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Be it the guest room, the hallway, or even your master bedroom, most houses will have at least a few builder’s grade closets.

Even if you’ve never heard that term before, you know exactly what we’re talking about—a shallow closet built into the wall, often with a single rail and shelf at best, thrown into the house during construction or the last major remodel. While we’re always glad to have any closet, these can get a little hard to organize. Since not everyone out in the real world can have some Pinterest-worthy walk-in wardrobe, we decided to pull some of our favorite tips together to help you get your builder’s grade closet organized and ready to hold more than you ever thought possible.

 

Start from scratch

First off, no matter what you’re using it for currently, you’re going to want to start by taking everything out of your closet and starting over. We do mean everything—if at all feasible, you’ll want to remove the built-in shelf and hanging rod to replace them with something a little more usable and flexible. Barring that, at least start by taking all of the clothes and excess stuff out of there for now so you have as much room as possible to work with.

 

Measure the space you have to work with

Unless you were there when it was being built (or if you’ve had a reason to measure it up before), you’re probably not too sure what the dimensions of your closet are. Now that it’s empty, take the time to measure your closet so you know exactly how much room you have to work with, and how this could affect what you decide to store in there.

 

Find better shelves

Now that you know what size closet you’re working with, the first step is to improve your closet shelving, particularly now that you have everything taken out. Depending on the space you have to work with you may want to consider replacing the one long top shelf most builder’s closets have with a series of smaller shelves lining the walls (and sides, as space allows) to better organize everything you have. Space them carefully depending on what you want to keep on them, and make sure they’re affixed safely to their closet shelf brackets to handle whatever boxes of scarves you’ll wind up keeping in there. (No judgment, we do it too.) This may be the trickiest part depending on what material the walls of the closet are made from, but just make sure everything is properly anchored before you start moving back in.

 

Replace the hanging rod

In most cases, the hanging rod provided after the closet is finished isn’t usually the…sturdiest, we’ll say. If you totally emptied out the closet, you may want to consider a rod with a stronger material and/or a different diameter to better accommodate what you keep on there. Hallway closets that get saddled with a lot of coats and sweaters should have a more dense rod to support the extra weight, whereas lighter clothes like shirts and spring jackets can get a smaller diameter rod (of the same length, of course) to help make more room for hangers.

 

See what space is left over

A big trick in customizing a closet is to look into the less-obvious areas for organization. After the shelves and rod are in place, even the tightest closet should have some areas for extra closet organizers. Space on the floor can easily become home to a shoe rack or a few plastic storage bins, and if there’s enough space behind the door you could use over the door closet storage to hang onto smaller items while freeing up room elsewhere in the closet. The trick is to look in areas that didn’t get used already to see what other options you have for improving organization.

 

If you had clothes that have to go back in there see what you can get rid of.

Finally, this might be just the excuse you need to do a closet purge. Bedroom closet have too many work shirts you don’t wear anymore? Hallway closet too full of blankets and outgrown winter clothes? Scary closet in the basement full of boxes you haven’t opened since you moved in? Find somewhere to donate or sell it all to.

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