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pink gray tan clothes on white hangers

The biggest argument my best friend and I ever got into was over a milkshake. Word to the wise… don’t ever agree to be someone’s accountability partner. At least when it comes to dieting. It’s all fun and games until one of you questions the other’s decision to buy a giant chocolate chunk cookie at Barnes & Noble. And all of a sudden someone’s holding a plastic (but still serrated) butter knife to your throat. These things never end well.

Now, about the milkshake incident. My normally delightful BFF had been craving a chocolate milkshake all day. I tried to fight it. For six hours, I volleyed back and forth with my best logic, pleading, and powers of persuasion. I even wedged myself between BFF and the front door. I finally decided to take her for a drive to get her mind off things, thinking – in my ignorant bliss – that I’d won this argument. And then (and I am not making this up) we stopped at a stoplight in an intersection that was, unbeknownst to me, directly adjacent to a Steak n’ Shake. And there, just out her window, on a marquee in gigantic letters came the command, “BUY HER A SHAKE!” She looked at me without saying a word. And, completely defeated, I pulled into the drive-thru. I mean, how can you argue with the milkshake gods?

The moral of the story is…

In life, sometimes you need a sign to point you in the right direction. The same is true for closets. Maybe it’s the not-so-subtle hints your wife/girlfriend/BFF/mom/sister has been dropping for years about wanting to redo her closet. Or maybe it’s your own internal voice… that gnawing feeling you get every time you go into your closet and immediately want to run out because it is too cluttered, cramped, or [fill-in-the-blank]. The fact that you even stumbled upon this article today, at this precise moment, might be a sign from the closet gods that you need to BUY HER (or yourself) A CLOSET.

Here are 11 ideas for your closet that won’t break the bank but will make you want to dance around in your underwears.

P.S. I have a master’s degree and know that “underwear” is not spelled with an “s.” But it totally should be.

1. Paint

Nothing screams new like a fresh coat of paint. Think about the feeling you get when you’re spring cleaning. That unbelievably amazing smell that comes when you open your windows for the first time all season. The feeling of electricity and new beginnings in the air. Paint triggers the same emotions with the added benefit of a color you find absolutely delightful. Before you paint, though, make sure it IS a color you find delightful. You don’t want to get halfway through and realize your robin’s egg blue looks more like mint green. And always opt for low or no-VOC paint. For an extra special touch, paint the ceiling a different color from the walls.

2. Chandeliers & Mood lighting

If your closet has florescent lights, a fishbowl fixture from 1983, or (God forbid) that lone light bulb with the pull-string, you are never going to feel like dancing in your closet. Especially in your underwears. It’s too harsh, and it casts shadows in all the wrong places. Invest in a chandelier or some beautiful pendant lights. It’s a small price to pay and will completely transform the space. Consider having electrical outlets installed near shelves and built-ins to add small lamps for a visually stunning outcome. Let me repeat that. STUN-ning.

3. Carpet

Closets are all about texture. Feeling the texture of a rug or carpet under your feet everyday as you dress may seem like a little thing, but it’s a simple pleasure to look forward to. And, because it’s such a small space, you can go a little crazy with carpet/rugs here. This is the place to express yourself. You wouldn’t dream of doing a lime green zebra print throughout the house (or maybe you would), but it might be freaking adorable in the closet. And now, every time you have a dinner party, you have to invite everyone back to your closet for a viewing. Carpet stores and warehouses often have carpet remnants at extremely discounted prices. But I highly recommend having a professional installer install your lime green zebra print. Have you seen how carpet is installed? It involves knee pads and a giant crowbar. No thanks.

4. Now Keep Everything Off the Floor

The good news is, if you’ve installed new carpet or a fabulous rug, you had to pick everything up on the floor. Good. Keep it that way. A professional organizer by the name of Geralin Thomas once told me to “get everything off the floor” on a garage project. I thought to myself, “Ok, but does it really make that much difference?” I know… who questions Geralin Thomas, right? What can I say? I was a new organizer. I have to say… It was almost unbelievable what a difference it made to get absolutely everything off the floor. Nothing makes you feel like you have more space and square footage than a clear floor. It’s like the endless hallway scene in Poltergeist. Except without the terrifying end or troublesome dead people.

5. Hangers

There are as many different kinds of hangers as there are clothes to hang. If your goal is to save precious space, you’ll want to go with the ultra thin no-slip velvet hangers. For an especially glamorous look, may I recommend hot pink or black? Very chic. If you want to keep those pesky Chanel-eating moths away, you probably want to go with cedar hangers. If you share your closet with a man (hubba hubba), you might want the more masculine look a wooden hanger has to offer.

And if you want to save money while still streamlining, you can go with the beautiful assortment of colors in molded plastic that most closet stores offer. Just make sure all your hangers match or I’ll judge you. Not really, I won’t judge you. Ok, if you use wire hangers, I might judge you. No. Wire. Hangers!!! Said Joan Crawford and Elizabeth Jones. Take those suckers back to your dry cleaner and he/she and I will both love you.

6. Know Your Long Hanging vs. Short Hanging Needs

One closet does not fit all. Know what you need. Whether you’re designing your closet with the help of a professional organizer or installing one yourself, the (closet) world revolves around you. If 75% of your clothes are long-hanging – that is, if you are a maxi dress-jumpsuit-long sweater kind of girl, don’t opt for a closet system that has a lot of double rods (i.e. a rod on top for dress shirts and a rod on bottom for folded-over pants). Measure each foot of long hanging clothes, short hanging clothes, folded clothes, as well as your shoes, purses, etc., before ordering any closet system so you don’t have to squeeze your duds into an ill-designed space.

And remember… your closet should never be more than 75% to capacity. With an inch of space between each hanger. (What was that sound? Did some of you just fall over?)

7. Color Coding

Clothing designers say that color coordinating is the key to transforming any closet into a visually stunning space. It also makes getting dressed in the morning more exciting and efficient and enables you to take inventory of what you need more or less of in your wardrobe. Here is her suggested color order: white, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, brown, grey, then black.

8. Shoes

When it comes to shoes, think outside the box (pun completely intended). Here are some of my favorite ways to organize shoes:

The shoe storage ottoman. Can I get an amen? This fills my Stuart Weitzman heart with absolute glee. Complete with individual pockets, it’s perfect for the minimalist who prefers their shoes tucked away. A quick Google search will turn up a wide variety of stores that sell them. Or you can make your own by coiling a partitioned canvas shoe system into your favorite ottoman.
shoe storage ottomanShoes on a stick. For the woman who equates shoes with installation art, customize and mount crown molding for a visually stunning shoe display.

And boot hangers. They keep your boots supple and protected from cracks and creasing.

P.S. That was the first time I’ve ever used the word “supple” in a sentence. It really wasn’t as great as I thought it’d be.

9. Scarves

I’m not a fan of folding scarves and putting them in baskets or drawers. Every time you pull one scarf out, several more come with it. The whole integrity of your scarf drawer is compromised, people! Complete and utter chaos is sure to ensue. And traditional scarf hangers (where you “stuff” your scarves through a hole) make them all wrinkled. Here are my three favorite alternatives to total bedlam:

The Elfa Double Rail System

This system (shown here for organizing magazines) is ideal for organizing and showcasing the scarves you love. And it keeps them wrinkle-free. It comes in platinum and white and can be customized to fit any space.closet organization

The Closet Works Inc.

The Closet Works pullout dowel drawer is a dream solution if you have the space for it. It’s for hardcore fashionistas with a preference for minimalist design.
closet organization
And option #3 If you have unused space where regular clothes don’t fit (above built-in drawers, for example) Consider folding your scarves into squares and using pants hangers to hang from a rod in color order. Adorable… trust me.

10. Purses

Ladies… the two things that cost more than anything else in your closet are shoes and handbags. Don’t let your handbags die a senseless death by stuffing them into a giant plastic bin or leaving them like roadkill at the bottom of your closet. Purses gotta stand upright. (Said like “Brothers gotta hug!” in Tommy Boy.) Spend the next few months (as you are out and about shopping) looking for bookends that fill your heart with glee and use them in the most non-traditional way… as “purse ends” for your beloved collection. And use smaller clutches, purses, and wallets to stuff (but not over-stuff) larger bags and prevent cracking and creasing. I know, right? Almost every closet company offers a divided handbag storage option.

Here’s one of my favorites through Elfa at The Container Store:
closet organization

11. Flip & Fold

Favorite. Tool. Ever. Watch Alejandra Costello’s video because she says it best.

For more information on milkshakes visit Steak ‘n Shake.

And for more information on closet organization systems:

About today’s guest blogger:

Learn more about Elizabeth Jones here.

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