Confessions of a Former Closet Slob
Confession: for many, many years, I was a total closet slob. My childhood closet was a rather large walk-in, and months would go by without me ever catching a glimpse of the wood floors underneath the pile of clothes.
Then, when I lived in the dorms, I had a double-sized room and no roommate, which meant two closets for me to turn into disaster zones. Because I hardly ever did laundry (come on, the laundry room was four floors down! And we didn't have an elevator!), it was impossible to keep my belongings organized in any way other than all over the place.
But as I've gotten older, and, well, my closets have gotten smaller, I've become significantly less of a slob. Everything has its place (and is usually in it), I do laundry more than once a month, and I've gotten pretty adept at finding ways to maximize my use of space. One day, maybe I'll have a spot for every stiletto and belt, but until then, I've learned some tricks for creating a totally organized closet in a small space and on a budget.
Have Less Stuff
One of the biggest things that changed between me being a closet slob and an organized adult closet person is that I have significantly less stuff. At least once a year, I go through everything I own and play the “keep it, donate it, or trash it” game. Rules are, if I haven't worn it in in the past year and it doesn't fit, it's out. If it's in good condition, it gets donated or consigned for cash, otherwise in the trash it goes. (Another good way to approach paring down your clothes to what you really wear is this closet rehab system from A Pair and a Spare.)
Editing down your closet to the stuff you really need and like not only means you have more space (it's crazy how much room a couple of unwanted sweaters can take up), it also means you're more likely to take better care of the things that made the cut—or in this case, the hanger.
Decide What to Stow Away
Even once you’ve gotten rid of a heap of clothes—let’s face it: There might still be a lot. So take a look at the items that you want to keep, but that don’t necessarily need to be easily accessible year round. Be it bulky winter clothes during the warmer months or your fancy cocktail attire that you only break out once or twice a year, find a place to keep these items that won’t take up valuable closet real estate.
Using the space under your bed can be a great option—pick up some handy underbed storage boxes and move those cable knits and scarves out. For those once-a-year clothes, I suggest spending the $25 or so on a garment bag. You can comfortably store about six dresses in there, thus keeping them packed in and wrinkle-free. Just hang the garment bag at the very back of your closet—you'll never know it's there.
P.S. Feel free to keep some of your summer tops and sundresses available during the winter, since they bring hope for brighter days—and provide potential layering pieces.
Handle Your Challenge Item First
We all have one—that type of clothing in your closet that takes up a ton of space but that you never quite know how to handle. Maybe it’s your teetering pile of handbags or your collection of winter coats that just seems to multiply by the day. Whatever it is, pin down your problem item, then take to Google or Pinterest to find a creative storage solution that works for your space. Once you’ve tackled what you think will be hardest to store, you can fill in the rest of your closet around it.
For me, it was the massive heap of shoes that was slowly taking over the floor of my closet. So, I invested in an awesome vertical shoe rack like this one, which takes up hardly any space and holds 18 pairs of shoes. I then arranged my shoes by type and color to make finding the right shoes a whole lot easier (and the left ones, too—ba dum ching!). You could also try a DIY shelving system for tight spaces, or an easy crown molding rack that allows you to hang heels up and out of the way.
Pick Your System
Next, ask yourself some questions about what storage systems will work best for you. Do you prefer to hang your tops so you can see them, or fold them in a drawer or on a shelf? When storing things in drawers, are you a folder, a roller, or a filer? Some of this will depend what type of storage you have in your closet, but if you have options, make a conscious decision how you’re going to allocate the space.
Then, decide how you’ll order your clothes to make them easy to find. Mine are organized by item, sleeve or skirt length, and color—and while you don't have to get so detailed, find some system that works for you and stick with it. You could even get a little crazy and use labels to force yourself to put things back where you decided they belong! And yes, it takes a little extra mental energy when you put away your laundry to make sure everything is in its place, but it saves a ton of time in the mornings when you’re not scrambling to find your black pants.
Fill in the Small Spaces
Once you’ve fit all your major items in, it’s time to fill in the little nooks and crannies with smaller items that need storage. Look twice and make sure you’re using all the space available to you in your closet.
For example, unless they fold or slide open, you really should be utilizing the space on your closet doors. Buy an over-the-door plastic shoe organizer and use it to store easy-to-misplace accessories like jewelry and scarves. Stick up some 3M hooks on empty wall or door space to use for extra hanging space. And if you have extra space in drawers or on shelves, get dividers or boxes to hold smaller items. Also, seek out spaces you can use vertically. This handy rack lets you double your storage on any given shelf, which is great for dealing with things like purses that tend to get crowded and shoved together.
Do you have any other tips for organizing your closet on a budget? Share them in the comments!
Photo of woman in closet courtesy of Shutterstock.
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