Use ALL of the closet space with DIY shelves

August 16, 2013

Here’s the thing – non-walk in bedroom closets stump me. I think they are huge chasms of wasted space. You with me? I just think that unless you have a built in closet system, there’s SO much space that isn’t used well. 

So for years I’ve been trying to use these spaces better – and until I can put something fancy in there I think this solution helps!

Let’s check out the befores of this closet shall we? It’s not pretty. I warned you.

On the one side I had installed some pull out bins (that used to be in the Bub’s closet) awhile ago, then we had some boxes of photos and a pile of luggage:

pull out bins in closet

You can’t see there but there are always a stack of random pictures on top of those boxes (because I’m usually too lazy to organize them inside the boxes) that come fluttering down every time I move something up there. :) I found a bunch tucked into the suitcases.

And speaking of, that pile of luggage was a little ridiculous:

The placement of all of that was less than brilliant on my part, since it became impossible to pull out them out when we needed them. Duh.

And other side was waaaaay worse. A few weeks ago we had company staying and we did a cleaning spree in here and quite literally stuffed things in this side of the closet:

organizing a bedroom closet

On my last trip to IKEA I picked up a few (or seven) feather pillow inserts to use for a future project – and I just dumped them on the guest bed. So they had to go somewhere…of course stuffed into the closet (along with some others) made the most sense:


So I started pulling things out and organizing. The stuff in those pull out bins was mostly travel stuff (a few of the bins were empty) and I got rid of half of it. I disassembled the drawers and will be putting them into our closet next but that’s a whole other post. :)

My hubby used that steam machine a lot before, but now that he doesn't have to dress up for work every day he doesn’t need it nearly as much. So I closed it up and put it our closet for now.

Then because I was planning on rearranging the bed in there, I started pulling stuff out from under there too – I have the bed up on risers so there’s a bunch of space underneath. I keep other pillows and extra foam and stuff like that under there.

By the time everything was pulled out this is what I was dealing with:

Well the lamp shade wasn’t under the bed…but again, one thing led to another. :)

My husband came up the stairs at one point, stood there and said “Whoa.” Exactly. It's pretty amazing that I stuffed all of that in a closet and under the bed. 

I counted 23 pillows that I found in that room – TWENTY THREE! Old decorative pillows, filler pillows and bed pillows. Twenty…three. I haven’t cleaned out this room in a long time, obviously.

So after the purging it was on to the next phase. I kind of hate that weird space to the sides of the closets – if you’ve got a lot of clothes then obviously that’s prime space, but in a space like this with no clothes it’s wasted.

To use it better I grabbed scrap wood from the garage and made some shelves:

building shelves in closet

I knew I wanted to keep that bin in there so I started right above that and just eyeballed the height of each shelf. This is so easy to do, really! I just used random pieces of wood as the ledge and screwed them into studs (mostly at the corners). Then I cut down pieces of wood for the shelf part and nailed them in to the supports.

You can see the how-to more in detail in my kitchen pantry post here or the wood shelves in the basement bathroom here.

I put some contact paper down to cover the rough wood – it’s easier and faster than paint in my opinion:

DIY shelves in closet

And then started filling them up with blankets!:

using wasted space on side of the closet

I could never get those blankets to stay up on the wire shelves above, so this is a GREAT solution. (Especially for that huge fluffy blanket!)

The other side looks better too – I only kept enough luggage for the three of us:

storing luggage

That bin in the middle is an old toy box from the Bub’s nursery and I put my extra fabric in there. I put it in that spot so we can still easily access the luggage and shelves. 

Here’s how it all looks, with before and afters!:

organizing a messy closetorganized bedroom closet

organizing a messy closetorganized bedroom closet with shelves on side   

SO much better!! The great thing is, the fabric in that bin and the photos will all move to the loft when I get those built ins done. Which will be…??? But eventually there will be good spot for all of that too. (Edited to add: Go see the completed loft office/craft room here!)

And did you see the EMPTY space on the upper shelf? Totally awesome.

Oh, and the pillows I did keep (I took most to consignment and kept the fillers) I put back under the bed. :) 

No spend August is still going well – I can’t wait to show you what else I’ve been up to! 

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  1. I agree that closets definitely have a lot of wasted space. I think what you did with the shelves on the left side is a great idea.

  2. Such a great post! I've never understood why there is so much space on the sides of closets that you can't reach! I think I'll be making some shelves this weekend! Thank you!

  3. Oh this looks totally amazing. I definitely need to do a couple of mine. Great job with the shelves. I need some of those too. Hugs, Marty

  4. Wow -- great idea for the shelves! I have a closet in the master bedroom that has lots of wall space on the side. I will have to try your method for creating shelves!

  5. Looks amazing! Thanks for the ideas. I have 2 guest room closets that could use some organization. Why is it that we pile things in the guest rooms? I've even got the hubby's sleeping bags hanging in one closet, they take up a lot of room. I'll let you know if I tackle them anytime soon. I am going to try to de-crapify this weekend myself. I have a blog that I just started also at I will let you know how my de-capifying goes! Victoria

  6. Great Job!!Great ideas as well... Thanks for sharing...

  7. Great idea! I have that very same problem in my closet and I started stacking Rubbermaid totes there. The problem with THAT idea is that whatever I am looking for is always in the bottom bin. With shelves I could just slide those bad boys in and out as I needed them. Thanks for putting an idea in my head!

  8. Isn't it the best feeling ever to be organized?? Now I just have to try it lol

  9. I love the sense of accomplishment you get after tackling a project like that!

    Christy @ Creating a Beautiful Life

  10. Why not your sons luggage under his bed and yall's under yours? That will definitely free up more space in the closet and even if you dont fill it up with stuff atleast it will look empty and that's the goal!

    1. His bed is too low and I have a plan for the space under ours. :) Until recently our bed was taller so you could see right under it -- we didn't store anything underneath there because of that.

  11. wow - that is a lot of fluff! quite literally!!

  12. That's really a difference. I planned to clean out my closet tomorrow and I hope I will get so much empty space as well. So wish me luck ;).

  13. Excellent use of the space! Loved this post.

  14. Nice job! I did the same thing in my closet a while back...extra shoe storage!

    Jenna @ Wife in Progress

  15. Oooh, I really hate how most closets are built. You are so right about so much wasted space. We have a master closet that is the size of a small bedroom, but after living here for 2 years we still haven't come up with a good workable plan -- getting closer, though! I'm truly amazed at all the stuff you had in that closet -- wow, girl, you had some major stuffing power going on. I have resorted to those space bags that you fill up and then use your vacuum cleaner to suck all the air out. They really do work and I store a lot of pillows and extra bedding under our captain's bed that way.

    1. Carol I tried those years ago and the air would always get back in them! I LOVED them till that happened. I bet they work much better now. I should look into those for the pillows under the bed! :)

  16. We always store the luggage under the beds. When the kids lived at home, they knew their suitcase was under their bed so when it came time to pack they had easy access to it.
    We have those wire shelves, too, and I don't like them. But I took my square wicker baskets and turned them on their sides rather than using them in the traditional way. This way I have created an additional "shelf" above for lightweight items and dividers between my folded sweaters, purses and other items.

  17. I find decluttering so therapeutic but never have the time or energy to do it! I'm definitely inspired to try and get something done this weekend. Thanks! And the look on your cat's face at the pile from the closet and under the bed is priceless. How long before the cat was sleeping in that pile?

  18. Love the idea of the shelves on the sides!

  19. great job, it really made a big difference. now if you could just post about decluttering every day maybe i'll get inspired to actually do it! Love the cat in the background!

  20. Wow. What an amazing job. My closet looked like that forever so I know what a pain it can be but I think you got great results!


  21. I've did a closet de-clutter this week too! Also worked on re-organizing my garage! I hang my luggage on peg boards in the garage. Also use the large suitcases to store a few extra blankets and pillows. Great job on the shelves!

  22. Closets are so difficult! They are always filled with a ton of stuff that's really hard to organize "pretty." You did a good job and good call with the contact paper!

  23. My husband uses them so often I want them to be easy to grab for him. :) And we could only fit one inside another, the other sizes won't work.

  24. Looks like you are still suffering from the "too much stuff" syndrome. This year, when we moved, I got rid of EVERYTHING we didn't want, use or need. We only have enough bedding for beds in the house, dishes for immediate family and a few extra for when guests come. I got rid of all the excess crap for holidays (because who needs to change their decor every other week, seriously), etc. What I ended up is in my new home with a feeling of organization, and peace. No more clutter, not even one "junk drawer" (most of my drawers are empty). And I've gotten MANY wonderful comments about the feeling in my house since. And they are right, it feels so good to not have to spend my weekends de-crapifying all the time (then just to bring in more junk...what a waste of time, money and space). But that's just my experience.

    1. Oh yes Kris, I think most of us are working with too much stuff. It's something I deal with every year. I'll never have a completely decluttered home, at least not till the kiddo is out of the house. :) It's a process I go through every year and I actually quite enjoy it.

  25. Wow that made a huge difference! I definitely did some de-cluttering this weekend too but if you just looked around you wouldn't see it what I did... I scored a hutch on Craigslist for my kitchen so I organized my kitchen drawers. I feel SO much better about myself after doing that - ha! Without the hutch we only have two drawers in the kitchen so I bet you can imagine how cluttered they were. Well, the hutch gave me two extra drawers so I could finally sort out the things that I used most often between the things I still wanted out, but didn't need right at my fingertips. I also cleaned out/organized our laundry room.
    On to closets - both of my guest room closets have that "dead space" on the sides of the closet and putting shelves in there is such a great idea! I have been thinking about doing it for a really long time now. I just haven't gotten around to actually doing it... We are expecting our first little one so putting shelves in the nursery closet will give me TONS of much needed storage space. Anyway, great job on your closet! =]


  26. I read about this project before, but I forgot about it! I am pinning this, since the second closet in my master bedroom really needs some organization!


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