How Reorganize to Increase Closet Space

Often, people are motivated to remodel their homes in order to gain more storage space, and one of most common storage problems is the closet. Closets are something no one ever seems to have enough of. Whether due to an expanded work wardrobe or new sports-related clothing, most of us are faced with too many clothes and too little space. And most of us don't have the alternative of the TV anchorwoman in the film "Broadcast News." She simply converted a whole bedroom into a walk through closet.

For most of us, the best alternative is to reorganize. Help is available. For do-it-yourself, there is an assortment of new closet gadgets and hardware to help organize existing closet space. For those looking for more luxurious space, there are ready-made wardrobe-closet systems that look like furniture.

But first things first. No matter how you choose to solve your closet problems, you must start by evaluating your needs. Take stock of what you are currently storing and decide whether each item is still worthy of the valuable space it occupies. If you haven't worn it for more than two years because it's out of style or doesn't fit, chances are you won't wear it again. If you can't throw things out, give them to some one you care about. Or to an agency that provides for the needy, such as the Salvation Army or Volunteers of America. You will get double pleasure - knowing someone is using the clothes and having the extra room for yourself.

After you have eliminated all unnecessary accumulated items, make a list of the number of pairs of shoes, skirts, slacks, suits, dresses, etc. Everyone has different needs and preferences when it comes to closet storage. If you have many knit garments, you may prefer to use a percentage of hanging space for shelving, since knits hold up better when folded. Double levels of hanging space are useful if you have lots of suits, jackets and slacks. Dress and skirt lengths keep changing; therefore, a single rod for these longer garments may be necessary.

After you have assembled a list of your needs, you can then decide whether you want to use a wire shelf system or conventional rods and shelving. The advantage of the wire system is flexibility. Because you can purchase the wire shelves or baskets in various sizes, you can customize your closet space to fit your specific needs and space. Some wire shelves come with wire aprons on which hangers can be suspended, eliminating the need for separate rods. The units cost from $1.99 up, and a wire system for the average closet will run about $25 to $40.

If you are planning to add a closet, remember to allow a minimum depth of 24 inches. A walkin closet should be at least six feet wide if you plan to use both sides for hanging space. If you are planning an L-shaped arrangement for the rods with storage shelves along the opposite long wall, make sure the closet is at least 5 1/2 feet wide. In either situation, a twofoot-wide aisle is considered necessary for easy access and vision.

The skilled do-it-yourselfer also can squeeze more space from the standard closet by creating modular storage units that can be stacked on top of each other. The modules, made from 3/4inch plywood, are 23 1/4 inches deep. The width and height of each module will depend on its use, whether for shelves, shirts, jackets or shoes. (Directions for modular closet organizers can be found in "Storage Around the House" by Rodale Press, $19.95.)

If you want to buy ready-made storage units, you'll find a number of Europeanstyled wardrobe systems on the market. Most of these are available in styles and finishes that coordinate with bedroom furniture.

Some wardrobe closets are integrated into bedroom wall systems. These wall units are often designed also to hold a TV set and other electronic devices, books and other paraphernalia as well as clothing. Some wardrobe units can be ordered with pull-out shelving, like the trolley cabinets in kitchens. This type of storage is particularly suitable for shoes or handbags. Other features include shoe racks, built-in hampers, sweater cubbies, telescoping tie-racks, belt racks and multi-level clothing rods.

A new type of closet system, called Passage, is a prefabricated walk-in closet. You can order the system as wide and as deep as your space permits, and you can add units as your needs develop.

The West German-made system comes in a choice of furniture-quality hardwoods, and the interior can be custom-fitted with shelves, pull-outs and rods, all available in natural ash or other woods, stained or lacquered, or with mirrored panels so that it's possible to create a mirror wall. The interior space can be laid out to accommodate a dressing table or other dressing-room accessories, as well as storage space.

Because the unit is finished like furniture on all sides, and has entrances from both sides, it can be used as a room divider between the sleeping area and bathing area as well as a standard type of walkin closet. A 10-by-6-foot closet in natural wood or mirrors will run about $8,000.

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