As featured in Huffington Post
Ah, Winter. What is not to love about this magical, snowy season? Ok, I’m obviously kidding, unless you are an avid skier or snowboarder, or you make your living plowing driveways, chances are you’re not exactly looking forward to the cold, sleet and snow. That being said my 4 year old really loves winter. She thinks that all of the sparkly snow is the most beautiful thing in the world. And I guess it is. Until you remember all the gear required to keep you warm during the season of sparkles.
The coats, snowsuits, boots and hats can be especially challenging if you have an entryway that is on the small side. I recently had a reader send in some pictures if her organizing dilemma. She has a small vestibule, the closet feels messy and disorganized and the bench she designated as a place for people to sit and put on their shoes always has stuff piled on top and below.
Unfortunately, there is not much I can do to change with the actual size of the entryway. But there are a number of organizing tricks we can implement to help maximize that space that you have to work with.
Don’t Fight Your Instincts
Try to find organizing solutions that work for you and your family. In this case the reader was frustrated that other members of the household kept using the hooks on the inside of the door. First of all, bravo to you for putting hooks there in the first place. It is an excellent use of space. If people hang coats up on the inside hooks of the door, let them. If it feels like everything ends up getting piled there then maybe you need to set some ground rules. Throw a few labels on the inside of the door and give each person ONE hook. Let them know that they only get to hang one coat or sweater there. Everything else must be go on hangers. No exceptions.
Since having hooks on the door is such a great use of space why not go for broke and install a second row of hooks at a level where the kids can hang up their own coats? Less stuff to hang in the closet and they can do it themselves. Double win!
The same principle applies to the bags and backpacks that keep getting thrown on the bench or the floor. They are being left there because there is no other place for them, or the place that you designated for them requires too much work. Try to work within people’s natural tendencies and create a ‘Drop Zone’. You can use a pretty woven basket in the front (or some type of bin, heck, even a laundry basket would work). The goal is to have one place to put all the stuff that would otherwise land on the floor.
Using the vertical space in a given room is a great way to increase your storage space. This is especially true in the entryway. Think about putting a row of well-installed hooks on the wall for all the bags and backpacks that might otherwise hit the ground. If you don’t have a lot of wall space, think about the vertical space you do have. Look at the inside walls of the front closet. You may be able to put some hooks there. Do try to install solutions near where the household member ordinarily put stuff. It will be much easier to simply tweak their routine than to completely revamp it.
Have Defined Spaces
Try to think of defined spaces for your things in the same way that directions help us to get from point A to point B. When a path is clear it is easy to follow. This can be as simple as having a mat for shoes and boots, or labeling the storage containers. It is hard to blame the members of your house for leaving stuff all over the floor when they come in if it isn’t clear where to put it.
In this case I would go one of two ways, depending on budget. You could either put a small shoe mat under the bench or get a new bench that does double duty. A space to sit on top and storage for shoes, and maybe even a bag or two on the bottom. Ikea makes a great one , alternatively you can hang onto the bench you have and put in a sleek and slim shoe cabinet. Check out this link for some options.
Invest In Good Hangers
Okay, so by invest I really mean spend $50 to $75. Not really much of an investment when you think about it to increase the space in your closet. Why buy new hangers? Why not just use the mishmash of what you have collected over the years from the dry-cleaners, the Dollar Store and your parent’s house? Because they are ugly and they take up too much space (and I said so!)
Nice slimline hangers take up way less space in your closet, which means you have more room. Plus, it looks really pretty and uniform when all of the hangers match. People are 90% more likely to maintain a space that looks nice (I may have just made that statistic up but based on my experience but it seems like a realistic estimate.)
Declutter The Space
Even if you have already gone through the coats and boots and shoes and you’re only keeping what you really need and use, chances are there is room for improvement. Most of the time when I am organizing a client’s closet the stuff on the floor and the higher shelves never gets touched and they have no idea what’s up (or down) there. So tackle those shelves and really assess if you need those items in that space. It’s likely that you can find a new home for most of it and save the front closet space for your most frequently used items.
You also want to make that shelf space do double duty, so here is a great place to stack bins for extra storage. Make sure they are clearly labelled so you don't have to pull them down every time you're looking for something.
My last suggestion if you are dealing with a smaller space is to swap out seasonal items. Try to keep only what you are currently using in the front closet and find another spot for the off-season stuff. If space is a big issue you can use vacuum bags or bins (or even vacuum bags in bins!) to store it until you are ready for the next seasonal swap!
Good Luck and Happy Organizing!