Take Control of Your Closet

Men laying new hardwood flooring

Photo courtesy of California Closets

If youve ever spent more than a few seconds combing through your closet for the shirt you know must be in there somewhere, only to find it shoved to the back, hopelessly crushed and wrinkled, a closet makeover might be in order.

Even shoe collectors, people with an incurable passion for neckties and those who are always pressed for time can call on the experts and make a decision to take control, get organized and find new peace at home. A variety of systems and products are available that promise to completely transform your closet.

There are even professional closet designers and organizers to get you in shape and keep you that way. But the experts agree that once you get organized, it is up to you to stay that way. It takes dedication to maintain efficient closets. (Dont worry, though. Organizers are available for regular checkups too.)

Photo courtesy of Closets and More Inc.
The secret to an organized closet begins with having a well-designed and functional system that allows you to easily find what you are looking for.

A system that works
The secret to an organized closet begins with having a well-designed and functional system that allows you to easily find what you are looking for. In general, most systems consist of a long-hang area (about 10 percent of the space), a double-hang area (that can be 50 to 60 percent), shoe shelves (10 to 20 percent depending on your shoe collection) and drawers and shelves that take up the rest of the space. While some systems are available for purchase and do-it-yourself installation, closet system companies can also design a personalized system based on a homeowners possessions and lifestyle.

From inventory to installation
Many closet companies begin by sending a designer to the clients home. The designer assesses the space and needsthis could include counting exact numbers of shoes, sweaters and jeans. Then the representative designs the closets basic shell. A variety of colors and accessories can be added to the shell. The company manufactures the closet and installs it. The installers then show the homeowner how to use the new system and adjust shelves. (The closet designer generally does not put the clothing in, but an organizer can help with that.)

Photo courtesy of SpaceMakers Closet Interiors
To truly personalize a closet, designers will choose from a variety of accessories like hinged hampers, baskets, jewelry storage, drawer dividers, belt and tie storage, etc.

Personal touches
In addition to the basic system, to truly personalize a closet, designers will choose from a variety of accessories like hinged hampers, baskets, jewelry storage, drawer dividers, belt and tie storage or ironing boards that pop out of drawers or fold down from the wall. Closet systems can be made from melamine in several colors, including some that look like wood. Real wood closets are also available but are more expensive.

Closet costs
The price of even a basic closet system can vary greatly depending on which accessories and materials are used. While a walk-in closet can cost from $500 to $20,000, some general pricing for a small reach-in closet from California Closets would run $750 to $1,500, while a 10-by-10 walk-in closet might cost between $2,500 and $10,000. Again, it would depend on whether you chose white melamine or stained hardwoods. Where the closet attaches also affects its priceone that hangs is less expensive than one that is floor mounted.

A more affordable system, according to Katie Gerst, president of ClosetSmith Inc., might be mounted with a hanging-rail system and crafted out of white melamine. It would be mostly hanging and include some shelves and a few accessories like tie and belt racks. It might also have a few drawers with standard detailing or some baskets. In contrast, a very high-end system would be floor mounted with backing, crafted from a stainable wood veneer and would have crown and
base moldings with flutes or valances. This system would also include many drawers with upgraded drawer detailing, hidden hinges, hampers, jewelry drawers, drawer dividers and possibly a hidden safe. Many high-end systems are in closets large enough to house an island or peninsula, many of which have granite or solid-surface tops, Gerst says. They might also include areas with glass doors, behind which delicate clothing items are stored. And angled shoe shelves with metal fences are also very desirable in the high-end closet system.

A perfect fit
Whatever the size of the closet and the budget of the closet owner, adjustability is key. Having a fully adjustable shelving system will help you to reduce the air in the closet, says Diane Kennedy, senior designer at Affordable Closet MakeOvers. This provides for a higher density of storage, which means you can place more things neatly in a small space. Adjustability becomes particularly important in childrens closets, which need to change constantly to accommodate new sizes, hobbies and collections.

Whether you opt to call a closet company to take you from start to finish or decide to go it alone, with closets its all about the product. Any closet system must be designed to reflect your lifestyle and preferences. This can mean anything from your height to whether you travel frequently and need all seasons of clothing displayed at all times or can put away your winter clothes in June.

Photo courtesy of California Closets
Having a fully adjustable shelving system will help you to reduce the “air” in the closet; this means you can place more things neatly in a small space.

With a standardized system, you know what you are getting, but you have to work with it. A variety of do-it-yourself systems are available at places like The Home Depot. With a custom system, you
get exactly what you want, but you dont get to see it first and dont always know how long it will take (although the closet company should be able to give you a good idea, certain upgrades might take longer). Also, keep in mind that while floor-mounted systems might be more attractive, they are more expensive and make floor cleaning or replacing more difficult.

If you choose a standard system and plan to install it yourself, know that installation can be tricky for any level of closet system.Regardless of how hard framers try, it is very difficult to build a home with perfectly straight walls and floors,Gerst says.Also, most homeowners dont typically have on hand the tools required to cut a hanging rod or hanging rail to size, among other things.

Design tips
There are many important aspects to consider when designing your closet alone or with help. Choosing the right shelving, creating the maximum amount of space and adding the accessories that are right for you can make the difference between a nice storage space and a harmonious closet. Ideally, shelves should be solid. We do not offer wire or ventilated shelving, says Lance Stadmiller, owner of the Atlanta-area California Closets. The only advantage of [that type of shelving] product is price.

In large closets, peninsulas or islands create more hang space than is available around the perimeter. If that still doesnt afford enough room, a spare bedroom can also make a great space for off-season storage, according to Dave Laven, general manager at Closets and More Inc. Using another bedroom can mean either utilizing its closet space or turning the entire room into a giant closet and dressing area.

Inside the closet, shoe cubbies fit more shoes in the same amount of space as traditional flat shoe shelving, and pull-out assemblies like pants racks and shoe racks are popular new items. You also can get hydraulic lifts that store clothing at new heights. California Closets offers the Whirlpool Valet, a clothes-revitalizing appliance. There is usually something that can be done, says Rachel Barich, design manager at SpaceMakers Closet Interiors. Even in a small closet, there are things that you can do to improve the use.

The quickest way to increase space in a closet is to implement double hanging. Use shelves or hooks on interior doors and walls, says Mary Danowski Paguaga, of SOS Mary Organization and Design. Shelf dividers quickly make order. Double hanging greatly increases usable space in a closet.

Photo courtesy of Closets and More Inc.
Tips to Getting and Staying Organized

Determine what you are keeping and what must go.

Discard worn or permanently stained items.

Get rid of anything not worn in two years.

Arrange items by type to maximize wardrobe flexibility.

Use hooks and racks to keep scarves, hats and belts visible for easy accessorizing.

Keeping it in order
Still, with a great system that includes double hanging, shoe cubbies and the works, the most vital aspect of having an organized closet is being willing to regularly let go of old items that you no longer use. Youve got to sort and purge before you start a closet overhaul, Paguaga says.

If you find yourself not wanting to get rid of anything, try this trick from Gerst. Put everything in your closet with the hangers backwards (hooked around the back of the pole instead of the front). After you wear and wash it, hang it back up the right way. At the end of each season, you will know what you have worn and what you havent. (The unworn clothes will still be on backward hangers!)

I think the biggest trouble people have is letting go of their things, says Gerst. Everyone could have a nicely organized closet if they would commit to periodically going through their closets, being realistic about what they havent worn in a while and getting rid of what they dont wear anymore.

Hang it up
One of the simplest and most important features in a closet is often one of the most overlookedhangers. Changing your hangers can greatly alter your closets functionality, Paguaga says. She recommends using wider plastic swivel metal hangers, which can eliminate creasing and sliding of the clothes. Padded canvas hangers help knits keep their shape, and pants will rejoice over Z-hangers (the flocked or foam-padded kind will not crease the thinnest silk pants; they also can be used for hanging shawls).

Dont forget the shoes
Women have many, many, many shoes, says professional organizer Bootsie Johnson of In Place Unpacking & Organizing. Some people keep them in boxes and label them to keep them organized, but if you have more than about 50 pairs of shoes, you might start forgetting exactly what each pair looks like. To solve this problem, The Container Store offers clear shoeboxes so that you can still see each shoe in its home.

The key to maintaining an organized closet is to follow the system that was laid out, says Barich. Designers and organizers rec
mmend continuous reassessing and weeding out.

Photo courtesy of SpaceMakers Closet Interiors

Tips to Getting and Staying Organized

You dont wear what you dont seefold sweaters and shirts and store on shelves to avoid stretching.

Place infrequently used items on higher shelves or consider pull-down wardrobe lifts in closets with high ceilings to add a third hanging section.

Need more space?
If you really do not have enough space in your closet even after sorting and purging, a standing wardrobe might be the answer. Although it will take up room itself, the benefits it can give by keeping belongings organized inside will end up giving you more space to live in.

Pantries, laundry rooms and mudrooms deserve to be organized too. With equipment like properly placed shelving, apron hangers, spice racks and wine storage, pantries can double their useful space. Johnson recommends a horseshoe shape for pantries, which work best with metal wall holders for the shelves so that they can be adjusted. The laundry room tends to be a catch-all for many people, Laven says. Outfit your laundry room with places to hang wet clothes, hooks on the backs of doors, shelves and countertops to make sure that it stays neat. For hobbyists, dedicated closets might keep the leisure in leisure time. Craft closets can keep knitting neat and people who participate in scrapbooking can find drawers specifically made for scrapbooks. Wrapping paper rolls dont need to cause an avalanche in the hall closet anymore, either. Laven recommends using a wall rod that Closets and More specifically designed to hang wrapping paper and keep it organized. (It looks like the wrapping paper stations in department stores.) Another solution can be found at the Container Store, according to Johnson, where tall boxes are made especially to keep wrapping paper under control.

The real secret
Most people have too much stuff, Stadmiller says. How much time and energy have people wasted looking for keys, a wallet or purse and other items around the house? If everything had a place, it would be easier to find whatever is needed. Whether your clothes closet is a modest reach-in or an Oprah-esque closet that a family of four could live in, having the right system for your lifestyle will turn a nightmare into a dream come true.

The same methods of creating the ideal individual system should be used throughout the house in pantries, linen closets, mudrooms and home offices. Being dedicated to making a spot for everything and returning everything to its place will certainly lead to easier mornings rushing off to work, school or the gym. Combining the tools of closet equipment with the good habit of regularly sorting and purging might just make your home a more peaceful and happy place.

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