August 07, 2007

Organized closets don't have to cost you

I love to watch decorating shows on TV (almost as much as I love to watch cooking shows). I get ideas and tips, and keep up on what's new and trendy. I don't always love everything I see, but it's a way to keep my decorating senses keen. One show I like to catch now and then is Clean House. It's like watching a train wreck – they take a super-cluttered house, clear it out, convince the owners to sell some of their stuff, and then put it back together, decorating and organizing it.

Now, on this show, closets are usually a major issue. Clothes are usually on the floor, on the bed, under the bed, and yes, in the closet but without a shoe horn they aren't getting one more thing in there. The "organization host" is given a budget, and cleans and organizes the closet with brand new closet systems. Of course this makes for good TV, because in the reveal the difference is drastic.

However, not all of us can be on "Clean House" and not all of us have the cash to spend on new closet organization systems.

So, here are my ideas and tips for organizing any closet. The idea here is to be able to see what you've got, regardless of the size of the space.

1. Purge. If you haven't done this in a while, or ever, it's a very cleansing process. Anything (and I mean anything) you haven't worn in a year or more, put in a pile. Then, take a look at each item, and try on if necessary. If it doesn't fit you now, don't keep it thinking it will eventually fit. Be realistic – if it's making you feel guilty, throw it out or put it in a donate pile. If it's stained, worn, or needs repair, throw it out or put in a donate pile. (Note: I'm not a total fascist about this – if it has some deep sentimental value, store it away with like things in a container.) The main thing is to stay focused. You're trying to improve your life by making it quick and easy to find something to wear, and by making the space to store what you really need.

2. Plan. I don't care particularly HOW you plan to organize your closet, but pick a system and be religious about it. It truly will make your life so much easier if you have a system to things. In my case, I have all my shirts, tops and jackets arranged by color, then by sleeve length, with jackets last. So when I want a white blouse, I know exactly where they are. My pants and skirts are organized by color, pants first then skirts. If it's a multi-colored item, I classify it by the most prominent color. It's very subjective, and that's okay. What matters is that you're able to find what you want quickly and easily.

3. Commit. This is your closet; no one is going to police it for you. So commit to keeping it this way, or even better, from here on out. Don't let yourself slip. The time you'll save every day will more than make up for the time it took you to get it organized.

This article deals with hanging clothes, but similar systems can be developed for your drawers and shelves. You have to take control of them. Be willing to let go of things that don't fit, aren't in style, or are damaged or stained. Try this technique with even one closet and you'll feel like you've been the star of an episode of "Clean House."

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