Do you really need a custom closet system?
I’ll tell you right up front I make a living designing, selling, and leading a business which installs custom closet systems. So, why would I write an article even questioning if you really need a custom closet?
Well, the reason is simple. If you’re like me (and you can even ask my wife Rose if this is true) when you decide to spend money on a home improvement project you darn well want to make sure it’s money well spent. And with run-away inflation and ever-escalating expenses associated with kids these days (if you have a few of these little – or not so little – ‘angels’ running around), you HAVE TO make you’re not wasting a dime of what you’re earning.
So, how can you determine if you really need a custom closet, or if it’s smarter to ‘make do’ with what you already have? To answer this, I’ll present 7 questions below so you can determine IF this is an expenditure you should make- and if so, what are smart components you could/should include in your reach in or walk in closet.
At the end of the article feel free to comment on 2 things:
- Did this article help you figure out if you really need a custom closet?
- Do you still have unanswered closet design and pricing questions you’d like answers to?
So, without further delay, let’s check out 7 questions to wrap your arms around if you really need a custom closet system… (and make sure to check out question #7 – that’s where the pedal really hits the metal as they say … whoever ‘they’ are).
Question #1) Do you simply have too much stuff in your closet?
If your closet today is a D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R you can take solace in knowing you’re not alone. And I’ll admit I’ve had to fight my way through many master closets attempting to get measurements on design consultations where I’ve asked (silently to myself) – how the heck can these people stand this mess?
And while it’s easy to be judgmental about an overstuffed closet, I know if I’m a bettin’ man half the stuff (OK – this isn’t a scientific survey) jammed in these closets NEVER sees the light of day even once in the last year (and the chance of them seeing the light of day in the next year, isn’t very good either).
So, here’s what I’d recommend. Before spending even one thin dime (or one thick dime for that matter) on a custom closet do the dirty deed of discarding or donating everything which is stained, too small, too tight, or out of style you know (if you’re being honest with yourself) you’re not going to wear this year. And if you’re like many people who can’t bring yourself (or discipline yourself) to do this time-consuming and difficult task, bring in your most brutally honest BFF or a professional closet organizer to guide you in what needs to go.
And after you’re done (and you’ve started sorting your clothes by type and color) – see if your closet is now ‘manageable enough’ to put your money elsewhere (or if the other questions in this article convince you this closet has gotta go ASAP!
Question #2) Do you have a closet system problem?
Most reach in and walk in closets should be declared D.O.A. (Dead on Arrival) before anybody puts one stitch of clothing in them. And why do I make this statement? It’s because most closets have built in ‘system problems’ which aren’t fixable without being ripped out. You may be asking, what are these system problems you speak about? Well read this 7-point list and check off how many ‘issues’ your closet has.
- Problem #1) You have dead space above your top shelf and below hanging clothes. This dead space is usually the result of only having a single rod closet which causes unused space above and below your hanging clothes.
- Problem #2) You have no place for shoes. This is why they’re in a blown-apart heap on the floor, or you’re wasting space with shoe box upon shoe box stacked along the top shelf.
- Problem #3) Your closet is as ‘fixed’ as your dad’s political preferences – If your shelves and rods are ‘screwed in’ which is screwing you up (because they’re either too high or too low), you know you’ve got a problem.
- Problem #4) Your folded clothes hang over the edge and look sloppy – Too many closet shelves are 12” deep, since most wood and wire shelving are manufactured in this size. This causes clothes to hang over the edge and look sloppy.
- Problem #5) Your closet parts are sagging worse than the skin underneath Grandma’s arms! – If you’re worried your flimsy wire shelves or long, bent closet rod is ‘gonna blow’ any day now, it’s a tell-tale sign it’ll be smart to shop for a new closet system before you have to buy one in desperation because your existing one fell down.
- Problem #6) Your light switch is buried under hanging clothes. Who likes to ‘fish around’ just to turn on the light?
- Problem #7) Your narrow closet (with hanging clothes on both sides) resembles a ‘corn maze’ you have to fight through. You’ve often wondered, wasn’t there a better way to design this narrow closet? And for practical ideas to improve your narrow closet read 7 Powerful Ideas to Squeeze More Space and Beauty into a Narrow Walk in Closet.
Question #3) Is it possible to store what you want to store in your closet?
Your closet was NOT designed to work for you. And you may ask who it was designed to work for. Well – if I’m being brutally honest – I’ll make this bold statement.
Your closet was designed for NO ONE. It was ‘slapped in’ at the end of the job to accomplish one simple goal – so the builder could ‘check the closet box’ while spending as little money as possible.
Let’s face it, closets are an afterthought – at best – in new home construction. They’re the feature given the least amount of attention, installed at the end of a new home build after all the other money is drained with Quartz kitchen countertops and fancy lighting fixtures.
And given this lack of thought (and lack of funding), your closet is only designed for hanging clothes – with maybe a shelf or two for your sweaters, jeans, and t-shirts. And here’s a few things your low budget closet ‘system’ (and I’m being sarcastic here when I say system) has no solution for:
#1) Where can you store your beloved shoe collection?
#2) Where can you display purses?
#3) Where can you put socks, underwear, or scarves?
#4) Where can you hang ties and belts, so they don’t ALWAYS end up on the floor?
#5) Where can you store your jewelry?
#6) Where can you hide dirty laundry (and I’m not thinking about the escapades of your crazy Uncle Louie) – so you don’t have to see the ugly plastic laundry basket (which reminds you of dreaded laundry day)?
#7) How can you create enough room for casual hanging clothes – which make up most of your storage needs?
Look at your closet today and ask how many of these 7 popular storage needs ARE NOT addressed in your current system. If it’s most of them, you’re a candidate for a custom closet.
Question #4) Is visual closet clutter a ‘nails on a chalkboard’ experience for you?
Have you ever wondered how your spouse or partner could look past your random-looking overstuffed closet and think everything looks ‘fine?’ Fine – my rear you’ve said more than once while chewing them out about their sloppy ways. And while it’s simple to blame their mom for a lack of training, this still won’t solve your disorganized closet problem.
And if visual closet clutter makes you crazy – a new closet system is the perfect way to at least ‘hide’ your sloppy partner’s stuff. And how can you (at least) visually hide the mess? Here’s 3 smart features to include in a custom closet design.
- Feature 1 – Invest in drawers – You can fit 2 to 2.5 more clothes folded in drawers than hanging them up. In addition, drawers are the coolest feature of a closet. And if you want to learn how to use drawers more effectively read 11 Secrets about Closet Drawers Even Most Closet Designers Won’t Tell You.
- Feature 2 – Invest in doors – Doors can hide hanging clothes (in a bigger walk-in closet) or shelves with your partner’s irregular ‘stacks’ of clothes which won’t win you any neatness awards from Marie Kondo.
- Feature 3 – Invest in a laundry hamper with a fold down door– Ditch the ugly plastic tub and get a fold down hamper with a linen basket.
Question #5) Is it possible to get ‘fully ready’ in your closet?
Every morning your spouse wakes you up rummaging through the bedroom dresser drawers looking for socks, underwear, or work out gear! And then they even have the audacity to ask you questions when they can’t find something they need.
Well, I’m here to tell you this frustration can become a thing of the past IF your closet is designed to get ‘fully ready’ vs. needing to use a (bedroom dresser + a closet) to get completely ready. And you may be wondering what I mean by ‘fully ready.’
This means your closet not only has rods for hanging clothes and a few shelves, but also storage for socks, underwear, and jewelry. This type of closet will not only have shelves and rods, but it’ll also have drawers.
Is it possible to get fully ready in your closet today? Could you get better sleep if it was?
Question #6) Does your closet design work for ‘short people?’
If you want to laugh at what may be one of the most politically incorrect songs of all time, check out this YouTube video of Randy Newman singing his popular song (at the time) called Short People (and why short people have no reason to live – ouch!).
And if you’re a short person, you not only are confident enough to know you have many ‘reasons to live’ (thank you very much Randy Newman) but you also know you have the right to live better without constantly struggling to reach what you need every morning in your closet.
And this is where a new custom closet system can be your friend. You see with adjustable closets (which have flexibility built in with holes on the sides for adjustability) your rods, shelves and drawers can be put at the height which works for you! And if you use a wheelchair, you can even get closet rods which pull down and come to you.
As a ‘short person’ you not only do have many reasons to live, you ALSO have many reasons you deserve to live well! Does your existing closet system give you the ability to use it without pain? Is everything accessible to you? And if you want tips on an accessible closet design read How to Design an Age in Place Closet.
Question #7) Is a custom closet worth it? Can I afford this project?
If we’re being honest, there’s A LOT of things you and I would love to buy. However, since we’re not sitting on a Bill Gates or Elon Musk trust fund, we’re forced to be selective where to allocate our money.
So, how do you determine where to spend your home improvement (or new construction) dollars? How can you get a gauge if a closet project is affordable to you?
Well –I’d argue when evaluating projects ‘competing’ for your home improvement (or new construction) dollars you need to be honest and assess (irrespective of what any ROI home improvement surveys tell you) what bugs you the most about your existing spaces. Because at the end of the day (and, literally, at the beginning of the day also) – the only thing which should matter are these 3 factors:
- Factor #1) Will this project help me eliminate daily frustrations or
- Factor #2) Will this project help me enjoy each day more or
- Factor #3) Can I afford this project?
And if you’re wondering about factor #3 as it relates to a closet pricing, read How Much Does an Installed Custom Walk in Closet Cost (including 5 ideas to save you money)
So, do you really need a custom closet? Will a new design eliminate your closet frustrations? Can you afford this project?
No one can tell you if you need a custom closet system (especially not someone like me – who designs, sells, and has a Columbus company who installs custom closets for a living. We may be just a bit (or more than a bit) biased).
However, what I hope this article did help you to consider is what problems a custom closet system can solve and provide you with practical input (if you read the article in Question 7) about the cost of an installed custom closet.
With all this being said – the only way to really know what a custom closet system can do to reduce your frustrations, improve your life and help you budget project costs is to have a professional closet designer do a 3D design.
And if you live in Columbus Ohio – we would be glad to help you determine if a custom closet design is a smart place to spend your hard-earned dollars. Call 614-545-6888 or click for a Free 3D design consultation.
And since most of you likely DO NOT live in Columbus Ohio, I’d be glad to introduce you to some of my closet buddies across the country who could help you. Comment in the space below where you live, and I’ll see if I can come up with a referral for you.
Thanks for reading – Mike
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Mike, it was a fascinating read! I feel that having a customized closet is necessary since it optimizes space utilization and provides extra storage space. Every individual, in my opinion, has particular preferences that might be accommodated while planning the area. In addition, a personalized closet allows you to organize things for a seamless look.