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Closet for all seasons

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Seasons change and so does your closet. The change of seasons can be a catalyst to examine the contents of your closet. As you throw open the closet doors, it may look like a hurricane hit: mismatched shoes, lopsided hangers, and belts snake through wads of clothes that slid off hangers onto the floor.

I caution you not to go gangbusters and empty your entire closet today, with the ambitious but unrealistic idea that you will organize it in one day. Break the closet up—not literally, unless you are one of those handy people–into sections. Think bikini-size, working on small sections at a time.

Speaking of size, do you have several clothes sizes in your closet? Those that are too big—get rid of them. Their hanging around only sabotages your resolve to maintain your current weight. Otherwise, your likely inclination on the next trip through the buffet line will be to load up your plate. After all, you still have your “big” clothes.

On the other hand, suppose your closet is bursting with skinny frocks that don’t fit. Unless you are actively engaged in a weight loss and exercise program, move the smaller sized clothes to another closet, or pack them away for a specific time period. You don’t need to look at them everyday, feeling bad about your size. Mark the box with a date, at which time if you haven’t changed sizes, put them back into circulation. Donate them to a thrift store for a tax deduction, or consign for cash. When taking your too big or too small clothes to consign, don’t expect much. Consignment stores are selective, and may not take your clothes due to season or current styles.

So now you have only clothes you actually wear in your closet, but we must consider the seasonal issue. If your closet is not too crowded, you can simply rotate clothes. Move summer things to the back, or harder to reach, less accessible areas of the closet. When spring comes, just switch it around again.

But maybe you’re a clothes horse, and the 20% rule (i.e. most people wear only 20% of their clothes 80% of the time), simply does not apply to you. With your vast collection of clothes, you’ve run out of room in your closet. In this case, you’ll need to look at other storage areas.

–You can encroach on closets in other parts of the house. But be careful of squatter’s rights of those who may already be using the other closets.

–There is the luggage trick where people store off-season clothes in their suitcases. This is fine if you travel just a few times a year; otherwise you may find it inconvenient to unpack before packing.

–You can use under-bed storage bins, but some may find this too contradictory to the principles of feng shui; purists might feel this wuld adversely affect the energy field, and thus your quality of sleep.

–Use vacuum-seal bags to store clothes compactly. If you’re fussy about your clothes, this method may strike fear in your heart—fear of damaging your clothes beyond wearability.

We also need to deal with the issue of duplicates. For example, if you’re hanging onto more than seven black skirts, why? Do you wear one each day of the week? How many varieties in length and fabric do you need? Pare down those duplicates and enjoy the freedom!

Mending matters
I won’t go as far as compulsively mending someone’s jacket button as I saw on “Desperate Housewives”. But I do like sewing, and if you don’t, there are seamstresses for hire. Besides, it makes sense to parcel out things you’re not inclined to do. Trades can also work. For example, you could trade a home cooked meal with your friend for her doing your mending.

Stained shirts
If you can’t remove it, try the drycleaners. If they can’t remove it, nobody can. As for home remedies, I like the bleach stick for white clothes. For colors, I use aVanish stain stick that my friend Carol brought to me from England. The web site is It sells for about $9.00.

Hang ups
Don’t underestimate the benefits of homogeneous hangers. Getting dressed is so much faster when clothes hang uniformly and are easier to see. Metal hangers from the drycleaners are hard on your clothes and not recommended for long-term hanging. I recommend clear plastic hangers. If you prefer color, every color of the rainbow is available in plastic. If you want a more upscale look, clients recently found wooden hangers at Ikea for an excellent price. Wooden does take up a little more rod space though.

Finally, if you’re working with a closet that has a mere shelf and pole, invest in a closet system. Double hangs, shelves, baskets and more really do maximize space, and need not cost a fortune. Closet companies are more reasonable than you think, and most will give a free, in home estimate. If you can do-it-yourself, there are excellent products available at Home Depot and the Container Store.