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  Sunday, September 21, 2014  
   
 

 
Controlling CLoset Clutter
Making the Most of High-Value Closet Real Estate  

Anyone brave enough to open my bedroom closet doors beware. Pull those handles and you are likely to be buried in a cascade of sweaters, purses, and shoe-boxes not to mention dust-bunnies and possibly a dead insect or two. My closet is not a pretty sight. I think I even have my high school cheerleading uniform still in there and that’s… well, that’s pretty old.

According to Certified Professional Organizer Mindy Godding of Space Matters in Richmond I am not alone. Godding, who currently serves as the president of the Richmond chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) says, “The most common problem I see is that a lot of my clients are holding on to too much stuff that’s not currently wearable.”

Godding says she often sees people layering a couple of wardrobes on top of each other. This includes out-of-season clothes (do you really need your wool turtlenecks front and center in July?) or clothes from previous careers (think stay-at-home moms who used to work in corporate America). To people like me who have been stockpiling stuff for ages Godding says it can seem like an awfully big chore to clear things out. She’s right.

So how can I control the clutter that’s in my closet? Godding suggests having an accessible secondary location to store anything that’s not in season, not currently wearable, or worn only for special occasions. Plus, she says, “Pulling this stuff out of your day-to-day space helps you stop that familiar saying… I have all of these clothes but nothing to wear!”

She also recommends getting into a routine of going through your closet at least once a year—preferably once a season—and moving those items out that haven’t seen the light of day recently. Godding says a common misconception about her industry is that organizing means getting rid of things. “It’s more about how to use your high value real estate than about getting rid of items,” she explains.

If you don’t have a secondary location for the things you’re not currently wearing, Godding advises rotating items in your closet. Keep the things you’re wearing now in front and move out-of-season or wrong-size clothes to the back. She likes her clients to be able to “plant their feet” in front of or inside their closet and have everything they might need all in one space. This saves time walking back and forth and searching for items in the morning.

Another way to control your clutter, says Godding, is to designate a donation or consignment staging area somewhere in your home or garage. She finds that a lot of people realize they’ll never wear something again but put it back in the closet anyway. A staging area can help you stop doing this by giving you a convenient place to store the item until the time is right to deliver it to a donation center or consignment store. Keep a large plastic storage bin in your garage and add to it whenever you extract an item from your closet. Godding says making the decision to let go of something is often the hardest part. “If something doesn’t make you feel spectacular when you wear it, it should go,” she advises.
Assessing the wear-ability of your items is just the first step. You also need to make sure you’re maximizing your space. According to Godding, if you can see wall in your closet you’re not.

She recommends hanging your clothes by length. Many folks tend to mix up shorter-hanging items like tops and pants with dresses, but doing so says Godding means you miss out on the opportunity to use the space underneath shorter hanging clothes. Grouping tops and pants means you can install a shelf or another hanging bar beneath effectively doubling your storage space.

“I’m a huge fan of closet systems” she says but says buyers should be sure they’re customizable and adjustable. You need to be able to mix and match components within a system as your needs change. Over time you may want to pull shelving out and replace it with drawers or more hanging space. A high degree of flexibility is number one when it comes to selecting a system.

Randy Silvers of Vermont Closets of Richmond, a firm that builds custom closet systems and cabinets, says clients don’t necessarily have to become neatniks to take advantage of a closet organizing system. Units of sliding drawers are great for keeping bulky items like sweaters —folded or not—out of sight. When everything has a place it’s easier for those less-organized to beat the clutter demons.

Silvers says simple things can open up a closet tremendously like using a double-hanging bar or placing a shelf along the top of the space. “It’s all about using the space efficiently and taking advantage of dead zones like corners.”
Jim Felthouse of Jim’s Cabinet Creations in White Stone which makes custom cabinets for kitchen and baths as well as closets, suggests installing diagonal corner cabinets with adjustable shelving to make corner dead zones more functional. “More and more people want to utilize the space in their closets” he says, “it might cost a little more to install a closet system upfront than it would to go with standard builder’s closets, but the investment will come back.”

Harlan Brubaker, a senior designer for California Closets in Richmond, makers of custom-designed closet and storage systems, notes that in addition to the sense of pride and well-being clients get when they walk into a well-organized closet, it’s also a great investment in their home. He says, “More and more homebuilders are conscious of providing good storage. I think the consensus is that whatever you spend on a closet system you will recoup later on.”

Brubaker doesn’t expect clients to know exactly what they want when they come to him to design a closet space. Instead, he wants them to analyze their current space and determine what’s not working for them. From there, he says he can determine a solution for their individual needs. Silvers says a custom closet system “truly organizes how you live.” And, he quips, “Not having to go hunting for what you need in the morning may even give you an extra five minutes to sleep and that’s pretty great!” Indeed it is.