Organize This! Turn Your Closet from Disastrous to Dazzling

The aura of changing seasons is in the air, and if the thought of wading through your closet to find your winter clothes gives you a migraine, don’t despair. Even if the term “walk-in closet” is an oxymoron in your house, you can reclaim your space and have nary a worry that an avalanche will occur every time you open the closet door.

First things first, though. Organizing your closet isn’t a one-shot deal. Either you need to vow that you won’t let your household leftovers squeeze out your clothes, or you have to resign yourself to at least a semi-annual organizing fest.

You can always hire a closet organizer or buy expensive organizing systems, but if you’re on a budget or are just a do-it-yourselfer, here are 20 tips to help you tidy up. Who knows…? You may even find that missing wool glove in the process!

  1. Set aside two to four hours to tackle a small closet; four to six hours to wrestle a walk-in into shape. If a friend can be coerced into helping you – or at least keeping you company – so much the better.
  2. Buy a few plastic bins from your local discount store and collect some large, sturdy cardboard boxes. These will come in handy when you begin to sort and store.
  3. If you find that your plus-size clothes slip off of their wire hangers and end up scattered on the floor of your closet, consider investing in some extra-large hangers and foam hanger covers, which will prevent slippage. Find a fixture store (also called display stores, they sell racks, tags, etc. to retail stores) that’s open to the public, and pick up 100 hangers for around $30 and 100 foam covers for about $10. The cost is worth it in terms of the time you’ll save by not having to iron those wrinkled blouses. Take your flimsy wire hangers back to the dry cleaner for recycling.
  4. Before you start, decide what types of items you want to store in the closet. Clothes and shoes only? Wrapping paper? Your bowling ball? Unfolded laundry? A zillion of your kid’s school papers? Plan ahead and create storage space elsewhere for items that will be evicted from your closet.
  5. Ready to dig in? In a systemized way, take everything that’s not on a hanger out of your closet. Go from the top of the closet to the bottom, from the floor up, or go from right to left.
  6. As you remove each item, sort it into one of five piles: trash, giveaway, projects, storage or closet. The trash pile is self-evident – toss it into the garbage bin. Giveaways are those items you no longer need, but can be of use to a family member, a friend or a charity. Projects are those articles that need further action on your part – shoes that need new soles, decorative pillows that need mending, etc. Storage consists of things you want to keep, but not in your closet. The pieces in your closet pile will go back into your closet once you’ve finished organizing.
  7. Take a look at your shoes. Haven’t worn them in over a year, and won’t in the foreseeable future? They’re either trash or giveaways. Are they special occasion shoes that you’ll wear again? Box them up and label them. If you’re in a cold weather clime and your tootsies won’t see sandals for another six months, box up your warm weather shoes and pack them away for the winter.
  8. Once you’ve gotten this far, you’re more than halfway there! Now you’re down to the clothes on their hangers. This is the tough part, but boldness and bravery are necessary to achieve your goal.
  9. Go through each piece, one at a time, with as much objectivity as you can muster. Does the item fit you at your present size? If not, immediately place it into either the giveaway or trash pile with nary a backward glance. Your self-esteem doesn’t need nagging thoughts of “Maybe someday…” and besides, you’re trying to reclaim your closet space for the person you are today.
  10. Have you worn it in the past year? If the answer is no and it’s still in good shape, the piece goes in the giveaway pile. It doesn’t matter if it still has the price tag on it – if you loved it and it looked good on you, you would have worn it by now.
  11. Has it seen better days? Be brutally honest. That ratty old bathrobe may have brought you emotional comfort, but are you really ever going to wear it again? If you still can’t bear to toss it into the trash, put it in the storage pile – but get it out of your closet!
  12. How does it really look? This is where a friend can come in handy. If that orange suit makes you look like a pumpkin, do yourself a favor by putting it in the giveaway pile. On the other hand, that chunky sweater may look terrific, and it’s back in season to boot!
  13. Once you’ve sorted through everything in your closet, it’s time to assess your progress and put everything in its proper place. Organize your hanging clothes by their function: sportswear, casual, career, special occasion. Within each function, group like items together: blouses, skirts, pants, jackets. Within these groups, organize by color.
  14. Now you can dispose of your five piles. Dump the trash and be done with it.
  15. Sort the giveaway pile into items to distribute to people you know, and put the rest in a large carton or trash bag. Local women’s shelters are always looking for plus-size casual clothes, and programs like The Working Wardrobe, which helps low-income women move from welfare to work, will take plus-size career clothes off of your hands in a flash.
  16. Sort your projects pile into appropriate categories, and put them in a bin or box. Take time to reserve a day on your calendar when you will tackle those tasks.
  17. Group the items in the storage pile by the location where they will be stored. Box up the things that are going into longer-term storage and label the boxes. Then, put all of the items in their proper places.
  18. Now that you’ve reclaimed your closet space, you should have plenty of room to put away the things from your closet pile. Make sure to label any boxes, so you’ll know what’s inside and you won’t have to dig the next time you need something.
  19. If your closet is only as big as a shoebox, you may need to take additional steps to create more space. Consider over-the-door organizers, wall hooks and multi-level rods. Remember that the space under your bed can be utilized as long-term storage space. If you’re ambitious, you can create a second shelf in the closet, or convert your narrow shelf into a deeper shelf by utilizing a wider board on the existing shelf guide bar.
  20. Relax and congratulate yourself on a job well done!

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