Closet renovation adventure

Kym Seabolt found a Betty Crocker coupon that expired in 1956 when she was renovating her living room closet. Kym Seabolt photo.

I get big ideas when left unattended. You would think Mr. Wonderful would learn but he is a sucker for punishment. He continues to leave me alone, watching HGTV. Home and Garden Television is, for many of us, a powerful drug. I see things and get ideas. Ideas, Mr. Wonderful will tell you, always create work for him.

We have had a “closet” (I use the term loosely) in our living room. This space is a closet in only a vague sense of the word. It is roughly 11 to 14 inches deep by 30 inches wide. On the upside, it is also 12’ tall. Yes, really. The basic capacity is four coats (if one belongs to a small child) and a really tall ladder. Suffice to say we really don’t use it for much.

Over the years where others had a “junk drawer” we had a “catchall closet.”  It has housed games, puzzles, and toys. Later tools and batteries and random cords. Sometimes paperwork. Medication. Wrapping paper. You just never knew what might be stored in there.

A visiting friend was once astounded when I pulled out paper towels. “The living room is NOT where I expected to find bulk storage” she said. Weird since she had known me for years at that point. I am exactly the type of person to store a pallet of paper towels in the living room closet. It seemed strange to have this exceedingly tall closet and not use it somehow.


Organizing the closet became a part-time pastime of mine. Namely, because it never stayed organized for long. It’s difficult to corral chaos.

Since the house is old and situated in the country, the mice were more than willing to help. Every once in a while a mouse would make its presence known. For the record, deodorant soap does NOT deter mice. I stored a pack in the closet and they dutifully ate it. So much for old wives’ tales. This old wife was fed up.

Under the influence of DIY programming, I decided that I needed a bookshelf-style display cabinet for the living room. It’s a lovely room but it’s full of french doors and pocket doors, a fireplace, and windows. Great problems to have but wall space is limited. The only reasonable place one could put a bookshelf was … the closet?

Just like that, a lightbulb went off over my head. I bet Mr. Wonderful also felt a pang at that very moment. That’s the kind of connection we have. I come up with some crazy idea, he gets a sense of dread that washes over him in a wave. It works.

I emptied the closet the following weekend. I stored the random nonsense that had been stored inside in other areas of the house. Then I waited to see if we missed the storage space. Two months later I could confidently report that we did not. Not even once. So if anyone is wondering, using an entire closet to store a box of batteries and some random tools is not actually a great use of space. You heard it here first folks.

Closet drama

Mr. Wonderful and his side hustle had a big Christmas show to do before I could get any closet drama started. I tried but he kept going on about paying customers and deadlines and commitments. Whatever dude, just fix my closet!

Finally, the big day arrived. I had put it on our calendar. Pro tip ladies: if you want a Honey-Do List to carry any weight, schedule it as an event. Add stars if necessary. Really jazz it up.

After enduring an endless wait, Mr. Wonderful knocked out the closet project in a day and a half. It turns out a 12’ ceiling in a closet is kind of spooky. The ceiling was lowered. Shelves were installed. I am proud to report that I learned how to use a router on them. Those gouges? We’re calling them patina. The brick was spackled (also me). I’m pretty sure that will wash out of my hair …eventually.

The final result came out beautifully if I do say so myself. We now have a clean and useful space. I’ve added a basket of blankets, some art, plants, and a few books.

We used repurposed and salvaged supplies. When working with 120-year-old oak, one does not just toss it out. We pried 4- inch nails out of closet molding because “overkill” seemed to be the name of the game a century ago.

I am not entirely certain how much the project actually cost us. DIY projects purportedly save money. Honestly, I think we made money. During the demolition, we found some treasures. We are already up 42 cents and a nickel Betty Crocker coupon that expired in 1956!


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