Closet organization can be one of the most emotionally overwhelming tasks for my clients. “Why is it that when I stand in front of my closet I have nothing to wear? Yet, when I need to declutter and organize my closet I can’t let go of anything,” lamented a client recently to me.
I often witness feelings of despair when I am at clients’ homes. Below are stress-free techniques and strategies that I have used to help clients overcome the overwhelming task of organizing their closets.
While I have never been into a home that doesn’t have a laundry hamper, I have found that many people haven’t identified the following zones in their closets:
- Keep: organize areas of “like” zones based on use, function, and available closet and drawer space; keep only the things that you love and make you feel fabulous will change your feelings about your clothes. Who wants to look at a closet where nothing inspires you?
- Donate: identify a charity that resonates with you where you know your donated items will go to those most in need
- Fabric recycling: keep unusable clothing items out of the landfills; Goodwill and USAgain both offer fabric recycling services
- Wear again: know that you need a spot for clothing you have worn for a brief time that needs to be aired out for bit so you can wear it again
- Dry cleaning: no more piles of clothes piled up on the floor; schedule either a home pick-up service like Purple Tie home to manage your dry cleaning needs or schedule regular dry cleaning visits on your calendar
- Repairs: find a reliable tailor so you can continue to wear the clothes you love instead of having them languish in your closet
© Image by Paula Berman Organizing
Even though she had hired me, a recent client was definitely quite reluctant to work with me. She indicated that she:
- wanted to get organized.
- didn’t want to have to do the sorting and organizing.
- just wanted to “maintain the system.”
This presented an interesting dilemma. My organizing and productivity model integrates an Executive Function approach, which is a fancy way to say I help people think and act effectively. Each of my clients gets a strategy that works especially for how they think. That strategy covers:
- getting over the hurdle of starting
- figuring out what and how to get things done, and
- keeping it how a client would like it with the least time and effort.
And so while I obviously wanted this client to be happy with my services and not have her feel that her time had been wasted, I needed for her to understand that if I organized her things without her input, the system would most likely fail. But, I was willing to give it a try as she was adamant that it would work and so I started organizing her closet. Sounds simple? Within 30 minutes of taking everything out, organizing groups of like items into categories, she took one look at the neatly folded stacks of T-shirts (they had originally been bundled into balls on various shelves and in drawers) and said, “Oh, I like to see the pictures on the T-shirts. I don’t like them folded, but I don’t know what else to do.” I then asked her if she would like to hang the T-shirts on hangers and her face lit up and she said, “Now why didn’t I think of that? That would be great!”
There was, however, an additional roadblock: not enough hanging space in the closet. My solution: turn large cubbies into hanging space by adding sturdy spring-loaded curtain rods.
This client appointment reinforced again my organizing and productivity model of integrating an Executive Function approach. Successful and sustainable organization is created by:
- analyzing systems
- evaluating the systems and identifying how they meet your goals and where they fail to meet your goals
- making changes and adjustments to streamline systems
- reevaluating the systems on an ongoing basis
It is a process of creating a state of balance between continuing processes that are affected by internal and external influences: your relationships with others, your environment, societal factors, personal roadblocks and belief systems.
So when you see an organized closet, know that a lot of understanding has gone into the process of setting it up.
© Image by Paula Berman Organizing
I was once sitting on a beach chatting with friends when I turned to one of the guys and asked him if he had a watch. His response, “Do you want to know if I have a watch or do you want to know what the time is?” I remember thinking, “How rude!” but then I realized he was correct. Asking the correct questions means you will get the answers you are looking for. And yes, I wanted to know what the time was and not if he had a watch.
When it comes to getting organized, asking the right questions is the first step to getting organized. Important questions include:
- How many people are going to use the organizing system?
- Does the system have to match everyone’s organizational styles?
- Do I need to have a schedule for maintaining the system?
- What type of storage will work best?
- What are my personal roadblocks to getting organized? Am I sentimental about things? Do I have low energy when I am tackling tasks?
Adopting a strategic approach will help you with your planning and decision-making throughout the organizing process.
© Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
- self-trust with regard to their own decision-making skills
- interpersonal trust with family members.
It can be difficult to move forward if you don’t trust yourself or the people who matter most to you. Change is not easy, but stagnation is neither energizing nor motivating. It is time to break the cycle of mistrust.
Five trust-building steps
- Be consistent: Make the commitment to be consistent when you establish an organizing or time-management system. If something has to be done on a daily basis, do it. Routines are habit forming when you are consistent. And when you are consistent, you are reliable and your family will learn to trust your decisions because they know that you will follow through on your promises.
- Set an example: Being a leader in your family means setting an example, no matter how hard is.
- Tell the truth: Admit to yourself and to your family when things are not going as planned with new systems. Just because you started with plan A doesn’t mean you can’t make adjustments or changes. It’s OK for children to see that grown-ups are comfortable making mistakes and are willing to make changes to improve things.
- Find value in each family member: Identify each family member’s organizing and time-management strengths. Be open to asking for and accepting help and advice. Family unity and trust is built when everyone feel valued.
- Untie the apron strings: Be there to guide and help when an organizing or time-management system is set up and avoid micromanaging once everything is running as smoothly as possible. Trust that you have instilled in your children the ability to trust themselves and their decision-making and execution skills.
© Image courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
[This article, Family Organization and Time Management: 5 Steps to Build Trust, was originally published by Time Timer.]
Summer, winter, spring, and fall, we have to deal with laundry. It piles up on chairdrobes and floordrobes and many other convenient flat surfaces. And from my experience, it is not because of laziness or the desire to provoke and annoy other people in the household that laundry ends up in piles around homes. These are roadblocks I see:
- Closets stuffed with non-clothing items: Closet floors and shelves becoming dumping grounds for items that are not clothing because most closets have doors that can shut and contain items. This leaves little closet space for clothes. SOLUTION: Remove and relocate non-clothing items. Make space for clothing.
- Too many clothes for the closet space: If you fill a glass with water, any added water overflows. Closets are no different. You can’t add more clothes to a filled closet and expect the clothes to be absorbed into the system. SOLUTION: Gather all your clothes that have to go into the closet in one space. And no cheating. This is might be your gentle nudge for catching up on your laundry. Now group all your “like” items together. Jeans in one space, T-shirts in another, etc. Take stock… 15 black T-shirts? Now is the time to create a Donate Box.
- Broken drawers/handles: Broken furniture is an obstacle to putting away clothes. Who wants to wrestle with furniture? SOLUTION: Schedule a “fix it” day and fix all broken furniture items or have them fixed by a handy professional.
- Non-specific locations: It is difficult to put things away where they belong if they don’t have a designated space. SOLUTION: Decide where each group of “like” items is going to go and then put them away. (See point 2 above if you have too many clothes.)
- Inconvenient laundry hamper location: Who wants to trek down a hall to put laundry into a hamper. SOLUTION: Keep your laundry hamper as close as possible where you undress. At the very least, your dirty laundry will be contained and kept off the floor until you put it in the washer.
- Half-worn clothes: The pair of jeans you can wear again before it needs to be washed. The sweater you wore for 3 hours, but which you don’t want to put back into your closet with the “clean clean” clothes. SOLUTION: Designate a place for items that you plan to wear again before they need to be washed.
- Idealized perfection: We don’t live on the pages of home decorating magazines. A client was surprised to hear my solution for her socks was to toss them all into a single drawer. In her case, there was no need to be “over organized.” She had obviously been managing to find matching socks when they were on her floor, so keeping them as a collection in a drawer worked for her. The socks were now off her floor, in one place, and she knew where to put clean socks when they came out of the dryer. SOLUTION: Banish thoughts of “If I don’t have a fantastic walk-in closet, why bother?” Make the most of the space you have. Ask a friend whose opinion and organizational skills you trust to help out with the space. If a friend of mine hadn’t suggested I add shelving behind the wing walls in a closet, I would have lost out on three shelves and two drawers!
Overcome your roadblocks by finding solutions to your organizing dilemmas.