by Lempi Koivisto
Ever walk by your closet and hear it groaning?
Do you close the door quickly and give that extra squish just to make sure it closes?
Closets tend to become a catchall -- an overfilled home for all those treasures you might need one day.
If you're afraid to open the closet door because there might be an avalanche looming, perhaps it's time to conquer that fear and organize your storage space.
Use our handy checklist to guide you on your journey to clutter-free city!
Your Closet Cleaning Checklist
You've bravely opened the door. Now snap a "before" photo. While you might never share it on the web, you can look back in a couple hours and see your progress!
Ask About the Stuff Crammed Inside
Toys you're saving for your grandchildren? Skinny jeans you might fit in next year? These questions can help you decide what to keep:
• Have I used in during the last six month...the last year?
• Do I really need it?
• Would a different storage space be more efficient?
• Does it fit?
Put on Your Sorting Hat!
Your plan of attack will depend on which closet you're organizing.
• Bedroom: Have your own private fashion show in front of your full length mirror. Then mercilessly delegate items into keep, mend, donate, throw away.
• Linen and general storage: Keep, donate, relocate, throw away.
• Pantry: Keep, donate, throw away...wait, "Oh yum!"
Suggested Sorting Containers
Your sorting should result in several containers (hopefully full!). Set aside all but the "Belongs in this Closet" Container. You'll want at least for places for your piles:
• The "Belongs in this Closet" Container
• The "Keep it but Move it" Container
• The "I Have This Garbage Why?" Container
• The "Time to Donate it" Container
"I take paper bags and mark them with different rooms. When I'm done sorting, I toss the items into the proper bags and move them to their rooms. ~Bonnie, Pregnancy.org member"
In your zeal to organize, keep an eye on what ends up where. It would be a sad day to accidently throw away a sentimental item.
Think Outside the Closet
Just because it's a pillow doesn't mean it has to go in the linen closet. If you use an item in another part of the house, consider storing it in that area. Better yet, include it as part of the room.
Get It Ready
Your next step is preparing your closet for a partial (being optimistic) fill. Adjustable shelves allow you to designate the perfect amount of space to each set of items. If shelves can't be adjusted, consider add-ons like under-mount wire baskets. Shelf dividers keep your folded items, well, folded and isolated to their own space.
Now that you've chosen shelves, baskets and dividers in hand, wipe everything down with a cloth dampened with a mild cleaning solution. Dry well.
Your Own Storage Style
Finally add your own custom touch. We don't consider the "cram and slam" an acceptable storage style. Instead, try one or more of the ideas below:
• Sheets: Corral the entire sheet set and store it neatly in a matching pillowcase. Make grabbing the correct set easier by choosing a different color scheme for each bed size.
• Accessories: Using labeled, see-through boxes, sacks and bins to hold accessories maximizes your space without spending a fortune on a custom closet.
• Humidity: If you're short on space and high on humidity, bundle a bunch of chalk with an attractive ribbon and hang in your closet. It will absorb excess moisture. Pop into a 225° oven a couple times a month to refresh your "humidifier."
• Space bags: Bulky items like comforters, quilts and pillows that are rotated seasonally or used only for guests can be stored in vacuum-sealed storage bags. Your items stay dust free and take less space.
• Liners: If storing linens or antique fabrics, unbuffered acid-free tissue paper liner protects them from yellowing.
Fill 'Er Up
Now that you've decided which items belong in this closet, add them wisely.
According to Betsy Peterson, a professional organizer from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, we use 20% of our belongings 80% of the time. Use that fact as you organize your closet.
Put things you need frequently -- like towels or tissues -- in easy to access spots. Place seasonal items in the back or on high and low shelves. Now take your "after" photo. What a difference!
What special tricks help keep your storage areas orderly? Share with us in comments.
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