Closet Surgery 101

I live in a pretty modest small house that was built in the 1960s, during a time or by a developer who did not believe in the magic of healthy sized closets.  Or garages for that matter (mine was an afterthought build-on), which is essentially a giant ass closet for your car and lawn maintenance machines.


Closet space is now at a premium due to the Mr. 5 & Jess Household Consolidation Act of 2012. Not only are we working on combining households in the last two weeks, but we’re amalgamating two whole HOUSES of belongings. A subtle, yet important difference. Mr. 5’s house is also bigger and has comparatively decadent closets.

So, why did we decide to live in my house then? It basically boils down to work. Mr. 5 travels frequently for business, and flies out of Madison (where we live together now), with the ability to occasionally work from home. My job, on the other hand, has no opportunity to work from home, since I am the one who answers the phones (amongst other tasks). I am so grateful to him for making the sacrifice of that one hour commute on the days he does have to go into the office.

So…back to the closets – mine suck. The one in our bedroom is a bit over 4 feet wide and 2 feet deep, and I have a lot of stuff jammed into it. So, we’ve ended up using the smallest bedroom, AKA Oscar’s room, for John’s clothes. Yes…we have different rooms for our clothes because there’s not enough room in our bedroom. John’s closet is even smaller than mine – less than THREE feet wide.

The non-optimized offender

Our original plan to optimize this closet space was to add a vertical divider to create two different sections – the smaller would have one pole for hanging long things (pants) and the larger section would have two poles for hanging two rows of shirts. Above these sections, we’d have two shelves for sweater storage. Here’s a crappy rendering of the plan:

You get the picture, right?

We soon realized that we’d have to hang the first pole pretty high. High enough to create around 40″ of height for button down shirts and around 36″ for polos and T-shirts. The door jamb is about 82″ tall, which made for only a few inches of vertical room between the shelf and the jamb once the top pole, and bottom shelf, was in place. This is where the dream of the vertical division of the closet space died, and the new vision of one shelf and two closet poles was born.

The process:

Remove the old closet bits.

Check out that bad boy!

Clean the wall where the old bits were, fill in the nail holes and let dry, sand and paint.

Whilst the paint dries, take a rest in the dog bed and shop for business attire.

Locate your studs with a stud finder if you are installing to a brand new closet. Or, pay attention to where things were nailed/screwed previously if you’re redoing your closet. Measure, from the floor, how high up on the wall you’d like the shelf support to be on both sides of the closet. Recheck your measurement. Twice. Then, make sure the board is level and install your support boards by drilling pilot holes and screwing them into the studs.

We used Aspen 1x4s from Menard’s – measure the depth of your closet and cut two support boards an 1/8″ to a 1/4″ shorter for each cut pole you’re installing. We used a circular saw and then sanded. Mr. 5 wanted to stain the boards, but I thought they looked nice in this color – especially with the white shelving we purchased and had originally planned on using (but did not). We also pondered applying a clear sealer on the board, but didn’t do that, either.


Then, you’ll want to add the closet pole. The original closet pole was an all-in-one metal adjustable piece. We bought a wooden pole and rod flanges because our original vision was to have the vertical split, and we couldn’t find any metal poles that adjusted as small as we needed. So, you can go either way.


Just be careful if you need to shorten your closet pole. We cut our closet pole on some sub par plastic seahorses (sounds more fun than a saw horse, doesn’t it?) with a hacksaw. LOTS of vibration. The first cut went OK, but on the second one we tried to sandwich the pole between two 1x4s and trying to hold it all steady all of the vibration caused my arms to get pinched and it hurt like hell:

I am forever doing dumb shit that is embarrassing or painful to myself.

Follow the same process for the second pole and you’ll get this
Success! With some shirts!

In a nutshell: yay for DIY and doubling closet space!

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