Making Your Closet Work for You

February 2024

article by stephanie hobby | photos by nathan satran

For centuries, most American homes didn’t even have closets, and those that did had small, dark, cramped spaces designed strictly for utilitarian storage. But today, that simple area has been elevated to an essential way to bookend your day.  

Getting dressed is a breeze when things like shoes and accessories are visible and everything has a designated home. That kind of good design doesn’t just happen by accident, though. Years of careful planning and experience curated by expert organizers and designers make a critical difference if you’re considering a closet revamp.  

Anita Price, Closet Manager at Beyond the Box, says she loves working with clients to help them find storage solutions across a variety of budgets. “There are so many ways to elevate your closet. Some are as simple as shoe shelves, drawers, and a built-in hamper,” she said. “But for the closet enthusiasts that really want that elevated look, we have lots of options to choose from.” Such options include lighted clothing rods that come in different colors like black or gold, and can be wired to turn on when you enter the closet, lights behind cabinet glass doors, and leather drawers and shelves. 

Price recommends wall hooks as an easy solution for stretches of flat walls where space is otherwise wasted. However, if you want to make an area both functional and beautiful, consider the Symphony system, which comes in different sizes and colored metals and leathers. It is a space-efficient way to store jewelry, belts, shoes, and hats. “It can even be used in an entryway as a stylish way to organize your belongings,” she said.  

One of the initial key steps is to assess what you own - and use the most - and plan accordingly. Rebecca Boyce and Jamie Holiday, of the professional organizers The OCD Girls, begin every closet overhaul by removing every item and doing a rapid “keep or toss?” session. “One of the biggest problems we run into is that people have too much stuff. We wear 20 percent of our clothes 80 percent of the time,” Boyce said. “You have to be honest about what you really wear and what you’re no longer wearing and be able to pare down to the life you actually have. If you were used to going to an office and now work from home, and you’re hanging onto ten pairs of dress trousers, that no longer makes sense for you.”  

Determining your needs guides the discussion for the actual closet design. If you have a lot of long dresses, you’ll need more tall rod space; if you have a lot of t-shirts and sweatshirts, you have to ask yourself if you’re more likely to hang or fold them. If you have a lot of things that need to be folded, shallow shelves and drawers can help keep things neat and organized so you’re not reaching for something at the bottom and knocking over a tall tower of clothes.  

Whether you’re doing a complete overhaul or need to work with existing space, turning to a pro can be a game-changer. “We have a lot of really great product solutions,” said Boyce. “One of the advantages of hiring us is that our product knowledge is extensive, and we’ve seen and handled all kinds of problems and challenges.”

photo courtesy of Beyond the Box

Carefully assess what’s in your closet and see if there’s another place it could go. Montana has seasonal temperatures, which means that when fall hits, you can safely put away your sundresses and flip-flops and move your warmer clothes front and center. The OCD Girls encourage clients to move those seasonal items into other storage so they’re out of the way and not taking up valuable real estate in your closet. Holiday and Boyce often find rarely-used items like luggage and wedding dresses in people’s closets, which can be moved to a guest room or the garage.  

Price frequently collaborates with Boyce and Holiday, and they all agree that displaying items you love can be a great way to keep those items visible and give you something beautiful where you can focus your attention (instead of those piles of unfolded laundry). If you have a fabulous collection of shoes or hats, find a prominent spot where they can take center stage. Price offers a variety of lighting options, luxe features like leather shelves and glass doors, and recommends painting your walls a coordinating color to give your shelves a bit of a pop, to make your clothing stand out.   

Another easy, affordable trick is to purchase matching hangers that blend in with the clothing rod; The OCD Girls like the slimline velvet hangers, which can be found at Sam’s Club or Costco. Slim hangers can double your closet storage and reduce the visual clutter of having different colored plastic hangers mixed in with wood or wire. Having all the same color hangers, ideally with a metal hook that matches or blends in with your closet rod, is calming and more visually appealing.  

Finally, having help building categories, zones, and sorting things by color sets you up for long-term success. “One of the benefits of hiring a professional organizer is that we’re going to set up the system for you to maintain from there,” said Holiday. “Once everything has a home and place, and you consistently put it back, it really is easy to maintain.”  

Originally printed in the February 2024 issue of Simply Local Magazine

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