Taming the Closets

In some of our past columns we have posted that, despite the hype, pristine closets are not necessarily a fundamental requirement for getting buttoned up.

Our point is not that straightening out your closets is a waste of time, but rather, given the typical juggling act of daily life, there are often other, more basic tasks that are likely to give you a much greater return on your time investment. Feeling like an organizational failure because your clothes and shoes aren’t color coded and perfectly aligned is a complete waste of energy. With that said, however, there are times when you simply need a catalyst, a major ‘event’ that will help you get over your organizational ‘hump’ — sort of like a shot in the arm. And in that case, almost nothing can come close to the instant gratification that comes with tackling a closet bursting at the seams with stuff.

Alicia on ‘The 80/20 Rule’

‘The 80/20 rule is certainly in effect when it comes to putting your closets in order. For example, people tend to wear 10% – 20% of their clothes 80% of the time, which means the vast majority are just taking up space. There is probably a similar dynamic at work in your linen closets, coat closets, toy closets, and/or those catch-all ‘stuff’ closets. So the first step to a neater space is to identify which 20% of things in the closet you use and which 80% you rarely, if ever (be honest!) use.’

Sarah on ‘The End Goal’

‘It’s important to keep in mind that you’re shooting for a more functional closet, not a ‘perfect’ closet; perfect doesn’t stand the test of time because sooner or later real life gets in the way. Rather than worry about achieving an end state fit for a magazine photo shoot, think ahead to how the closet is most likely to get used everyday and set your expectations accordingly. If it’s a mud closet for the whole family, the end goal should be a system that makes it easy for everybody to find or put away their things.’

Three Simple Steps to Tidy Closets

Here are three easy steps that will help you transform your closets from dumps to diamonds in no time.

#1: Sort It Out
The first step in the process, sorting, actually makes the biggest difference in taming the closet chaos. Take everything out and put it into one of three piles: keep, toss, and recycle/give away. As you plow through the clutter, stay focused on that 80/20 rule — your ‘keep’ pile should be 20% of the items and the other two piles should comprise the remaining 80%. As a rule of thumb if the item hasn’t been used in the past year, it should go in the toss or recycle/give away pile.

#2: Create a Flexible Framework
Three things matter to people when it comes to storage and closets: can I see what I’m looking for, can I reach what I need easily, and is there more than one ‘right way’ for me to put something away. Think about who will use the closet and how they will use the items in it. If some items need to be easily accessible to children, be sure to put them in a low spot. If linens are likely to be put away by different people, give each family member a shelf and label it with a brief description of their bed linens.

#3: Get Help
As you put items back in the closet, especially communal ones, ask other family members to help you get the job done. The time investment they make is likely to pay dividends because they’ll be more likely to maintain something that they helped clean up in the first place.