Getting your house organized: The hall closet

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Problem: The hall or coat closet is a public storage spot shared by the entire family. It often bulges with not only jackets, trench coats and umbrellas, but also vacuum cleaners, boots and tote bags. Because it isn't coat season right now, it's a good time to reassess what really belongs in there. That list of essentials would be different for apartments or condos without benefit of other storage. The challenge is how to make the most of this compact space and keep it uncluttered.

Expert: Washington's Alison Lukes Teer is a professional closet organizer and wardrobe stylist. Lukes, whose business is Alison Lukes et Cie, once worked for fashion designer Michael Kors. Every consulting job, she says, begins with a closet clean-out.

The fix: The hall closet, Teer said, is the junk drawer of closets. "Because your hall closet is used every day and because it is a multi-person closet, it tends to gather a lot of random junk," she said. We're talking about golf clubs, jogging strollers, balls, cleaning supplies and ski boots.

But this is valuable real estate in your home. It should contain only things you are using right now. Edit with this in mind: Mittens and scarves should be moved into a storage box and stashed elsewhere for the summer, the same for sunhats and beach bags for the winter. Raincoats and vests are year-round essentials; they stay all year.

Now on to the hanging of coats. Teer begins by weeding out what is dated, worn or outgrown. "Really make sure what's in there is actually something you use," she said. Hang each family members' coats grouped together, "so people can keep ownership of their own area of the closet." She organizes coats by person: husband, son, and then hers. "I hang them long to short with my husband's first, then my son's and then mine, short to long." The longer coats end up on either side of the closet, freeing room in the center to store items.

If you have no other space in your home to store brooms or vacuums, hang them on the closet back wall on a sturdy rack. Neatness matters here more than in any other closet in the house. "The coat closet should always be organized so that a stranger coming in to hang a coat would not be appalled when the door is opened," Teer says.


1 Accessorize with products to increase storage. A hanging pocket organizer for the door is a place to stash dog leashes, sunscreen, gloves or diapers. Hooks affixed at your preschooler's level on the back of the door can give him a place to hang up his own jackets.

2 Go for a hanger upgrade and invest in a set of matching wooden hangers for everything. (Ikea has eight-packs for $4.49.) Keep two or three empty hangers for visitors' coats. Invest in a collapsible rolling clothes rack for holidays and parties when you have more guests.

3 Make a note on your calendar to empty and sort through coat closets twice a year. In March or April, clear out winter accessories such as hats and boots. In September, put away stray flip-flops and visors, and restock cold weather gear.

Read on for more organizing tips: Family photographs, Kids & paper, Junk drawer.

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