Do you notice something about these messy closets? Here are my observations:
* They have a dedicated closet (How many people in this world don't have shelter, much less their own rooms with closets to hold multiple changes of clothes?)
* The closets have organizing accoutrements like hanging poles, shelves, drawers. They just aren't being used.
* They have too many clothes for the size closets they have but the closets are large enough to keep as many clothes and shoes for you to be happy for 7 days in a row (or more). Isn't that all you really need?
Remember, you can clean your closets and organize them but if you don't maintain them, it's a waste of time. When you get through with an outfit, hang it back up and put your shoes neatly away. When you do the laundry...bring the clothes back in and hang them up or fold them neatly and put them where they belong. If you buy new clothes, see if there isn't something you can get rid of to make room for the new things. Maintain, maintain, maintain! And teach your family members to maintain, maintain, maintain! Don't send your children into adulthood without the skills to live in a chaos free home.
Closets, a homemaker's nightmare, can be turned into the very core of organization.
First, the basic cleaning, and then we'll get into organizing them to their optimum use.
1. Clear 'em Out
Empty the closet completely. Empty the shelves and set those items in one area. As you handle each item decide on the following - do I like this? Do I know what this is? Do I use this? When did I use this last? Do I want this? Is there a better place for this that would make my life simpler? Could Aunt Grizelda use this more than I can? Mm I so poor that I have to keep all those t-shirts with holes in them, faded, stained? If you need some for those days you work in the yard or re-finish furniture or paint…how many do you honestly need to keep for that purpose? (I personally don’t often do those type of jobs so I only need one or two outfits for that purpose, therefore I only keep a few ratty things and throw away the rest. Once I’ve used a ratty outfit and it’s all yucky – toss them, don’t waste your time washing and storing them again. Some people, especially with children, have to have “play” clothes. This is different from what I’m talking about. Only you can decide what you need and how many. The point is to be realistic.)
Start piles: a. Keepers b. Need repairs c. Not sure if I want this or not d. Giveaways to family or charity(Remember that giveaways should always be stuff in great shape. If it’s not in great shape, toss it.) e. Trash f. Find a better place for this g. Take to consignment shop or sale at yard sale. (These items have to be in excellent condition, washed and ironed, before you take them to a consignment shop.)
Now empty the clothes that are hanging being sure to follow the decision rules. Put the keepers on the bed as neatly as possible, or, if you can hang them someplace to prevent wrinkling, do that.
Now it's time to pull out shoes, purses, and everything else. And of course you are following the decision rules.
Put the giveaways in a box or bag and put into the garage or your trunk. DO NOT just stack them in a different corner. Go ahead and get them out of the house.
Put the items needing repairs in a box or bag and set next to your favorite chair. Put the shoes needing repairs in a bag and put in your car. Put the trash in the trash bin. Hang stuff going to a consignment shop in your car and items to yard sale in a bag and move it to the garage. Put your "not sures" in a box and move to the kitchen table.
Now we can clean. The only items left in your room are the keepers. Do a good vacuuming and wipe down the walls and baseboards. Catch all the cobwebs and be sure to get the moldings.
Wipe down the shelves. If you have wire shelving, dish detergent does a good job on these. If you can take them down, it’s easier to take them to the tub to wash with a soft brush and rinse.
Do your floors.
Clean any light fixtures, windows, and the door. Switch plates could use a wiping, too. Check your door hinges and polish the knobs.
Your closet should now be a nice empty clean space.
This is a good time to re-paint the closet. Be sure to have a fan and window open for ventilation as the enclosed walls in a closet can make the paint fumes intense. Wallpapering a closet is a good idea.
*Organization and Tips
Everyone's closet needs are different depending on how they hang their clothes and their wardrobes. Would an extra rod expand your hanging space? This comes in handy for those with lots of blouses.
Shoes: Do you store your shoes on the floor? How about buying a plastic carpet runner the length of your closet and cutting it right down the middle. Put one piece on each side of your closet. Any shoes you store on the floor would never get your carpet dirty. This also works well under shoe racks. It's real easy to wipe off a plastic runner. Personally, I used one end of my closet to put a small bookshelf. I use this to store shoes. Over this bookshelf I can hang scarves, blouses, sweaters or other short items.
Purses: How many do you use on a regular basis? Most of us only alternate between 1 or 2. That leaves a pile of others used just a few times yearly. Don’t store vinyl next to leather as the leather finish can be ruined. I've cut my purses down to the following: One real good natural leather shoulder bag in brown and one real good natural leather shoulder bag in black. I have a matching black leather wallet and matching brown leather wallet to be used for these purses. Some may use a waist bag (fanny pack) for malls and outdoor activities or a small all-in-one shoulder bag. One small black leather dress bag with detachable shoulder strap for evening wear. Extra bags can be wrapped in felt envelopes and placed in a box on a high shelf. This box (with lid) also stores miniature purse supplies. A tiny holder for license, credit card, and money. A small mirror and comb, pen and hankies. No time spent searching when you have to switch purses for an evening out.
Personally, I never change bags. I wear the black one til I’m tired of it and then switch to the brown one til I’m tired of it. I do keep the black & brown wallets until they are looking worn. I just change the wallet with whatever bag I use. A wallet will usually last as long as 2-3 bags or more. So I may change to a new bag twice a year and just switch wallets to match the color of the bag that I just purchased. If I always only buy black or brown then I have a wallet already at home to change to.
Shoe clips can be stored in the a box with lid. You might keep 1 pair of wonderful black dress pumps that you add clips to whenever you need to change their appearance. Let's say an outfit really needs brown pumps -- well, just add a brown leather rose clip to the black heels and you’re all set. If you pay a fortune for shoes, try to keep just the basics. If you purchase a pair of good white or ecru pumps one year, then think about dyeing them black for the following year.
Belts: Belts hang from a special plastic belt rack which attaches to wire shelving or hang on the clothes rod. Belts, too, are kept to a minimum. 2 good quality belts --1 black and 1 brown. Occasionally buy an accent belt, but keep the cost down so when the fashion changes you won't feel guilty about disposing of it. If you buy good leather belts they can be dyed by your shoe repair man. For belt collectors, why not sort by color and hang on hooks set into a corner of your closet or the back of your closet or use a belt hanger. Whatever you do, don't roll the belts. That will in time cause cracks along their edges.
Scarves: If you love scarves and have a bunch of them to finish off various outfits, hang them from a multiple hanger skirt rack. Put pieces of white felt inside the clips before attaching the scarves to prevent marks. Or use one of those plastic hangers that was made for stringing scarves through holes in the hanger. You may want to hang a particular scarf with a particular outfit.
Pins, necklaces, etc: Find a one square foot of cork board or find a small-size cork board to attach to a closet wall. These items can all be hung from the cork board, along with a calendar. Another way to store pins is to hang a wide gross grain ribbon from your rod and pin the pins to the ribbon. Earring collector? How about an 8 x 10 frame backed with nylon screening. Earrings can be attached (both french wires and button styles. Clip earrings can go on a ribbon like the pins. Another idea I saw is for the handy person. Use 2 cabinet doors, some 1x4's and a peg board. Create a frame with the 1x4's, attach the peg board (or screen) to the back, put the cabinet doors with hinges on the front and hang. It makes a nice place to hang necklaces, earrings, even bracelets and it looks nice and is dust free. Personally, I keep all my jewelry in a jewelry box (or you can use a tackle box or tool box) with the lid closed so that they don’t get dusty. I bought a very nice wooden toolbox at Lowe's last year that had multiple drawers and I use it for my jewelry. I like the box because it is divided so I can organize my jewelry. If they are on the ribbon, cork board, etc, they are going to get very dusty. I also like to clean my jewelry regularly.
When you completed cleaning out your closet your bed is probably stacked to the ceiling with clothes. Try to separate into blouses, jackets, dresses, dress slacks, casual slacks, skirts, etc. Sort your accessories out as to what you want to keep, what goes to charity, what goes to consignment shop, what goes to yard sale.
Decide how you want to organize your closet. Do you want to put colors together? Outfits together? If you have multiple sizes due to changes in your weight, then how about grouping sizes together? Or all pants, all dresses, all sweaters, etc? When hanging jackets be sure to button the buttons.
Remember: Do not put anything back into your closet that does not reflect your best assets and current lifestyle. Just because you spent a good sum of money on something doesn't mean you must keep it if it doesn't suit you. The first mistake was in buying it, the second mistake is in keeping it. Sometimes we purchase something that suits us at the time, but as we grow within ourselves, the item no longer suits us.
*Note: If there are some things that were very stylish or have sentimental memories attached then you can clean them and should store in acid free boxes in acid free tissue paper. These are what memories are made of. Can you imagine if I still had the first pair of bell bottoms I ever owned? What a laugh your kids would get if you could pull them out and show them how thin you were and how the styles are coming back. I still have the last blouse that Grandmother Geneva made me from one of her old 1940's patterns to my personal request. I also have the sweater that I wore to Melinda's wedding. We have Granddaddy Avery's toddler overalls and Grandma Vivian's dress she wore to Granddaddy Avery's wedding. I have the last sweaters that Grandmother Geneva knitted. But if you don't have the room to store and can't store properly then don't store. Take pictures.
Continue to re-hang your clothes making notes of what outfits you can build with what you have. You'll soon discover your orphans -- see if adding accessories could make them usable.
Boot storage: put rolled up magazines in them to keep them upright and to prevent an ankle crease from forming. Add a bay leaf to keep paper mites and silver fish away from the paper
Sneakers: Cut little squares of scrap fabric about 8 inches square. Fill the centers with baking soda and gather and tie with a ribbon or a rubber band . You'll have sweet smelling sneakers. I do this for all my everyday shoes.
Personally I store my shoes in plastic shoe boxes with photos of the shoes inside taped to the outside.
The above directions are primarily for cleaning your clothes closet, but the same principles apply to all closets.
*Some More Tips
So you don't have a linen closet, and you've been storing your extra sheets on a closet shelf. Why not make a pillow to match your bed and put your extra sheets in it? Personally, I only keep one set of sheets. That way I take them off, wash, dry and put them right back on. It saves money! I keep a set of extra sheets in all different sizes only for use when we go on vacation and need to bring our own bedding. I keep these in the plastic zip up bags that come when you buy comforter or sheet sets. I also keep an old comforter in a bag for vacation bedding.
Been storing extra blankets in your closet? How about storing them between your mattresses?Out of season clothes can be stored in large garbage cans topped with a plywood circle and made into a table. Here's the trick: Fill the barrel, put the can lid on upside down, and you have a flat basis for the table top. Table tops can be purchased precut at your local hardware store. Cover with a coordinating cloth and put a glass circle on top. If you use boxes of any kind to store items in your closet, go for the square kind. I don't use baskets as they allow dust in. The square shapes take up less room and can be stacked more easily.
Hang slacks from real trouser hangers to maintain the creases. Don't fold them in half. Try hanging a sachet onto your robe hanger. You can use bay leaves on your husband's robes and suits and he will love it.
Silk ties should be stored flat. Or buy a photo storage box and store DH's ties in there, just gently folded into thirds. No marks are left. Hanging the silk ties causes the bias to get off kilter. Hubby’s handkerchiefs are divided into daily ones and dress ones. Dressy ones are stored in another photo box along with his dress cufflinks and money clips. Also keep in mind that photo boxes are good ideas if you need long term storage for fabrics. Make sure they are acid free or archival quality. Plastic boxes are great for things you don't want to keep forever because plastic fumes can hurt fabrics over time. Also keep in mind that cardboard boxes have channels or tunnels that make for excellent bug houses. So cardboard boxes can accumulate silver fish, roaches, etc. Plastic is better than cardboard.
DH's white shirts too dingy to be fixed? Ask your laundry to dye them a light blue for you. Charge should only be $2 a shirt. The $12 a year spent on dying them isn't even 1/3 the cost of a new shirt. The light blue shirts can be worn for casual days as well as with jeans.
All bathing suits are stored in photo boxes. Easier to find that way. Or plastic see through shoe boxes.
DH problem: He tends to wear the same clothes over and over and completely ignores others. There is a solution -- hide 2 of his favorites and substitute 2 he hasn't been wearing.
Cuffs worn out on long sleeve shirts? Cut them down and hem to short sleeve shirts. They'll get another couple of years use even if it's only for mowing the lawn.
Remember, as you gather the trash items get rid of them. You aren't finished until you take your items to dry cleaners, consignment shop, have your yard sale or take it to charity. If you leave boxes or bags around the house then you've just moved your clutter around. Be sure to put back all your cleaning supplies and machines. You aren't finished until the vacuum cleaner is up, the mop bucket and mop are clean and put up and the rags are washed!
Winter, by color.
For more on organizing your clothes and your closets, see my posts: