Organize, Style

Susan’s Closet Reorganization

Last weekend, my mom and I went to Seattle to visit my sister, Susan, and her family. My brother-in-law was out of town at a conference, and my sister wanted some help with my precious niece and nephew, ages 2.8 and 6 months, respectively. And since Friday was my sister’s birthday, we got to celebrate with her in person!

My mom’s present to my sister was lunch and shopping at Nordstrom WITHOUT the kids! I’m not sure what Susan was more excited about: shopping for new clothes or spending 5 uninterrupted hours sans children! Before we went to Nordy’s, Mom and I helped Susan go through her closet and decide what she should get rid of – most of her clothes are in good shape, so we focused on eliminating clothing that was either outdated or something she had worn a lot and didn’t love anymore. I made a list of what I thought she needed so we could look for specific items and avoid wandering around aimlessly.

At Nordy’s, we got some basics – several different pairs of jeans, some tops, and some cardigans, and some shoes she desperately needed. (We made her throw away her tried-and-true ballet flats, promising she could replace them with new shoes from Nordy’s. Honestly, who wouldn’t jump at that deal???) After the shopping trip (and a take-out Chinese dinner and birthday cake – lovingly made by Mom, my niece, and me), I set out to transform her closet so that she could make the most out of her new wardrobe.

Is this not the most pitiful cake you’ve ever seen? We had fun making it, though, and it still tasted good with ice cream!

My sister and brother-in-law live in a 105-year-old Victorian-style farmhouse. It is two stories with a basement and sits on a narrow lot. The original hardwoods, solid wood doors and banister, and leaded glass windows give it all the charm and character you would expect to find in one of Seattle’s oldest neighborhoods. There are three bedrooms and one bathroom upstairs and limited closet space, typical of older homes. Susan’s closet is in her daughter’s bedroom, and, tucked under the eaves of the wall opposite my niece’s bed, it is a narrow, unusually configured space.

I wish I had taken a before picture, but suffice it to say, it looked something like this:

only half this size

I started by grouping items together – dresses, skirts, pants, tops, sweaters/jackets/coats (living in Seattle, she has a lot more of these than I do.) The trick to organizing this closet was to embrace the odd dimensions rather than fight them. I think it’s easier to describe what I did using the pictures instead of saving the big reveal for last, so, here it is:

Susan’s new and improved closet!

You can see how pitched the roof is and although there is a lot of hanging space, a third of it is hidden behind the door and isn’t easily accessible. I slid over-the-door hangers on top of the closet door on the right because there is plenty of depth for bulky items when you close the door. Susan wanted a place to hang her robes, and the nifty thing about these hangers is that you can hang clothes behind the hooks. {I would hang clothes back from the cleaner on these until I got rid of the plastic bags and put them on proper hangers. (Yes, I’m of the “no wire hangers” persuasion.)}

To increase the amount of space available and make sure delicate items don’t slide off the hangers, I used these slimline hangers from Real Simple (you can buy them at BED BATH & BEYOND.) I only used them for dresses, tops, and delicate sweaters. You can use clips to turn the hangers into skirt/pant hangers, but I don’t think they hold skirts and pants as well as these (also at BBB.) For jackets and coats, I used wide plastic hangers from the cleaner to keep the shape in the shoulders.

L-R: dresses, pants, skirts, tops with shoes behind

On the far left, I used scarf hangers to organize her scarves (must-haves in Seattle) – one for black, brown, and grey scarves and one for colorful scarves. (Yes, I’m that picky. Sue, if you’re reading this, remember to hang all the pretty colors together!) I put the bulkier scarves and gloves in a clear, plastic box and slid it under the jackets. The scarf hangers have notches on each side for belts. I’m all about visual clarity, so I organized the clothes right to left according to type from solids (black, white, then ROYGBIV) to patterns.

Close up of shoes on narrow shelves

The shelves behind the hanging rod are the most logical place for shoes, but they are completely hidden behind the clothes. I didn’t want Susan to have to fumble through the wardrobe to find the shoes she was looking for, so I hung the long items to the left and reserved the shorter items for the right so some of the shoes could peek out from the bottom.

Looking down narrow space to window

When getting dressed, I envision Susan going from left to right: select dress, pants, or skirt; select top; select sweater and/or coat, so I decided to hang all the outerwear on the rod behind the wall. Layers are essential in Seattle, so she will probably wear a cardigan, sweater, or jacket/blazer every day, sometimes adding a more substantial coat. I organized the outerwear according to what I thought she would use the most, relegating utilitarian and athletic gear to the back.

Sweaters on narrow shelf

There is an itty-bitty space for folded sweaters, so I folded them in thirds and stacked them by color. (I know, I know!)

Close up of window, handbag shelves, hat shelf

There are shelves at the end of the low rod with plenty of room for hats and handbags and other items Susan won’t use daily. I also hung extra hangers, although I notice we didn’t have any slimline hangers left. (Note to self: buy more hangers the next time I’m in Seattle.)

Ahhh! A thing of beauty!

I think this project turned out pretty well. I enjoyed doing it, and I love knowing that Susan will be able to create outfits with her new clothes and the ones she already had in her closet, giving her a whole new wardrobe.

Happy birthday, sweet sister!

The birthday girl!

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