There’s no excuse, now that daylight savings time has kicked in… it’s time for Spring Cleaning. So, I’ve been squinting at my clothes closets, planning a makeover. There’s got to be a better way to organize all that stuff to make more efficient use of the small space!
One great place to start is with closet organizing tips from the DIY gurus at Lowes:
Every organization project starts with three basic steps: purge the items you no longer want or need, analyze what’s left to determine how you use it and measure the space you have to figure out what will fit where… When organizing a closet, frequency of use is an important consideration. Things you reach for at least once a week should be stored at a height between your shoulders and your knees.
Tidy is one thing, and everyone can feel satisfied to look into a well-organized closet, where everything is neatly arranged and just plain looks good — after all, that’s a key part of a spring closet makeover, yes?
But don’t forget, the whole point is to make your closet more efficient, so you’re not always digging around for things you can’t find or toppling over piles of folded sweaters in a desperate attempt to get your favourite green hoodie off the back of the top shelf!
Well, you know how it seems like every home organizer and decorator is keen on closet systems with a double row of hanging rails in a clothes closet?
Turns out there’s a reason for that, and it’s not just because it looks cool.
Now, obviously a double row of hangers makes perfect sense in a child’s closet, where the little tiny outfits don’t take up a lot of vertical space on the hanger — but what do you do about your own off-season long coats, those essential but rarely-worn long gowns, and other gear that can’t properly be hung up in a half-height closet space?
You can split the closet space, of course, and do a double rail on one side, single on the other. That works for many people, but for me — well, the proportions never seem to work out right. One side is jammed up and the other has too much space. That’s the price we pay for living in a century-old home, I guess, where closet space wasn’t a big part of the original builder’s priority list!
Sometimes, I’ve found, the best answer is the simple one. Hang all of those longer items together in another closet (the guest room? a portable closet in your storage space or basement?) and double up the useful space in your main closet, full-width, with two rows of hangers.
After all, what do we wear most frequently, most of us? Separates, that’s what. Do you really need to keep your meet-the-Governor velvet gown up front and center with your go-to-work gear?
[update: April 2011 Rubbermaid Configurations to the rescue! When you do a split closet with a little unit of vertical shelve, the storage space becomes much easier to configure and customimze, it turns out. You can find a whole lot of fancy-schmancy wooder closet systems, but good ol’ Rubbermaid does the trick for those of us on tight budget.
Plan a Closet Design Online
But before jumping in, a little planning is in order. (There’s nothing like a little pre-planning to save on expensive mistakes!)
BHG has a little online tool that lets you play around with closet elements, to figure out the best use for your space. You choose from four different types of closet, then drag in what you like in the way of rods and shelves and storage units. It’s not a perfect tool — to begin with, it’s a bit snotty about what browser you use, and one of the three closet designs I tried to print out would not, for some reason, print the plan for all three walls.
[update April 2011: Sadly, BHG’s Design-A-Closet seems to have disappeared from the interwebs. :( If you find it, let me know? Meanwhile, have a look at BHG’s Closet Capacity Calculator, an easy online tool to help you figure out how much stuff you can realistically expect to store in your closets.]
Tips to Choose a Rod-and-Shelf Closet System
I’ll add another couple of tips here, which are based on hard personal experience! If you’re going to install some sort of closet organizing system for yourself, do go with a coated-wire shelving. The coating keeps the metal from corroding and damaging your stuff; and the wire construction allows air to circulate inside the closet space.
Sometimes you can find a great price on solid (wood or melamine) shelves, or it seems like a good plan to re-purpose an old bookcase in the closet — don’t be tempted. And don’t even think about flimsy breakable plastic bargain units. Coated wire’s the way to go.
And when you go to install your rods and shelves, don’t just screw it merrily into the drywall. Plan it out so your supports will hit a stud, those vertical pieces of wood that form the bones of your wall.
If you knock the wall and it sounds hollow, there’s no wooden stud behind that spot and you’ll be driving your screw into thin air — not very stable! In time, the weight of the shelf or rod will start to drag the screw out of the wall, and it will make a big ugly hole in your drywall on the way to falling out completely.
Most often, wall studs tend to be spaced every 16 or 18 inches. When in doubt, get yourself a stud finder. If it works out that you do have to fasten your shelving to mere drywall, because the studs aren’t just where you need them to be, then be sure to use a sturdy drywall anchor.
And if none of this makes any sense, or if it scares the panties off you (which it shouldn’t — every capable modern woman should know her way around a toolbox), just ask for step-by-step how-to advice from the knowledgeable people at your local hardware store. It’s part of their job to help you learn to DIY, because DIY’ers make good customers!