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March 23, 2012

Clean closet

The downsizers’ guide to closet organization

Pepper Rodriguez

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The closet of the home is a hot spot for organization, especially for the downsizer who now has to fit a lifetime of stuff into a much more limited space. The skeletons in your closet notwithstanding, the real challenge is sorting what you need with what you love and what you have space for.

There are a ton of simple, storage solutions to help you break free from clutter, and there are professionals you can hire as well who can give you a set of fresh — and more importantly — critical eyes to give a more objective and less emotional assessment of what you should and shouldn’t keep in your closet.

According to Georgina Forrest of Smartworks! she simplifies her choices on what to keep by sorting them in two categories: love it or use it.

“Things you use are those that we need for daily life, while those you love are things that have a special meaning for you and deserve a place of honour to be displayed in the home, that absolutely need a space in the home,” Forrest says. She should know as this 12-year professional organizer she is going through the process herself. 

“It is difficult parting with things that have meaning in your life, but they are after all just material things. You can choose to give them away to charity or give the ones that have special meaning to friends and loved ones that would be a good home to them,” she adds. 

Wendy McAllister of Simple Spaces agrees. “Downsizing is a good opportunity to simplify your life,” she says. 

McAllister’s company is a leading manufacturer and installer of closets, garage storage, and shower doors in Calgary, and demand from downsizers is keeping them busy.

For the master bedroom closet, McAllister says it’s all about using the space you have to the best advantage.

“You’ve spent years cultivating your personal style; shouldn’t your closet be as fashionable — and functional — as your wardrobe? Our custom closet solutions are built with your space and unique storage needs in mind. We make organizing your life simple,” she says.

“We have everything from the most elegant wood shelving to the functional wire closet shelving that can be custom-fit to your space,” McAllister adds.

Closet organization 
Start by adding a closet organizer kit to make the most of available storage space. Closet kits are easy to install and generally include handing rods, shelving and necessary hardware for installation. Most closet systems offer expandable rods and shelves to fit different closet widths. Shelves are often times adjustable in height to accommodate storage totes, baskets, cubby systems and shoe racks.

The Home Depot has the Rubbermaid Custom Closet Kit, touted to be the world’s first custom closet in a box. There is no cutting required because the shelving, hang rails and hang rods expand to the width of your closet. There is no pre-planning or pre-measuring required, making this kit easy to install. 

This upscale satin nickel finish kit is fully expandable to fit any closet between the width of four feet and eight feet, and contains all pieces needed for installation, as well as up to 12 feet of hang space and 14 feet of shelf space. Compatible with other add-on Rubbermaid accessories. It retails for $209.99.

They also have the John Louis Home Premier Shelving System in 12-inch and 16-inch depths. They’re designed to fin in large reach-in and walk-in closets and gives them that elegant, executive look.

These deluxe closet organizer fits closets up to 10 feet in length and provides all of the elements you need in one box. Enough to provide up to 22 feet of shelf space and up to 16 feet of hanging space, shelf adjustability, accessory add-ons and multiple configuration options. This is available only online at, and starting at $699.

Vertical max
If you can’t see it, you won’t be wearing it, overcrowding is the constant danger in closets. One way to solve this (along with buying less clothes) is to maximize your vertical space. You can have hanging rods set in three different heights. One can be installed at standard height for dresses and long coats, while the other two can be situated one above the other. By installing one rod toward the top and the other in the middle of the closet, you will effectively double the hanging space for shorter garments. Add a tie and belt rack to organize smaller wardrobe essentials that would otherwise be in a tangled mess. There are both fixed and sliding tie and belt racks available.

Wood and other solid shelves provide sturdy, flat surfaces that are ideal for storing small or oddly shaped items. Ventilated wire shelves allow air to pass through so clothes and linens can breathe. Shelves are also handy for keeping storage containers at an ideal height and off the floor. “A definite no-no is piling things, piles tend to fall, keep your things off the floor, a proper home for everything,” Forrest says.

Totes and baskets
Forrest says her favourite is using multipurpose storage totes and baskets, which are portable and come in different sizes. They are often stackable and can add texture or a punch of colour to open shelving. “Just be sure to line them, especially if you’re storing fabrics like sweaters in it, a simple linen or paper lining will keep the materials from snagging.”

Both Forrest and McAllister agree that the best approach is to hire a professional to help you with your downsizing needs. Forrest says professional organizaers usually charges per hour — anything from $55 to $80 an hour — but in the end it is still a worthwhile investment that will allow you to put order not only in your closet but in your lives.

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