We've all done a frantic dig through shelves and hanging rods for that shirt we know we have —only to find it, too late for use and buried out of place. Closet organizing seems to be a perennial struggle, but it doesn't have to be that way. You and your closets may suffer from one of these six problems—and there's help to fix them. Read on to redo your closet organizing system.
1. You Have Too Much Stuff
The biggest challenge Skinner encounters with closet organizing is too much stuff; in new homes it's particularly prevalent. "The sheer quantity of articles that we have is in contrast to what builders believe homeowners have," Skinner says. "Times have changed, but our spaces have not necessarily changed."
But homeowners can help, Skinner says. He advocates removing everything from a closet and taking a good hard look at all those possessions. "If you wore it within the last six weeks, it's a favorite," Skinner says. "If you know that you'll wear it sometime in the next six months, it's good to keep. But if it doesn't fit or you haven't worn it, either put it in long-term storage or donate it."
2. Your Closet is Poorly Designed
Many closets are actually ill-conceived or poorly designed—too narrow, with awkward corners or hidden spaces that are functionally challenged. "You use the space every day for the rest of your life, so you want to get it right," says Dave Skinner, Association of Closet and Storage Professional and owner of WeDoClosets.ca.
Storage depth, for example, should be at least 24 inches, and triangle shapes are impractical for closet organizing, Skinner says. Doors should also be free to fully open, and shelves should be be at a height which you're able to access.
3. Your Accessories Aren't Adaptable
Many closet organizing systems simply don't make good use of their square footage; a hanging rod and shelf, for example, only uses half of available storage area from top to bottom. Double rods, brackets, shoe shelves, foldable ironing boards: All those accessories and more can help you use more of the closet, Skinner says.
In addition, a closet organizing system that works for a newborn won't work well for a five-year-old—or a teenager. Closets have to change and adjust with the user, Skinner says. "You may have a clear understanding of what you want today, but your needs will change over time."
One thing that can help your closets adapt and grow: modular-size shelves, rods, baskets, and drawers. "If you build a closet with standard sizes, you can easily modify it, and you'll add value for a future owner, too," Skinner says.
4. Your Storage is Inefficient
What works for one person's closet won't necessarily work for another person, Skinner says. "You need to figure out what allows you to sort the things you have in the way you use them."
For some, seasonality may be a driver; for others, grouping by clothing type or color may be best. Some people have a looser closet organizing system, while others are Type A. Think about how you search for clothing, and use that to create your own workable arrangement.
5. You Aren't Using Extras (That Make Life Easier!)
Skinner loves items such as valet rods and wardrobe steamers. The former allows you to take your clothes out and prep them for the next day. "It's the unsung hero," he says. About the latter, Skinner says, "the list of people in your house who like to iron is very short, and steamers are not very expensive."
6. You're Not Giving Your Closet Enough Love
Think about the storage in your kitchen: You probably treat it with reverence and respect, with perfectly designated spots for everything from forks to roasters. Closets rarely get the same amount of attention, says Skinner. Part of that is because we are collectors and have emotional ties to our belongings, he says. We tend to dump these items in our closets instead of dealing with why we have them. "There's a sentimental value to our things, and we don't recognize how important storage is to help with that," he says.
But it's important to realize that closets have a dramatic effect that we're not always aware of: They set the tone for the day, every day. "A well-designed closet organizing system is a time- and money-saver," Skinner says.