By Marty Basher, design expert with Modular Closets, https://www.modularclosets.com
In these uncertain times of COVID-19, a lot of people are reassured by the notion of having some control over something in their lives. Whether it’s keeping up with homeschooling, getting some work done every day or even handling a task as simple but essential as getting the house organized, these are goals that feel realistic in this ‘new normal’. Even more than realistic, for many, they can be a triumph, providing that feeling of tangible accomplishment that one normally gets from other activities.
When you consider the task of cleaning your house, one of the starting points is to improve organization and efficiency. That only comes when everything you own has a home to be properly put away. The best place to begin and end this kind of project is with your closets. Cleaning them out and organizing is therapeutic and will make you feel good. We can all use a dose of happiness at this juncture. Get into your cleaning clothes and turn on the music; make this a fun project. And right now you can take your time.
Start reorganizing your closets, one at a time
Start as you mean to finish. Break up the task into manageable chunks of time. If you are self-isolating, you can, in fact, take the time to do it right, all the time in the world right now, without stressing yourself out. The reason this doesn’t get done otherwise is that people become overwhelmed at the prospect: closets often become dumping grounds for anything that doesn’t have a proper place. Don’t set yourself up for misery with an all-day purge and organize session that will leave you feeling worse than when you started!
Sort and purge. Now is the time to take everything out of the closet and examine it. You need four piles: keep, throw out, wash / repair, donate. This is the part where people get stuck most often, as they ride a wave of memories and sentimentality, looking at the fringe jacket from decades ago that got them through college with which they just can’t part. Are you ever really going to wear it again? If you haven’t worn a piece in the last two years, either because it doesn’t fit or is woefully out of style, it needs to go. Unless it has real sentimental value however, it’s probably time to box it up for donation or put it in the garbage if it’s in unredeemable condition. If you keep it, it needs to go back in the closet so make room for it.
Maximize your available storage space
Once you’ve gone through and purged every closet or storage space in your home, you can add a little method to the makeover. Decide on one space—usually in a basement, garage or other less used area—to be the seasonal changeover space. That’s the closet that holds anything and everything that you don’t need for the current weather in your area. Move everything from the other closets that are out of season into this designated storage area.
Reorganize each closet for ultimate usage
If you sat down and added up how much time you have spent looking for a particular item in your closet, or how much money you spend on clothes that you’ve forgotten you have, you’d be amazed!
Put an end to your closet problems now
Put your ‘go-to’ pieces front and center. Right now, that’s probably sweatpants and t-shirts, but you might want to organize for the day in the hopefully not too distant future when we go back to living a little more like we did before. If you’re a stay-at-home mom, that could be all your favorite jeans and sweatshirts. If you’re a corporate powerhouse, that might be your suits, shirts and gorgeous leather shoes. If you’re an exercise junkie, your yoga pants and workout wear should dominate. Don’t forget your shoes and accessories! These all need to be right at hand!
Create clothes ‘groups.’ No doubt you’ll have the odd single outfit that stands alone, but for the most part, people tend to buy in similar styles: things they like or look good in, with coordinating color palettes. You probably don’t even know you do it: it’s almost subconscious. But we are all drawn to things that are familiar and that are comforting. As you look through the non-single stand out clothes in your closet, look to create groups of up to eight pieces that are mix and match. That skirt with that blouse or that blouse with those pants… you get the picture. That way, you’ve got several possible combinations that are easy to grab and go.
Consider other grouping options
Seasonal rotation. if your closet is big enough to keep all your clothes for every season or you don’t have a separate storage space for seasonal items, group your clothes based on season so that you can switch easily when the weather does.
By function. Workout wear with workout wear, party wear with party wear, keeping your pieces grouped by function makes them easier to find.
According to color. If you’re focused on coordinated looks, sorting your closet by color will help you to mix and match within a certain color palette quickly and easily.
What if your closets themselves need a makeover?
This is where you can get your DIY on and improve the space before you put everything away, finding a home for all your scarves, bags, shoes, and sweaters.
Revamp an unused, small closet. Even a small space can become very useful. You might decide to turn it into the space where all extra toiletries are stored, or make it an accessory cupboard for jewelry, scarves, ties and so on. Add some shelves and assorted storage baskets to tuck everything neatly away. Another good use for this kind of space is to hang a clear plastic shoe organizer on the inside of the door to hold the small stuff that otherwise gets lost in the jumble. There are always things around the house that need a place to “live” and you’ve never found quite the right place to store them. Other items to consider for this space are suitcases, gift wrapping supplies, books, photo albums and scrapbook supplies, baskets for items to donate/fix/sell, surplus items you buy in bulk, seasonal home decorations, or cleaning supplies.
Illuminate a dark closet. Many closets in apartments and older homes do not come with internal lighting. This might leave you holding a flashlight or relying on the bedroom light to shine enough to see (or not see) what you’re doing. The great news is newer LED lighting technology has developed battery operated, installed anywhere lighting. You can choose from peel and stick or drill mounted lighting and even get a style with a motion sensor.
Add organization to your existing closet. Let’s say you’ve got a small closet that is laid out well, but you need additional storage space within it. For shelves, add a few inexpensive shelf dividers to create more organized piles. Double the hanging space with an extender rod. A closet door, which is typically unused, is perfect to add hooks or hanging bars on. Under shelf hanging baskets are ideal for smaller items like scarves, gloves, jewelry, or hand towels and washcloths.
Speaking of tiny items. Ties, scarves, jewelry, sunglasses… all of these need a home too. One way to make these more accessible is to take a drawer in your closet and add in some dividers—just wide enough for a rolled up tie, for example—and you’ll have all your favorites visible and free of wrinkles to choose from. This is also a great technique for sunglasses or other accessories that you want to keep handy, instead of jumbled up in a pile. If you still prefer a traditional hanging tie rack, that’s fine. You can double up on these as they also make excellent scarf and necklace holders! A jewelry organizer in a drawer is another good option, within your closet, to keep everything at the ready but still nicely displayed.
Revamp your closets with a customizable closet design. Older homes typically have inefficient closet space with shallow shelf depth and narrow hanging space. Many newer homes use wire shelving that don’t include enough storage space for most homeowners. A simple, cost effective option is modular closet organizers. Sectional or modular closets come in a vast array of unit sizes, allow for flexible arrangement, and require little effort to install. This is a project for later, but one to keep in mind. You can decide which closets would benefit from a real overhaul.
Don’t forget to switch to slim hangars. There are wonderful hangars today that are very slim and lightweight so you can hang more clothing with them, especially in small spaces. They’re also affordable and attractive. No reason not to switch out your old, clunky hangars.
A note about the mountain of stuff kids seem to have
As kids grow and their interests change, you could be faced with a closet revamp project more than once a year. Keeping that in mind, set yourself up for success by incorporating adjustable storage options in the kids’ rooms. Involve them in what you keep and discard.
With small children, set hanging rods for daily kids’ clothes at a level kids can access and use low baskets for shoes and toys. As the kids transition to independence, you can set them (and yourself) up for a much more manageable closet by using a closet system designed to grow with them.
Revisit the kids’ closets as the seasons change and rotate clothes by season. Rotating what is in the closet seasonally is also the perfect opportunity to purge what doesn’t fit and is no longer needed, while keeping the clutter to a minimum. Make use of a few plastic storage containers for off season items and keep the closet open and user friendly instead of jammed full of all the things.
Grand finale: closet closed
It’s clear that staying organized makes us feel better, keeps us productive right now when we have so much time on our hands and the activity of cleaning is aerobic.
About the guest blogger
Marty helps homeowners get the most out of the spaces in their home. His Modular Closets are high-quality and easy-to-design closet systems made in the USA that you can order, assemble and install yourself, in no time at all.