Maxine’s Housekeeping Tips – Part #6
SUBMITTED BY: Maxine in Idaho
Saturday’s Tip: How to Clean Closets (very long)
“A place for everything and everything in its place.”
It took me a LONG time to figure out that one of the reasons my home was always such a mess was that I didn’t have a place to put everything. How can you put something away if you don’t know where it goes?
Also, much later, I realized that one of the reasons my mother was such a lousy housekeeper was that we lived in tiny houses that had NO storage; we had more stuff than we could put away. So, even when we went on a cleaning jag, it didn’t last.
Your main storage areas are probably your closets. Today we’re going to talk about cleaning them out and maximizing the storage space within. Once your closets are clean, you will find that your housekeeping efforts go a lot farther because you will have a place to put things and then you can close the door on it.
For purposes of this posting, we will assume you are cleaning a clothes closet and that it is 6 to 8 feet long with sliding or bifold doors. In reality, your situation may be much different.
The first thing to do is to give your bedroom its 5 minute pickup and make the bed (you need a clean work surface, and this is it). The next thing to do is to take every single thing out of your closet and lay it on the bed. This practically ensures that you will finish this job before you go to bed tonight!!!! The third thing to do is to take a good look at your closet to see how you can improve it before you start putting things back.
Most closets such as I have described have one shelf over the rod. You can easily double your shelf place merely by putting up another shelf about 12 inches above the first shelf. This won’t be prime space, but I guarantee that you will find things to put on it! The easiest way is to use metal shelf brackets spaced 32 inches apart and screwed into the studs (after you find the first stud, it’s easy). If you are doing this yourself, use a carpenter’s level to get the brackets up evenly. Measure the length of the closet and have the shelving cut to size at the lumberyard. Tip: It will be easier to get it in if you have it cut an inch or so shorter than the closet.
Now that you’ve doubled your shelving, look at the floor and all of that wasted space. Most of us store our shoes on the floor. If you don’t have a shoe organizer, buy one. The one I like best is a cardboard “shoe file” with slots for 9 pairs of shoes. If you have more floor space than shoes, or don’t use the floor for your shoes, think about ways that you can utilize this space. One possibility: a couple of plastic stacking bins. Or maybe you can fit in your dirty clothes hamper or basket. I have a small clothes basket on the floor for my husband’s baseball caps, for lack of a better way to store them. At least they’re all together.
Now think about the clothes you have taken out and how you will store them when you put them back. My best piece of advice is to get rid of all of your wire clothes hangers! Buying hangers was a foreign concept for me, but the tubular plastic hangers are worth their weight in gold! Your closet will stay much neater, and this part is going to surprise you: you are going to be able to get more in. I use the smaller kids’ size to hang pants, so they don’t slip off. I use suit hangers (plastic clothes hangers with metal clothespins attached to the cross arm) for skirts. However, if space is tight, you may need to buy a couple of multiple skirt and slacks hangers (I really hate these, but they’re a necessity in a small closet).
If your closet is very small, you might need to get a second rod to install halfway between the main rod and the floor. Then you can “stack” pants and tops. You can get tension rods that don’t require any brackets or screws, and you might find one that just hangs from the higher rod. If you are going to do this, you will probably like it better if you raise the higher rod a few inches, or your pants will be touching the floor. I never did this when I was using a double rod, but I always wished that I had taken the time.
While you are browsing the closet department at Kmart, think about what else you may need. Some examples might be necktie storage, belt storage, or a place to hang your bathrobe. A couple of plastic clothes hooks, either singles or a multiple if you have the space, will be very handy. Pick up a package of the biggest cup hooks you can find.
Note: You and I both know that you can buy closet organizing systems, but I’ve always been too cheap to do it, and I assume that you are, too.
Also, you might live in a rental. The suggestions I’m making don’t cost much or require a degree in rocket science to install, and they’re all portable.
After you’ve made all the improvements you can to the closet itself, it’s time to start putting things back. Dust the shelf and rod, and sweep or vacuum the floor. Have a wastebasket and a couple of boxes handy, including one for things that need repairs. As you pick up every single item, ask yourself when you last wore this and when you are likely to wear it again. Don’t automatically just re-hang everything in your closet. If it’s still good but doesn’t fit or is out of style, put it in the GIVEAWAY box. If you’d wear it if it were fixed, put it in the repair box. If it’s garbage, chuck it. The idea is that the only things hanging in your closet are those items that fit, look good on you and don’t need fixing.
If you share a closet with someone, it helps to keep your clothes separated, if you can. Hang pants with pants, skirts with skirts, blouses with blouses, etc. Without seeming obsessive-compulsive, let me pass along an advanced concept: hang your clothes light-to-dark. I resisted this for a long time but have started doing it for my husband’s stuff-it REALLY helps when you are looking for something.
Try to get your coats out of the bedroom closet. If you have a hall closet, that’s the obvious place for them to go. If you don’t, consider buying a coat tree or putting up hooks somewhere. Coats take up a lot of space and probably need to be stored someplace close to the front door, since (in my house, anyway) they would never get hung up if they had to make it all the way to the bedroom.
If you have a problem with moths, give some thought to how you are going to store sweaters. Because we have more shelf space than drawer space, we have just started putting our wool sweaters in plastic sweater boxes and placing them on the shelf in the closet. (Sweater boxes cost $2.50-$3 each and usually hold 2-3 sweaters). Plastic boxes are a pain in the neck for most things because they take a lot of effort to use. I’m only using the boxes for wool sweaters, partly because I’m cheap, but partly because my husband the sweater-wearer has never learned to fold a sweater and never puts the lid back on…which sort of defeats the moth-prevention purpose. In the interest of organization, I am keeping my non-wool sweaters folded in stacks next to the plastic boxes.
If your closet door is a regular hinged door, you can buy hangers for over-the-door storage. Personally, I think that hanging clothes on the outside of the door looks tacky, but I’m sure I wouldn’t feel that way if I still had a 4-foot closet that I had to share with another person. However, an over-the-door hanger for your ironing board, hung so it faces inside, might be a good thing for you. You can also put a multiple hook rack on the inside of the door for hanging robes and such. If you have a hollow-core door, make sure you install it near the top, where it’s solid. I am lucky enough to have a walk-in closet in this house and wall space for this type of hanger. In another house, I put it on the inside of the bathroom door.
When everything is put back in the closet, put away the repairs box, put the GIVEAWAY box in the basement or garage, and empty the wastebasket.
Decide now how you are going to repair the clothes–yourself, or find a sewing and alterations service. If you aren’t going to repair them soon, you might as well get rid of them now. Unless you plan to have a yard sale in the next month, drop off your giveaways at the Goodwill the next time you pass by.
Because this has gotten so long, I will do a posting tomorrow on storage or utility closets.
Let me tell you that I do not always practice what I preach. Right now, my closets are in pretty good shape, but I can’t guarantee how long they will stay that way. In the past they have looked as awful as the “before” pictures you see in ads for closet organization systems. I will tell you that when I first got interested in home organization, about 15 years ago, and de-junked my home, it stayed pretty orderly for about 1-1/2 years just because I had places to put things. Also, it really cut down on time spent looking for things. If you can bring yourself to clean your closets about once a year, it will make a huge improvement in your efforts to have a clean and orderly home.
For–sad but true–you can’t put things away if you don’t have a clue where they go.
SUBMITTED BY: Maxine in Idaho
Here’s Maxine’s next Housekeeping Tip: Utility Closets and Misc. Storage
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