One of my clients has a five-bedroom house that needed so much organizing it took us almost a year to complete the job. We tackled a closet first, because I wanted her to see results immediately. In just a few hours, we transformed her front hall closet from mayhem to order, providing a home for every jacket, coat, mitten, glove, hat and umbrella. No matter how formidable the rest of the process seemed, that one space gave her the confidence and momentum to keep going.

Our organizing project is to redo your closets. Before getting started, keep the following in mind:
  1. When you arrange a closet, you should consider its relationship to other storage areas in your home. What kinds of things need to be in this space, and what should logically go in another place?
  2. Complete one closet at a time…starting with the one you use the most.
  3. Pace yourself—it takes three to six hours per closet. Never undertake more than two per weekend.

Now, here's your plan of attack:

Pull everything out of the closet and divide it into categories—such as sweaters, dresses, blouses, pants and jackets. You may be surprised by how many of the same item you own. A client of mine was shocked when we unearthed 16 nearly identical black cardigans. Every time she went shopping and nothing caught her eye, she figured, "I could always use a basic black cardigan," and bought one.

Keep only what you use and love. Throw out clothes that are irredeemably stained, torn, pilled or out of shape. Get rid of fashion mistakes you bought but never wore. Keep only your current size in your closet and give away or store what doesn't fit anymore. Passing things along to a charity or friend can make it much easier to part with them.

Create a specific home, whether a shelf, section of the rod, or drawer, for each category of garment (pants and other long-hanging clothes on one end of the rod, blouses on the other, hats on the top shelf, belts on the closet door, etc.). With the exception of items intended for long-term storage (e.g., old tax records), things stuffed into the dark recesses of your closet are as good as forgotten.

Now the fun part! Selecting containers you like looking at makes it delightful (or at least less boring) to put things away. Shelf dividers can keep sweater stacks from toppling over, and a shoe rack under short-hanging clothes makes great use of that otherwise unused space. You can store extra wooden hangers in a basket on the floor to save room on the rod.

Maintain your system with the one-in, one-out rule—for every new garment you buy, toss something old to make room for it. Keep a giveaway box on the floor.

You might be the only person who sees the inside of your closet, and frankly, no one else will care if you cram things in and shut the door. But organizing is for you—it's about identifying what's important to you and giving yourself access to it. An organized closet will save you much more than time—it will keep you grounded, allowing you to begin and end each day on a note of calm.


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