Packing it all in

So, I’m getting married.

That’s exciting.

Also, I have to live with a boy. That’s….different. I love my fiance and I can’t wait to start a life together. But I own my place (and love it) so we’ll be starting life here. In a one bedroom condo. With two people.

And 2.5 closets.

And two adults worth of stuff.

The biggest win we were going to get was squeaking out some more storage from the hall closet…which is the only real closet, other than the bedroom.*

Its in the middle of the house, in the teal hallway between the bathroom and dining room doors. It used to hold all my sheets and towels, before this happened. Plus all my coats, and extra craft supplies, and cereal when I buy too much. Winter boots. My sleeping bag. Randomness. But all of it–there’s nowhere else to go. And it was in pretty rough shape:

Hall Closet old

(That was embarassing). After I found new homes for the linens, I never really figured out a good or efficient use of the shelves. Everything in there was just the leftover random stuff from when my sister and I both moved (I got all of both of our stuff). So it wasn’t being used very efficiently. And now that there are two of us, we have more storage needs:

  • my crafting supplies
  • his suitcase (he travels several times a month, this has to be very easily accessible–not the basement or a top shelf)
  • his tools (he’s got way more than I do)
  • cleaning supplies (realistically, these are his. I’m a terrible housekeeper)
  • extra shoes (realistically mine. I think he has like four pairs. I have…more than that.)
  • all the random stuff listed above, like pantry supplies, extra paper towels when we buy in bulk, sleeping bags

And of course, this is still both the coat closet and the broom closet so we need to keep that space too.

No biggie right?

The junk in there wasn’t going to cut it; we needed real shelves. Sturdy ones. And a spot for the suitcase. Oh, and this closet is only 29.5 inches wide. We didn’t want to waste an inch, so our solution wasn’t going to come off the shelf. So we decided to build it out ourselves (Boyfriend finished his whole basement in his old house, so he was ready to go for this project).

We talked and I made lists, we talked some more and I made sketches. We measured, and measured again, and made more sketches. We pulled everything out, til we were left with this:

Hall closet old empty

Two shelves, a broom organizer, a rod, and a ribbon hanger. (Believe it or not, this closet was even worse when I moved in. There was a single 24 inch deep shelf and a hanging rod in the back.)

The good news is, this closet is DEEP, so there is enough room for some pretty substantial shelves, even with coats hanging in the front part of the closet. After all our sketches, and lots of math on my part, we felt pretty good about our plans. So we finished ripping everything out of the closet, and then I got to work with a tape measure.

We scoped out Home Depot and found 2 x 4 sheets of laminate (we went to the city Home Depot, which has a smaller selection, because they also have a Home Decorators Collection). And then we finalized our plan, and headed for the bigger Home Depot–our design would require SEVEN sheets of laminate, with more than a third as scrap because of our 29.5 width. Luckily, they sold 4×8 sheets, meaning we would need only one, plus a smaller sheet to make all six shelves, plus two half shelves and the center support.

Since we were using irregular measurements (to accommodate all the things listed above) and wanted to permanently install the shelves (no adjusting), I wanted to be sure they matched what we wanted. In addition to remeasuring a whole lot of cereal boxes and various tools, I did this:

Hall Closet Taped Shelves

The shelf at the top was placed on the only existing supports we were keeping so we wanted to make sure there was enough space at that top shelf. The tall shelf near the bottom is the sturdiest one since it goes above the half shelf at the bottom (making room for the suitcase) and is for tools. The other tall shelf is for cereal and other pantry goods.

Those were my key contributions to the closet. I started unpacking some of the boxes (the movers don’t come until next week but we’d been bringing over boxes of stuff weekly to start moving him in) and organizing the kitchen–its a one person closet, and this was Mike’s deal now.

He got it to here:

Hall Closet Shelves

And then it was time to paint. It was dingy and ugly, and also kind of cream, which looked even worse with white melamine shelves. So we primed it (with, um, oil based primer because I can’t read and then we didn’t have mineral spirits so we had to go to the store with me covered in paint because I had no way to get it off BUT) and then talked paint. Since we had to go to the hardware store, I really wanted to paint the back of the closet a fun color. I thought it would be cool. And its a small wall, so a test pot would get us there. Except not at the true value, where they sell only itty-bitty testers and in tiny little pots. I was thinking of buying a quart, but really, so not worth it. Its for a closet. And then the salesman was all, can I help you, we have oops paint. So we got a $5 oops GALLON of this:

Hall Closet Painted

He was against it, then offered to paint the whole thing that color (yikes!), and now thinks its fun too. Win! We also got iron-on edging for the laminate so it looks more finished, and he wanted electricity (to charge all his tools) so he did this:

Hall Closet Light

Its an adapter for the light that includes outlets, so you leave the fixture always on, and then put the bulb below with a second string so the light isn’t always on. Then he tacked an extension cord into place. It isn’t in the back because we’re too short to reach the back corner (ever. You should have seen us trying to paint).

Then in went the broom holder and the coat rod, and we started to load stuff back in:

Hall Closet New

The suitcase fits perfectly, the little shelves next to it are for extra shoes, the bottom is for boots, then we have tools, food and cleaning supplies, more food, picnic stuff. All sorts of fun. It doesn’t look this empty anymore; we’ve moved in more boxes, and its filling up (although not packed). And the rod has coats on it, because we have nowhere else to put our coats.

I’m sure those of you with houses (and lots of closets) feel sorry for us right now, but we’re really proud of how well we’ve made the space we do have work for us. This closet now packs a huge storage punch, holds brooms and dustbusters (you can’t see it in pictures, but on the left side where the brooms are, he wall mounted the dustbuster above the door, where it charges too), has his suitcase easily accessible, holds all of our coats and plenty of extra stuff. I’m sure I’ll get over it eventually but right now I keep opening the closet and looking.

We made a few small-but-awesome tweaks to our bedroom closet too, which I’ll share once the house calms down enough to accomplish anything.

*I have a front hall closet, but it only looks real:

Stenciled Hallway from living room

It’s actually only about 9 inches deep. It has hooks inside. I’ll share it sometime, because I think I’ve packed a lot into it. But it isn’t even deep enough for hangers, let alone lots of stuff.

How many closets do you have? Do you love organizing closets as much as I do?


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