I’ve got TWO for you today, because I was on a roll….and because I didn’t think either of these seemed that impressive on its own, so I figured I’d pump up the closet cleaning excitement by doing BOTH today, here at the end of the year. It’s basically the opposite of what I did last week, but I’m high on a deadline. Yeah, that’s right–I’m a rock-n-roll rebel. You heard me.
Step 1: Evaluate and assess
Both of these closets suffered from the same issue: they had become dumping grounds for things that didn’t belong there. In our boy’s closet, we were storing bits and pieces of puzzles and toys along with leftover supplies from painting his room and renovating the bathroom (old door handle, anyone?). In the girls’ shared closet, our 6-year-old squirrel had filled empty boxes with bits and pieces of….good heavens, EVERYTHING from around the house. In both cases, no major renovations were needed, just come emptying and organizing.
For the girls, the biggest issues were the floor (covered on the right here with edge-to-edge cardboard boxes stuffed with random junk) and the top shelf, which was literally overflowing with clothing–some of it outgrown, some of it not yet grown-into, and some of it “heirloom,” but not stored. And I had no idea what was what. I used to have a system where things were stored by size to hand down, so that each clear plastic bin had two sizes in it, and I could always find just what I needed when one of the children was ready to go “shopping” for the next round of clothes. After the move, when things had been packed away with an eye toward efficiency rather than organization, that whole system broke down, and it turned into a shelf of piles.
For the boy, it’s those darn puzzles, mostly, but also the fact that he loooooooves to shove things into the corners of his closet (he’s a shover, too!), usually dirty clothes, random toys he’s trying to prevent his sisters from playing with, and assorted boxes and books. Generally, if you’re looking for anything–his winter coat, his other shoe, his pajamas from last night–the best place to look is on the floor under the pile in the corner of his closet. Because we also stored buckets of blocks and some of his train set on the floor, too, on either side of the toy box, it was hard to convince him that we didn’t want to keep things on the floor as a permanent storage solution.
Step 2: Purge and empty
Purging was the fun part. In our boy’s room, it only took about 45 minutes to take things off the shelf, sort through them somewhat vaguely to determine where they actually belonged–the playroom or the garage or the trash–and then start all over. He doesn’t have a ton of hanging garments, so this was a pretty quick clean-out. We did generate a full garbage bag of donation items AND a full garbage bag of trash from just his closet, though, so looks can be deceiving.
In the girls’ closet, purging was mostly about sorting through outgrown clothing. We still have a very few things from my oldest that were worth saving for our 6-year-old to grow into, and of course we have plenty of things from the 6-year-old to pass along to the 2.5-year-old. Plus, there were things here that weren’t worth keeping or had become redundant as they were passed down, and others that I thought were too precious to donate, but when faced with a task like this in a short timeframe and working slightly hungry and fending off the children with one foot while on a stool, you have far less pity and sentimentality. Which helped me pack up TWO full garbage bags of donation items from this closet.
The biggest purging task in this closet was the floor, with its wall-to-wall boxes of junk. Most of the things in these boxes are the missing pieces from toys that are stored in other parts of the house. Things we’ve been hunting for. Toys we’ve tossed out because we didn’t have that one essential piece which we now have, because it was squirreled away in the closet. Most of these things got moved–boxes and all–to the playroom, where they’ll be a whole other task of sorting and organizing and donating. The boxes I’m planning to cover with fabric and use to organize the toys that survive that purge; I thought I’d need them in this closet, but as it turns out, I had plenty of storage solutions!
Along the way, I purged items from the kids’ existing wardrobes, both their hanging things and the drawers in their dressers. Note if you’re considering your own closet cleaning-a-thon: it spreads, the cleaning does. Now I’ve added not just their dressers but the playroom to the list. Stop me before I organize the Tupperware.
Anyway, the littlest one especially had a ton of things that she had outgrown, and since she’s Number Last of our children, those all went to Goodwill. All the kids had things in their dressers that they no longer wore or fit or needed, though, so we had another bag of things from there. If you’re counting, that’s FOUR donated bags just from the three younger children:
Step 3: Re-design
I would lovelovelove to paint the interiors of these closets, like NOBODY’S business. They’re still the original builder’s-crappy-not-quite-white-icky-browny-yellowy color they must have been for the past 50 years, and it makes me cringe. But I’m making choices here, people, and I knew that if I committed to painting these closets AND clearing them out, that there was no way on Earth it was getting done this week. So let’s just diagnose that they NEED to be painted (and that the bar arrangement in the girls’ closet is ridiculous, I swear I think whoever designed these closets was a novice), and we’ll have to add that to the To Do list. I made no other changes to the overall closet than purging and replacing. I re-used baskets and storage containers from other places in the house to contain the kids’ things, and that was that.
Step 4: Organize and store
So, this is the fun part. The boy’s closet, after clearing and re-organizing:
New rule: NOTHING GOES ON THE FLOOR. It was the old old rule, from before we had four kids and it was easier to enforce, and now it’s the NEW old rule, because nothing makes a closet feel roomier and cleaner than having nothing on the floor to clutter it up. So the bucket of blocks that used to be to the left of his toy box is now on the shelf above. All the puzzles have moved out to the playroom. The Barbie car is actually his sister’s, but it makes frequent appearances in Thomas the Train epics in this room, so it’s on the closet shelf, too, along with some small nylon baskets we picked up at Ikea for smaller toys.
His clothes have been purged and arranged, with short sleeve shirts together, long sleeve shirts together, jackets on the end where he can get to them and put them away on his own. You’ll notice there’s nothing on the floor! I also kept the spare hangers to an absolute minimum–we have a lifetime’s supply of extra hangers in another room, and most of those will be donated, as well. No one needs 6000+ hangers, and since we now have a fraction of the clothing, we sure as heck don’t want to keep them.
Because he has the fewest things in his closet and doesn’t share it with anyone, he gets to store the “heirloom” things that have been handed down by my mother-in-law, like the sweater from my husband’s kindergarten or the children’s Christening gown. He’ll get over it.
In the girls’ closet, there’s a similar subtle-but-exciting effect–if you’re a raging dork like me and spend your New Year’s Eve getting excited about organizing your kids’ closets:
The giant pile of clothing from the shelf is gone, and has been replaced by the OLD system, which is back, baby! One bin for each girl, labeled with her initial and the sizes in the bin–sizes 4-6 for the little one, and sizes 8-10 for the elder. Bonus! I had been lamenting that the littlest didn’t have ANY winter pants, and score! I found FIVE pair for her in the pile while I was sorting clothing out. So not only did I clean off the shelf, I saved myself some money AND time by not needing to get her new things. Woot! A double-double-whammy, y’all.
On the other shelf, which I realize is totally jacked up because it’s balanced on top of this one, and one of the brackets has come a little loose and you can see the original un-primed wallboard beneath it, we’ve stored the puppets and the puppet theatre. The kids play with it on a semi-regular basis, especially when they’re all home from school for vacation, but that means a lot of the puppets get mixed in with the other stuffed animals and we have trouble finding them when they want to put on a show. Now they’re all back in the basket that was purchased for that purpose, and up on the shelf where we can keep track of them. Above that are some of my vintage (as in, from when I was a kid) toys that are a bit too fragile to be played with, but that make nice eye candy.
I’m delighted to have found so many clothes for the girls to grow into. And like the other closets, this one was a nice lesson in knowing what you have so you don’t duplicate it. I can look at a glance now and tell where the gaps are in their wardrobes, what things get worn to shreds and what gets neglected, and how to better arrange their things to rotate through the stuff they like best. It’s pretty clear they both love dresses and skirts, and that I prefer them in pants–I guess we’ll all work that out later in therapy.
And look! Nothing on the floor!! All the boxes are gone, off to the playroom to wait being recovered in fabric and filled with toys that have all their pieces. It’s like closet heaven.
Step 5: Maintain
This will be tough, since they’re KIDS. I think we’re going to have some kind of training seminar about where toys go to help them out. On the bright side, my 6-year-old is actually a little anal about things like that, so she’ll be a big help. And the two littler ones don’t mind doing anything so long as they’re not the only ones doing it. Once again I am reminded that the children are always watching, and that our biggest challenge as parents is to MODEL behavior for them. Because they’re going to do just what we do, whether it’s what we say we want them to do or not–like at the end of Lord of the Flies, where the kid says, “What went wrong? We just did what the grown-ups would have done. What went wrong?” Sigh.
Happy New Year, y’all! I don’t think I’ll meet my goal of getting the coat closet done before tonight, like I’d planned, but I’ll carry through and finish it on New Year’s Day, just so I can have this whole task accomplished. It feels GOOD, I can tell you that. Has anyone else tackled cleaning out part of the house here at the turn of the year? I’d love to hear about it! And if you see places where I could make improvements, seriously, I’m not sensitive–fire away, I’ll take all the help I can get!