Reorganizing your home’s closets, whether in the kitchen, bedroom or garage, pays big dividends for many years. A good system can increase your storage space by 50 percent to 75 percent, allow you to find items faster, encourage you to eliminate possessions you no longer need and enhance your sense of being in control of your life.
The easiest way to reorganize is with a manufactured closet system. You can do the job yourself with simple tools, usually for less than $200. The components do not require a lot of cutting; they come already finished, so there’s no sanding, painting or varnishing; and they boast easy-to-clean coatings or laminate surfaces. Individual components and kits that are sized for various standard closet dimensions are widely available at many home centers and closet stores and online from closet manufacturers. Kits typically cost less than buying parts separately.
Shopping for an organizing system involves choosing between two types of materials: epoxy-coated wire or laminated fiberboard. Here’s a look at the pluses and minuses of each type.
Wire organizer systems
Wire systems have vastly improved during the last decade. In the past, direct-mount systems that relied upon diagonal braces and rear shelf clips fastened to drywall (not studs) were susceptible to failure (Photo 1). With newer wire systems, vertical slotted standards hang upon horizontal rails that are securely fastened through the drywall to wall studs (Photo 2).
Wire components have a lot of advantages. First, they take up less storage space. The shelves are less than 1/4 in. thick, whereas fiberboard is often three times as thick. If that doesn’t sound like much, try stacking seven or eight fiberboard shelves and dividers to get a visual image of how much space these components use up.
Epoxy-coated wire is also far less susceptible to damage from moisture. I once left a wire shelf outdoors for several months. Slight rust stains did begin to show, but they were nothing compared with the deterioration a fiberboard shelf would have suffered under the same conditions. Wire shelving also allows better visibility of stored items and better air circulation — an important consideration if you live in a damp climate or if your closet is susceptible to mildew.
Rail-and-standard wire systems allow you to easily adjust the height of shelves and other components. But certain systems, such as the HomeFree and Configurations lines from Rubbermaid, go one step further: The lengths of the rods and the shelving can be adjusted (Photo 3). This eases installation and allows you to rearrange the components if your storage needs change. For example, a young child’s closet typically needs more shelving and pullout bins; as the child grows, he or she may need additional hanger space. With this system, the telescoping hanger rods can be expanded and the shelving reduced.
One final consideration is price: Wire systems cost at least 20 percent less than fiberboard systems.
Fiberboard organizer systems
The big advantage of fiberboard organizers is appearance: They look more like furniture, and they come in many finishes that can match nearby cabinets (Photo 4). Wood finishes are especially convincing; they include textures that simulate wood grain. A large choice of finishes is especially useful in a bedroom closet or kitchen pantry but may be less important in a hallway linen closet, a child’s closet, the basement or the garage.
Fiberboard systems tend to feel more stable and solid than wire systems. For example, there is very little lateral movement when you open a drawer or pull out a rack. This is especially true of fiberboard systems that rest on the floor, but systems that hang from standards on horizontal rails are also stable.
Finally, fiberboard systems offer a far greater variety of accessories and components than do wire systems. You can opt for drawers with raised-panel fronts, cabinets with a variety of door styles, pull-down closet rods, pullout pants racks (Photo 5), revolving shoe racks (Photo 6), telescoping valet rods, fold-out mirrors and ironing boards (Photo 7), and jewelry organizers. Although wire systems offer some of these accessories, fiberboard systems offer many more choices.
Best of both worlds?
Some closet-system manufacturers combine materials to offer the best of both worlds. Elfa systems, for example, feature pullout bins made of fine wire mesh, shelves with tightly spaced wire struts and shelf fronts that can be capped with a wood fascia to improve appearance. The company also offers a fiberboard shelving alternative to wire shelving. Other combination systems rely upon wire shelving but offer fiberboard modules, including drawer towers and cubby units.