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updated: 2/10/2012 6:27 AM

Super Handyman:Your closet can easily become more organized

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Chances are, you probably resolved to be more organized this year. We've all tried that one before, and most of us have failed. But one fairly easy way to get a closet organized is with a closet organizer kit.

Take everything out of your closet, including the existing shelves.

Next, measure your closet, and then check out the kits available at your hardware store, home center or discount store. They usually have a couple of different sizes, and they can be cut down if they're too large. This usually can be done with a hacksaw. Most kits come with plastic end caps to cover the rough edges.

Most have a main track that is installed on the back of the closet wall. The shelves, rods and other pieces hang from this. That's why it's very important to get the main track installed securely. To locate the studs behind your wall, use a magnetic stud finder. Mark the locations with a pencil. If the installation has to be placed in a section of wall with no stud available, use a toggle bolt. If it's concrete, use a wall anchor. You can pre-drill to make the installation of all of these a little easier. Use a level, too, to make sure you get the main track in straight.

Shelf standards should be installed according to the package directions, and also may require proper anchors.

Shelves, hooks, closet rods and other accessories are the next step, and are easy to do. These will make keeping your closet organized very easy.

Before putting anything back in, edit it and give away what you don't need. If it helps, think that it will be making room for new stuff. And this whole project will take only a few dollars and a weekend! Now you can scratch one thing off your to-do list.

Be creative with shop storage

Shop storage doesn't have to be expensive; it just has to be there, in some form or another. Use empty food containers for hardware and tool storage. Check your recycling bin for supplies. Wash and dry coffee cans, peanut-butter jars, cardboard chip containers, breath-mint tins, etc. They can be filled with screws, nails, tacks and tons of other shop supplies. Keep them on your shelves, in drawers, in toolboxes and right on your workbench.

Storage between studs

Hanging things in a garage, shop or shed frees up valuable floor space. The space between studs in a wall is great for this. One easy way to create a place to hang things in this area is by drilling a hole through two studs horizontally, and then running a dowel or pieces of heavy-duty wire or pipe between the holes. This hanging rod can be run through tool handles or paintbrush handles to hold them within this cavity. It's super easy, and it works really well.

Super hints

• An extra battery-powered toothbrush can become a great polishing tool for your brass and silver. Add a little polish, and you'll be done in record time. Just don't use the brush on your teeth anymore.

• I have always enjoyed documenting my projects. I like to show people my progress, and I know that it helps some people understand the process a little better when they can see a photo of the work being done. It also is a great way to know where plumbing pipes or wiring was put inside a wall before it was covered up and painted. Photos also come in handy when you are trying to explain to a contractor what the problem is. Just send him a photo on your cellphone or via email. It's so easy these days and can save you a lot of time.

• Don't forget to put a dab of putty over each nail hole on the new trim you installed. Just a little bit, followed by a light sanding and some touch-up paint, will give you professional results.

Q. The toilet seat in our guest bathroom is a little crooked. It's not that big of a deal, but I wanted to try to fix it. I couldn't loosen the bolts holding the seat in place, and didn't want to break anything off. What can I do to loosen them?

A. Try spraying a little lubricating oil, like WD-40, on them, giving it some time to work. This should loosen them. You also can hold the bolt with a screwdriver while turning the nut with a wrench.

Q. I was coming home from work last week, and my radiator hose broke on my car. What a mess. I was able to get home before the car died in the driveway, thank goodness. Now I have a huge rust stain on the concrete drive. What can I use to remove the stain?

A. Use a product that contains oxalic acid. Bar Keepers Friend and Zud are available at the grocery store, and others can be found at your hardware store. These are great rust removers. Just read and follow the package directions. Hardware stores and home centers will have similar products.

Q. We used to have a dog, and we had a doggy door from the backyard to the garage so he could come inside when he needed to. The cat also used this door, and left his "spots" on the garage floor. We have tried everything but cannot get the strong smells out of the garage. We need your advice desperately. What can we do to get rid of the smells?

A. Concrete is porous and absorbs stains and smells. It's really hard to get rid of them. We suggest cleaning the floor with TSP -- trisodium phosphate -- which you can buy at a paint store. Then use a concrete sealer to help lock in the odors. This is going to be your best bet. Adding some extra ventilation also will help reduce the smell. A more permanent sealer would be an epoxy garage-floor paint. This will be more time-consuming and expensive, but a better cure. If you do this, follow the prep instructions for the best results.

Reader tips

• My wife wanted me to make a valance for her. I needed to make the framework, and she was going to cover it with fabric. I made one from a large panel of foam insulation. This material was easy to work with, plenty large and was much easier to mount on the wall because it weighed so little. After she finished with it, we hung it up, and it looks great!

• I use shaving cream to clean my bathroom mirrors. I noticed that where I had accidentally slopped some on the glass, the mirror didn't fog over in this spot. So I tried cleaning the whole thing with shaving cream, and it looks great and there is no fogging anymore. I was amazed and thought you might be, too!

• I found an unfinished-furniture store in my town. It's great. You can order just the pieces you want and then paint them to match what you already have. We added a new dresser and armoire that match our bed and nightstands, and were able to stain them the same color. We probably paid less than a third of what it would have cost for the same already-finished pieces. They look great, and now we have plenty of room for all of our clothes. It was rather fun to stain them, too.

• I put a bar in the basement when I painted last summer. It's been great this winter, and we've done a lot of entertaining in our new "game room." I noticed that the marble top was starting to become dull and have spots, so I cleaned it really well. Then I put a layer of paste wax (just car wax) over the top to protect it. It works really well, and it's been a couple of months since I applied it. I'm sure I'll have to do it again, but so far, it's looking great.

• I noticed that my soffit vents looked like they were blocked by insulation. It's hard to see from the backyard, but they looked clogged up to me. I was out there with the leaf blower, so I decided to shoot a blast of air into the vents. Sure enough, the insulation was blown off the vents. It took only a few minutes to do them all, and I'm sure it will help with the ice dams we get every winter.


• If you are trying to be "green" -- and who isn't, these days -- you might consider starting a compost pile. This is so easy to do, and once you know the basics, you can have a steady supply of free plant food and mulch for your yard year-round. It doesn't cost much and is a great way to get rid of vegetable waste from your home as well as many other items destined for the garbage can, not to mention the mountain of leaves we collect this time of year. Learn how to build and manage your own compost pile with our instructions. This info is also available at

• It's never too late to add more weatherstripping or insulation to your home. It can help keep you more comfortable during the winter and save money on your utility bills. Owens Corning makes a neat Home Comfort Weatherization Kit that contains a lot of goodies just for this purpose. You get a booklet, which helps you identify areas that need more insulation, and it contains a variety of weatherstripping rolls for doors and windows, foam tape, self-adhesive door sweeps, light-switch and electrical outlet sealers, and several other helpful items. Give one to your friends and neighbors, and buy one for yourself. They are available at hardware stores and home centers.

• Habitat for Humanity is an organization that helps people who qualify to "earn" a new home with their sweat equity. Volunteers help to build, and it has branches all over the world. You can donate your time, talents and building materials to your local office. One of the other things it offers, which you may not be aware of, is the ReStore. These retail outlets sell donated building materials at a huge discount to anyone who needs them. There are outlets in most large cities, and they sell everything from housewares to flooring. To find out more about how you can help, buy, build or donate, go to

• Write to Al and Kelly Carrell in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or visit the Carrells' website at

2011, Cowles Syndicate Inc.