles to each end of closet

install your own closet system for cheap.jpg

The right side of the closet included two clothes poles while the left side (water heater side) only had one.

Here's where some may be a bit dumbfounded. For the closet poles I used PVC piping. While at Home Depot staring at the PVC options, they had a bin with 2' cut PVC pipes. This was just shy of what I needed. I picked it up and realized it was a lot sturdier than I thought which is why I went with this medium.

I figured out where I wanted to add the rod side brackets using a very mathematical system. Really...I did! Okay, not so much but I solved the equation by grabbing different clothing pieces on the hangers and figured out where they worked the best, marked the spot I wanted the rod, and attached to wall following the instructions on side rod packet.  


The PVC pipe didn't fit the rod side bracket!

Always seems to be a snafu with my projects which is why the big guy is my hero.

So hubby came up with this solution. He's pretty smart like that.

how to use pvc pipe as closet rod.jpg

He made this cut using the miter saw.  Once that little problemo was solved, it was all about measure, cut, level, drill, anchor and repeat.

cheap diy closet storage.jpg

Step 3: Add shelves and clothes rod to middle of closet

This was the easy part.

With the holes still evident from removing the wire shelving, I already knew where the studs were. Those became my start and end points for the middle shelving and rod brackets.

The top shelf was going to be the longest.  It was also going to be the board (re-cycled siding) I was using in the before picture (now painted white). I knew I wanted the height to be 7 ft so that's where the first shelf rod bracket was anchored.

Like the first shelves, your're going to place a board onto the bracket, level, and mark your place where the second bracket will be attached. Repeat this for the last bracket that was attached at the end of the wall. Add your board, anchor brackets to board with short screws, and top shelf is done.

Lay the 72" clothes pole into the bracket hooks. To stabilize use hex screws (what is used with curtain rods). You might also want to purchase an end cap for the clothes pole. 

how to add shelves to closet.jpg

To add the middle shelves I began with the bottom shelf by first determining where the clothes needed to hang from.  I knew I wanted skirts, jackets, and pants to hang here. Measure, mark and follow the same steps to add a shelf. 

The "rod" I used for the bottom is PVC pipe that I anchored with rubber bands until I can get some small hex screws.

The two shelves are 3' long. Remember to attach the brackets to the shelves.

Finally, to add additional storage, I up-cycleed some milk crates into storage cubicles. 

milk crate hack closet storage system.jpg

The top crates were spray painted with Rustoleum Heirloom White I had on hand. The storage boxes were purchased from Walmart a while back and the board on top has been moved around the house I don't know how many times. Hopefully it has found a forever home.

And that wraps up this easy-cheap DIY closet storage system.

Once I had all the materials, it took half-a-day to put together. Not bad for less than $100 dollars!

closet challenge part II how to add shelves to increase storage.jpg

Stay tuned for Part III: his & her closet challenge reveal. Time to de-clutter and re-organize. 

Would love to hear how you use your closet space.


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Closet Challenge Part III: declutter and organize your closet

Closet Challenge Part III: declutter and organize your closet

Closet Challenge Part 1: design a His & Her closet system to increase storage

Closet Challenge Part 1: design a His & Her closet system to increase storage