“I share a small closet with my husband, so need to do a better job with the small space. A few months ago I sorted out a lot of old clothes… but it still feels like too much for the space. I’d love to edit down to a capsule style wardrobe of great pieces that all work together. I could probably could find a better way to display them so I wear them more. And I’m a Mom, so the piles of laundry never stop! Often we just pull straight from the pile without putting away… cause where would it go?? Oh, and one of the sliding doors is broken. Saddest. Closet. Ever. Help me!”
- two top shelves
- one hanging rod
- 4 small side shelves behind “wing wall”
1. Contest winner worked with personal stylist Melissa Menzies of YummoMummo: Melissa and the contest winner sorted through all the clothes and made decisions about everything that was going to stay and everything that was going to go to ThredUp. The winner was THRILLED with all the new outfit combinations and suggestions that Melissa made. She said would never have thought to combine pieces Melissa had matched and yet when she saw them together, it seemed so obvious.
2. Contest winner worked with professional organizer Paula Berman.
- The contest winner had done all her laundry so that the clothing was a reflection of everything that had to fit into the closet.
- Bulky hangers were switched out with slim, flocked hangers.
- Personal stylist Melissa had hung up all the items that were being stored on the small shelves behind the “wing wall” which meant that there was now space on the shelves to put the shoes. The contest winner is planning to put the shoes into clear shoe boxes and then stack the boxes to create even more space.
- Clothing was grouped together in ‘like’ groupings.
A creative way to store scarves, but not very convenient. I suggested to the winner that she might want to invest in a decorative ladder for organizing her scarves – like the display I had recently seen in a clothing store.
Stealing this idea!
When you live in a 1,000 square foot home, you have to be creative! This is a little side passage gets used for drying shirts when everyone is out of the house for work and school: a spring-mounted shower curtain rod and ingenuity – love it!
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
Here are five “Why didn’t I think of that?” closet organizing tips.
Tip 1: Do all your laundry before organizing your closet. You need to know how much clothing you have to fit into your closet. If the clothes don’t fit the space, it may be time to declutter your closet.
Tip 2: Create categories and group ‘like with like’
We sorted the clothing into separate categories: T-shirts, sweaters, pajamas, etc. As we were sorting, we decided on: keepers, donations, hand-me-downs, and fabric recycling (i.e. items that were damaged).
The group ‘like with like’ strategy also worked well for the fifth grader’s stuffed animals. She took the initiative to organize her stuffed animals between the first and second organizing session.
Tip 3: Do regular shoe “check-ups”
We matched up the pairs to make sure there were not any missing shoes and reassigned the wearable shoes to a new easily accessible location.
Tip 4: Don’t be more organized than you need to be
Underwear was moved to a large open container that was easy to access. We didn’t fuss about matching pairs of socks as the fifth grader explained to me that she liked wearing mismatched socks. There was no need to be “over organized.”
Tip 5: Hangers: Discard, donate, and place ‘empties’ at the end
When organizing a closet:
- Discard all broken hangers. Don’t clutter your closet by having unused hangers take up valuable space.
- Donate hangers that are too small or don’t work with the clothes you wear.
- When you remove an item of clothing from your closet, place the empty hanger to one side of all the hanging clothing. When it comes time to hang an item of clothing back in the closet, it is easy to find a hanger and place it where you want it to go. No more scrounging around for hangers.
Photo credits: © Paula Berman Organizing
Home: Tri-level condo
- Level 1: Entryway
- Level 2: Living room, dining area, kitchen, laundry, guest bathroom
- Level 3: 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms; main bedroom with a walk-in closet
Who lives here? Full-time working mom, two children, a dog, and a cat
1. Laundry area:
- lack of hanging space in laundry area
- one laundry basket for placing clean and folded laundry
- flow of laundry being “sabotaged” by awkward and inadequate clothing storage in main bedroom closet and children’s shared closet
- broken hooks
- no limit on number of shoes allowed in space
- overflow of miscellaneous items with no ‘homes’
3. Storage closet:
- narrow walk-in space with no shelving or hooks
- lack of time to call for donation items to be picked up
- lack of specific purpose for the storage closet
4. Living room/TV room:
- overflow of items with no ‘homes’
5. Dining area:
- overflow of items with no homes, including semi-unpacked hand luggage from vacation, children’s schoolwork and artwork, miscellaneous paperwork
– countertop cluttered with items to be relocated, but which have no homes
– inadequate trash/recycling system
7. Children’s bedroom
- lack of storage for stuffed animals and place to display special treasures
- only one desk for two children
- inadequate storage solutions in shared closet
The homeowner needs to:
- schedule time for organizing work
- declutter where necessary
- assign ‘homes’ for items to be stored
- purchase appropriate storage products
- maintain organizing systems
Photo credits © Paula Berman Organizing