If you're like most of us, your closet is probably: a) cramped, b) disorganized, c) aesthetically challenged, or d) all of the above. That's because most closets are not equipped to manage everything we put in them, says New York City interior designer John Loecke. Want to clean up your act? Check out our experts' simple strategies.
Instead of folding silky scarves in a drawer where they can wrinkle, drape them on hooks or a tiered pants hanger for easy viewing and to give the closet a bright burst of color.
Whether you have a reach-in or walk-in closet, a cheerful wallpaper print or paint shade can dress up the space. Try fanciful-patterned wallpaper or a bold paint color that you wouldn't dare use elsewhere in the house. To make it look larger, paper or paint the ceiling, too. If it's a walk-in, carve out a dressing area, Loecke suggests, with a washable striped runner on the floor and a small ottoman for trying on shoes.
Franconia cotton woven runner, Dash & Albert Rugs, $78, 800-442-8157.
Slash your search time by using transparent containers. Plastic-lined drawers or bins keep sweaters in neat stacks, and, unlike baskets, they won't snag the fabric. To make putting together outfits even simpler, sort garments by color and organize by style -- cardigan, pullover, and so on.
If possible, store footwear on shelves, as opposed to in boxes or bags -- that way you can easily make selections. Angled, wall-mounted racks take up little room and keep the floor clear. Boots hold their shape on special hangers. If you have more shoes than available space, keep those you wear most often accessible and store the rest (such as dressy sandals) in boxes on a high shelf or in another closet.
An open canvas box keeps easy-to-misplace clutches and wallets in plain sight. If you're short on shelf space, hang a fabric shoe bag from your rod -- small purses are a perfect fit for the compartments.
Make sorting laundry a snap with a trio of labeled metal-frame hampers for whites, colors, delicates, and dry-clean-only items. Loecke likes these bins because they're compact -- each is about a foot wide -- and light enough to carry to the laundry room.
Arrange frequently used handbags on pegs or, better yet, on a rack with hooks you can adjust to suit a changing collection. Install it on the back of a door so you can literally grab and go. Special-occasion purses should be stuffed with balled-up tissue to keep their shape and then organized in cubbies or bins.
Turn a bulletin board into a display for necklaces and oversize pins. This perforated metal one harmonizes with the closet's sleek wire shelving and keeps the baubles tangle free. DIY approach: Stretch fabric over a cork bulletin board and staple in back. Hang jewelry from pushpins or decorative tacks.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Haul everything out of the closet and divide it into four categories: keep, toss, donate, and repair. "If you're like most people, you wear 20 percent of your wardrobe 80 percent of the time, so be merciless," says Olescia Hanson, a spokesperson for Container Store. Next, reassess what you're keeping in the closet: Does everything belong there? For instance, could your yoga mat be stored in a hall closet?
Hang in There
Sort items based on how you'll store them. Sweaters, T-shirts, casual pants, and shorts are best kept folded, while blouses, jackets, dressy pants, and most dresses and skirts should be hung. (Bias-cut and A-line dresses should be folded to maintain their shape.)
Take your closet's dimensions and sketch out how you want it to look. To determine how many horizontal feet of hanging room you need, first measure clothes on the existing rod. Gain extra storage by mounting two bars, one about 82 inches from the floor, the other 40 inches. Allot a separate small area to hold "long-hanging" garments like full-length dresses.
Count on about 7 inches of shelf space per pair of women's shoes. Keep some space free for holding sweaters, handbags, and accessories. Install shelves up high for seasonal apparel and other items you don't use regularly.
These products provide easy solutions for taming chaos in the closet.
This bold fabric hanging organizer holds up to 14 handbags or hats.
"You should be able to see everything in your closet, which means no dark corners," says Hanson. Recessed lights are ideal because they shine down on everything and don't take up much room. But you can get a similar effect on the cheap with battery-operated LED tap lights. Shed some light with a self-adhesive LED that glows as brightly as a 100-watt bulb.
Give rings and earrings a prominent perch on safari-inspired trays.
Elegant nickel hook holds necklaces or scarves.
Fill a collapsible canvas bin with out-of-season accessories.
Originally published in the October 1, 2008, issue of Family Circle magazine.