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3 Tough organization questions answered by a California Closets design guru

So, January is National Get Organized Month. Anyone organized yet? Me neither. Before we write off the idea of having a neat and orderly closet, here are some easy-to-implement closet-organizing tips to get it done from Ginny Snook Scott, chief design officer at California Closets.

1. Why organize your closet at all?

Organized Closet from California Closets

Image: California Closets

Merry Lucero: Let’s first talk motivation. For those of us who do want to have an organized and orderly closet but get overwhelmed and give up when we start to sort, what are some benefits to getting organized that can help us to stay inspired through the project?

Ginny Snook Scott: In a recent California Closets survey, we found that more than half of respondents reported that disorganization makes them feel stressed and frustrated. While getting organized can seem like a daunting task, it is important to stay inspired through an organizing project by setting yourself up for success. This can be done by starting off with a small space, such as a linen closet or entryway closet, and giving yourself enough time to organize the entire space in one sitting. Invite a friend over to help, or include your family members. Play music, and make it fun!

ML: Taking everything out of my closet at once would be a huge mess. Is there a different approach to taking the first step before getting to sorting?

GSS: While I highly recommend starting with a completely blank slate, if this isn’t possible, there are several other options. One option is to start small by focusing on one area of the space first. For example, in a closet, focus on shoes, then jeans, shirts, etc. This helps you maximize your efforts without creating a huge mess. Whether you start out small or overhaul the entire closet, make sure to organize the removed items into three piles: things to store away, keep for every day and donate. The “store” pile is for items that you feel sentimental about, such as your wedding dress or a baby blanket for your child. These should be stored somewhere else, such as the attic or a guest closet. The “keep” pile should only be those items that you wear regularly, and these should be returned to your closet. The “donate” pile should be anything that is out of style or does not fit any longer. Donate these to your favorite charity. Make sure to build in enough time to do the entire project at once. The key to success here is getting it all done so you can begin enjoying the sense of calm it will bring you immediately!

2. How do I know what stuff to let go of?

Clothes hanging on hangers from California Closets

Image: California Closets

ML: One hurdle to getting organized is often just too much stuff. Even though we know it will be liberating to do so, for many it is difficult to let go of things that really aren’t needed. Any tips for getting past the thought that, even if we haven’t worn an item in a while, we might want to wear it again someday?

GSS: Give yourself permission to keep things of sentimental value or is a quality piece that might come back in five years, but release the items you are keeping only because you spent money to purchase them. If you haven’t worn something in over six months, it is likely you won’t wear it ever again. If clothing has stains, holes, missing buttons or simply doesn’t fit, you need to let it go. For items that you are unsure of letting go, when you return them to your closet, hang them on the pole with the hanger facing backwards. If you end up wearing them, put them on the hanger right side out. Over the course of another six months, if any of your hangers are still backwards, that means you have not worn those items. This can help you make the decision to donate them or put them in storage to revisit at another time.

?3. What is the best way to group items in your closet?

California Closets master closet

Image: California Closets

ML: Once we have decided what to keep, what is the best way to organize the remaining clothes, shoes and other items in our closets?

GSS: When placing things back into the closet, it is wise to group similar things together. First, determine if there are multiple users of the closet, and then identify which areas they will inhabit in the new space. After the closet has been divided, look at placing items back by item/type. For instance, place all blouses together and then all pants together and so on. Keeping like items in one area makes it much easier to find them when searching for what to wear. Ideally, folded items and handbags would be placed on shelves, and shoes are also brought up to eye level on shelves rather than stored on the floor.

ML: Are there additional steps we can take to help us continue to maintain the order we’ve created?

GSS: If you want to go one step further, you can additionally organize by color. Also, for maintenance of the categorized items, try to spend just a few minutes each day to make sure that items are returned to their specific area after use. In addition, when you come home with dry cleaning or are putting items away from the laundry, take the extra time to place each item in its designated space.

ML: What are some tips for maximizing the existing space in a closet?

GSS: The most valuable way to increase your space is to utilize the full vertical height of your closet. Building in two separate hanging levels for items will double the amount of hanging capacity in your closet. You can place a running top shelf at the very top of the closet and also include a shelf between the two hanging heights to have additional spaces for folded items.

ML: Finally, how can the average person help their closet be more aesthetically attractive and appealing?

GSS: You can aesthetically change the look of your closet with a few simple additions. If you have drawers and/or doors within your closet, look at upgrading your handles/knobs to decorative ones. This simple and inexpensive change can greatly improve the look of your space. You can also add in lighting to your closet or change out your existing fixture to a luxurious chandelier. Again, with limited investment, this can change the look and feel of your space and make it uniquely yours!

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