Decluttering Closets

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new-suburban-stockade-introThere are vital places where organizers can be very, very handy. Take decluttering closets. We use and love ClosetMaid shelving systems. I’ve installed their system in many closets in multiple houses, it has always been worth-while, with one caveat.

A ClosetMaid organizer is a system with a lot of options to replace the single hang-bar and shelf. We found it most efficient to divide the closet in half, with one side getting a bar over a bar, allowing you to hang short items such as shirts. The other side is a higher bar where dresses, robes, and pants can go. Both hang-bars are built under a shelf that’s ideal for storage.

This design, when bought as a system from ClosetMaid, has a fault. Their top shelf only extends halfway across the closet. We replace that with a shelf that extends all the way across, as opposed to an uneven layer of shelving. It doesn’t cost much more.

decluttering closets

A composite pix of our closet. I couldn’t take the doors off easily, so I took two pictures and mashed them together.


Since you’re already inside the closet, you can also add on a couple small jobs that will get the most use out of it. With the clothes out and the old shelves gone, you can caulk and repaint it from top to bottom with ultra-high gloss white enamel. In addition to sealing any cracks and pinholes that lets in cold air, it also will make it look less like you store your clothes in a cave.

So long as you’re working on the closet, this will also give you a chance to look though your clothes before hanging them up. Anything that looks too worn, too small, and too not-fashionable can be set aside for the thrift shop.

Decluttering closets can make your life feel lighter. You’ll have fewer clothes, and a clean, brightly painted closet makes it easier to store clothes.

(Also, note that the box will tell you that ClosetMaid organizers are adjustable. They are, but you need a hacksaw or bolt cutters to do it. The instructions inside will tell you this; the box does not. Fortunately, the metal is sturdy, but not made of steel. A hacksaw cuts through it easily.)

Decluttering with Hooks, Shelves and Organizers

Hooks are useful everywhere. We have hooks all over our house, to hang mops, brooms and cleaning equipment; to hang coats, hats, and scarves; kitchen items and workshop tools; belts and bags; if an item can go on a hook, it does.

decluttering closets

The wall by our back door was lined with two horizontal strips of molding to accept a variety of hooks. I also installed a little ledge on the right, next to the entrance to the basement. A flashlight lives there full time.


Books need to be on shelves. Period. We’ve lined the walls of our house with bookshelves and we still need more. If you’re going to have a lot of books, you have to arrange for shelving. The cheapest alternatives are either melamine shelving systems using wall-mounted standards and brackets (you can take them with you when you move) or building bookcases yourself out of plywood. Commercial bookcases, besides being made out of weak particle board, have the shelves too far apart for good book storage. We keep our fiction shelves about 11 inches apart to get the most books in the least space.

Kitchens benefit seriously from purges before you invest in organizers. I have installed hanging hooks, pull-out racks, and hanging knife blocks. I use them all the time. I got rid of any appliances I didn’t use. Bread maker? No. Espresso machine? No. Food processor? No. Pasta machine? No. Tabletop grill? No. The list is endless. The more stuff you get rid of that never gets used, the more room you have left in cabinets and countertops for the things you do use. Only you can decide if a waffle iron is worth the space (we think it is, but it’s parked in a cabinet in the basement and pulled out when needed).

Storage in Kitchens

If you keep stuff that gets used once a year, then it needs to be in dead storage, properly labeled. If you have a choice, the soffits over your cabinets should be replaced with cabinets that go up to the ceiling. That dead space is ideal for long-term, rarely used items. Unless you really like cleaning, I don’t recommend using the dead-air space over cabinets for storing anything, particularly decorative accessories. Anything up there quickly becomes a greasy dust magnet.

While I’m on the subject, let me address open storage in kitchens. Don’t. The reason why restaurants store everything on big hanging racks is that they use them daily. The fish pots and asparagus steamers don’t have time to get dirty. In a home kitchen, even when you cook every single day, you won’t use all that stuff and when you do, you will discover that the pan has to be washed before you can use it.

Those fancy kitchens you see in magazines? The people who own those kitchens have Carmen and Guadalupe come in on a daily basis to clean, whether it was used or not. Restaurants have cleaning crews come in nightly. If Carmen and Guadalupe don’t come to your house, then guess who gets to clean all that stuff? You do.

Organization should make your life easier, not harder. Store everything behind closed cabinet doors and keep greasy dust to a minimum. Don’t get free-standing cabinets as then you have to clean under and alongside of them. The reason why kitchen designers went to built-in, closed cabinets (see Catherine Beecher Stowe in 1869!) was to make it easier for a woman without servants to keep the place in order!

If you insist on seeing your kitchen stuff, use glass doors. Remember, if you can see it, then everyone else can. Stuff stored in the open needs to be neatly and attractively arranged. Otherwise, you’ll look like a slob.

This is just the beginning of organizing your home and life. Libraries are full of get-your-life-in-order books. But they all boil down to the same principles:

* Is what you’re doing helping you to meet your goals?

* Mental clutter needs to be managed

* A place for everything and everything in its place

* Put things back when you’re done with them

* Get rid of everything that you don’t use regularly or adore

* If you can’t put things away easily, you’ve got too much stuff

* If you don’t like something, why do you have it?

* If you say you want to do something, why aren’t you?