At one point or another, we all had that closet with so many things shoved away that we don’t have the energy nor the desire to clean it out. Sometimes the problem is we buy more than our space can hold. Other times, we store things in the wrong places, making them hard to reach, and the space difficult to maintain. Here’s a great example that deals with both of those issues. My client is an elderly lady who lives in a studio apartment in Brooklyn. She had every intention of keeping her closets organized. Unfortunately the lack of mobility, energy, and the know-how, have made things difficult for her.
The first closet is a standard hall closet with two top shelves, a bar for hanging clothes, and 3 large hooks on the back wall. Although this particular closet was meant for storing clothing, she wanted to use it as a pantry/general storage because it was near the kitchen area. An attempt for organization was made when she placed two freestanding wire shelving inside. However, they didn’t provide a smooth surface for the items they needed to hold, and it was too low for her to reach. Overtime, things just piled up, and anything fell off to the back was forgotten. The good news was, realizing she was able to live without most of what was hidden in that closet, it made it much easier to let them go.
BEFORE : FIRST CLOSET
The second closet was between the kitchen and the bathroom, which had 6 built-in shelves. However, not having a clear division of what goes where, things ended up wherever space was available. As a result, a lot of time and energy was wasted to look for what she needed, and more money was spent to replace something that only got lost again in the pile.
BEFORE : SECOND CLOSET
The first thing we did was to take everything out of the closet and separate them into groups (food, cleaning products, medicine etc.). Then we went though each group and threw away anything expired, no longer use or like. Following the KonMari method, we thanked each item we discarded, acknowledging we no longer need it in our life, or to learn that it was a mistake we bought it in the first place. With that understanding and appreciation, we can let go of things without any regrets. In the end, only the items that brings us joy are kept. Any unwanted but useable items were placed in a box for donation.
Our goal was to create functional closets where all items are visible and easily accessible. I had the idea of hanging one of her wire shelving from the hooks in the back of the first closet. It instantly turned into a floating shelf at eye-level. Amazingly it fit really nicely and just the right height to fit the other shelving underneath. We also hung up her mop and ironing board so they are not in the way.
We decided that the first closet would be used for the fabric and paper products, and the second closet with the stronger built-in shelves would be for all the boxes and bottles. We dedicated each shelve to a category, then started to place everything back. I removed any the unnecessary wrapping and lined up all the products so the labels would be visible. (Please note that at the time when the first closet “after” photo was taken, we kept many of the towels to be used as rags for future clean ups. I will be writing a future story on how to fold and store towels and linen.)
AFTER: FIRST CLOSET
AFTER: SECOND CLOSET
To her surprise, we only got rid of one bag of trash and filled 2 boxes of stuff to give away. We did move some of the pots and pans and Tupperware to the kitchen cabinet, but we also brought in more food products from the kitchen. We used her existing storage containers to organize smaller items. And the entire project took about 3 hours.
The key here is visibility and accessibility. When you give every item a “home” it can easily return to, maintainance comes a cinch. Think about the time and frustration saved by not having to look for things or remember where you’ve put them. Money is also saved from not having to buy a new one every time you can’t find something. And most importantly, opening those closet doors no longer brings negative feelings of dreading what’s behind them.
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