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Home and Garden

Open wide, say 'ahhh'

Are your closets stuffed with shame? They don't have to be.

By Elizabeth Bettendorf
Published May 11, 2007


Group by type.

Suborganize by color.

Choose a system.

Clothes, shoes and accessories only. No linens or toiletries.


Let's talk about closets. We clean them once or twice a year, and often make do with spaces that don't seem big enough for our worldly goods. With closets packed to the hilt, we rifle through shirts still stacked in the laundry basket, shoes heaped in the Rubbermaid bin or drawers of not-yet-sorted summer and winter separates. The outfit we planned to wear usually needs ironing, sports a spot or smells a little suspect. Sigh. If only we could have closets that resemble the people we hear about in the society news, like the socialite who built a closet so big she threw a party in it or the ex-professional athlete who wanted his closet to look like a men's store complete with a marble-topped island in the middle. Most of us don't have the resources for such decadent luxury. But recent innovations in closet organizing and a growing closet industry mean that these days our closets can become assets rather than obsolete burdens.

First, choose a storage 'system'

Have a plan, even if you have to sketch your ideas first. Think about the closet's intended use and what you plan to store in it.

Mark Carufel, a flooring and closets expert with Home Depot at 16121 N Dale Mabry Highway in Carrollwood, helps people organize the stuff in their closets.

It costs less than $400 to organize an 8- by 8-foot walk-in closet using a white wood veneer shelving unit system by a company called Closet Maid. Maple and cherry units cost more.

Home Depot also offers a range of standard wire shelving units that can help organize the same size closet for less than $200. Workshops on creating functional closets start in early June. (For details call the store at 813-960-0051 or call a Home Depot near you to check for similar programs.)

Whether it's a do-it-yourself job or professionally installed, homeowners are craving organized closets more than ever.

"There's been a lot of growth in the closet industry in the last two years, " says Helen Kuhl, editor of Closets Magazine. "We think there are about 3, 000 closet manufacturing companies in the U.S. A lot are branching out into other organizational systems for the home and the garage."

Or vice versa.

Slidelok Garage Interiors & Storage Cabinets recently debuted a line of closet systems at the International Builders Show in Orlando that are ready to assemble.

And ClosetMaid, a division of Emerson Electric in Ocala, just introduced garage closet systems along with a new antique white bedroom closet system.

In general, Kuhl says, closets are getting "more elaborate and upscale, " with consumers asking for furniture-grade cabinets, crown molding, fluted columns, seating, mirrors, velvet-lined jewelry drawers, cubbyholes and pull-out ironing boards.

They're even requesting separate dressing suites, she says.

If your clothes are confined to a reach-in closet - the kind with bifold doors common in Florida - not to worry. Several closet systems can still maximize the space with shelving, shoe storage and extra hanging bars, Kuhl adds.

Expandable systems are available for do-it-yourselfers who want a more polished look.

Schulte Storage sells a unique "O-Box" in white, cherry or maple available in three styles and two sizes. It can be configured in a number of ways to fit many closet sizes.

Rubbermaid offers "Configurations, " a good-looking expandable kit with add-on accessories like sliding drawer-baskets, shoe shelves and tie racks.

Don't mix the clothes with gift wrap, linens

Chasity Poe, a professional organizer from Lexington Oaks in Wesley Chapel who owns Poe-Fessional Organizing, says closets should be organized specifically according to purpose. A clothing closet, in particular, should contain only clothes, shoes, accessories and purses.

"Wrapping paper, toiletries, linens and other things should go elsewhere, " Poe explains. "There are usually things in every closet that don't belong. When I do someone's entire home, I turn every section into a zone."

After clothes are organized according to type - work shirts, skirts, T-shirts - they can then be suborganized according to color. Hangers should face the same direction.

Her clients aren't in the market for fancy closets. They are usually regular people stuck with average sized closets that have standard shelving and too much stuff, Poe says. Her dream is to someday work directly with area home builders, designing truly functional closets for new homes.

"My (clothes) closet is a very weird shape - it gets narrower as you go back - and if I were a disorganized person, it would be a mess."

When dealing with clothes, sort and group like items. Get rid of anything you haven't worn in the past year. "If you haven't worn it in the last year, you will probably never wear it, " she says.

Shoes should go on a vertical shoe rack or in a canvas hanging shoe organizer, which are great for holding sandals in each compartment if you have the space.

Consider installing extra bars to maximize hanging space, and separate clothes by season. Winter jackets and once-a-year party dresses don't need to be mixed in with everyday attire.

Poe also recommends labeled rod-divider discs, a great new item she spotted at a recent convention of the National Association of Professional Organizers. The plastic discs work well for people who are visual and need a little prompting from time to time.

"This way, you can clearly label and define sections by pants, shirts, winter and summer, " she explains. "We label everything else, don't we, even file cabinets? Why not label our closets?"

Results on TV? Now that's rich

Whether you hire a professional organizer or install a do-it-yourself system, don't expect it to suddenly look like a segment straight from the popular HGTV show Mission Organization, unless you're planning to throw big bucks at the job.

"When organizers get together, they laugh at those shows, " Poe says. "They throw thousands of dollars at a project and have their own work crews. The magazine or TV look isn't realistic unless you're filthy rich."

Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at


On the web

Closet storage systems, helpers

- Slidelok Garage Interiors & Storage Cabinets:

- ClosetMaid:

- Schulte Storage:

- Rubbermaid:

- Poe-Fessional Organizing:


[Last modified May 10, 2007, 07:30:34]

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