Organizing the Clothes Closet

Organize your clothing into compatible groups that work together maximizes wardrobe options.

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Closet Organization DK - House Works © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

You've weeded your closet of the freeloaders, the ill-fitting, the orphans and the ugly. Time to think about the remaining clothing, and the word is cluster.

Guiding Principle: Store by Cluster

A clothing "cluster" is a core group of five to eight clothing pieces that work together. A typical cluster might contain a plaid wool blazer with tones of camel, red and navy, a coordinating navy skirt, navy dress slacks, dark blue jeans, a red T-shirt and an ivory blouse. Dress it up and you have a suit look with blazer, skirt and blouse. Dress it down with the T-shirt and jeans, and toss the blazer over your shoulders for a casual outfit. Layer the blouse over the T-shirt and add the slacks for a committee meeting — you've mastered the art of the cluster!

Look at your culled closet with an eye to forming several clusters from your existing clothes. The main organizing principle is color, not season or style. Group similar-colored garments together, and think, "What could I add to this group to form a cluster?" A stay-at-home mom might cluster her pale denim jeans and white T-shirts with a pieced jean jacket, a coordinating vest and a long red tunic dress/sweater.

Thinking "cluster" simplifies the process of buying clothes. No longer will you buy in terms of "outfit" — that's how you get in the position of having a closet stuffed with clothes and nothing to wear. Adding another piece to a cluster means you can wear the garment several different ways, using the clothing already in the closet.

Guiding Principle: Simplify Storage

Let's face it. Many traditional methods of clothing storage just don't work. Drawers stick and squeak and are usually overloaded. Long hanging garments brush against shoes and wrinkle on the floor. Wire hangers grab one another with pointy metal edges, snagging delicate garments in their eagerness to spring apart. Shoes tumble over the floor, tripping the unwary. Try these tips to simplify your clothes storage:

  • Make it easier to put away. Liberate your thinking about clothing storage. There's a principle here, too: in storage, it should be easier to put something away than it is to get it out. With this principle in mind, put underpants and brassieres in an open-topped plastic basket on a shelf, rather than confining them in a too-small lingerie drawer. Hang long nightgowns and robes from hooks and they'll be easy to find each bleary-eyed morning. Invest in the marvelous modern multi-level closet systems, and your delicate blouses will never again catch on the hooks holding your skirts.
  • Think cluster. If possible, hang clothing in clusters, rather than segregating it by shirts and slacks and dresses. When the interesting multi-stripe shirt is hidden between two old jean shirts, it's hard to remember how well it works with those stone chinos. Store clothes by cluster, and you simplify the process of getting dressed.
  • Stay open. Stack jeans, shorts, and T-shirts on open shelves, and you'll never again lose a favorite pair in the dark corners of an over-stuffed drawer. Socks deserve their own open basket; store pantyhose by color, with each color confined to a separate large zipper food-storage bag.
  • Hang it right. Finally, invest in proper hangers for the life of your clothing, and recycle those wire hangers at your local dry-cleaners.


Tips for Organized Closets

If you can see it, you can find it ... and wear it, too. Try these tips to get organized in the clothes closet:

  • Boost storage with specialty organizers. In the closet, space is at a premium-yet many closets teem with unused areas. Specialty organizers can tap that empty space. Double the room for shirts and blouses by hanging a second rod for twice the storage. Stackable shelves subdivide over-tall shelving and add a second layer of storage. Hanging sweater bags convert extra space into shelves for sweaters, handbags, or folded jeans.
  • Round up shoes with shoe racks. Shoe storage can cause even the most organized among us to stumble, so get shoes up and off the floor. Use shoe racks or shoe bags to store shoes in small spaces.


Thrifty Tips for an Organized Closet

Cringing at clutter in the clothes closet? Commercial closet systems may seem like the answer, but too often their cost isn't sustainable on a real-world budget. Try these low-cost options for efficient clothing storage:

  • Double up. Suspend a second hanging rod from a too-tall closet rod to increase hanging capacity for shirts, skirts, or slacks, and make good use of space in the closet.
  • Cube creations. Modular wire grid cube units are inexpensive-and have multiple applications in the clothes closet. Build them horizontally to stack sweaters or shoes; assembled vertically, cubes create cubbyholes for handbags or boots, or subdivide too-large shelves. Use curtain rod brackets to suspend a single grid panel on the wall to display jewelry, belts, and scarves.
  • Hanging helpers. Low-cost organizers designed to fill unused hanging space offer cheap, easy storage for sweaters, T-shirts, handbags, and shoes.
  • Don't forget the door. Over-the-door hooks, hanger racks and shoe bags solve storage problems by tapping unused space behind the closet door.

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Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer

Text Copyright © 2006, 2010, Cynthia Townley Ewer, extracts from Houseworks, reproduced with permission from Dorling Kindersley Limited

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