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Organizing Chaotic Closets

Too many mornings, we open up the closet and say, "There's nothing to wear!"

Well, maybe it's not that you don't have it, it's just that you — can't find it!

The Early Show's resident design expert, Colin Cowie, offered closet organization advice Wednesday.

He insists creating the "perfect closet" is easier than you might think.

To watch the segment, click here.


"Edit" your clothes:

The first thing you must do to create the ideal closet is force yourself to ruthlessly edit your clothes. Start off with the easy edit, by going through everything and taking out whatever you haven't worn in the past two years. If you haven't worn something in that time, you're probably not going to wear it again. I know people don't like to part with clothes, and it's difficult to get rid of things so cavalierly, but this is a must, if you want a fabulous closet.

Part Two is the ruthless edit. This edit consist of anything you haven't worn in a year. This is where it gets difficult, because you may see a few things that you'd forgotten about, and that you may feel you could wear again, but for the most part, the same rule applies as before: If you haven't worn it in a year, you probably won't wear it again.

Once you've done this and gotten your closet to where you want it, you have to prevent it from getting out of shape by putting things back the way they were. If it gets messy, every three months you have to give yourself a wardrobe edit and "spring" cleaning. If you have help at home and want to ensure your closet stays in great shape, take pictures so your housekeeper or maid knows exactly where items go.

At this point, you should also look at the things you're keeping to figure out where you need some more space. If you're a woman who has 25 handbags, you should try to make room for a few more, so you really need space for 30 handbags. If you're a man with 20 pair of shoes, you should make room for 25 pair.

Assess the space:

Next, you want to make the closet as appealing as you possibly can, and the way to do that is to merchandise it so it looks like a store display. We are drawn to clean and orderly shelves, and that's what you want to have at home. It also helps you see what you have, so you don't have to worry about not being able to find your favorite items. Go to any trusted closet manufacturer -- we went to California Closets for our closet. The company can help you determine your specific needs, according to what you own. You'll want to measure how many feet you have for shirts, trousers, shoes, etc. Be sure you're specific: You want separate sections for short-hanging (blouses, shirts and skirts) and long-hanging (long pants, dresses and coats) items.

We also want to be able to have room for everything, so drawer dividers are a necessity. Use them for your jewelry, watches and sunglasses, and others for your underwear and bras.

You also want to have a locked drawer or a safe in your closet, for your getaway money, a passport, and your heirloom jewels.

Placement of clothes:

You want to color-code and fold them properly, to organize them. All the hanging, from left to right, should be white to black. When folding T-shirts, use a clipboard as a template so that when you lay them on a shelf, they're all the same size and height. It makes your closet look great.

Keep your sweaters together and color-coded. Keep your T-shirts together and color-coded, so all your white T-shirts are together.

On the top shelf on your closet, you can store linen storage boxes filled with out-of-season items, such as bathing suits. You should store your cashmere sweaters in bags with some cedar balls, so the moths don't have them for dinner.

Shoes should be kept out and dusted regularly. A closet is like every room in the house: It needs constant maintenance. You should be in there at least twice a month to make sure dust doesn't pile up. Only seasonal shoes should be kept in boxes.

Clothing care tips:
  • NO WIRE HANGERS!: Just like "Mommy Dearest," these hangers aren't good for clothing, because things lose their form. But don't throw these away. Take them back to the dry cleaners or recycle them. Be good to the environment.
  • Invest in cedar or wood hangers, or even plastic hangers, but make sure they're all matching. This will "give good closet." You may not realize what the impact is of having all of your clothes on matching hangers.
  • Belts should be hung
  • Ties can be rolled or hung
  • Pants should be hung, but can be either hung full-length or folded
  • Keep the following items in your closet so you're never caught off-guard: shoe inserts, shoe kit (for a quick shine), shoe horn, lint brush, clothes roller, sewing kit, and travel steamer.

    Additional ideas:

  • It's very helpful to have concealed laundry baskets in your closet: one for darks and one for lights.
  • It's also great to have an area of the closet where you can put things that aren't dirty, but that have to be pressed before you can wear them again.
  • I love having the pull-out bar, which enables you to put outfits together, or even to start packing for a trip in advance.
  • We want to be inspired in our closet, so try to find an area where you can place a tray and a fresh flower or fragrance sticks, and a picture frame. Stick in your iPod, so you're listening to the radio or music while you get dressed. Create a shrine to your fabulousness!
  • If you have the space, a low ottoman with extra storage space is great to have. You can place your overnight bag and dopp kit in the ottoman, as well as having a place to sit down and fasten those thigh-high boots.
  • Lighting in a closet is very important: You have to be able to see what you have and be able to tell the difference between the steel gray pinstripe suit and the blue pinstripe suit.

    It may sound as if the things we're doing are expensive or unaffordable, but remember that anyone can do any of this at whatever budget they have. Go to Ikea or Wal-Mart for inexpensive things, such as storage containers and hangers. And if you think you don't have the space for everything together, store your winter clothes under the bed, or in another closet in another room. If you have to use multiple closets, the rule of thumb is that all your current and seasonal items should be in the closet closest to you. Your off-season and formal wear should be in the closet in the spare bedroom.

    Visit these Web sites for additional tips:

    California Closets

    The Container Store

    West Elm




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