What is a cedar closet and why should you have one?

The first time I smelled the tonic aroma of cedar wood was in November of 2004: my family had just moved into a new house right outside of Seattle. It was a center hall colonial home with an army of ivy ascending the brick walls all the way up to the sloping mansard roof, and was complete with a grove of rhododendron trees flanking the exterior. Still, the most glorious feature about the entire house, beyond anything else, was the upstairs closet. I remember racing my sister up the stairs, preparing to fight her over which one of us got the best room, only to be arrested mid-run by a soft red-yellow glow emanating from one of the door frames. Walking over to the light, I had my first encounter with the seductive smell of cedar wood: The fresh yet warm fragrance coated every fiber of my being and left me dazed and wanting more. My mom then explained to me what a cedar closet was and what the purpose (other than invigorating my essence) of one is.

For those readers who are not aware, a cedar closet is just like any regular walk-in closet, except it is built using cedar wood. Each wall of the closet is paneled with planks of cedar wood. Cedar is a kind of tree of which various species grow all over the country; however, cedar closets are made from a specific variety of cedar called Eastern red cedar, or Juniperus virginiana. It is used for its intoxicating smell and beautiful reddish-pink color to line the walls of closets, as it is a natural insect repellant. Believe it or not, there are even more reasons to use it beyond the already obvious ones. I will explain these reasons to hopefully convince you to see the immense benefits to being the proud owner of a cedar closet.

The red cedar tree is robust enough to thrive in the most desolate climates, meaning that it can often be seen in herd-like formations on dry prairie land. They are known to invade pastures and fields, creating a massive problem for ranchers. Although a native species to the Great Plains, red cedar is actually considered an invasive species due to its status as a “pioneer” plant, which means it is often the first plant on the scene to repopulate cleared, damaged, or otherwise eroded land. Increase in the red cedar population is also known to exacerbate prairie-wide wildfires. Too many cedar trees also affect the ecology of the plains by destroying the habitat of birds native to open prairie, reducing soil fertility, depleting nearby streams and even spreading disease to apple trees. For this reason, the tree is mutually loathed by ranchers. So what better way to spruce up your home (pun intended) while helping your local rancher than by building your very own cedar closet?

Besides actively assisting in the health and future of the plains, what else does it take to convince you, the average homeowner, of the merits of owning a cedar closet? I am not sure, because I am already wholly convinced! But in case you are still on the wood fence, if you will, I am ready to boast many additional virtues the cedar closet holds behind its doors. Red cedar wood, if properly maintained, deters bugs. If you have ever pulled your favorite autumnal sweater out of storage and been dismayed to find that a moth has made a meal of your woolen treasure, then a cedar closet can bless you with some well-deserved assurance. Finally, you will be able to sleep through the night knowing that you are protected from young hungry moths overindulging in your beloved Eileen Fisher™ cashmere sweater set. In addition to repelling insects, the oils in red cedar wood prevents the spread of mold and mildew. This feature especially useful in the oppressive humidity that plagues much of the United States. Thinking about how to prevent mildew from festering in these dank climates can often be a source of many sleepless nights, this coming from personal experience. Thankfully, red cedar closets swoop in once again to rescue humanity from the depths of anxiety and panic surrounding the thought of storing clothes for the winter.

However, red cedar’s true fortitude lies in the intoxicating aroma that seeps from its stunning undulating grain. This scent that percolates from red cedar was the sole reason for the genuine euphoria that I experienced upon my first encounter with a cedar closet back in 2004. If you have yet to partake in the aromatic pilgrimage that a cedar closet can take you on, I highly recommend hopping on Craigslist and putting up an ad requesting a tour of someone’s cedar closet, or heading into your local cedar grove. The red cedar’s bouquet of juniper and spice will fulfill your every desire and leave you ablaze with rapture. Trust me on this one.