Happy Closet, Happy Momma


I always loved watching when Oprah would give tours of her home and office. Colin Cowie would be walking with her and pointing out how her closet was not only organized, but beautiful. Every nook and cranny of her house was gorgeous and cleverly and meticulously neat.

Obviously Oprah has a few (read: many) helpers and no kiddos which goes a log way to keep her home looking fabulous. But, I am a firm believer that even with the crazy, hectic, applesauce across the floor lives we lead, we too can have a beautiful and organized home. Just because something is functional, it doesn’t have to be unattractive.

Take for instance our closets. How many of us have way too many clothes stuffed into a tiny space that constantly leaves us with “nothing to wear”? Guilty. So I embarked on a clean up/ clean out of my (our) closet. I get in the mood to do this about twice a year and thankfully the mood hit on a weekend when there was time to act.

I thought a lot about the crazy and unpredictable process my brain goes through when tackling a project like this. Here are my tips and tricks – along with a few from Colin Cowie:

~ Start Small – Who has the time to complete a huge project like this at one time?! Decide how much time you have to work with and choose an area accordingly. Sock drawer? Underwear drawer? Sweaters? T-Shirts? Left side of closet? Top shelf? Whatever you can knock out during nap time is where to start.

~Thin It Out –This part is hard, but necessary. If you haven’t worn it in a year, it’s time to let it go. If it hasn’t been in style for a year, it’s time to let it go (no, the sparkly pink capri’s you wore in college are not coming back). This is a great job for the kiddos; give them a pile of clothes and a bag and ask them to stuff it all in.

The exeption here are maternity clothes…and pre maternity clothes…and post maternity clothes. If you’re planning to have more kiddos, pack those items into storage bins and throw them in the garage or under the bed. This goes to if you’re having a hard time letting go – pack it away and if you haven’t missed it in six months, then donate them to a worthy cause. Or if you’re short on space, make all of your hangers backwards (like the open end facing you). Each time you wear something, put the item back in the closet forwards (open side facing the wall). Evaluate which items are still backwards after a month, six months and a year.

If you have sentimental items, consider re-purposing them – like in a T-shirt quilt or pillow. I have one of my college shirts and it is so amazingly comfortable! Check out http://www.confortaquilts.com/. I cannot more highly recommend them!

~Put It Away…Somewhere Else – When we lived back east, we had a closet that rivaled my college dorm room. It was then that I started packing up seasonal clothing and storing them under the bed. Pick out the items that are truly only worn in one season. Dry clean, wash or wipe off and store in long, flat bins. Even if it’s only a few things, it can make a big difference in usable space.

~Fold It Up – Once you are left with the items that are staying, it’s time to figure out folding or hanging. For folded items, stick with one form of folding to create a uniform look. Retailers use small cutting boards to achieve the perfect stack of shirts – but since we live in reality, just take a few extra seconds with each piece to make it look neat. Group like items together: t-shirts, crew neck sweaters, turtle neck sweaters, sweatshirts, etc.

~ Hang It Up – With hanging items, think about how you look for something to wear; do you go to the closet looking for an orange shirt? Or a long sleeve shirt? Based on that answer, organize your hanging items accordingly. I like mine by style and occasion – sleeveless to long sleeve and casual to fancy. Odd? Maybe. Useful? Absolutely!

Matching hangers go a long way to creating uniformity in your closet. They make spacing even and are less distracting than a mess of mismatched wire hangers. Transfer dry cleaning to your hangers and ditch the wire hangers and plastic bags.

*I feel it necessary to point out that these are my husband’s shelves, I just borrow the bottom for jewelry!

~Organize It – Do you know anyone who doesn’t want more closet space? Me neither. Make the most of what you have by adding in some organization pieces; added shelving, hooks,  baskets, boxes, plate dryers – yes I said wrote plate dryers. The wire version make excellent stands for purses, clutches and wallets. Hooks are great for scarves, belts and bags. If you’ve got the space, try a towel bar for ties. Use over the door shoe racks for socks and underwear. Use small, stack-able book shelves to add extra shelving above the current shelf, or under clothing.

~Keep It Up – I am so guilty of not doing this. I get the closet looking amazing and then I throw shirts in a pile to save myself some time. Even if it’s once a week, do a sweep of all things out of place to keep the look.

~Make It Pretty – I think there are few things fancier in life than a dressing room. You know, the kind of closet that has pictures, a chair and flowers. I don’t know anyone who actually has one, but it’s nice to pretend. Folding and organizing clothes, shoes and bags will go a long way, but so does a fresh coat of paint, matching fixtures, good lighting and pretty accents. Drawer pulls are an inexpensive way to fancy up drawers. A mirror with a nice frame or a hanging jewelry organizer adds a touch of elegance to a space.

~Need a better solution? Consider custom fixtures. Most home improvement stores, Ikea and The Container Store sell modular systems that can be tailored to fit your needs and your space. Not the home improvement type? Check out companies like Classy Closets to have a custom made closet. Having done this I can tell you it’s not cheap, but it is entirely worth the pain the pocketbook.

Where To Shop:

Bed Bath and Beyond

Home Depot and Lowes

Pier One and World Market

The Container Store – be advise, this place is dangerous and addictive!


What areas of your home never stay neat? What are your favorite ways to keep your house from looking like a toy bomb went off?




  1. All wonderful advice! I was raised with a great deal of organizing inconsistency, so I struggle at times, finding the best way to go about things. Hiring a professional organizer was HUGE for me, and allowed me to make changes that really benefit our family and make sense. It wasn’t really in our budget at the time, but we made it work. She has taught me things that really stick and help me get organized and efficient.

    • That’s great Amie! I realized I should have put that tip in there as well – there are so many small businesses out there that can really help you get and stay organized – thanks for the comment!

  2. I FREAKING LOVE this idea!!! I have a Massive, I mean it could be a spare bedroom closet & yet the size does nothing but give me more space to fill it up with a mess of pre-post & in between sizes of all kind of thing I no longer wear, yet can not bear to get rid of for some reason! However this is a great trick to really be able to SEE the items your not wearing.

    “Or if you’re short on space, make all of your hangers backwards (like the open end facing you). Each time you wear something, put the item back in the closet forwards (open side facing the wall). Evaluate which items are still backwards after a month, six months and a year.”

    PS: I also Love that you pointed out that it was PW’s side of the closet,

  3. I have never heard of the backwards hanger idea, but I love it! We just moved to AZ this summer, and I thought I got rid of a lot of stuff before we moved…….but somehow we managed to jam pack our now bigger closet! I don’t get it. However, I have found that since I started selling Thirty-One products, I am staying a bit more organized. Amazing what a some little totes can do for your cabinets or closets! Thanks for the great article!

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