Quick — where are those navy pumps? Last summer’s linen suit? That roomy beach tote? If all your clothes are crammed and crumpled inside a disorganized closet, you ask questions like these all the time–which means you probably aren’t getting the most out of your wardrobe. “Most people have no idea what they own,” says Linda Rothschild, CEO of Cross It Off Your List (212-725-0122). “But once you stop and organize, you gain control. You know where things are, can retrieve them with ease, and get out the door that much faster.” And, though many of us fear a full-scale clean-out, the hardest part is getting started. “Once you get past the first T-shirt, you’ll beg to keep going,” says Rothschild. With specialists from California Closets, Rothschild turned some scary storage spaces into model closets. Smart planning, new equipment, and a dash of inspiration are all it took.
You can’t redo a closet in an hour. Set aside a day to reorganize your space, two if you want to paint. And don’t feel you have to spend a bundle; even a small investment of $150 in rods, shelving and paint is worthwhile.
Remove bulky items (purses, luggage, overcoats) and out-of-season pieces. Cull the duds, then store the keepers elsewhere–perhaps in a hall closet.
You need to go through everything and look at it as if it belonged to someone else. Make four piles: clothes bound for the dry cleaner, the tailor, a charity and the trash. Only A-list items remain in the closet. “If you haven’t worn something in two years, if it’s dated or doesn’t fit, get rid of it,” says Linda Rothschild. Still can’t decide? Model the maybe’s for a ruthlessly honest friend.
Once you know what you want to keep, get equipment that will allow you to store everything in plain sight. In a standard 8′ x 5′ closet, the space between the top shelf and the ceiling is often wasted; fill it with stackable shelves as high as 12 inches below the ceiling. Then move your pole up to a level four inches higher than your longest garment will hang, so nothing drags on the floor. If you have lots of short items like shirts and skirts, consider hanging two poles: the top one around 7 feet and the other one 3 1/2 feet below it. Shoe cubbies are handy too.
Blouses, pants and other items should be grouped together. Within each group sort by length, style and color. If you need visual cues, throw in a wild card. “I use a colorful pair of pants amid my sea of black pants to mark the transition from wool to cotton and dressy to casual,” says Rothschild.
Hang clothes or put them in the hamper at day’s end. Keep a clipboard in your closet to make a running list of things you need and items to be mended or repaired. And remove one old garment for every new piece you add. Organizing a closet is like going on a diet: Do it well once, and then if you use a little willpower every day you’ll never have to do it again.
To get the most out of hall and foyer closets, think vertical. In this made-over storage area (right) a new shelving unit and several poles capitalize on the closet’s 12-foot interior height. One additional rod was installed just below the ceiling, providing room to hang off-season clothes without impinging on the eye-level space that should be used for everyday things.
To better utilize the dead space in the center of a closet, California Closets made an adjustable shelving unit that allows outerwear accessories to be stored with their own kind–hats on one shelf, scarves below, and gloves in the drawers.
Store coats so they are easy to grab when you’re running out the door. And, as was done here, separate short jackets and windbreakers from longer coats, so storage space is freed up under the shorter items.
For the frequent flier (or last-minute packer), the lower half of this closet keeps luggage and garment bags at the ready. Smaller totes are placed inside bigger pieces to save space.
Getting to the gym is a snap when you have one-stop storage for sports equipment. A tennis racquet and yoga mat stand at attention, while small free weights and hiking boots line the lowest shelf.