Posts Tagged ‘closet’

Sweeping Away The  Past

Stop and think about how much your physical environment affects your mental state and sense of well-being. Living in a messy home makes you feel as though you've put on an extra 10 pounds. Being surrounded by dirt and piles of clutter drains your energy. When your living space is out of whack, it changes your whole outlook — you feel stuck, irritable, just not happy with the world. And it doesn't take much for the mess to accumulate — I know from personal experience that a month or two of chaos will take its toll on even an organized person's home!

But when your home is clean, clutter-free, and organized, it feels as though a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. You have room to move, to think, to enjoy life. Suddenly, you re-discover the motivation to tackle other projects — starting an exercise program, looking for a new job, going back to school, writing the great American novel. It's amazing what just tidying up your home can help you accomplish! I firmly believe that everyone should plan at least two good top-to-bottom cleanings a year — whether you live in a mini-mansion, a condo, or an RV!

“Cleansing rituals” are common amongst native cultures as a way of releasing the old and making space for the new. These usually involve some sort of change in your physical environment, as well as a recognition of the attendant change in mental state — each action is paired with an affirmation of something that you're grateful for or something that you would like to welcome into your life. The shifting seasons signal an opportunity bring about a change in your energy, as well as your living space. Spring and fall are natural times in the cycle of the year for a cleansing — a breath of fresh air either before or after a long period of dormancy. I invite you to join me in my fall cleaning:

  • pull out any clothes that no longer fit and donate them to a local shelter — then take a moment to appreciate your body just as it is, in whatever form it takes — ask for health and strength in the coming months, and commit to getting in a little exercise every day
  • clean out the paraphernalia from any old hobbies that no longer excite you to donate or sell — take a moment to be grateful that you live in a society that allows you to participate in so many diverse activities — then pick just one of your many interests to focus on in the coming months, and commit to spending time on it each week
  • go through every room of your home, every storage space, and pull out any item that isn't beautiful, useful, or loved to donate or sell — take a moment to be thankful that you live in a society that allows such material abundance, and also be grateful for the fact that someone else will get a chance to use and love these things from your life — commit to cleaning one thing out every time you bring something new into your home from now on
  • go through your to-do list of “unfinished projects” and determine which ones are still important to you — give yourself permission to cross the others off, letting them go without worry or care, recognizing that you can't waste your limited time and energy on trivial or unimportant matters — then commit to a deadline for completing each remaining task
  • open the windows and let the fresh air flow through your home — take a moment to appreciate the beauty of nature — commit to getting outside at least once every week to enjoy the world around you
  • give your house a good scrubbing from top to bottom (including windows, floors, tub, toilet, dusting, mopping, you name it) — include all those “home maintenance” tasks that you've been putting off (like cleaning the gutters or checking the seals on the windows) — then take a moment to be grateful for this wonderful home and the people in it — commit to doing something every day that makes your home feel wonderful (fresh flowers, burning scented candles, a special place-setting at dinner, etc.)

Examine Your Wardrobe

One source of the problem could be wardrobe clutter. If the clothes you love are hidden in a sea of outfits you never wear, it's going to slow you down in the morning — and having too many options makes it harder to decide what to wear. So the first step is to trim down to only those items you love, wear all the time, and really enjoy.

Start by pulling out everything that no longer fits and asking yourself when you plan to be that size again. You may feel tremendous pressure to be a stick insect,but those too-small clothes only make you feel bad about yourself. And I'm not talking about “someday” —  if you're going to keep something that doesn't fit, you need to have a reasonable goal set for yourself (wishful thinking only creates more clutter). If it isn't going to happen within the next couple of months, it might be time to let go of that size 6 clothing and accept yourself as a beautiful and confident size 10! Also imagine the day that you do shrink back down to the size you were in college — are those outfits still going to be in style, still going to be your style? Probably not.

Now take a look at what's left (accessories, shoes, hats, purses, and jewelry included). I'll bet that your closet still contains some outfits that simply never see the light of day. When it's time to answer the burning question of “what am I going to wear today?” you tend to pass these skirts and pants and blouses over again and again. Why? Well, there's obviously something about them that just doesn't click with you Maybe you hate the color of that lime green jacket, or that skirt is annoying because it always rides up when you sit down, or those shoes pinch after you've had them on for more than an hour, or that pleated pair of pants just makes you feel fat. That's fine — lose them. Life is too short to wear clothes you hate. Everything you own should be flattering, comfortable, and make you feel fabulous. If not, why keep it in your closet?

Finally, some items in your wardrobe are currently unwearable because they require “service.” You might have a pair of pants that needs hemmed or a blouse whose seam has come undone or a pair of shoes whose heels have come loose — set up a “repair/alteration” basket for these injured souls. If you have clothes that need to be professionally cleaned (especially those with stains that require special treatment — like that favorite suit that got a spill on it at a networking lunch, and you haven't been able to wear it since), set up a basket for “dry cleaning”. Then before the week is through, tote your baskets to ONE location that offers both services — get everything taken care of at the same time, and start off next week fresh with a closet full of functional clothes.

Discover Your Natural Beauty

It's easy in this country to become a slave to the cosmetics industry. Advertising tries its best to convince us that if we don't have a 16-step skincare routine, spend an hour a day creating the perfect hairstyle, and engage in a weekly full-body home spa treatment, we're unattractive and poorly groomed. Don't buy into the lie! If all you do in the morning is wash your face, put on some moisturizer, and brush your teeth, you will survive just fine — I promise!

Ladies, let's have a serious heart-to-heart talk here. When it comes to cosmetics, you have to pick your battles — you don't need to look like Tammy Faye every time you walk out of the house. For me, the only two real priorities are lipstick and mascara (my lashes are so blonde they practically disappear). I personally haven't owned blush or foundation or lip liner in years — and I somehow manage to make do with only one shade of  eyeshadow, one eyeliner pencil, and one tube of lipstick. My entire makeup and skincare collection will fit into a single toiletry bag, and I save time and money to boot. To me, that is simplicity.

The problem is that everyone is trying to achieve the current most popular style, but most of us just aren't built to look like Hollywood's hottest celebrities. I learned this lesson early on as a child in the 70's, when I found out that Farrah Faucett's blue eyeshadow and lip gloss and “wings” just didn't translate as well to my curly hair and freckled face (it was a devastating discovery, and it was then that I decided to go my own way in terms of fashion!) I know, I know — we always want what we don't have, and modern technology gives us the ability to change our looks on a whim. Folks with straight hair fry their locks with hot rollers and a curling iron, those with kinky hair use gels and blow dryers to flatten their waves, fair-skinned folks spray on fake tans while darker women use creams to lighten their skin — they say that beauty is 50% illusion, but the other 50%is an investment of time, effort, and money! Some people spend hundreds of hours (and thousands of dollars) attempting to look a way that God never intended. I guess, if that's how you want to use up your precious life energy, it's your choice — but I have better things to do with my day!

I'm one of those folks who can get ready, from jumping in the shower to walking out the door, in about 15 minutes. This wasn't always the case, but over the years, I've decided that I just don't want to waste half my day in the bathroom — I would rather be out there experiencing the world than constantly “preparing” for experiencing the world. The trick to a quick and easy morning routine is finding a style that flatters your natural features with as little effort as possible. It was a great day when I stopped fighting my hair and finallygot the right haircut — now, all I do is put in a little gel, comb itinto place, and let it dry (bye-bye hair dryer!) It also helps if you can stop jumping at every “fad” when it strikes. Just because everyone else is wearing pink lipstick this season, that doesn't mean it will suit you — find your own color palette and you will always be in style, you'll spend less money, and you'll have less clutter on your vanity. Sure it's fine to have a few funky items in your arsenal for playing dress-up — but if you'reputting together a “special occasion” look 7 days a week, you might beworking too hard!

Making Mornings Easier

Finally, take a look at your AM routine and see where you can plan in advance, so your morning isn't quite so hectic. For example, figuring out what you want to wear the next day and laying out your clothes the night before will help you get ready much faster (especially if you tend to hem and haw, taking forever to decide on an outfit.) Don't forget your shoes, purse, jewelry etc. — the accessories can take as much time as the clothes for some people! Then get all of your “take-with-you” paraphernalia together, including paperwork, car keys, briefcase, umbrella, etc. — whatever you need to take with you to work or school. And if you bring your lunch or a snack from home, pack it the night before, put it in the fridge, and leave yourself a sticky-note on the front door, so you don't forget it. Just the bit of time you invest in advance will help you experience less stress the next day.

Another important step folks forget is to review their calendar or planner the night before, so there are no nasty surprises the next day. I can't tell you how many times I either had an early appointment (usually with the dentist) that I forgot, or thought I had a crack-of-dawn meeting  (that I didn't) and bounded out of bed believing I was late (which will totally throw your day off) — until I learned to look at my damned calendar every night! You will sleep better and get up more refreshed in the morning if you go to bed knowing exactly what appointments and to-do's and projects you have ahead of you in the morning.

And if you're the sort of person who runs late because you try to do too much before you leave the house, set some boundaries. Maybe you don't NEED to check your email first thing in the morning — can it wait until you get home? It's not vital that your house be completely spic and span before you head out to work — I'm pretty sure those couple of breakfast dishes in the sink will be just fine, even if you don't wash them until this afternoon. If you want to get more done in the morning, set your alarm an hour earlier and be productive to your heart's content. But also set an alarm telling you when you need to stop and walk out the door — productive stops being efficient when it makes you late for work!

Kid-Friendly Organizing

Most kid-sized organizing fails because it is aiming for the wrong result. It's natural for parents to want to be able to walk through the house without stepping on Barbie shoes and toy soldiers — but the larger goal should be to help your children to get and stay organized into adulthood. Simply telling a kid to clean his room isn't teaching him any useful life skills (well-intentioned though the concept might be) — he's just doing it because you said so and doesn't really understand “why.”

The hardest part for parents is recognizing the difference between “neat” and “organized.” So much of the kid-related advice out there focuses solely on eliminating the piles (15-minute clean-ups before bed and baskets for collecting loose toys) — but clutter is just a symptom of disorganization. You know the saying, “Give a man a fish, you have fed him for today.  Teach a man to fish, and you have fed him for a lifetime.” I've got a new saying for the moms and dads out there — “Tell your kid to clean his room, he will have a clean room today. Teach your kid to be organized, and the house will automatically be neater every day.”

The trick to helping your kids get organized is to involve them in theprocess — organizing with them rather than for them. This meansworking together, explaining the logic behind the systems you set up,and letting your kids have a hand in deciding where things should bestored. Parents must look at kids' rooms in a new way — one that matches their schedules, activities, and lifestyles. One size does not fit all when it comes to organizing children (especially children of different ages and ability levels). Kids have more “stuff” than ever before, they play inside more than out, most have their own rooms, few have a stay-at-home parent, and they all live very fast-paced lives. It's important that you take these societal factors into account when designing the right systems for your kid's room.

Developing A Profile

The first step to creating an organized environment for your child is understanding his or her needs. If you think that reading a book or watching a TV show (then setting up that exact system in your own home)  is going to solve your clutter woes — think again! Organizing is a very personal activity — and if any system is going to work for a child it must be customized. Your child can learn to be organized, with the right methods and supplies. You  have to choose  those techniques and tools that best suit that kids personalities and preferences — and the way to do that is to ask the following questions about your kid's habits before beginning:

  • What are your child's interests? (what activities does he currently enjoy? what is he losing interest in?)
  • How are your child's behavior patterns changing? (starting/finishing a school year? moving away from toys? toward adult activities?)
  • What kind of personality does your child have? (introverted? extroverted? laid-back? tense? easy-to-please? difficult?)
  • What does your child's schedule look like? (lots of structured functions? not much free-time? school? extra-curricular activities?)
  • What is your child's ability level? (can he open drawers? reach the closet rod? read? understand categorizing?)
  • What are your child's social habits? (lots of friends over to visit? more time visiting friends? socially active? loner?)
  • What habits has your child developed? (throwing clothes on the floor? picking up before bed? collecting Beanie Babies?)
  • What are your child's priorities? (spend less time cleaning? have a big space to play? be able to reach everything?)
Once you identify your kid's behaviors, attitudes, habits, and way of maneuvering through the world, you are more likely to create systems that “synch” with these behaviors — and more likely to make lasting organizational changes with your child.

Creating Centers

One constant in organizing kids' rooms is the need for centers — distinct areas within a child's living space, each set up for a different kind of daily activity. If you've ever sent your little one to preschool (especially a Montessori facility), you will recognize this concept — a section of the room for finger painting, another for playing with blocks, a third for nap time, and a separate area for lunch. It's a great way to teach kids how to categorize objects and supplies, as well as how to store things closest to the point where they are used. Setting up centers makes clean-up easier — and a change in geography smooths the transition from one activity to the next. These are the building blocks for developing good organizing skills later in life.

Children naturally crave order. But when kids get home to find their books thrown in with puzzles, art supplies stored in the same drawer as socks, everything mixed together — it's no wonder they don't know how to keep it all organized! To help develop good organizing habits at home, try breaking your child's room into four basic areas:

  • grooming area (centered near the closet and contains the dresser, a hamper, and any additional grooming supplies — hairbrush, accessories, etc.)
  • play area (contains games, active toys, and a large floor space or table space to spread out)
  • rest area (should be free from “stimulating” activities like busy or noisy games, the TV, etc. — put bedtime story books on the nightstand and a soft light nearby — whatever your child associates with relaxing and winding down for the night)
  • work area (includes a desk or table, office and art supplies, a good light, and perhaps a bookshelf or computer, as you see fit)
You might also decide to set up other more specialized centers for your child as you see fit — a “reading” center (with a lamp, bookshelf, and a comfy chair), a “dress-up” center (with costumes and props and a big mirror), or an “art” center (with crayons, paper, paint, clay, and a big drop-cloth for making a mess!)  

Different Age Groups

The final step in helping your child develop good organizing skills comes when you recognize and acknowledge his or her current skill level. While it's important to challenge your kids and encourage them to expand their abilities, nothing frustrates a child more than being given a task or responsibility that is beyond what he or she can handle — intellectually, emotionally, or physically. You must design systems that take your child's size, strength, and mental faculties into account if you ever hope for your organizing efforts to succeed. The good news is that this is easy — if you make use of those organizing methods which have been proven appropriate for each age group.

For example, toddlers (age 1-3) operate according to the belief that out of sight equals out of mind — so use open containers and exposed shelving if you expect them to put things away where they belong.  And while littler kids may not be able to read yet, that doesn't mean you can't label — use a photo or drawing of the item as a label (picture of a car, picture of a doll, picture of Legos, etc.)

Preschool kids (age 3-5)  are ready to start dressing themselves, but have a hard time manipulating drawers and reaching high closet rods — so low rods and open crates are best. Adding lettering to your picture labels will allow your child to begin to associating the words with the object — a good way to encourage reading skills, as well. Just remember that, at this size, your kids may still need a little supervision whiletidying their rooms. Don't leave them to do it themselves then getirritated when the task wasn't completed to satisfaction — show your little oneshow until you know they've mastered putting their toys away.

School-age kids (6-11) know how to read — so labeling shelves and containers will help make sure their belongings end up back in the proper home. Older children will also have strong opinions about where they want things stored, so let them have a little independence. It's not unreasonable to expect children to school-aged kids to keep their rooms and homework areas neat without reminder, as part of their weekly household responsibilities — a chore chart and consistent rewards/consequences will make this easy.

Adolescents (age 11-17) can be made responsible for more complex organizing jobs — like cleaning out their closets and deciding which items to donate to charity. If you've trained them well, you will also see them applying the organizing techniques they learned at home in other places — at school, in their after-school jobs and extracurricular activities, etc. And be sure to give yourself a pat on the back as a parent — by customizing your organizing efforts to match your child's developmental level, you are one step closer to success each year!

What's In Your Closet?

The road to organization begins with an honest evaluation of your wardrobe. Is your closet filled with clothes that haven't been worn in the years? Your favorites shouldn't be hidden in a sea of neglected outfits. Yank everything that's too small and imagine the day that you shrink back down to the size you were in college — are those outfits still going to be your style? Do you have clothes you don't wear because they make aren't flattering? If you don't love it and it doesn't make you feel beautiful, lose it! And if you're you guilty of owning a garment that doesn't go with a single thing in your closet, either find something to match that cool paisley shirt or get rid of it.

Now take a look at what's left (accessories, shoes, hats, purses, and jewelry included). I'll bet that your closet still contains some outfits that simply never see the light of day. When it's time to answer the burning question of “what am I going to wear today?” you tend to pass these skirts and pants and blouses over again and again. Why? Well, there's obviously something about them that just doesn't click with you Maybe you hate the color of that lime green jacket, or that skirt is annoying because it always rides up when you sit down, or those shoes pinch after you've had them on for more than an hour, or that pleated pair of pants just makes you feel fat. That's fine — lose them. Life is too short to wear clothes you hate. Everything you own should be flattering, comfortable, and make you feel fabulous. If not, why keep it in your closet? And if you want to keep your closet under control, plan to purge your wardrobe every few months, letting go of those items that no longer fit or suit you. Another trick is to use the “one-in/one-out” rule — every time you bring home a new outfit, you have to clean out something else to make room for it.

Finally, separate out any pieces that need to be mended or cleaned. You might have a pair of pants that needs hemmed or a blouse whose seamhas come undone or a pair of shoes whose heels have come loose — setup a “repair/alteration” basket for these injured souls. If you haveclothes that need to be professionally cleaned (especially those withstains that require special treatment — like that favorite suit thatgot a spill on it at a networking lunch, and you haven't been able towear it since), set up a basket for “dry cleaning”. Then before theweek is through, tote your baskets to ONE location that offers bothservices — get everything taken care of at the same time, and startoff next week fresh with a closet full of functional clothes. Try not to hang anything in your closet that is not currently wearable.

Organizing Options

Now that you have pared down, let's set up your closet so that you know where everything is. Start by separating your clothes into “fall/winter” and “spring/summer” items. How does your wardrobe balance out? Do you have a closet full of warm-weather clothes, but only three outfits that you can wear once the thermometer drops below 50 degrees? Swap a few shorts for some long pants. If you moved to Florida five years ago but still have 12 winter jackets, now's a good time to clean out. Make sure your ensemble is seasonally appropriate for where you live. If you find that you are short on space, consider storing the off-season in another part of the house. A spare bedroom closet or portable armoire in the attic might be the perfect answer. Just be aware of heat and moisture, and guard against insect infestations.

Sort through the current season's clothes, creating logical categories based on the way that you normally think about your wardrobe. You can arrange your clothes according to purpose, breaking out formal, work, and casual outfits. Or, you could organize by type — grouping jackets separate from blouses separate from pants. And in either situation, it's always good to create different categories for each style of clothing — such as storing short-sleeve shirts in one place and long-sleeve in another. Whichever method you choose, clearly delineate your categories — either put labeled divider discs on your rod (like the ones used in department stores) or assign each section to a different part of the closet.

When I was in college, I didn't want to spend time deciding what blouse went with which pants, so I hung entire outfits together. What a time-saver! Of course, if you like to mix and match, this system may not be the best choice. If you do go this route, consider labeling each hanger with a list of accessories that accompany that particular garment. Feel free to include any small items, such as scarves or belts, right on the hanger with the outfit. One client of mine (who loves hanging her clothes in outfits) came up with a creative organizing idea — she has a pair of earrings that she only ever wears with her navy suit, so she clips them right on the lapel!

The final step is to organize each section of clothing by color. Going from light to dark, group items of the same hue together. You don't have to create a scientifically accurate color spectrum — just generally group reds and pinks in one place, blues all together, etc. Now, when you need a black blouse, they will all be hanging in the same place. This will also allow you to see excesses and deficiencies in your wardrobe. One woman I worked with told me that organizing by color was the dumbest thing she had ever heard of — until she tried it! She never knew she owned 12 different red T-shirts until re-arranging her closet. She also swears this technique saves her 20 minutes getting ready each morning!

Look, Up In The Sky!

Some of the best storage space you will ever find is over your head. Those high, short shelves in the tops of your closets are perfect for hats, smaller luggage, boxes of holiday decorations, and other items you don't use very often. Hang things like cookware and bicycles from the ceiling using special suspended racks. Those sturdy rafters in the attic, garage, or basement are great for heavier items like sports equipment or yard tools. No limits — the only rule is be creative! A metal pole strung between two beams is perfect for off-season, dress-up, or vintage clothing — a large square of netting tacked at the four corners can hold stuffed animals — and some thick plywood laid across your attic rafters will create an entirely new level of storage.

Laying Low

Oftentimes, we focus too heavily on storage that is at eye level — forgetting about the extra space we have near the floor (under the bed, at the bottom of a closet, along the base of a wall in the garage, etc.) However, the last thing you want to do is simply create another pile that clutters up the floor and trips you up. Like any other storage, floor space will serve you much better if you containerize and create some structure. Long, flat boxes are great for subdividing the space under your bed. Shoe racks will help you make the best use of your closet floor. And you can create a ton of additional storage in your basement, attic, laundry room, or garage by lining the base of the wall with low shelves, pull-out baskets, and bins.

Just Hanging Around

Another place to find extra storage is along a vertical surface. Almost anything can be attached to a wall — just be sure to use strong anchors if you plan to hang anything heavy. Give your tools and garden implements a home on a peg board in the garage or basement. Hang see-through mesh bags of toys from colored hooks on your child's wall. If your home lacks a hall closet, create one with an attractive coat rack in your entryway. Put up some pegs in your bedroom closet to make room for belts, scarves, and purses. Hang coffee cups from the underside of your kitchen cabinet shelves. Or store grocery bags in a holder on the inside of your pantry. All it takes is a little creativity, and a hammer!

Shut The Door On The Way Out

And as long as we're hanging things, let's take a look at your doors. While racks on an entry door often look cluttered and junky — an enclosed closet, pantry, or bathroom door can be provide a valuable source of storage space. Just make sure that you attach all organizing paraphernalia firmly — you don't want your racks or pegs coming loose the first time you slam the thing shut! You also need to be conscious of blocking your hinges (putting your hooks toward the center of the door solves this problem). And if you prefer not to permanently damage your surfaces, stick with racks that hook over the top of the door rather than screwing in.

Other than those three rules, your options are limitless. Closet doors are just begging to be used for storage — to hold a shoe rack, belt hooks, purses, or even a jewelry organizer. Your bathroom door is the perfect place for hanging a towel rack or a bathrobe. Putting a rack with shelves on the inside of a pantry door can double your food storage. And if your child needs someplace to hang bookbags and coats, a series of hooks on his or her bedroom door is one of the easiest and most accessible options.

Making Use Of Odd-Sized Spaces

One final word on using “dead space” — don't be deceived by unconventional storage areas. You may wonder, at times, what your builder was smoking when he created some of the closets and cubbyholes in your house — spaces that seem too skinny or short or angular to serve much of a purpose. These storage areas may initially appear useless, but you can always find something to put there. You just have to think a bit outside of the box (or outside of the cabinet, as it were!)

You might be able to fit a bicycle or cleaning supplies in that low closet under the stairs. Or use those tall thin cabinets for cookie sheets and serving platters. If your pantry or linen closet stretches up taller than you can easily reach (but you like to shop in bulk at stores like Sam's or Costco) — add some high shallow shelves for bulk toilet paper or extra canned goods (and hang a step-ladder on the wall so you can get at them when you need a refill!) Never be afraid to outfit a strangely shaped storage space with whatever accessories are required to make it useful.