An Organized Closet: Not Just a Pretty Face

By Heather Ouida, co-owner of babybites & kiddybites

The upcoming holidays are the perfect time to purge, organize and sort your closet(s). As an ex-teacher I like to use the same steps I used when teaching effective writing: Who, When, What, Why, Where, How? and apply them to closet organization.

Who: Organizing your closet is more than just a pretty face. In this economy it makes good sense to invest your time, energy and/or money into organizing your apartment. Whether you’re organizing before or after a move or are just sick of living in a cluttered home, here’s what the research says: (from the National Association of Professional Organizers)

  • Organized people earn more, are more likely to be promoted on a job, and accomplish more, in part by wasting less time.
  • The children of organized people perform better in school than others with the same IQ, and have been found to earn more as adults.
  • Uncluttered homes sell faster and for higher prices. (Nothing turns a buyer off more than crowded and cluttered closets. They think, “If they can’t fit all of their stuff, how will I possibly fit all of mine?”)

When: Ask yourself when was the last time you used/wore a specific item. If you went all winter without wearing it or using it, chances are the same will go for next winter as well.

What: Now that you decided to get rid of something, you need to decide if you should “throw it” or “give it” away. If it is ripped, worn out, threadbare, missing its match, or past its expired date, as with toiletry items, throw it away. (I just convinced my husband that he no longer needed his hair gel that once kept his 80’s do in place). If it’s in okay condition and you don’t love it and/or haven’t worn it in a while, consider giving it away.

Also, you know the expression – “Too much of a good thing” (except for chocolate, of course).  In other words, get rid of or donate multiple items. For example, many of my clients have dozens of black and/or white T-shirt and tanks. I encourage them to keep two or three of their favorites and best fitting. Same goes for linens. Unless you have a lot of guests, you really need just two sets of sheets per bed and three or four spare towels per bathroom. Keep this rule in mind for toiletries as well. You need only one or two “extras” on hand, whether it’s soap, sun-tan lotion, mouth wash, chapstick (I had one client reach 47 before we stopped counting!). Try to tame the madness. I know it’s much cheaper to buy in bulk, but unless you live in the burbs or have a ton of storage, your goal should be to preserve space, as this saves you time and money in the long run.

Why: It’s really hard to get rid of things that are still in good condition. I tell my clients that if they start a sentence with “But… (“But I may wear it someday…” “But there’s nothing wrong with it…”), they should probably consider parting with it. Why? Because there are tons of people who could use it now and will wear it or use it regularly. Manhattan has loads of charities that are always looking for donations and many will even pick up unwanted items (Google charities in your neighborhood to find a list). You can also consider bringing them to a company that posts items for you, or explore selling them yourself on eBay, and promise yourself that they won’t stay in a bag in the back of your closet for the next few years labeled “eBay”. If that’s the case, it’s better to have a charity come and pick them up as soon as possible. Remember, the more space you create, the more likely you are to use the items you really love (because you’ll finally be able to see them!).

Where: Now that you’ve thrown out or donated things you don’t use regularly (or just don’t love), where do you put what’s left? Think of your closets like Manhattan real estate. Ask yourself what drawers and shelves are in the “prime real estate” locations, as those are where you should keep your most frequently used items. NOW is the time to move all your turtlenecks, sweaters, winter coats, hats, seasonal decorations, etcetera, to the less desirable real estate locations in the very back of your closet(s) or on high shelves. Move your T-shirts, shorts (yes, I’m sorry to say that shorts are back in this season) and other frequently worn summer clothes/items, to the prime real estate positions.

How: I know what you’re thinking. This is Manhattan – big closets with tons of storage and shelving are harder to find than Louboutins on sale. Here’s the trick – Manhattan is a vertical city, so go up, get height. Use clear, plastic stackable bins to house items that you rarely use and/or are out of season. Keep a small collapsible stepstool available to reach items that are not in prime real estate.

Consider using open top canvas bins to store items that are hard to keep neatly folded (e.g., T-shirts, tank-tops, wash clothes, summer hats) on slightly higher shelves. Hang “like” items together on wooden hangers in ways that make sense to you. The best, most inexpensive wooden hangers I’ve found are the “17 inch wood all purpose hanger” in natural finish from You may want to hang by color, by similar items, or by lifestyle (e.g., work clothes, weekend clothes, and formal clothes).

Put out-of-season shoes in the back of your closet and stack your spring/summer shoes (either in a multi-shelved or a back of the door hanging shoe rack). Use Ziploc large closet bags (in Large, XL and XXL) to store bulky ski cloths, duvets, extra pillows, etcetera (they keep them clean, organized and save a ton of space!).

To avoid simply shifting clutter, it is really helpful to invest in a few inexpensive containers. Here are a four “getting started” storage items available from The Container Store ( “sweater boxes, men’s shoe boxes, open canvas bins, dream drawer organizers.”

Lastly, honor your personality. If you know that during your busy week, no matter how organized you are, you still tend to throw clothes on the back of chairs, designate for yourself a closet “junk” drawer. At the end of every week, go through the drawer and decide what needs to be washed or just re-folded and put away.


Check out some more of Heather’s writing on our blog:



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