{Before & After} The Master Closet

Why is it that the one place every parent calls their sanctuary gets moved to the bottom of the DIY list?

Oh, that’s right. Parenthood.

As moms and dads, we often postpone making our bedrooms and master bathrooms a beautiful haven because we’re too busy unclogging overflowed toilets (that was us last weekend), replacing tile floor (check), fixing the broken dishwasher (yep) and finding creative storage solutions for soccer/lacrosse/football/baseball/dance/piano/4-H stuff. There hardly ever seems to be time, energy and financial resources to attack our beloved spaces.

But I’m here to tell you that doing it is something you won’t ever regret. When the Mister and I hatched the plan to reorganize our master closet you would’ve thought that man had bought me a new diamond ring. An organized space is most definitely my happy place. This is my mantra:

For everything there is a place, there’s a place for everything.

Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

Oh home builders why, WHY do you do this to a perfectly good closet? {the horrible shelving and bad lighting, not my unsightly mess}

master closet, before, blog_026

We have a treasure trove of space in here, but because of the horrible layout of shelving, most things ended up crammed at the top of the closet, in the corner or all over the floor. How did we transform it?

1. Purge like crazy. We emptied out the entire closet and got serious about keeping, donating and trashing things. It was time to say goodbye to my pre-baby skinny jeans, my after-fourth-baby jeans, my 1990s Gap t-shirts that were well beyond their shelf life and some stonewash. Let’s not even go there. Some luggage got donated, as did some coffee table books that, ironically, were nowhere near our coffee table and we threw away bags and bags of trash. In total, I think we donated or trashed more than seven bags of things. Somehow, several kid things had ended up in our closet and they got relocated back to their original homes. It was all so freeing and insanely awesome.

master closet, before_01

2. Plan the space with your remaining items. We did a quick measurement of how much space was needed for long-hanging items, suits and other clothing and shelves for shoes, purses and luggage.

3. We also thought about usage of various items and their logical placement in the space. Long-term storage items up top? Medicine baskets up high but not out of our reach? Clothes hamper with easy access? Here, we employed the expertise of The Container Store. Did you know they will plan your space for free? Oh yes they will. You do the measurements and give them some basic information like hanging vs. shelving space and voila, planned space. So, even if you can’t afford their entire closet system, you can get a real feel of the potential for your space. And, you can do it online!

4. Plan your budget. A great college friend of ours works for TCS and he hooked us up with his Friends and Family 40% off coupon. It was too good of a deal to pass. Word to the Container Store rookies out there, every year from Christmas Eve to President’s Day, elfa goes on sale 30% off. We planned our space back in the fall, tweaked it, thought about it, measured some more and when the sale was live, we were ready. You can always step into the system, or use bits and pieces from several different places, like home improvement stores and Target.

5. Get busy. Okay, not that busy, but organization busy. We knocked out the space in less than 24 hours. That may be a new personal best. It only comes with experience, y’all! We did most of the work at night and then wrapped it up the next day. It broke down like this: empty closet during naptime, enlist two willing boys and a dad with hammers for demolition, patch walls. After bedtime, tape and paint (thank the Lord for only one coat!) and do a small DIY make-it-pretty project. Next morning, I ran errands while Scott and the boys installed shelving. There was one small snafu that included a few choice words, but by 5pm, we had the closet restocked. That evening, we hung the pretty on the wall and called ‘er done. Please forgive the horrible lighting in these before and during shots. We were busy painting and hammering, not much time for white balancing!

master closet, before_02

Now, we just find ourselves standing in the closet for insanely long periods of time. That’s normal, right? Either way, the closet has been fully functional for over two months and it’s still just as organized as it was in the beginning. It could have something to do with the banishment of little people in the space (they’ve occupied every other room in the house!). At least Scott puts his dirty socks in the hamper unlike several unnamed children. We love the space and now, onto the pretty!

master closet, after, blog_011


The baskets on the left serve as my official hiding places for gifts. I have eight baskets, one for every family member, and I stash birthday and Christmas gifts in there. They’re high enough that the kids can’t reach and only labeled by number so the kids have no idea what’s in there. Well, at least now they don’t! I also have an extra that stores gifts for friends. On the opposite side, we’ve stored extra pillows, sleeping bags and our blow-up mattress.

master closet, blog_04

The first thing we addressed (after paint, of course), was lighting. The builder-grade fixture wasn’t putting out that much light, so I found one on sale at Home Depot and Scott was able to install it in a flash. The lighter is brighter, but diffused and it made a big difference.

light fixture

Next, we tackled shoes. I like mine in boxes. Maybe you’re an “open shelf” kinda gal. I snapped a few photos of my kicks and taped them to the inside of the box for easy identification. Admittedly, I’m not much of a shoe gal and I obviously love black heels. When I turned my eyes to Scott’s side of the closet, I got a “don’t even think about it.” I left it alone (for now). This is why we’ve been married 18 years! Just below those shoes is our luggage and above the shoes is a row of my purses – all three of them!

master closet, blog_017

I’ve blogged about our medicine baskets before, inspired by Jen at iHeartOrganizing. Now, the baskets are within reach for adults, but out of the way for kids. Usually every 6-9 months I toss the expired meds and reorganize what’s left. So far, it’s been a great system.

master closet, blog_020

At our house, cowboy hats get their own shelf. On the left are the real ones, the right houses fake ones. My fellow Texans will know the difference. Below those is the one box of toys allowed in our room. It’s always been reserved for the baby of the family. We affectionately call them the “thank you Lawd for the five minute shower” toys. They always stay there and they’re within easy reach for the littlest hands.

master closet, blog_024

Perhaps this is when you really catch a glimpse at my true organization love. Matching hangers. I know. It’s a sickness. Lots of folks have the fancy thin ones, I prefer the plain ‘ol white tubular ones. Scott uses the fancy suit hangers for his collection of work wear, but the rest of the closet sports these. I just can’t quit them.

master closet, blog_021

The little organization and pretty touches round out the tour. We have a few belts and scarves that are housed on the end with some hooks. We splurged for the fancy pull-out tie holder for Scott. His job calls for a suit/tie everyday and they’re proof I’ve rubbed off on him. Rainbow color order, baby.

As for the pretty? The four older kids made these beautiful watercolors at art camp last summer. I’d been holding on to them for months waiting for the right place to display them. I snagged the frames 50% off at Aaron Brothers and then inserted a 12×12 piece of gray patterned scrapbook paper to fill the gap between the frame and the art. Seeing them every morning brings me great joy. Art is to be loved and I figured why not in the closet.

master closet, blog_03

Here’s one last look at the before and after. A tiny slice of heaven.

master closet, ba_01

Light fixture: Home Depot
Paint color: Silver Drop, Behr, Home Depot
Closet System: elfa, The Container Store
Green storage baskets: Target
Blue wicker baskets: Pottery Barn Kids


  1. Marcy on March 5, 2014 at 10:22 am

    Gorgeous! I LOVE elfa. We are doing a closet a year ourselves.

  2. Deme @ House For Five on March 5, 2014 at 10:31 am

    You already know I love this…but man, were you guys speedy! Proof of good planning 😉 The kids art is perfect in there and I’m still cracking up that Scott knew exactly what you had in mind for his shoes too. Also. Kids toy basket for showers – genius. Great job guys! Totally motivating me to knock out my office already!

    • Kathryn on March 5, 2014 at 9:45 pm

      Scott jokes that he could be an installer for elfa. Sad, but oh-so-true!

  3. Nicole on March 5, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    I adore it. Plain and simple. It’s pretty. It’s organized, It has good lighting. I wish I could have the same. Unfortunately, my pull together pieces from big box stores hasn’t achieved the same results. Thank you for the inspiration!

  4. Kim on March 5, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    I love the gray color on the walls!!
    I’m a bit of a closet freak – your closet makeover makes me smile!!!

  5. Lisa Schmidt on March 5, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    Must.walk.away. It’s Lent. Trying to not sin, and I’m totally envious of all this right now. Nice work, and the artwork is the cherry on top.

    • Kathryn on March 5, 2014 at 9:44 pm

      Hey, you can sleep in there in July. Does that make it better? 😉

  6. Debbie on March 6, 2014 at 8:33 am

    Love, love, love your closet. So much space and so organized! I have to confess after reading this post combined with getting a class at my work started on “organizing your closet and simplifying your wardrobe,” I actually dreamed about cleaning out my closet. That might be sign! Thanks for the inspiration.

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