January 5, 2010

i say organized, you say obsessed (maybe)

My somewhat-obsessively-organized self is totally enjoying all of the blog posts that are focused on cleaning and organizing for the new year.  (Here’s Franki’s take, for one.)  It’s basically the Japanese custom of oosouji – a thorough cleaning designed to “purify” the house for the new year.  You know I’m all about driving out clutter and dirt … and there’s something especially satisfying about getting a proverbial fresh start in your house when you have a fresh start to the year.  Fortunately, although I have areas in which I am not very organized (hello, paperwork – I’m talking to you!), most areas in my home are put in pretty strict order.  Let’s describe it this way – I’ve been in a long-term relationship with my label maker.  I have the older version of this one.  But I am particularly pleased with my organized closet, and I thought I would share my two-step secret.  It’s nothing special, really, which makes it easy to replicate.  So here it is:  I have eighty custom shirt hangers.

I can practically hear you wondering – what on earth?!?!?!   Let me explain.  First, you need matching hangers … that aren’t wire.  Run, don’t walk, to the trash can if you have those horrible wire hangers the dry cleaner sends home.  Better yet, ask your dry cleaner if they recycle hangers.  Many do, and it’s better than keeping them in your closet or sending them to a landfill.  Wire hangers are terrible for your clothes, and no matter how much you spend on clothing, you don’t want it to go to waste.  Just having matching hangers will make your closet look a million times better.

When you buy matching hangers, think about how you use hangers and what kind you need.  I use four types – (1) the custom shirt hangers (made of wood, used for hanging blouses, shirts, dresses, jackets and coats, ordered from Henry Hanger); (2) skirt/pants hangers (made of wood, used for skirts and dress pants, purchased at Target); (3) heavy-duty white “tube” hangers (made of plastic, used for hanging jeans, purchased at Target); and (4) clear department store-style hangers (made of plastic with notches for straps, used for hanging tanks and camisoles, purchased at Target).  I have seen very inexpensive wood hangers everywhere from IKEA to Target to Bed, Bath and Beyond, so I know that they can be purchased on a budget.  Space at a premium?  You might want to consider the Huggable Hangers that are all the rage.

Second, purchase a fixed number of hangers and never buy more.  Yes, you read that right.  Pick a number that is reasonable for your life and your closet.  Never buy more hangers.  That’s part of the reason it works so well that I use custom shirt hangers; I can’t just pick up more the next time I’m in Target.  I don’t know how many skirt/pants hangers or plastic hangers that I have – but I know that I have eighty custom shirt hangers.  If I run out of hangers, I need to give something away.  I cannot possibly need more than eighty blouses, shirts, dresses, jackets or coats.  It’s not likely that I have eighty blouses, shirts, dresses, jackets and coats that I love and look fabulous on me.  So something has to go.

That’s it.  That’s all I do.  Restricting myself to eighty shirt hangers imposes all of the discipline that I need.  Of course, I suppose you and I could go to town on clothing that gets folded (sweaters and workout clothes) or requires a different type of hanger (jeans, perhaps).  But once you get in the habit of weeding through your clothes like that, I can’t imagine that you would want to.  I know I don’t.

I designed the closet when my husband and I built our home.  We didn’t put rods in a number of the upstairs closets, so the builder said he would put in any wood shelving that we wanted for no extra charge.  Maybe one day, I’ll be able to get drawers built in.  For now, I use baskets to keep sweaters, workout clothes, swimsuits, and everything else.  Everything I wear is in this closet, except winter coats.  Nothing is stored in a dresser or other closets.

Before I conclude this post, I want to elaborate on two things.  I bought custom hangers because I am petite (read – short).  My shoulders are narrower than the off-the-rack hangers, which means I get puckers in the sleeves of my tailored pieces where the edge of the off-the-rack hanger pokes out.  Eventually, that poking ruins the line of your clothing.  I love clothes, and purchasing custom hangers was a thoughtful investment to maintain my clothes.  Also, do you think 80 hangers is a lot?  Sometimes I do, but most of the times I don’t.  That covers every blouse, shirt, dress (casual to formal), jacket or coat that I own – for all seasons.  I also have 5-10 that aren’t used at any given time.  Having “room to grow” is easier than needing to get rid of something every time I make a purchase.  So eighty hangers gives me some leeway and isn’t so few that I feel deprived.  (Ha!  It’s like a diet!)   So think about those things when you “choose your number.”

Thoughts?  I love to organize, and I always make a priority of including appropriate storage in my designs … so I welcome your questions.

Living simply really does change homes and lives!


  • Nicole
    Jan. 06, 2010
    I think you need to put a few more photos up- what about shoes?!! Even when I can be reasonable about everything else, I have a hard time getting rid of shoes. I am also in the middle of a New Year Cleaning spree (although mine is more focused on toys, at the present time) so this is a very encouraging post. I suppose additional pics of well-organized closet will give me that boost that I need to keep at it. Sorting legos, Polly Pockets, and Barbie clothes for hours on end is enough to do-in even the most dedicated organizer...
  • Shannon
    Jan. 06, 2010
    WOW! That's impressive!!! I seriously need to organize my closet!!! I am over all a neat freak as well...but my closet is an EXCEPTION to the rule (I think because I can SHUT the door) LOL! It really looks pathetic!!! WELL, not anymore...I'm going to take these tips and have myself a neat walk in as well!!! Thanks for the picture!
  • Traci Zeller
    Jan. 08, 2010
    Hi, Nicole. I so hear you - it IS tough to get rid of shoes. You actually can see the shoes in my closet picture. I keep them all in boxes (easier to stack), so all of my winter shoes (except 3 pairs of boots, which are stacked on the floor in a different part of the closet) are shown in the picture - mostly the purple boxes (I have a Stuart Weitzman obsession), but also the green/black box. If you check out the very top shelf in the right corner, you can see three pairs of shoes that I'm "saving for later" - duplicates of certain favorites that I wear all the time. My summer shoes are stacked on the very top shelf opposite of the one you see in the photo. Hope that makes sense! Basically, I'm not interested in having much if I'm not wearing it. I tend to follow the general rule with shoes that if I don't wear them for a year, they are OUT! Oh, and I did a big weedout after my 3.5 year old twin boys were born because I thought that my feet had grown ... and then they ended up "shrinking" back down months later. SIGH! I would have kept a few of those pair ... and not invested so much in the half-size larger! I also really understand your toy sorting issues - with my boys, I swear the toys multiple on their own. I'm going to do a playroom organization post later this month ... it's a challenge, for sure! Thanks for your comment. Let me know if you have other questions! Traci

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