Closet Organization

Use these tips to whip even the most unruly of closets into shape.
Robert Martin

No matter the season, it's almost always a good time to whip a closet into shape. The following tips will show you how to get the most out of your storage space.

Worthy of Good Storage
Clothes and all of the accessories that accompany them--belts, shoes, ties, scarves, and so forth--tend to be some of the most expensive purchases we make (despite the occasional sale). Here's some advice to help you get maximum wear and little tear out of your garments.

  • Store your wardrobe in cool, dry places that receive ample fresh air. While attics and basements may seem worthy, often they are not. Factors such as heat and dampness can discolor and deteriorate fabrics. These areas often promote musty or stale odors that can permeate garments as well.
  • Clean out your closets on a regular basis. When changing out seasonal clothes, give shelf and storage spaces a good dusting. Also, use this time to purge those items that you never wear. Doing this will give you more breathing room; likewise, you'll be performing a good deed by donating your unneeded articles to local charity organizations.
  • Wash or dry-clean out-of-season clothes and linens before you put them in storage. Any dirt that remains on stored garments can attract insects and promote odors. Washed items should be completely dry before you pack them away, because even the smallest amount of dampness can lead to mildew.
  • When bringing garments or linens home from the cleaners, promptly remove them from the plastic bags. Although these are meant to protect fabrics, they can also trap moisture inside, along with dry-cleaning fluids and fumes, which can cause damage.

Closets 101
The following chart explains the recommended dimensions needed for hanging, displaying, and storing clothes.

  • Basic closet width 24 inches (minimum clearance) 30 inches (recommended)
  • Hanging space 4 linear feet minimum per person
  • Storage shelf space 8 square feet minimum per person
  • Minimum distance from top of rod to floor*
  • Dresses.... 63 inches
  • Skirts.... 45 inches
  • Evening gowns.... 72 inches
  • Coats.... 63 inches
  • Trousers.... 45 inches
  • Shirts and blouses.... 30-45 inches
  • Jackets.... 45 inches
  • Suits.... 45 inches

*Dimensions taken from Timesaver Standards for Housing and Residential Development, by De Chiara, Panero, and Zelnik (McGraw-Hill, Inc., second edition, 1995)

Design Tips
  • When installing two rods in the same space, place the top one about 80 inches above the floor and the lower one at 40 inches.
  • To take maximum advantage of storage space, run shelving units from floor to ceiling. Keep seldom-used items on the top shelves.
  • For adequately sized closets, position rods 12 to 14 inches from the wall, and refer to the chart above for appropriate heights.
  • Where closet space is at a premium, items such as over-the-door shoe organizers or expandable shoe racks are helpful.