Monday, January 21st, 2013

Attempting Organization: Our Master Bedroom Clothes Closet

Good morning! Happy Monday. As you know, I have recently made it my goal to get organized (or at least more organized) in as many arenas of my life as I can. A lofty goal—and one which, I realize, may not be entirely possible—but one worth striving for.

For whatever reason, I decided to start with our closet. Well, I know the reason, actually: it’s because every single day, getting ready for work was turning into progressively more and more of a nightmare. Where are my work clothes? Are they even clean? Is this basket full of clean clothes or dirty clothes? Were these clothes that were on the floor clean before Otis lay on them and chewed them?

In the past, I may have attacked a problem like this by maniacally shoving everything that was on the floor into some spot or other, getting rid of as many things as possible along the way because obviously I had “too much stuff.” (I may have also shed tears of frustration at not knowing which clothes were clean and which were dirty and so washing them all over again.)

I also, in the past, would have entirely blamed myself for this situation. “Your closet keeps getting messy because you are lazy, and don’t want to put things away. And that’s that.”

This is only partly true. I am lazy sometimes—or more truly, I am busy, and tired, and preoccupied with other matters. But as I have learned more about organizing, especially through multiple readings of Organizing from the Inside Out, I have realized how important it is to tailor your space to your specific way of dealing with busy, tired, and preoccupied—because those facts of life aren’t going away, and it actually is possible for your space to help rather than hinder you.

Closet, Before

The first step I took in this re-organization project was actually not an action at all: I observed. For about a week, I kept a mental tally of all the things I was looking for that I couldn’t find and tried to keep my finger on the pulse of why exactly I was so resistant to put away clean clothes after I washed them.

The answer turned out to be surprisingly simple (for both Gil’s clothes and mine): either A) Items were stored in a space that was not the right size for them or difficult for us to get to, or B) Items had no home at all.

For example: Gil’s T-shirts and shorts were haphazardly thrown into that hanging organizer on the right side of the closet, but they didn’t fit well in those compartments. My T-shirts and blouses, on the other hand, were hung on a high rod on the left side of the closet (see below), a poor choice for two reasons: 1) I prefer folding to hanging and 2) I never wanted to reach so far above my head to retrieve or put things away. (Silly, I know, but remember we’re trying to create the path of least resistance.) You’ll see the solution to this problem in a moment.

Closet, Before

So, after analyzing what was wrong with the closet and coming up with a plan for how to fix it, we went into action. We spent a day taking all our clothes out of the closet, folding and sorting them into categories that made sense to us (I did three loads of laundry to make sure that we had everything in front of us).

Then we purged. We spent a lot of time focusing on Gil’s clothes, because I tend to purge clothes frequently throughout the year and didn’t have a ton extra to get rid of. His clothes also take up a lot more space than mine, so it was extra important that he not have ill-fitting or old, ratty clothes weighing him down!

Sort, then Purge

After all that (Phew!), it was time to bring everything back into the closet, according to the plan and observations we had already made.

One adjustment we made (which illustrates the point that organization is not all about aesthetics) was removing the canvas boxes from the top shelf in the closet. (You can see them in the first photo above.) They were beautiful, yes, but they held memorabilia and cards—not anything we needed to access on a daily basis and certainly not in our clothes closet. What we really needed was a home for our shoes where they were easy to put away and the dog couldn’t eat them, and that top shelf turned out to be perfect.

Closet, After

To solve the clothing placement dilemma I mentioned above, we simply swapped the two sets of clothing! Now Gil’s folding clothes are in large wire cubicles on the left side of the closet, right above his hanging clothes… (not everything was clean when I took this picture, hence the emptiness of those top cubicles)

Closet, After

… and my folding clothes are in the organizer on the right side of the closet, with dresses hanging on one side and short hanging storage on the other.

Closet, After

I also created a home for the scarves that always seemed to be all over the place:

Closet, After

And I made sure that specialty items like skirts had the kind of hangers that they needed… because nothing is as frustrating as not having the right tools to put something away.

Closet, After

So, all in all, I would call this closet re-organization a success. It took longer than I wanted it to (and I didn’t finish some parts of it yet—like the vanity top, and the corner shelves which I didn’t even take a picture of), but it has truly helped my peace of mind in the morning. I actually enjoy putting clothes away (did I really say that?!), because they all have a specific place to go. Who would’ve thought?

(Oh, and I’d like to take a moment to say I know how spoiled I am to have a walk-in closet WITH A WINDOW. That light and space do make things much easier, but I am positive that this same process of analysis and problem-solving could apply to a closet of any size.)

I hope this inspires you to take on whatever problem spot in your house is putting the most friction in your day—it’s worth it, I promise.

Posted on Monday, January 21st, 2013 at 10:56 am.
Belongs with: Home & Garden.
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  1. Melanie wrote:

    Beautiful! I have major problems with this because I am so hesitant to purge (maybe someday I’ll wear that!) and because I (thus) don’t have room for all my clothes. Also, I have another issue I’m wondering if you face: I don’t always feel my clothes are dirty enough to wash after one wearing, but I don’t want to put them away because then I’ll assume they’re perfectly clean and then I may end up putting them in storage for the season without washing them. So I have an “intermediary” holding place to remind myself that this item isn’t perfectly clean but also isn’t dirty. That holding place is a pile (sometimes folded!) on my floor. :( Do you put away clothes that you’ve worn once or do you wash each item after one wearing?

  2. Erin Greco wrote:

    I think a lot of us face those exact problems, Melanie! Both of them have gotten a little bit simpler for me since I’ve been wearing a uniform five days a week for the last two and a half years; it didn’t take long for it to become clear which of my “street” clothes I really never wore. I’ve heard, though, of turning all your clothes hangers around backwards at the beginning of a season; then, every time you wear something you put the hanger back right, so by the end of the season you have a visual map of what you actually wore.

    And here’s what works for me in terms of “not-quite-dirty” clothes. (This is for street clothes; my work clothes I just return to their hanger because I always know I’m going to wear them for several days and then put them in the hamper.) Pants and jeans I just put back in their spot because I feel they’re good for several wears; T-shirts I tend to not wear more than one day, but if I do want to, Mom came up with a great solution. (This works especially well for Gil because he often rewears clothes and usually throws them on the floor): a peg rack in our bedroom! We hung a row of pegs on the wall, and that’s where we hang robes and “in-use” clothing. So far, it’s working great. I think Mom has her own solution, too, but I’ll let her post that here if she sees these comments. ;)

  3. Robby wrote:

    I (Mom) do have a simple solution for “wear-again” clothes–at least for hanging items. I hang my clothes in groups (left to right)–first pants and then tops. When I have a top that I’ve worn but could wear again, I hang it to the left of the pants, so that the pants divide the worn from the not-worn. Pants are not so much of an issues since I’m usually wearing jeans for several days, but I can hang “wear-again” pants to the left of the “wear-again” tops.

    For hanging clothes, you could use any divider–even a different colored hanger–and hang “wear-again” on one side and clean on the other. You can do the same for items in a drawer: designate one drawer (or side of a drawer) for “wear-again.” For for folded clothes on a shelf, just devise a divider as you would for hanging clothes.

    Of course these solutions assume that you have space in your storage areas (closet, drawers, shelves) for all your clothes, so, as Erin has recommended, purging comes first.

    Melanie: At lease you know that the clothes piled on the floor are clothes you like to wear. If something never makes it to the floor, it’s probably a good candidate for purging.

  4. Melanie wrote:

    These are some great ideas! I am going to try to implement them.

  5. Beverly wrote:

    Just recently checked your blogged and discovered you’re back! So happy!! Am especially enjoying your posts on organizing and food!

  6. De-Clutter Your Clothes Closet - Authentic Simplicity wrote:

    [...] If your closet is in need of a major overhaul, you might find this before-and-after post inspirint! [...]