My Crappy Advice: I Hate My Closet

Season 1 | Episode 2

The Features That Make a Closet Great & Designing a Walk-In Closet on a Budget

Welcome back to My Crappy Advice, where the advice is free and, despite the misleading name, not crappy. Like, at all. (I know. It’s confusing. Just go with it.) This episode is all about closets… tips for closet design, how to redo a closet on a budget, and wtf to do when your attic access is in a stupid spot. If you’ve got a crappy design or DIY dilemma that you’d like my (not) crappy advice on, look for a submission link at the end of this post. In the meantime, if I ‘hate my closet’ is a common thought for you, keep on reading…

my crappy advice dear crappy

This episode’s submission comes from Melissa. She writes:

Dear Crappy,
I hate my closet! The builder did a crappy job installing these crappy shelves. They look okay, but they’re coming apart. I’d like to get rid of the dresser and put in some drawers and shelves on that side without blocking the access to the attic. I don’t have a lot to spend, so a custom build wouldn’t work for me.

OK, Melissa. Let’s check out what you’ve got going on…

Dresser inside walk in closet

Walk in closet with hanging and folded clothes

Shelves with clothes in a walk in closet

Floor plan of bad closet

How lucky are you to have a walk-in closet? You know, according to The Global Agency of Fictitious Information and Statistics (GAFIS), you’re already better off than 94.2% of the world’s population. At first glance, your closet doesn’t look so bad, but upon closer inspection, those shelves do look like they were cobbled together from spare closet parts. (GAFIS says 99.4% of builders suck at making nice closets. You just can’t make this stuff up…)

Anyway, while I’ve definitely seen worse, this closet could be way better. Before we go redoing anything, though, let’s talk about the elements of a good closet design. (And, dear reader, if you happen to be a builder, maybe you want to take notes…)

My Creds

Just so you know, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on closets. I actually worked for a famous closet company for a while, designing closets for rich folks in The Hamptons, the ritzy part of Long Island. I converted one bedroom in my crappy house into this fancy pants dressing room and I redesigned this walk-in closet for my BFF on a ridiculously low budget. The point is, I know wtf I’m talking about and you should listen to me.

Tips for Good Closet Design

Go Vertical

Whether you have a reach-in closet or a walk-in, there are a few elements that will keep you from ever saying, “I hate my closet”. The most important one is utilizing the height. I don’t know why so many closets have one ridiculous shelf and pole (I’m looking at you, builders…), but it wastes so much space!

Clothes hanging in a closet

The space above and below that silly pole is a useless void. So, my number one tip for you is to go vertical. Not everything needs to be at eye level. Go low. Go high. It’s all valuable storage space.

Hey, Melissa! Your closet fared better than 82.6% of closets installed by builders, according to official GAFIS data. (Just a little bit of fake useless trivia…)

Drawers Are For Rifling

The next tip may come as a surprise. Are you sitting down? Here it is: If you can fold it or hang it, it does not belong in a drawer.

Yes, really!

GAFIS tells me that 43.7% of you will resist what I’m telling you (I resisted this concept initially!), but think about it: What do your drawers look like? If you’re super neat, then maybe everything is folded, but do you ever see the clothes at the bottom of the piles?

If you’re not super neat, then maybe your drawers look like this:

Messy clothes hanging out of a drawer

Yup. Those drawers have definitely been rifled…

The fact is drawers are for rifling. Socks, underwear, scarves, bathing suits, bras, gloves, panty hose… None of these items lend themselves to folding, but they do enjoy a good rifle.

I promise you, t-shirts, jeans and sweaters do not enjoy being rifled. Like, at all. They are much happier living on shelves. Just imagine being able to see every item of clothing that you own all at once…

clothing folded on shelves in a closet

Why do you think stores do it this way? If you can’t see it, you can’t buy it. (And if you can’t buy it, you can’t shove it in a drawer and forget you own it…)

Shelves Go Above Hanging

Speaking of shelves, they shouldn’t be below your hanging clothes. Typical closet systems for regular people are 14-16″ inches deep, but hanging clothes are about 18-24″ deep. This means that your hanging clothes will stick out past your shelves. (Celebrities have money for deeper closets so this doesn’t apply to them. Sort of like the law.)

Shoe shelves under hanging clothes in a closet

If your shelves are on the bottom, your hanging clothes will be all up in your grill when you’re trying to access those shelves. (Unless you squat all the way down, and who wants to exercise when they’re getting dressed? Not me.) So, for that reason, shelves go above your hanging stuff. (Or above other shelves.)

Illustration showing shelves above hanging in closet design

Go Higher Than You Think

And speaking of hanging stuff, it can go higher than you think. Your top bar should be at seven feet, or 84 inches. I know this seems high, but you don’t need to reach the bar, only the hangers.

Illustration showing how high closet rods should be in a closet design

So, for double hung clothes, your top bar would be at about 84 inches and your bottom bar around 42 inches. These measurements are pretty standard, but you’ll want to measure how long your clothes hang and factor in how high you can reach, then customize your bars accordingly. There’s nothing standard about you.

(Unless you’re a builder. Then the standard is that you suck at making closets. I hope you’re taking notes, builder…)

Mind Your Corners

This next tip mostly just pertains to walk-in closets, but can also apply to the occasional reach-in. If you want a functional closet, you need to mind your corners! Too many closet designs try to cram too much in and don’t take the corners into account, rendering them unusable, like this…

Poorly designed closet corner

Or this…

Closet with unusable corner

The ideal solution for closet corners is to run a hanging section to the wall, then leave a space (at least ten inches, but 12-15 inches is ideal) before starting the closet section on the adjacent wall. Preferably, that adjacent section will be a full bank of shelves or drawers so you don’t have clothes overlapping clothes. Here’s what I mean:

Illustration showing space to leave in a closet design

This allows your clothes to hang freely and also gives your body room to access them. Take a look at the corners in my closet.

Hanging clothes in closet showing proper corner space

Hanging clothes in closet showing proper corner space

Measurement of proper allowance in a closet corner

See how everything is accessible? With 13.5 inches of clearance, no clothing is crushed and I’m able to easily see and access everything.

Keep in mind that man clothes are bigger (usually), so they need more room. (It’s the clothes version of manspreading.) You can see that Schmoopy’s suits (above) look a little more cramped than my clothes do (in the first picture), even though the gap is the same size. If you’re able to leave 15 inches of space, do it.

Be Aware of Obstacles

We’ve reached my last design tip, which is to be aware of obstacles. Don’t put drawers in front of electrical outlets. Don’t block air vents. Make sure your attic scuttle hole (That’s what those are called. Cute, right? You could pretend to be a bunny when you go up there…) is accessible. You can put something permanent below a scuttle hole, but make sure whatever you put there is low enough for a ladder to go over. It’s OK to put shelves or a pole above that (I mean, it’s not like you go up there very often, right?), but make sure they’re easy enough to remove on that rare occasion.

Illustration showing how to design a closet for attic access

To Be Continued…

Well, that was a lot of information! You certainly got your money’s worth, Melissa. (Which was zero dollars, btw, so the bar was low, but still. You’re welcome.)

So… that’s all the time we have this week! (Well, all the time I have, which is all that matters on my blog.) But, don’t worry. I’m so not done! Welcome to the first cliffhanger episode of My Crappy Advice! (GAFIS says 92.7% of people will return for part two to see what happens…)

Can no one save Melissa’s closet from bad builders? (I can!) Will Melissa’s closet ever be functional? (Hell, yes!) Who shot Melissa’s closet? (OK, nobody. That one was just for fun.)

Tune in next week for the thrilling conclusion of I Hate My Closet. Same crappy time. Same crappy channel.

(Or, you can click right here because who doesn’t like instant gratification?)

(If you missed episode one, check that out here. And, if you’d like to submit your own design dilemma for My Crappy Advice, you may do so right here.)

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  • Melissa

    I used to think that something was wrong with me because I could not fold my t-shirts properly and place them in the drawers to avoid wrinkling. One day I had an epiphany and decided I would hang everything that was hangable. It works! I also keep my underwear and bras in the bathroom cabinet…….Hey, not apologizing cause it is very handy.

    • My Crappy House

      I am all for convenience! If you’ve got the space in your bathroom, that sounds brilliant! You owe no apologies here.

  • Katherine Davies

    How did you know this is exactly what I need? Unfortunately, my walk-in closet (nearly unheard of in France unless it was an English or American person who renovated the house before they sold it to you, as in our case) has a sloping ceiling. Therefore, I have done rien du tout with it so far. This will help me, in part, but maybe I’ll need extra help with the sloping ceiling problem. How many times zero dollars do you charge for that?

    Seriously, this will be a big help – thanks for the post!

    • My Crappy House

      Ah, sloping ceilings! Yeah, those are a pain. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do except work around them. (Or, below them, really…) The closet I renovated for my BFF had a sloped ceiling on one wall. You can see how we handled that here. That’s pretty cool that you have a walk-in closet, though, when it’s so rare. You can brag to all of your French friends and make them jaloux comme l’enfer…

    • Katherine Davies

      OMG you really did kick that closet’s ass. Your BFF is adorable. You dealt with the slope beautifully. The great news for me is that I don’t have to share the closet with my husband because he uses a wardrobe (you can’t see me but I’m doing a happy dance).

      Thank you so much for your help. You’ve given me a lot of encouragement. I hope to get it done soon……

    • My Crappy House

      Haha kudos on not having to share! I made room for Schmoopy in my closet when he moved in, but… I really didn’t want to…

  • Melissa - aka "Crappy Closet Owner"

    I can’t wait for next week! I can’t wait to redo my crappy closet! I can’t believe you are making me wait. Loving the advice so far…

  • Barbara H.

    Great fun and very illuminating, except I clicked over to the post about your BFF’s closet and was very confused at the end looking at the comments dates. Also, where did that link to The Hamptons go? Finally figured out I was in the wrong post – ahhhhh, Mondays, ain’t they great? It IS Monday, isn’t it?

    • My Crappy House

      Haha, yes… Mondays. Add in covid brain (for me) and not a whole lot gets done on Mondays…

  • Em

    I feel as though somehow the “before” photos could be from my house. Except mine include a dog that liked to sleep on the floor under my clothes. Yum.

    Great tips here. Can’t wait to read part two! FYI. I am a builder closet victim. Crappy closets throughout the house!!

    • My Crappy House

      Dogs and cats are definitely a design DO under hanging clothes. My kitties love it down there. It’s one of their “spots”. I’m so sorry you are a victim of a dummy builder. I think the best builders accept that they don’t know wtf they’re doing with closets and just leave them empty so the homeowner can install something sensible.

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