Introduction: How to Make a Built-in Closet Organizer

About: My name is Mitch. I make videos about the things I make and what I learn along the way. I have a Youtube Channel called Made by Mitch. I also love the coffee and the outdoors.

Over the past couple of years I have been trying to upgrade certain parts of the house and I decided that it was time to overhaul this closet. It had a clothes hanging bar and one shelf in it. This was ok but it could definitely be much more efficient. So I built a large shelf and installed it into the closet and added a couple hanging bars to it to be able to hang clothes still. This made the closet so much more usable than it was before. It was a pretty simple project. I hope you enjoy!



  • Kreg Rip-Cut
  • Circular Saw
  • Kreg Pocket Hole Jig
  • Miter Saw (or circular saw)
  • Random Orbit Sander
  • Drill and impact driver
  • Paint Brush
  • Dremel Multimax
  • Stud Finder
  • Angle Grinder

Step 1: Cut the Plywood

The first thing I had to do for this project was cut all of the plywood into usable pieces. You can choose the size you want for your shelf, but my shelve was designed specifically to fit the closet space I was working with. It was roughly 2’ wide, 6-½’ tall, and 15” deep. Because of how tall my shelf was I needed an extra piece of plywood for the bottom shelf. If you were doing a smaller shelf, you could get by with one less shelf and using only one sheet of plywood. To cut the plywood, I used the Rip-Cut made by Kreg tools. This is a jig that attaches you your circular saw and allows you to make perfect rip cuts. If you don’t have a table saw, this is a great alternative to ripping down large pieces of plywood or even if you have a table saw it is much easier ripping it this way rather than trying to push an entire sheet of plywood through a table saw. After ripping the plywood, I could move on to assembly.

Step 2: Assemble the Shelf

The next thing I had to do was assemble the shelf. To do this, I used a pocket hole jig also made by Kreg tools. Pocket holes are a very fast and easy way to join boards. The jig is easy to use and it is super fast. The first thing I did was drill pocket holes where they were needed on the boards. I did three pocket holes per shelf. I made sure to put the pocket holes on the underside of the shelf so they would be hidden when looking at the shelf.

To assemble the shelf, I used a piece of wood that was cut the exact distance as the space between the shelves and I used this as a spacer. So instead of measuring between each shelf, I just put down the spacer and then screwed in my next shelf. This was a very quick way to assemble the shelf. After I got one side finished, I flipped the whole shelf over on top of the other side board and repeated the entire process with the spacer on this side. I did have to measure the space between the bottom shelves, because it was a little larger than the others. I did the top board last and to attached that board I had to put the pocket holes in a different place. Refer to the photos and you will get a better idea of how I accomplished this. The pocket holes are on the side board of the shelf instead of under the shelf. After this, I added a small decorative kick toe board at the bottom. I inset it ¾” to give it a little bit of a professional look. After this, the assembly was complete.

Step 3: Sand

Next it was time to sand everything. I used a random orbit sander up to 220 grit to get the shelf prepped for paint. There were many hard to reach places that the orbit sander could reach, so I used a block of wood with sandpaper glued to it and got in the smaller tough places and this proved to be a great method of accomplishing this.

Step 4: Paint

After the shelf was sanded, it was time to paint. After using compressed air to clean the surface really well, I used two coats of furniture paint that I picked up at my local home center. I wasn’t crazy about painting plywood. I don’t feel like it accepted the paint too well. Maybe if I would have used more coats it would have been a little better but it was good enough for me so I just went with it.

After painting the shelf, I decided that I wanted the edge of the plywood exposed. I should have taped the edges before painting, but I didn’t think of it in time. I ended up sanding the paint off of the plywood edge and this worked really well. You could tell there were some places where the paint went deeper in the wood that I couldn’t get out, but for the most part it looked very nice. After sanding the edges, I put on two coats of polycrylic on just the exposed ply part. I have had very bad experience putting polycrylic over white paint in the past. After this the painting was complete.

Step 5: Installing the Shelf

After the shelf was complete, I could install it in the closet. I had to first tear out the old hanging bar and shelf. This was done with just a drill. I didn’t worry about covering up any formal holes because most of them would be covered up with the new shelf.
I had to cut out a small amount of trim for the shelf to fit flush against the wall. To do this, I used a dremel multi-max and it was perfect at cutting the trim in a precise location. I then pulled out the old trim using a hammer and pry bars along with the help of a chisel. The shelf now fit snug against the wall. I found a stud along the wall where the side of the shelf was and screwed the shelf to the wall so it wouldn’t move. I also screwed a piece of wood under one of the top shelves and screwed the shelf to the piece of wood to keep the top from falling forward. After bracing in these two places, the shelf was extremely solid and wasn’t moving anywhere.

Next I installed the bars for hanging clothes. To do this I first screwed a piece of 1x4 to the opposite wall to have something solid to attach the pole pockets into. I attached the pole pockets on each side. I had two hanging bars in this closet, but you could have as many as you want for yours. I bought one large piece of Closet hang bar from the home center. To cut it, I just used an angle grinder with a cutting wheel. After cutting, I used a grinding wheel to get rid of the sharp edges of the bar. After cutting these to size, I could hang the bars in the closet.

Step 6: Complete

After this, the project was complete! This was a fairly simple project that could totally transform any storage space. Make sure to check out the video for the full how to experience and if you have any questions on the steps leave me a comment or send me a message. You can also find me around the web.

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