Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Conquered Closet

Even though I love to read about the adventures other people are having in DIY land, in reality I usually wind up overwhelmed by the logistics and filing all the pretty inspiration away for a time when home improvement doesn't require me to spend hours on the subway searching for, and schlepping around supplies.  

Nevertheless, I was recently tempted once again to stick my toe into DIY land when I came across this post over at Honey We're Home.  I'm kind of embarrassed to say that as a blog newbie (6 posts and counting, woo hoo!), I had to google what a link party is. I'm so glad I did though! The challenge, should I choose to accept, was to tackle an organizational project - big or small - and link to it.  Easy enough and even more perfect since I have tons of disorganization up in here.  Case in point, our coat closet - which, on any given day, looked like this:

In my defense, our apartment only has two closets.  Yes. Two.  New Yorkers will understand that when you find an updated, prewar, two-bedroom duplex in Brooklyn, with reasonable access to subway(s!), a private garden AND a basement man-cave, practical things like closets are rendered meaningless and you do whatever you can to make it yours.  Closets be damned.  I had high hopes for this closet when we moved in, but clearly I failed.  Until now!

Since I posses almost no innate organizational skills, I turned to pinterest and blogland for inspiration and advice on how to make this all happen on the cheap (and easy).  I found great organizational how-to's here and here and elsewhere, but my attention span is almost nonexistent and although drawing a picture of my closet with exact measurements and the whole nine is probably best practice, I don't have the patience.  I helped myself to the highlights and came up with the following plan of attack - call it the crib sheet of closet organization if you will:
  1. identify the purpose:  As our only non-clothes closet, this baby has a lot of work to do.  She's got to hold all season coats for Handsome Hubby (HH) and myself, the majority of my my shoes (HH keeps most of his in the man-cave), HH's not insignificant baseball cap collection, winter accessories, umbrellas and all of my bags - including clutches, unused wallets and my ever growing collection of free conference swag bags.
  2. identify the problem:  Easy - shoes, coats, bags.  In that order.  I have a ton of shoes and maybe holds half of them.  On the plus side, a lot of my shoes never make it home and remain comfortably (and conveniently) under my desk at work.
  3. invest in some help (in the form of cute and functional organizing tools):  Ironically, buried on the top shelf from hell are unopened shelf organizers that I purchased way back when for handbag wrangling.   Just another coat closet casualty.
  4. decide on a process:  Most people say that you should empty the closet entirely and then edit and sort for things you want to toss, keep or donate.  Our closet empties right out into the living room and the prospect of a living room full of mess was depressing, especially since I had no idea how long this would take.  I found it less daunting to work my way up in sections, starting with the ugly mess of shoes at the bottom.
Deciding on the help was easy once I gave some thought to the problem areas and was honest with myself about how much effort I'm going to be willing to put into keeping up the pretty in the dead of winter (answer: not much).  I have too many shoes and not enough space for cubbies, and I've never understood the individual shoe box thing.  Sure, they're pretty, but who wants to go rummaging through boxes in the morning? And it seems it seems like such a hassle to have to each pair of shoes back in a box with a lid every time you wear them.  I'd wind up with a pile of shoes and a bunch of empty shoe boxes before I left the house.   

a hot stinky mess
To tackle the shoe pile, I looked around for one of those expander shoe rack things like this, but a quick in-store trial revealed a problem -  the rods were spaced for people with bigger feet and didn't work for my heels or flats.  Thankfully, the Container Store had this one which is flat and avoids the whole shoe slippage thing.  It's not the cheapest one they have, but it was the lightest which is key when you have to carry your help back to Brooklyn.

The rack technically only holds 8(!) pairs of women's shoes (I fit 13), so I went with a two-pronged approach and used a large basket for overflow shoes that I don't wear as often.

The bag situation was a bit more challenging.  Here's the old system at work.  Ugly, right?

As you can see, I like big bags.  I have a nasty habit of filling them with crap and then, once they're too heavy to carry, I either a) deposit the bag (and all nonessential crap) on the convenient stair railing post and start using a different bag or b) transfer the nonessential crap to some other bag (also on the post) and ignore the whole mess until HH starts giving me the side-eye. What's left is that ugly wasteland of crap-filled bags.  

Since most of my bags are floppy and unstructured, putting them on the top shelf doesn't work for me.  I'm too short (and too lazy) to place them neatly and they just wind up flopping over or falling on the floor.  In the end I went with a large basket for the lesser-used bags and a giant hook for the ones that are in my weekly rotation.  The hook thing is AMAZING.  I was skeptical about its sturdiness, but I've got two bags (slightly less)full of crap on it and could definitely add one or two more.  I threw out the packaging but I think this is it.  So far so good.

Reluctantly, I also decided to splurge on new coat hangers.  We were previously short a few hangers and HH and I were engaged in a never-ending unspoken-of war for the most under-used hanger. Regardless of who won the nightly battle, there was then the tug of war with the couple dozen other coats in there to find space.  The result: usually a broken hanger and a closet full of wrinkled coats. Enough of that, thanks. We now have extra room for the bag hook AND guest coats. YAY!

Once the shoes, bags and coats were tackled the rest was easy.  Winter accessories, lesser used baseball caps, extra umbrellas and windbreakers and the bag collection each got their own basket up top, freeing up room to hang the stuff we use frequently on the over door thing we already had.  Notice I allowed myself only ONE conference swag bag which is actually holding a few weekend clutches that I use often and anticipate being too lazy to pull down off the shelf (anyone notice a behavioral pattern here).

Oh, and in case you were wondering, here's my closet inspiration.

source: bhg
not too shabby, right?

It's not perfect (I still need to find a home for the golf umbrellas) and it remains to be seen how this all looks in a couple of months once winter is upon us, but for now I'm calling this one a win. 

Huge thank you to Honey We're Home for hosting the link party and helping me get motivated. Initially I was self conscious about linking up and drawing attention to my new little blog but nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

Also linking up to the Organize It Link Party at Our Fifth House. 

What about you?  Tackle any beginner DIY or organizational projects lately? 



  1. Yay! You linked up and your closet looks great! I will feature this on my blog next week! :)

  2. Oh wow. THANK YOU, Megan! I'm a huge fan of your blog!

  3. Your coat closet looks great!! Great job! Thanks so much for sharing & linking up to the "Organize It" party!