Get your closet organized

Easy tips to maximize your space

By Linda Turner Griepentrog / For The Bulletin

Published Aug 19, 2014 at 12:06AM

Purging pointers

Getting rid of clothes you don’t wear can be an emotional parting. Consider some of these ideas to ease the pain:

• Have a clothes exchange with friends and family

• Donate the clothes to charity (and get a receipt of their thrift-store value for tax purposes)

• Find a group that can put the items to good use, such as a shelter, work program, church closet, etc.

• Get a few dollars back by taking good unworn items to a consignment store

• Sell things online on eBay or Craigslist or Facebook

• Find an online clothing swap, such as swapstyle.com

Not everyone has a spacious walk-in closet worthy of Hollywood attention — in fact, most of us have closets much smaller than the bedroom-size dressing rooms we see on TV. But, no matter the size of your wardrobe storage, there’s probably something you could do to spiff it up a bit (or perhaps a lot).

Just a little time and effort can make your closet worthy of a second look.

There are basically three kinds of closets — walk-ins, where the expanse may be square or rectangular and up to room size; reach-in, where you open the door and directly access the items you need; and in-room wardrobe closets, which might not be built-ins and can in fact be a piece of furniture like an armoire to hold your clothes and accessories.

Most closets are repositories for shoes, boots, sweaters, pants, shirts, tops, skirts, underwear and sometimes accessories such as socks, jewelry, purses, totes and ties.

Depending on your family situation, each member may have his own closet, or in many instances, the sacred space has to be shared with a spouse or sibling.

Keeping it all organized and accessible is an ongoing chore. A study by the National Association of Professional Organizers suggests that 80 percent of the clutter in our homes is the result of disorganization, not a lack of space. Another study by the group notes that many people waste between one and three hours a day simply looking for things because of disorganization and clutter.

And if that’s not enough to get you to the closet for a second look, consider this: Jennifer Baumgartner, author of “You are What You Wear,” notes that the majority of people wear 20 percent of their clothes 80 percent of the time. And perhaps even more of a surprise, fashion website Ecouterre reports that 12 percent of people clean out their closets on a regular basis, and amazingly, the average woman has 22 garments hanging in the closet that aren’t worn.

So what’s a person to do? No, don’t just throw another piece of clothing on the floor or go shopping to console yourself. Take action.

Getting organized

Begin by taking out everything — yes, everything — in the closet and piling it onto the bed, and begin the great try-on. It helps to have a friend or spouse around to offer a second opinion about any questionable pieces. As you take clothes off, Closetmaid suggests dividing the items into piles according to their fate — keep, sell, donate or toss. If you don’t like that system, develop a similar one with your own categories, but don’t include the “when I lose weight” option.

During the try-on process, inspect the garments for any stains, missing buttons, etc., and perhaps include a “repair” pile if needed. If you have sewing skills, think also about items that can be refashioned — shortened, taken in, etc. — to make them usable.

Before you put garments back into the closet, take a look at the closet itself and its use of space. If it needs help, head to a closet store or home improvement store to see what’s available for your space. Take measurements with you — height, width and length, as well as the location of any built-ins, walls, doors, etc.

Closet capers

Double-rod the closet for maximum use of the space, with one rod hanging at the top of the closet and another midway down. Adjustability is key, so look at hanging wall systems that allow for it. For example, you might hang three rods in a small child’s closet, and then change to two when the child gets older. California Closets recommends hanging the top rod 84 to 86 inches from the floor and a lower rod 42 inches for adult clothing. The stacked rods can hold pants, shirts, blouses, skirts and jackets clear of the floor.

Above the double rods, use a shelf to store things worn less often and out-of-season clothing.

If you have dresses, allow some hanging space that’s not double-rodded, so they can hang freely.

Consider shelving for storing things that don’t hang well, such as sweaters and sweatshirts. And on those shelves, use containers such as bins, baskets or drawers for corralling smaller items such as underwear, socks, bags and accessories.

Shoes can be stored in many ways, depending on space, but get them off the floor to avoid a jumble. Shoe racks are available, as are shoe boxes, cubbies and hanging caddies.

As you peruse the closet, don’t forget to note available space on walls and behind the door. There are numerous over-the-door storage pieces available, such as pocketed shoe racks — but they don’t have to hold shoes. The pocketed storage bags are good for small accessories such as scarves and socks, as well.

If you have space for drawers, they’re good for keeping jewelry, ties, belts, etc., in tow.

Once you’ve taken stock of the closet structure and dimensions, check online for help with closet fittings. Both Elfa and Closetmaid offer free online resources for DIY closet design.

Don’t overlook a lighting upgrade: If you can’t see things, you’re obviously not inclined to wear them.

Take another look

When the clothes you’re keeping are ready to go back into the closet, there are several ways to organize them. Some people like to organize by color, so it’s easy to pick out an outfit even with blurry early-morning vision. Or perhaps you’d prefer to sort them by garment type — pants in one portion, shirts or blouses in another.

Professional organizer Lorie Marrero (clutterdiet.com ) recommends dividing the closet into zones A through D. Zone A is things you wear every day, such as socks and underwear; zone B is things you wear often; C is for seasonal items; and D is for sentimental things, such as perhaps a wedding or prom dress, or a letterman’s jacket. Depending on the size of your closet, you can organize other categories within the zones.

When you put items back into the closet, turn all the hangers one direction. As you wear items and rehang them, turn the hangers the opposite direction. This system makes it easy to see what you’re really wearing.

There are a variety of opinions about the duration of keeping things. Some wardrobing experts say if you haven’t worn something in six months, get rid of it. Others extend that to one year, and still others to three years, depending on your lifestyle. But, most agree that keeping things for when you lose weight is a much overused excuse for hanging on to items.

Beyond the closet

If your closet just isn’t big enough for all you hope to put in it, look outside the closet. Can you store some things in a window seat or under the bed? Is there a wall nearby that could hold shelves or hanging racks? Seasonal items are prime candidates for out-of-closet storage areas. Nearby space can help with overcrowding, but remember that the less you have, the easier it is to organize.

If you’re diligent about keeping the closet organized, try the theory of not bringing anything new into the closet unless something is removed.

— Reporter: gwizdesigns@aol.com