Keeping Closets Organized: Common Issues

Your problem keeping closets organized might not be all your fault.IMG_3011

Following are eight of the most common reasons people have problems with maintaining organized closets.

  1. Closet are not set up for successful maintenance.
  2. Closets are used by more than one family member.
  3. Family members have no idea how to organize and maintain order in a closet.
  4. Family members are not committed to keeping closets organized.
  5. Closets are poorly designed.
  6. A closet’s size is too small for current needs.

The Closet Is Not Set Up for Successful Maintenance of Order

Setting up a closet for successful maintenance of order means taking the time to create an initial order using containers and other organizing products that make access to the items easy. Too often in the rush of a busy life a closet is just thrown together with good intentions of returning to it at a later date to make improvements. And, that day never comes.

The Closet Is Used By More Than One Family Member

Anytime an area is used by more than one person, the chances of its order melting down increase. It’s unlikely that all family members will have the same level of commitment to maintaining an organized space. And, often the person who initially established the order just assumes that others will see the order that has been created and help to maintain it with no specific request or instruction.

Family Members Have No Idea How to Organize and Maintain Order in a Closet

Closet organizing skills are not taught in schools. Many left-brained folks intuitively know how to organize closets because they are wired for organizing anything. People who are right-brain dominant, and those who have ADHD, are not so lucky. Their wiring often leaves them clueless about how to organize something as daunting as a closet. Unfortunately when they don’t know how to deal with closet organization their default is either to do the “throw things in willy nilly and slam the door” approach or don’t bother using the closet at all, leaving volumes of their belongings outside the closet.

Family Members Are Not Committed to Keeping It Organized

Getting a closet organized and keeping it organized are two very different processes. The first is time-limited, and often can be completed in one time period. Keeping a closet organized first requires that family members be conscious of the need to maintain order in the space, then be willing to make the time (often less than a minute or two) ato take the necessary actions to keep it organized despite any personal inconvenience. Too often the importance of helping to keep closets organized doesn’t even make it on to the list of responsibilities of all family members.

By the way, don’t assume that others know that they are responsible for helping to keep closets organized, or that they know how to keep a closet organized or that they can easily decipher the system you’ve set up. That’s a sure fire way to guarantee that people will go about their merry way, looking out for their immediate needs, and your closet organization will melt down rapidly. You’ll then start feeling resentful because family members aren’t doing their part to help keep the closet organized. It’s important that family members be shown how a closet is organized, and told that you need their help to keep it organized.

The Closet Is Poorly Designed

DSCN0951The most common problem with closet design is having shelves that are too deep. Visibility of all items is so important in any area of the house if you want to access your belongings. Deep shelves make it impossible to see what’s at the back of the closet. Unless items at the back of a deep shelf are large enough to loom over the items at the front of the shelf, they disappear from view and then become sources of negative, dead energies.

Another common design problem is having a shelf located underneath hanging clothes. Items on that shelf become invisible when clothes hang over them. I recommend that nothing be stored on those shelves so you can avoid losing things under the clothes or being irritated by the clothes every time you retrieve an item located there.

Most traditional clothes closets have one bar with a single shelf above it. That design is often too simple to meet the varied needs for storage in homes today. Invariably there is wasted space below short items, and the shelf above can become a jumble of mixed items like shoes, sweaters, photo albums and memorabilia, and gifts. The more recent wire shelves are no better and can be frustrating to use because items slip through the wires. Custom closet design can transform that type of closet in a highly organized space for maximum storage that is less likely to lose its order.


Not a pretty sight! And, not only was the opening to this closet too narrow, but I practically had to climb into the closet to get to items being stored there. The shelves were set too far back from the opening and too deep.

Perhaps the worst example of poor closet design that I’ve ever seen was a linen closet in a bathroom that had very deep shelves set back about six inches from the closet opening, situated behind an opening that was narrower than the width of the shelves. To make matters worse, the floor of the closet was about 18 inches above the ground. The opening was so small that I had to turn sideways to extend my arm to the back of the shelves. To clear the top shelf I had to step up into the closet, turn my shoulders and stretch my arm as far as it could possibly go. Very few people would be willing to go to the trouble of stepping up, twisting and extending their arm to put something away. More likely they’d be inclined to throw things into the closet and hope for the best. 

The Closet Is Too Small for Current Needs

Older houses tend to have small closets. At the time those houses were built people had less stuff. As our world changed post-WWII, many people began to enjoy more affluence and acquire things associated with a “good life.” What had been viewed as luxuries by the past generations became necessities. Couple that with a depression era mindset to “waste not, want not,” and the corresponding imperative to keep anything that is still useful, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for packed closets.

Now what? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Make time to carefully set up each closet for optimal functioning.
  2. Take the extra seconds required to put things away properly in closets rather than shoving them in and closing the door.
  3. Restore order to closets before they become completely disorganized.
  4. Create new order in a closet when its function changes. For example, new categories of items will be stored there.
  5. Live within your closets. It may require that you purge more and keep less.
  6. When closet space is truly inadequate, add pieces of furniture to your space to augment closet storage, like additional dressers and armoirs.
  7. Educate all family members about how to organize closets and keep them organized. You may need to give explicit instructions like, “hang up your coat, put your gloves in this container, return nail polish to this container, etc.,” until maintenance behaviors become automatic.
  8. Educate everyone in the family about the importance of keeping closets organized, and make it clear that all family members have responsibility for helping to maintain order in closets they access.
  9. If you have the financial resources, hire a custom closet company to assess, design and install custom closets that meet your specific needs within each closet. Custom closets are easier to keep organized and will add to the resale value of your home.

Closets order can be maintained, but only with proper setup and a family consciousness and commitment to keep closets organized. What can you do today to improve the condition of one of your closets?

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