Martha Uniacke Breen
Clean the chaos from your closets once and for all with easy organizing ideas you'll wish you had tried a long time ago. Many otherwise perfectly respectable people are hiding an embarrassing secret behind closed doors: it's our overstuffed, neglected closets.
You know the signs: the "mistakes" still sporting their price tags, the dress you bought in Bali and are keeping even though there's no way you can get into it; the flowery skirt that depresses you every time you see it.
Perhaps you get your daily workout digging around to find a pair of decent shoes that match, or get so frustrated finding the scarf that goes with that blazer that you end up wearing a different one (scarf or blazer) … there must be a better way.
Estelle Gee of Orderly Lives is a wonderful (non-judgmental!) professional organizer who has seen more than her share of closet horror shows. Estelle has some simple advice on how not only to create order out of closet chaos, but how to develop systems that will prevent it from getting that bad ever again.
Take everything out of the closet, and resolve that as much as 80 per cent of it is not going back in. Estelle suggests you enlist a friend whose opinion you trust to help you with this stage, which is likely to be the most difficult part of your closet makeover.
"Often, this is a very emotional process," she observes. "It might be an old dress that has sentimental associations for you but doesn't fit any more, or something you bought by mistake and it makes you feel guilty."
Create three piles: throwaway/ recycling, giveaway or resale (consignment stores often buy used clothing in good condition - the perfect final destination for that never-worn '80s sequined number), and keepers.
Take an inventory of what's left, and then create a closet storage system that provides a clearly designated place for every item. There are professional closet organizers who will come in and design the perfect system for you, but with a little planning and measuring, you can do it on your own.
The secret, says Estelle, lies in tailoring it to your individual needs. For example, almost everyone benefits from dividing at least part of the closet into a double-rod system, but the proportions depend on whether you're a dress person (and therefore need more full-height hanging space), or a separates/jeans type (more double-rod space for tops, pants, skirts, etc.).
Measure the dimensions of your closet, then visit an organizing store like Solutions or Ikea, who offer modular storage systems that can be custom-configured almost any way you like. Many of these systems are adjustable and/or can be easily modified in future if your needs change.
There are too many options to describe here, but some of the most useful include wire drawers designed to fit within a larger double-rod configuration, hanging organizers for shoes or accessories, plastic boxes for shoes or purses, and even storage for lesser-used things outside the closet, such as underbid boxes on casters.
For many of us, it may not only be your bedroom closet that's the problem. Organizing systems can be created for every closet in the house, including the linen closet, the front hall closet, and storage closets in the attic or basement.
The big plus of a well-planned modular system is that if it's logical and easy to follow, other members of the family may be more inclined to follow it too. Bins (or drawers) for mittens, a rack for hats, hooks for umbrellas, are some of the options you should consider.
(One tip for too-small front closets: go through them seasonally, and regularly rotate out-of-season coats to more remote storage solutions, such as an attic or guest-room closet.)
Above all, don't feel resigned to working with the ubiquitous one-rod configuration that almost every closet was born with.
"Closets come like that because the builder was trying to save money," says Estelle. "But there's no reason you have to be locked into that. You use your closet every day. So you owe it to yourself to invest in a great closet system."
The writer is a content manager