There is this concept in physics called entropy.

Entropy describes the tendency for systems to go from a state of higher organization to a state of lowest organization on a molecular level.  — wiseGEEK

While what happens in our closets, purses, cupboards, and playrooms isn’t exactly happening at a molecular level, it’s a great analogy for entropy.  These places don’t get orderly on their own.  And the more “stuff” we put in them, the greater the potential for chaos.  And it will take a great deal of energy and work to set it back in order (see the three laws of Thermodynamics for another great analogy!)

{{Daddy, you were right!  A degree in physics does come in handy!}}

So on to that closet…

Wouldn’t you love to have a refreshing closet like this:

Insufficient Space is Not the Issue

Here’s the simple truth: insufficient space is not the issue. 

The picture above is not my closet.  I cannot get into my closet to get a good picture.  It’s just not big enough.  And I don’t buy all my clothes in varying shades of the same few colors – a trick of photography that misleads about what “order” looks like….)

I share my closet with my husband, with gifts we’ve purchased for future giving, and with sewing projects waiting in the queue.

But my closet is orderly, for all it’s varied uses.

What about your closet?  Do you know what is in there?

It will never be any more ordered than it is when you first put it in order.  It’s all down hill from there.  But with a little bit of effort on a daily basis, you can maintain order.

And I’d say, the first step is to eliminate a lot of the chaos by eliminating a lot of the contents.  There are a few ways to do this, but since most people aren’t able to be completely honest with themselves about how often they wear that sweater, the last time they could fit into those pants, or how holey and pit-stained their t-shirts really are…  may I suggest reading 2 Steps to Lose 15+ Pounds in the Clothing Department.

6 Steps to Maintaining a Healthy Closet Weight

  1. Sort your clothes into two categories: what you wear when the weather is generally hot, and what you wear when the weather is generally cold.  Whichever weather is not happening right now, take those clothes and fold them up neatly and put them on a high shelf or in a bin in the attic, or in wardrobe boxes in the basement.  Don’t clutter up your guest room closet with out-of-season clothes.  It’ll save lots of apologizing when a guest arrives and you try to squeeze stuff back so they can have two inches of hanging space…
  2. Take everything off the hangers and put the hangers in backwards.  So the hook wraps the rod from behind rather than in front.  When you wear something and launder it and put it away, hang it in the more traditional fashion.  At the end of the season, anything still hanging on backwards hangers can go.  Fold it neatly and put it in a bag to give away.  Don’t look in the bag.  You have proof you don’t wear it.  Pass it on and feel good about it.
  3. Take all the folding clothes and put them in neatly folded piles on the shelf backwards too. Same concept as hanging clothes.  If you get to the end of the season and there is still a t-shirt from camp when you were 14-years old sitting on the shelf with the neck pointing outward, it’s time to throw it away, turn it into a dust cloth, or cut it up for the family t-shirt quilt.  It doesn’t belong in your closet.
  4. The next time you are folding laundry, throw away any socks with holes. Keep a notepad or your shopping list app handy for a few weeks so you can make a note of what you need to replace.  Same thing with undies.  If the elastic is stretched and frayed, if there are pit stains on your husband’s undershirts, if you have a pair at the bottom of the bin you only wear when you’ve run out of everything because they give you the most horrible wedgie… throw them away.  Again, no one at the Salvation Army needs saggy panties or dust cloths.  These are not a giveaway items.  {On the other hand, if you do a lot of wood staining, old t-shirts have lost all their lint and make great cloths for applying stain!}
  5. Make a list of what you like to wear together.  When I pull out the out-of-season clothes, I like to try everything on and make a list of coordinated outfits based on what fits and different combinations of accessories.  I keep the list on a closet shelf as inspiration in the mornings.  It helps me wear everything and not wear the same thing over and over and over again.  With pre-planned variety I am less tempted to “pick up something new” I don’t really need simply because I am bored with my wardrobe. Anything that doesn’t fit or coordinate with anything else can go right into the giveaway box.  But what I keep, I hang backwards at the start so I can evaluate what I actually wear.
  6. Ditch the dresser.  I personally don’t use a dresser.  I know, this sounds like heresy, right?  No dressers? But it’s true.  I like shelves in the closet.  I do have a couple of bins on a shelf to contain my unmentionables, socks, and swimwear.  Otherwise it’s neatly folded piles I can see.  Nothing gets wadded up in the back.  I gain floor space in the bedroom.

** Now, I don’t want you to go away thinking we can do this because we have loads of closet space.  We don’t.  We don’t have a huge walk-in closet.  As a matter of fact, our closet space is fairly limited by most American standards.

I’ve already mentioned my husband and I share a closet with each other and with a few other household storage needs.  We also keep in- and out-of-season clothes in the same closet – rotating which things hang with those folded on the highest shelves based upon the weather.

My boys’ closet is 3-ft wide and 5-ft deep.  It opens on the 3-ft side.  Five (yes, 5!) boys share this closet.  They each have one shelf – 3-ft wide, 20″ deep – with a small locker-crate for socks.    The floor under the shelf houses their hamper bags for dirty clothes. Along both walls between the door and the shelves we have two rows of hooks for hanging clothes.  

The girls’ room is equally limited.  They have a 5’ft wide closet, but it is only 20-in deep. It opens at one end of the long side.  They have floor to ceiling 12-in deep shelves for the first 4-ft, and double hanging rods at the far end for hanging clothes.  You have to be pretty thin to fit between the wall and the 12-in shelves to get to the hanging rods, but so far it works.  And there are only two girls, so that helps.  

Limited space limits our purchases.  It works well because we also live on a limited budget with seemingly limitless kids.  🙂

My point?  Insufficient space is not the issue.

You may not be able to change how much space you have, but you can be creative about making limited space efficient.  The real issue tends to revolve around excess (see last week’s post on decreasing closet contents) and order. And these are things you can change… if you are willing.

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Photo Credit:
No Skeletons in this Closet by Wjablow (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons