How To: Tackle That Closet Organization...Finally

Shelter magazines make organization look so effortless but whenever we face the daunting task in our own home we start to panic. And then we procrastinate. And then we get frustrated because the whole thing has been blown out of proportion in our minds. And then we contemplate hiring a professional to do it for us. Sound familiar? This how-to is all about successfully tackling the project, not obsessing over a magazine-ready, flawless finish. This is our closet overhaul which we accomplished in just one Sunday afternoon...

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Our dining room was used as a living room/bedroom by previous tenants and contains the largest wall of (ugly) closets we've ever seen in a Boston apartment. When we first moved in we used the closets to "hide" things that did not need to be dealt with immediately. This was the where the problems began. Every organizational container either of us had ever purchased for previous apartments got shoved in there, stacked on top of each other, and forgotten about once we closed the doors...

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Doesn't that look better? Simply closing the doors on the chaos worked for several months but, as we finished other major projects around the house, it became more and more apparent that the day was drawing near when we would have to organize the closet. Remember that panic we mentioned? This is when it sets in. We realized everything would have to be removed from the closet, purged, categorized, and carefully put back in. Surely this would take a solid week... right?

Don't Panic
If TV shows can completely purge a pack-rat's entire home in one afternoon, there is no way your closet organization will take more time than that. We woke up one Sunday, realized the time had come, ate a good breakfast, took a deep breath and dove in.

Document
This part is surprisingly important. Any big project comes with a sense of accomplishment once it is finished but actually being able to look at pictures of what it used to look like really makes you proud. Once we documented what our cluttered closet looked like "before," we felt both committed and excited to see the "after." Don't have anyone to share your pictures with? Send them to us and we'll celebrate your accomplishment here on AT Boston!

Purge as You Go
Go get the trash can and a few paper grocery bags. As you remove things from the closet divide them into piles: non-recyclable trash, paper and recyclable trash, and whatever content piles make sense for your closet. What we discovered was that a great deal of trash was hiding in our closet. The golden rule of organization: if you haven't used it in the last year and can't imagine using it this year, throw it out or give it away.

Define Functions
Every closet has a function but where folks get into trouble (ourselves included) is when too many functions are assigned to one space. Our problem was that these two closets had a combination of clothing and office stuff. We began by devoting the small closet to coats and winter clothes and the large closet to extra linens, office supplies and all other miscellaneous materials.

To accomplish this we removed all organizational apparatuses from the small closet, including a few shelves that were loosely installed, allowing coats and clothes to hang neatly. The bottom space fits a small IKEA dresser where all scarves, hats and gloves now live, completing our official coat closet. We then moved all other shelves and drawers to the big closet, set them up to fit snugly and efficiently and began to reinstall our possessions in them — in a way that makes perfect sense to us.

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Celebrate
Your finished product might not look like a page out of Martha Stewart Living — ours sure doesn't — but it no doubt looks tremendously better than where it started! And you can probably find things again! This is all that matters. You don't have to go out and buy a thousand dollar system with all matching pieces and coordinated colors. Use what you have and believe you can make it happen.

Oh, and, don't forget to send us the pictures...

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