10 Tips for Regaining Sanity in Your Closets and Cabinets

Get a grip with organizing strategies and suitable containers — after you pare down, of course

By Laura Gaskill / Courtesy of Houzz.com

Wardrobe looking more like a “floordrobe”? Pantry so packed you can’t find a thing? Regain a sense of calm and order in your closets, from bedroom to basement, with these 10 tips for sorting your stuff. 

1. Purge first. Even the best closet organizing system in the universe can’t help if your space is full-to-bursting with stuff. Whether you are sorting your clothes closet, pantry or child’s room, begin by taking everything out and seeing what you can let go of. Don’t worry if you don’t get it perfectly edited on the first go — I find it often takes two or three (or more) passes to really make a dent in a messy closet. Just commit to sticking with this project, and you will get there eventually! 

2. Add wall hooks. Installing wall hooks in or near your closet is your first line of defense against a messy floor. Use them to quickly hang bags, scarves, necklaces, the next day’s outfit or items you have worn once and plan to wear again.

And in the kitchen, you can use wall hooks to hang market bags, dish towels and aprons.

3. Choose shoe storage you’ll actually use. Clear shoe boxes look great and stack neatly on shelves, but if you find that it’s too much trouble to put them back properly, they won’t do you much good. For an easier-to-use solution, go with open shelves, making sure to take the time to adjust the shelf height to maximize space (leave one shelf higher for boots if needed). If your closet shelves are very deep, consider having them replaced with pullout versions so that you can access items at the back.

For casual and sports shoes, you could even use a big basket on the closet floor. This strategy also works well to keep things neat in a small coat closet.

4. Stash soft items in labeled bins. Workout clothes, swimwear and cashmere sweaters are good candidates for keeping in bins. Store more frequently used pieces in bins that are waist to eye level, and items that are less frequently used (or out of season) on higher shelves.

5. Tidy up accessories with clear containers. Bags, wallets, belts and scarves can easily get lost in a big drawer. Stow these small items in clear bins instead, and place them on open shelving where you can find what you need at a glance.

6. Sort baby clothes by size. It’s amazing how fast little ones grow! If you have a new baby (or are expecting), keep track of those adorable clothes by sorting them by age, the way it’s done in clothing shops. It’s easier to grab an outfit from your next-size-up selection when the clothes are out in the open instead of packed away.

7. Stow children’s clothes in grab-and-go bins. Once kids are old enough to begin dressing themselves, consider ditching the hangers (which are harder for little hands to use) in favor of drawers or bins. My top vote goes to labeled bins (ideally labeled with a picture and words) because they can be pulled right where they’re needed and easily returned. Sort clothes by type (tops, bottoms, pajamas) or by day of the week, with one complete outfit in each bin.

8. Keep “deep” storage neat with labeled clear containers. Instead of tossing things willy-nilly into the basement or garage, take the time to pack up small items in stackable clear containers with lids, and label the contents. Your stuff will stay dust-free, and you will be able to quickly find what you’re looking for.

Textiles are better stored in cloth containers designed for this purpose, and papers should be kept in acid-free storage boxes. Save the plastic bins for toys, sports gear and other hard items.

9. Rein in snack food sprawl. Bags and packages tend to topple over, which accounts for a lot of the chaos in the pantry. Gain control by stashing snack foods and staples in lightweight open-top bins or wire baskets. And if you sort the contents by type or theme (salty snacks, breakfast items, baking ingredients), it’s easier to see at a glance when you’re running low on an essential item.

10. Store condiments on a lazy Susan. Trying to navigate through a maze of bottles, jars and cans to reach something at the back of your pantry is a recipe for disaster. A Lazy Susan or two can solve this problem by allowing you to rotate pantry contents with a flick of the wrist.