Closet Organization: A Simple Closet Rod and Shelf System

Updated: Jan. 03, 2024

Double the storage space in your closet with this DIY closet rod and shelf.

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This simple closet rod and shelf system will bring order to your cluttered closet and double the storage space. We'll show you everything you need to build this organizer. No more excuses! In just two days, you'll have an organized closet.

Tools Required

  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Air compressor
  • Brad nail gun
  • Circular saw
  • Clamps
  • Cordless drill
  • Drill bit set
  • Hammer
  • Jigsaw
  • Level
  • Safety glasses
  • Speed square
  • Stepladder
  • Stud finder
  • Tape measure
  • Utility knife

Materials Required

  • 1-1/16“ closet rod (8')
  • 1/2“ x 2-1/2“ hook strip (24')
  • 1/2“ x 3-1/2“ hook strip (9')
  • 1/4“ x 3/4“ x 8' screen molding (4)
  • 3/4“ x 4' x 8' sheets of oak plywood (1-1/2)
  • 6d finish nails
  • 80-grit sandpaper
  • Pairs of rod holders (4)
  • Wood glue

Annoyed by an overstuffed closet packed so tightly that you can’t find your favorite shirt or shoes? Where the closet rod bends under the weight of all of the clothing?

If so, the simple DIY closet shelves organizing system we show here is a great solution. It utilizes the closet space much more efficiently by dividing your closet into zones that give your slacks, dresses, shirts, shoes and other items their own home. As a result, your clothing is better organized and you can find your party shirt or power skirt quickly and easily. Overall, you’ll get double the useful space of a traditional single pole and shelf closet.

In this article, we’ll show you how to build this simple DIY closet shelves organizer, step-by-step, and tell you how to customize it to fit closets of different sizes. We designed it for simplicity; you can build it in one weekend, even if you’re a novice. However, to do a nice job, you should have experience using two basic power tools: a circular saw and a drill. A power miter box and an air-powered brad nailer ($90) make the job go a bit faster, but they aren’t necessary.

The materials for our organizer cost only $150. We used 1-1/2 sheets of oak veneer plywood, plus several types of standard oak trim that you’ll find at most home centers and lumberyards. The DIY closet shelves system we show works best in a 6-ft. closet.

Project step-by-step (8)

Step 1

Use a Guide to Crosscut

  • Rip the plywood into two 13-3/4-in. pieces for the vertical dividers.
    • Pro tip: If you plan to rip plywood with a circular saw, be sure to use a straightedge to get perfectly straight cuts.

Step 2

Cut Notches in the Dividers

  • Measure the height and thickness of your baseboard.
  • Use a jigsaw to cut notches for your baseboard so the vertical dividers will fit over it.
    • Note: You don’t have to cut out the baseboard in the closet or even trim the back side of the dividers to fit its exact profile. The back of the organizer will be mostly out of sight, so square notches will do.

Step 3

Attach the Molding

  • Smooth the cut plywood edges with 80-grit sandpaper and a block.
  • Glue and tack 3/4-in. screen molding onto the edges that will show.
  • Apply a stain or finish and let it dry.

Step 4

Attach the Shelf

  • Lay out the intermediate shelf positions with a square.
  • Spread glue on the shelf edges and nail the shelf to the dividers with 6d finish nails.
  • Nail the 1/2-in. hook strips to the dividers as well.

Step 5

Install the Center Unit for the Rod and Shelf System

  • Find the studs using a stud finder and mark them with masking tape.
  • Measure and mark the center of the wall on tape.
  • Set the unit in its position against the wall.
  • Level and shim as necessary.
  • Predrill the hook strips with a 1/8-in. bit, then nail the unit to the studs.

Step 6

Install the Hook Strips

  • Level and nail on the remaining hook strips, starting with wider hook strips along the side walls to accommodate the hanging rod hardware.
  • Continue the strip around the closet sides.

Step 7

Nail the Top Shelf in Place

  • Trim the top shelf ends to fit the side walls.
  • Drop the shelf into place.
  • Nail it to the tops of the vertical dividers and to the hook strip with 6d nails.

Step 8

Finish the Closet Rod and Shelf System

  • Install all your closet rod hardware before you put in the side shelves.
  • Position the hardware for the closet rods about 1-1/2 to 2 in. down from the shelf above and about 10 to 12 in. from the back wall.
  • To best secure the side shelves, sand the cut edge that will be in contact with the center unit with 100-grit paper.
    • Note: This will break up any finishing oil and provide a cleaner surface for the glue.
  • Lay out the remaining shelves on their side wall hook strips and use a level to determine their exact position on the center unit.
  • Mark and drill the pilot holes through the center unit.
  • Lift out the shelf and apply a thin bead of glue.
    • Pro tip: To prevent smearing, put the center unit side in first while tipping up the wall side of the shelf. Keep a cloth handy to wipe up the inevitable glue smudges.
  • Nail the shelves in place and you’re done.