It’s easy to overlook the coat closet during the warm months of summer, but a well-organized one can be a helpful part of your day in any season. A great coat closet shaves time off your morning routine and makes it easier to get everyone out the door. It can help prevent you and family members from forgetting important paperwork, coupons, or permission slips at home.
At right, Clear labels and accessible baskets make it easy for even the smallest members of the household to put things in their proper place.”
And, and as the last stop on your way out the door, a thoughtfully designed coat closet with everything in its place can provide a moment of serenity and calm before you head out to face the world. And here you thought it was just a place to stash your parka!
The anatomy of a well-organized closet varies by household. Since we all have our own schedules, activities, and commutes, every closet needs to function a bit differently, but they all have a few basic elements in common.
A thoughtfully designed closet puts every inch of available space to work. In addition to hanging coats on the standard clothing rod, you can take full advantage of a typical closet’s upper shelf by adding an adjustable shoe shelf to the space. Shoe boxes, baskets, or see-through plastic bins are great for stashing gloves, hats, or umbrellas and are easy to pull down from those higher shelves. Make the side walls in your closet usable with hooks placed near the front where you can hang dog leashes, umbrellas, car keys, or small handbags. I even attached hooks to the back wall of my closet, behind all of the coats; during dinner parties, I move several of my family’s coats to those hooks in order to free up hangers for our guests.
Don’t forget to use the back of the closet door itself! This space is often overlooked, but it’s easy to make it a functional part of your closet with a wire basket system. My favorite Elfa Door and Wall Rack System from the Container Store lets you affix a track with adjustable baskets directly to the inside of your door, so you don’t have the pesky and unattractive over-the-door fixture sticking out. It’s relatively easy to install and very sturdy – no baskets falling off of this system!
Be sure to measure how much space there is between the door and your hanging coats when the closet door is closed. (You’ll have to move a few coats around and get in the closet to get an accurate measurement.) Then check the projection or depth dimension of both the basket and the track system to ensure the baskets won’t be pressing into your coats when the closet is closed.
Some closets are too shallow to affix storage on the door, but you can still utilize this space with small hooks for keys or as a message center. A dry erase board is a great way to leave reminders for yourself and your family, or try affixing a small cork board where you can tack up coupons, tickets, or permission slips you want to ensure don’t get left behind on busy mornings.
Include a designated “On The Go” bin in your closet and stock it with items you use when you’re out and about. As the mom of a toddler, my “On The Go” bin includes tissue packets, hand wipes, and single servings of goldfish crackers, but yours might involve reading material for your commute, extra business cards, or plastic bags for when you walk the dog. It might seem logical to store granola bars in the pantry with the rest of the food, but if your kids only eat them on the way to soccer practice, keep them with sunscreen and band aids in your “On The Go” bin, and you can toss them in your purse as you head out the door – no running back to the kitchen necessary.
An official “Out Box” is also a helpful element to include in your closet. Treat this box as the official spot to put anything that needs to go out the door with you when you run errands – drycleaning, library books to return, a package for the post office. I like to use a tote bag on a hook, so I can toss things in throughout the week and then just carry the whole bag with me when I go on an errand run.
Creating a system and place for everything is only half the battle; the big challenge for most people is to maintain the system. And to this I say, “Label everything!” Make your labels as specific as possible – say “Matt’s Hats and Mittens” and “Kids’ Snacks” instead of using broad descriptions like “Winter Stuff.” Specific labels help ensure that you create a spot for everything, and they let all of your family members, visitors, and anyone who helps clean your home know exactly where to put things and how to maintain your system. Create labels that are relatively easy to swap out, so you can re-label with the change of seasons or as new routines evolve. I made my labels with plain paper and self laminating sheets, then affixed them to baskets with binder clips – easy to make, easy to change.
Assign 15 minutes once a week to tidying and re-stocking your closet with any dwindling “On The Go” items, and you’ll find it’s easy to keep your coat closet working for you!
For more closet organizing ideas, visit www.WestchesterDecorator.blogspot.com.
[blockquote class=blue]Kitty Burruss is a wife, mother, and interior designer who positively thrives in The Container Store.[/blockquote]