If you shudder every time you open up the closets around your house, you might be in serious need of some organizational know-how. Don't feel bad, though. It's only natural that our storage areas are prone to disorganization; they're meant to hold the stuff you want kept out of sight. Unfortunately, the amount of items that fall into this category often adds up in a hurry. If you're not careful, a pristine, perfectly orderly closet can become a disaster area in no time flat.
Don't worry if you can't spring for a custom closet design or have the funds to pay a professional organizer -- you don't have to spend a fortune to make a big difference in your storage areas. Whether it's your bedroom closet that's bursting at the seams or your linen shelves that are overflowing, there are plenty of simple, inexpensive ways to maximize your space. The solution could be as easy as a $15 shoe rack or a couple of new hanging bars. It could even be free -- if you're willing to conduct a clothing purge.
If you have some embarrassingly messy skeletons lurking in your closet, check out these 10 tips for getting a grip on the situation.
Probably the most fundamental way to organize a space is to decrease how much stuff is in it. First, set aside some time, take everything out of the closet and try on every last article of clothing. Be realistic and determined: If an item doesn't fit, is stained or you haven't worn it in more than a year, get rid of it. This isn't time to reminisce -- it's time to get your closet in shape. If you can't decide, put it in a box and pack it away. In six months, take the box out and see if you still want anything in it. Chances are good that box will be ready for a trip to your local donation center.
If you've been living with a closet that has a single measly bar running across the top, you've probably realized that it's not an ideal situation. So hook another hanging bar or two onto the existing long one and move half of your items to the new lower level. That'll free up space for a small shelving unit, a shoe rack or wall-mounted wire shelves. Every little bit counts!
Even if you do have enough bars, shelves and racks in your closet, it doesn't mean a thing unless everything on them is arranged so you can actually find what you're looking for. So figure out a system that works for you: Most people probably group items according to type (all pants together, for example) or season, but you could also arrange things by color. Reorganization will also help you weed out unnecessary items -- like, maybe you don't need seven long-sleeved black shirts?
You might think you're being ultra-organized by keeping your shoes in their original packaging, but there's a better use for those compartments. Put your shoes on floor or hanging racks, and use their boxes to store small items like ties, belts, undergarments, even special-occasion jewelry. Give them a uniform look by covering them in contact paper -- it comes in so many colors, patters and prints that coordinating the boxes with your overall décor should be easy.
When making a game plan for your closet, try to think of ways to make your most-used items as accessible as possible. Weekday clothes, shoes and accessories should be front and center, along with anything else you tend to need regularly -- easy to get to equals easy to put away. And the opposite, obviously, goes for seldom-used items. Why hang formalwear and Halloween costumes with your go-to weekend duds? Find an out-of-the-way spot for pieces that are rarely worn.
When you're organizing a storage area -- especially on a budget -- there's no law that says you have to buy all your supplies at a closet store. So always keep an eye out for unlikely tools: Paper towel holders mounted on a wall can become purse- or tie-hanging stations, for example, and a kitchen utensil rail could be an excellent spot for belts. And if you need to hang things outside the closet, why not make it look nice? Fasten a pegboard to the door or wall and make it a functional display for hats and scarves.
There are lots of hangers on the market that will have you breathing a sigh of uncluttered relief the next time you take a peek in your clothes closets. Tiered and cascading hangers accommodate multiple pants, skirts and shirts on a single hook and typically come in packs of four. A pile of footwear can be tidied up with an over-the-door shoe holder, and even though standing shoe racks take up a little floor space, they can be a great way to regain control over a chaotic closet. Prices for these items range greatly, but nearly all options are well below the $50 budget.
Another useful organizational tip is to change out contents on a seasonal basis. And it goes beyond clothes: Think of how much stuff in your closets gets used just short time of the year. Galoshes, winter hats, mittens and the like can all be stored away in under-the-bed bins during the spring and summer, and the same goes for beach towels and swimsuits in fall and winter.
If the problem with your storage areas is that everything seems to spill over and become a mixed-up cluttered mess, try purchasing some dividers. There are plenty of different styles, materials and colors, so it should be easy to find something that matches your taste while maintaining order.
Stackable baskets, shelf dividers, plastic bins, wire storage cubes and even kitchen Tupperware are all ways to give items a proper place, and nearly every professional organizer will tell you that having a home for each item is a must for successful organization.
If you've organized and purged to your heart's content and your closets are still packed to the gills, it's time to start thinking out of the box -- or, shall we say, into the box. A storage ottoman is the perfect spot to hide the overflow from your linen closet or sweater shelves -- or anything you don't need to access on a daily basis. And your houseguests will never suspect that they're resting their feet on top of the sheets and blankets they'll be sleeping on later.
Living in clutter can actually be very bad for your health, both physical and mental. HowStuffWorks digs into the mess.
- Budget Fashionista. "Spring Cleaning: Tips for Organizing Your Closet." March 7, 2011. (Jan. 13, 2012) http://www.thebudgetfashionista.com/archive/closet-spring-cleaning-tips/
- Coffey, Sarah. "20 Ways to Organize Your Bedroom Closet." Apartment Therapy. Feb. 19, 2008. (Jan. 13, 2012) http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/ways-to-organize-your-dresser-43236
- Martha Stewart. "A Call to Order: Maximizing Your Closet Space." (Jan. 13, 2012) http://www.marthastewart.com/274465/a-call-to-order-maximizing-your-closet-s
- Real Simple. "31 Ways to Make Over Your Closets." (Jan. 13, 2012) http://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/organizing/closets/inspirational-closets-00000000013792/index.html
- Space Bag Brand. (Jan. 16, 2012) https://www.spacebagbrand.com/Space-Bag-Store.dtm
- Target. "Hangers." (Jan. 16, 2012) http://www.target.com/s?searchTerm=hangers&category=0|All|matchallany|all+categories