Monday, March 3, 2014

Do I Have To? Organize a Closet

I haven't done a "Do I Have To?" post since August. I hadn't forgot about what I'd imagined would be a monthly feature. It's just that philosophically speaking I was more in the mental state of "I don't want to" and even more possibly "You Can't Make Me," neither of which really bodes well for doing the work, taking the photos, and posting to the blog.

A few weeks ago when I was working feverishly on the bedroom and the bathroom, and had not an iota of patience or energy left, I decided to start a third project, mostly based on frustration over not being able to find a single AA battery in a house I was sure had several packages. Somewhere.

I emptied an entire closet out onto my dining room floor.

Beginning anything mid-hissy-fit is never a good step, and this one involved a few broken light bulbs.

But it felt good, too, as embarrassing as these photos are. Contrary to most older homes, our house has a lot of closets. A LOT. There are six closets on the main floor alone, and that doesn't include the bedrooms. If you include the bedrooms, there are TEN closets on the main floor. And I'm still not counting the dining room built-ins. Go ahead, be jealous.

And I love it. Luuuuuuurve it. But sometimes when you have an embarrassment of riches, be it wine or money or closets, you tend not to use it wisely. In my case, I was trying to move my possessions from three different location to this one home, saw all that vast empty space behind closed doors, and began cramming everything in as the moving boxes stacked up.

It helped for the short term, but in the long term we were looking at this:

I can not even. This photo begs a variety of questions:

Who needs three plungers? (Don't answer that.)
What earthly logic stores a stud finder with bath towels?
When are you going shopping for toilet paper? Soon, I hope.
How can you live like this?

Let's start with what I was absolutely not going to do:
Remodel. I had five fixed shelves (actually six with a little half shelf up at the very top), covered in sheet linoleum and edged with aluminum.

The person who'd built out this closet intended it to go the distance, and almost 75 years later, I'm disinclined to mess with something that's lasted this long. (That opening at the bottom is access to the shower plumbing. I needed to put the panel back up.)

You know those closets that are as beautifully decorated as an entire room, with their own design scheme and everything in labeled vintage containers? The ones with more magazine spreads than a minor celebrity?

Nope. Not gonna happen. I probably have the least Pinterest-worthy closet on the planet with 75-year-old linoleum shelving, but I just need it clean and organized. At the very least, I need to have it not looking like a small tribe of poo-flinging monkeys live in there.

I started by removing the trash. There was an astonishing amount of empty wrappers, probably courtesy of my children, operating on the same philosophy of leaving the cereal box in the kitchen cupboard with a 1/2 tablespoon of cereal in it.

Then I started organizing things in piles. Paper goods, light bulbs, batteries, toiletries. The first aid kit's contents had been strewn about the entire closet, and I got those all back in the box.

Organizing made me realize I'd been overshopping a bit. Clearly I won't need deodorant or shampoo for quite awhile. Or barber talc, though that was a three-fer deal. (I do the boys' haircuts.)

I moved all the tools out and the cleaning supplies went elsewhere too. Batteries and light bulbs also went someplace else. I decided this was going to be strictly bathroom supply.

I did purchase two of the baskets shown, but already had two in house. They were all from Target. The two large baskets are categorized as general toiletries for me, and general toiletries for the boys.

The plastic toolkit contains first aid supplies. The two smaller baskets are for seasonal needs. The small basket on the left holds suntan lotion, bug repellent, and hydrocortisone. The small basket on the right holds winter things, like dry-skin cream, mentholated rub, cough drops, hand sanitizer and chapstick, but it's empty because those items are in use around the household.

Isn't amazing how much spacious it seems when it's organized? It's almost a little spare. But that's okay by me. It's such a relief to open that now and know I can find what I want in an instant.

I also got out the paint and gave the door a fresh coat, inside and out. I know, it leaves the trim left to do and an obvious contrast between the new creamy white and the old pinky-beige, but that door. It was so grubby. Now it's clean, and I can get to the rest when I have time.

So now I've got this closet and one of Noah's closets (the rock studio, shown here) done. Only 8 more closets to go on the main floor. And yes, they all need a little work.

No wonder I threw a hissy fit.


  1. This closet has the same inherent problem as my upstairs 'linen' closet ... narrow closet that is WAY too deep to really be used well. Around here, any empty space is fair game to the other members of the family for stuffing things. My mantra is "Put things where they BELONG not where they FIT." It falls on deaf ears. Hissy fits are the result. I hope your closet remains clan and organized for a long, long time ... without you having to be the only one that keeps it that way.

    1. We're all guilty here of "the cram." And you're right....this closet was deep with stuff we didn't need, or at least needed to be stored some place else. I hope we are bit better disciplined now that the closet is clean and tidy......I can hope, right?

  2. You need to check out - she's in the middle of a weekly re-org project. I'm sure you two could commiserate!