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Closet out of control? Six tips to kill the clutter

In part two of the series, “Get Organized Today,” lifestyle expert Elizabeth Mayhew shares some tips on how to bring order to a cluttered closet.

Closets are both a saving grace and the bane of a disorganized person's existence; you can hide your clutter behind closed doors, but once the doors open, you can't find anything. The trick is to come up with solutions that will help you find a place for everything. If you have a place to put it back, it's less likely to end up on the floor!

There is nothing more rewarding than being able to open the doors of your closet to reveal neatly stored shoes, pants, shirts, skirts, and belts. You feel as though you are shopping at a fine boutique instead of your own home.

Here are some simple tips to get things in order:

1. Take inventory
Organizing is all about editing. The first thing to do when organizing a closet is to take stock of what you really wear, not what you think you may wear one day when it comes back in style.

  • Remove everything from your closet, including clothes, shoes, handbags and accessories. This is not to say that you have to do it all at once; tackle one drawer, rod, or shelf at a time, getting rid of things you don't wear as you go.
  • Create three piles: "Keep," "Donate," and "Toss." Be ruthless! If you haven't worn something in a year or two, throw it out!
  • Try everything on in your "Keep" pile, and see if it actually fits and is flattering. If the answer is no, have it tailored or donate it.
  • Once you've pared down, give your closet an orderly flow. Organize everything by color, style, season, etc.
  • Re-visit your closet every three months to keep it organized.

2. When in doubt, donate
Use the thought of donating to a worthy cause as motivation to get rid of the things you don't wear (or that fit you 10 pounds ago). Try to enlist a friend who you trust to help you; friends can be a better judge as to whether or not you should keep or toss items.

Find a charity to donate the clothes you will no longer be keeping. There are so many places that can put them to good use and there is nothing worse than having a bunch of unwanted clothes in a pile or garbage bag cluttering up your room. Also you don't want to risk having anything work its way back into your closet. Simply go to a search engine and type in "donate clothes" and the town you live in and many different options will come up to choose from.

3. Take measure
Once you edit your clothes, measure stacks of sweaters, count shoes, and measure hanging space. You need to outfit your closet keeping these measurements in mind. Most closets do not take full advantage of the available space and you need to create a system that is easy to maintain or you won't stick to it. Different people have different needs. Some have a ton of hanging clothes and other people may have an large amount of shoes and handbags. There are so many companies that specialize in systems like the Elfa closet. It's an investment, but you can take with you if you move.Product: ELFA Closet ($1,122.04 with wood; $489.69 without wood)

4. Maximize space
To maximize space, use backs of doors, floor space, and all interior wall space as much as possible — especially if you live in an older home, where closet space is a rare commodity. Small accessories can make a big difference in how visible and accessible your clothes are, which gives you the ability to see what you need and get to it quickly.

Twelve widely spaced hooks on one hanger are a great place for hanging belts, but they are also a great solution for hanging camisoles, bras or scarves. This gets back to the point of visibility and accessibility without taking up a lot of space on your closet rod.Product: 12-Belt Hanger, $9.99

Multi-pronged hangers are a great space-saver, giving you vertical storage on one hanger. A great choice for small closets or out-of-season clothing, these accommodate up to five pairs of pants with easy-access swinging arms. Product: Swing-arm slack hanger, $5.99

See-through boxes are a great solution for storing sweaters, hats, handbags, shoes and other accessories. They come in different sizes to accommodate different items and open from the front, so you can stack boxes on top of each other and access them without having to unstack them. Boxes that are clear or have see-through fronts make it easy to spot what you need when you need it.Product: Tweed Drop-front boxes $16.99 - $29.99

5. Come out of the closet
Barry and Andrea had been unable to commit to buying furniture for their bedroom. If you're like our makeover couple, then think about investing in a less expensive storage alternative and hang shelving on a wall in your room and storing clothing in boxes. Because you are maximizing vertical space, you will likely have more storage space than a dresser. Elizabeth suggests concealing clothing in boxes and labeling what's inside. Be as specific as possible and group like clothing and colors together. Put out-of-season clothing on the upper shelves. Product: Pandan Single Box Leaf Green, $34.99 eachCanvas boxes, $17.99-$19.99

6. Switch seasonally
It's possible that no matter how much you try to edit and organize you just have too much stuff to fit in your closet. If that's the case, then you need to resort to a seasonal system; rotate your fall/winter clothes with your spring/summer clothes. Invest in a covered clothing storage rack or store your out-of-season clothes in a more remote area/closet in your house. Product: Canvas Clothes Closet, $69

Note: All of the products Elizabeth Mayhew suggests in this installment of "Get Organized Today," can be found at The Container Store.

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