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Creating an Organized Pantry from a Hall Closet

How to take an underused, overstuffed coat closet, and turn it into a whole pantry.

Ahhh, finally the weather is warming up, Spring feels like it’s just around the corner, Valentine’s Day is this week, and my thoughts turn to…


Does it say something about me that I’d rather have a new closet system than roses or chocolates from my honey? OK, maybe he could throw in a few chocolates to truly make it the perfect gift.

Creating an Organized Pantry from a Hall Closet

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How to Make a Pantry from a Coat Closet

This pantry organizing project is one that I started quite some time ago, and finally finished this week. It’s actually more of a pantry creation project, really. With storage in our tiny kitchen pretty much maxed out, I decided we needed a pantry more than a cluttered coat closet that sat useless most of the time.

Fortunately the coat closet is just outside the kitchen, probably less of a walk than most people have inside their whole kitchens. (Did I mention ours is tiny?) Hopefully my adventure in turning a cluttered castoff closet into a pantry will inspire you to tackle one of your projects that you’ve been putting off.

The hardest part of this project was cleaning out the closet first. Have you ever noticed that when you start pulling stuff out of a closet, it seems to multiply right there in your hands? I had no idea we had so much junk in that closet! And the irony is we weren’t even using most of it. So out it went, and we were left with a nice empty closet.

To save money, we decided to use the one shelf that already existed above the clothing rod. Then we simply took down the rod and put up Closetmaid shelving.

There are a million different closet shelving systems out there, so I decided just to go with the simplest to install. I wanted this project done in a weekend. We simply hung the vertical braces, slotted in the shelf brackets, clicked on the shelves, and boom. Done. Here it is in a bit more detail…

Steps to hanging Closetmaid Shelves:

ClosetMaid shelving is super easy to work with. Here’s how to get started.

  1. Decide where to put the vertical supports. We went with two in the middle, and one on each end, located on studs. We knew that we’d be storing some heavy cans of food and jugs of liquid, and we didn’t want the shelves bowing under the heavy stuff at the edges.Bracket Placement for Shelves
  2. Mark your vertical lines. Make sure they’re close to plumb (which is the term for the vertical equivalent of level). You can do this with a carpenter’s lever that has a plumb bubble on one end, or simply tie a washer or a weight to a string and mark where the string hangs against the wall. Also mark the holes along the support braces where you’ll put the screws.
  3. Drill pilot holes. (I recommend using the studs for support, but you can use drywall anchors instead if your studs aren’t in the right places. If using anchors, don’t drill pilot holes.)
  4. Screw on the vertical supports.Assembling Closet Maid Shelving
  5. Cut your shelves to the proper length. You’ll need a hacksaw or bolt cutters for this job, or you can probably have the hardware store salesperson do it for you.
  6. Attach the shelf brackets to the vertical braces by inserting them into the slots and making sure they sit good and level.Assembling Closetmaid Shelving
  7. Slide the shelf onto the top of the brackets. There is a little hook on the back end of the bracket. Make sure the back edge of the shelf fits into that hook. Then just pull forward to click it into place.Assembling Closet Maid Shelving
  8. That’s it! Now just stock your shelves.

Pantry Organizing Tips:

  • Space shelves at different intervals, to accommodate different sized boxes and jars.
  • Leave a larger amount of space between the floor and the bottom shelf, so you can put heavier, larger items on the floor.
  • You don’t need fancy (read: expensive) containers. I bought a few cases of canned vegetables and found that their cardboard case is the perfect size for corralling cans on the shelves.Pantry Organizing Tips
  • Keep a grocery list at hand, so when you take the last of something, you can add it right to the list.

Pantry Organizing Made Fun!

I wanted my pantry to be multi-functional, so I added a few special touches:

applying chalkboard paper to door of pantry

I put (re-positionable) chalkboard vinyl on the door panels so I could keep grocery lists.

Small chalkboard on pantry door for grocery list

I used some of my daughter’s cute duck tape to create a little pouch for holding chalk near the chalkboards.

Blue floral apron hanging in the pantry

A command hook holds my apron, so when I grab supplies for cooking, I’ll (hopefully) remember to grab the apron too. I can’t tell you have many shirts I’ve ruined making spaghetti sauce!

Decorative clipboard hanging on wall of pantry

I also hung a magnetic clipboard for all the loose odds and ends that seem to float constantly through my kitchen.

A mini-whisk makes a cute light pull for a pantry.

Finally, I couldn’t stand the 40-year-old frayed pull-string light switch, so I upgraded it for free with some jute twine and a little mini-whisk I found in my junk drawer. Much cuter!

Before and After: From cluttered closet to organized pantry

This was one of the easiest, quickest, and most functional DIY projects I’ve ever done. And now we use our closet/pantry every day.

Do you have a junk closet or at least a drawer somewhere that needs a little help? Tell me your story!



Wednesday 26th of July 2023

We're renters and have a similar closet we'd like to turn into a pantry. Do you have any ideas on shelving we can put in that doesn't require putting holes in the walls? Maybe something we can build independently and slide in there?


Friday 8th of May 2020

Amazing transformation! I want to turn my hallway closet (house built in the late 70's and I have this french door style closet in the hallway that isn't being used) so I thought I might turn that into my pantry and make my kitchen look less cluttered! I can't wait to tackle this!


Saturday 9th of May 2020

That sounds like a perfect solution! You'll love having more storage space!

Ermalee Ort

Thursday 1st of September 2016

I have a pantry in my kitchen, but the problem is that it is so deep much is wasted space. I mean verrrrrry deep. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I have put in pull out like drawers, canned food racks etc. but still lots of space behind that.


Friday 2nd of September 2016

Hi Ermalee, if you've already installed drawers, I'm not sure what else you can do. Maybe if I were you I'd use the back part of the space for long-term storage items like Christmas dishes or other things you need space for but only use rarely.


Sunday 22nd of May 2016

Love your closet to pantry conversion. Great job! Could you please tell me where I can find the re-positionable chalkboard vinyl? Thanks much.


Wednesday 25th of May 2016

Thanks Monika! I got mine at Hobby Lobby, but I think you can find it at almost any craft store, and I even saw some at Home Depot recently.

21 Clever Pantry Storage Solutions - The Palette Muse

Thursday 18th of June 2015

[…] a new Hometalk board dedicated to Pantry Solutions and Organization. You may remember a while ago I converted a coat closet into a pantry. I was pretty proud of myself for that one, but it turns out pantries don’t stay organized on […]


Creating a color-filled life. Conquering my little world one DIY project at a time. With lots of coffee and chocolate. Albuquerque NM. Pinterest ~ Instagram ~ Facebook