I used to live in the suburbs. Not that I actually live in a city now. It’s a small town. But the neighborhood I came from was one of those typical suburban types with similar looking houses and manicured lawns. Most of the homes were 2-stories with more bathrooms than bedrooms, and walk-in closets galore. I had plenty of room for all of my junk.
I never really had to organize my closets. I just put the overflow in another closet. There were plenty to go around. Storage was never an issue.
Fast-forward to today, and it’s a totally different story. My 1950s house has actual closets, the kind with sliding doors that you can reach to the back of with your arm outstretched. And I can reach side-to-side too. In terms of old homes, I’m actually quite lucky. I have two whole closets in my ‘master bedroom.’ That is, the room that’s larger than the other two. No ‘en suite’ for me. I also have a front closet, hall closet and bathroom/linen closet. Of course, there’s only ten feet between the three. You can imagine how small each must be.
The point of all of this is that I have no idea how to actually organize these closets. There’s a shelf and a hanging bar in each. Or, 2-1/2 shelves and no bars, as in my hall closet. No cubbies for shoes, or hooks for various hanging items. There are no dividers for dresses, pants and tops. No variable sized shelves for larger or smaller items. Just a few wood planks, and single metal bars.
When I moved in I said I would make sure to have a ‘place’ for everything. Whenever I took something out, I would put it back in the same place. The problem is, I keep putting more things in than I take out. And, there’s no more room. To make matters worse, the weather is changing. Where am I supposed to put all of my cold weather clothes? What happens to the summer stuff?
Again, I decided to Google some ideas. This has definitely become my way of figuring this stuff out. And Pinterest, of course. Here are some of the things I came up with:
- Take Everything Out: I don’t know about you, but when I start cleaning out my closets I find everything from lost socks to used batteries, dryer sheets to crinkled up receipts. If you’re really going to organize, you need to take everything out.
- Separate into Groups: This was easier with clothes for me—sweaters in one pile, pants in another, socks, underwear, etc. The “linen” closet was a little more complicated. I started with towels, sheets, medicine, beauty products, and then found a bunch of cleaning products. I decided they needed to go into a different closet.
- Get Closet Organizers: Closet organizers range from expensive, built-in units to shoe boxes and wicker baskets. It’s really a matter of what works for you. (Using baskets and boxes, however, makes it easier to declutter because you are putting these items to good use.)
- Use Labels: For some of us, those higher up shelves are hard to reach. It’s easy to forget what we put in the baskets. You can use any type of labels. I used up some of those pocket school photos by tying them on to baskets for each of my kids’ hats & gloves.
Donate or Sell Secondhand: There will be plenty of items in your closet only worthy of the trash can. But, there will be other things in great condition that you just don’t wear anymore. Or, the kids outgrew. Find a local charity, needy family, school, or some other place that accepts donations.
Another option is to look for a secondhand store. These seem to be popping up everywhere. In Central Maryland, try Ruth’s Closet. Ruth’s is “an upscale boutique, specializing in new & gently worn, fashionable women’s clothing and accessories… It is a social enterprise of House of Ruth Maryland and profits support services and programs for victims of intimate partner violence and their children.” Ruth’s accepts donations, but others will pay you for the items.
Clean Last Seasons’ Clothes and Put Away: If you’re like me, you’ll probably clean it all again when you pull it out next year, but you don’t want to put things away dirty. Stains will set. Mold can grow. Nothing good will come out of it. Then find some storage bins, or even large trash bags and put the items away that won’t fit in your closet. Under the bed, in the basement, wherever you have room.
Touch-Up 1X per Week: This is where most of us–at least I know I do—fall short. If you spend just a few minutes per closet each week, you really can keep them organized. I’ll let you know how this goes for me.
One of the best parts of closet organizing, if there is one, is that kids of all ages can help. I know as a former kindergarten teacher that sorting is one of the major math concepts for five-year-olds. Why not let them sort their socks, t-shirts and baseball hats?
Good luck with organizing!