Closets Become Catch-all for Our Lifestyles: Organize Your Precious Storage Space

Someone yanks open a closet door, and an avalanche of household stuff tumbles out. Is this comical scene happening at your house or office? 


What Deserves Prime Real Estate

While scarce space is sometimes a problem, that’s often not the whole cause for the clutter. “People often say, ‘I just need more storage,’ when really what they need is to analyze what they have,” professional organizer Sara Lohse says. One of her favorite tactics is to pull everything out of a closet and work with the client to sort each piece into one of four tubs: “stay” (or keep),“move”(store), “donate” and “trash.”

It can be tough triage for the client. “We’re so hard-wired to keep things we would have kept 10 years ago.” 

Once the clutter is thinned, it’s time to cure the chaos. First, Lohse wants to know how the closet space will be used. Is it intended for clothes, sporting gear or memorabilia? Then, she says, “You have to determine what objects are worthy of prime real estate.” It’s personal preference, of course, but your favorite shirt or dress might not be the first choice for front of the wardrobe. Lohse suggests that frequently worn clothes should be easiest to reach in the closet. On the other hand, off-season hats should probably be tucked out of the way on a top shelf. 

Thinking Vertically

Today, there’s an industry of organization systems competing to maximize your closet space. Designers and do-it-yourselfers no longer have to settle for a single hanger bar in a long, narrow closet. There are tiers of storage from floor to ceiling to fill what might have once been empty wall space. Shelves and racks are adjustable to flex with the owner’s wardrobe. 

“[A closet system] can be as simple as you like, or it can be as extravagant as you can dream of,” says Kari Larson, office manager at Space Concepts, a Rochester store for organizing systems.

The furnishings can range from simple wire baskets to expensive wood dresser systems built into walls. “Condense everything [clothes] into the closet,” Larson says. There are pullout racks for pants, belt organizers, jewelry drawers, laundry bins, valet rods (for preparing the next day’s wardrobe) and even decorative cubbyholes. 

Shoes no longer need to be stored on floor racks. They fit into metal baskets with a “shelf fence” designed to prevent them from sliding out, Larson explains. 

Last spring, Space Concepts outfitted a long, walk-in closet with an 8-foot center island, says store manager Ben Witter. Some walk-in closets are now being built to connect related rooms, such as bedrooms and bathrooms, instead of being dead-end storage, Larson notes. 

Saving An Organization’s Storage Space

Lohse often digs into closets as part of a larger task. The same principles can be adapted to organize an entire house or even an educational institution. Last year, Lohse and volunteers at Aldrich Memorial Nursery School disposed of or donated about one and a half dumpsters of items from a large storage space. 

“We realized things [supplies] had been purchased numerous times because no one knew we already had them,” says Kimberlee Fleming, a director on the Aldrich board. “This space was truly rescued by Sara,” she says.

Bob Freund is a freelance writer based in Rochester.