Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Closet Organizer - a Good Idea? (usually not)

A closet organizer might seem like a good idea to clean up the clutter in your closet.  But a better and cheaper idea is just to own less stuff.  Building a closet for your closet is not the answer.  Owning an appropriate amount of clothing is.

We just went to Home Depot the other day and spend nearly $400 on a closet organizer and some cabinets for our garage.  This is a staggering amount of money to spend on particleboard covered with melamine, to be quite frank.

Why did we think we needed this?  Well, we have a lot of "stuff" in our garage, and it was cluttering things up.  When we come indoors, we take off our shoes, and it seemed like a good idea to have a place to put them, as well as a bench to sit on to take them on and off.  And then there is the dog food (kept in its own organizers) and things like car keys, sunglasses, etc.

Another cabinet was set up for a pantry - to hold all the canned goods and dry goods that we buy in wholesale warehouse stores.  Ah, yes, the warehouse store.  The one where you "save money" by purchasing nutmeg, 14 pounds at a time.

And yet another cabinet was set up for cookware, as the cabinets in the kitchen are overflowing with the stuff.  You know, you need to have four frying pans, for some reason.  You can't throw than old one out, you paid "good money" for it, right?  Never mind that you haven't used it in a decade and that the teflon peeled off during the Reagan Administration.  Can't throw it out, that would be wasteful!

Better off to spend $400 on a cabinet to store it in.

And yet another cabinet is going to be used for brooms, mops, and vacuum cleaners, as for some reason, we need to have six brooms.

How about a different approach?  Just owning less "stuff"  instead?

That's the conundrum of the closet organizer, the garage organizer, or whatever.  You buy a lot of stuff - more than you need - and you don't have a place to put it all.  Creating more storage space seems like the "answer" to this problem, so you spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on garage cabinetry or closet organizers to store it all.

But the fundamental problem with closets and storage space is that the more you have, the more you store.  When there is an empty cabinet in the garage or space in the closet, the need or desire to dispose of unwanted consumer goods (by selling, giving away, or throwing out) diminishes.  After all, "it isn't costing me anything" - right?

The shoe cabinet in the garage may be handy and all, but in reality, I tend to wear one of two or three pairs of shoes, 90% of the time.  My hiking boots, Harley boots, and formal shoes rarely leave the closet.  So why make a special place for them?  Moreover, I have a number of older pairs of shoes that are well, "too good to throw out" but yet for some reason never get worn.  Either they are uncomfortable, or they are not formal enough, or too formal, or dirty, or too clean, or whatever. 

And I suspect that everyone has a closet full of shoes like this - as well as other articles of clothing.  I have racks of shirts I rarely wear, for one reason or another.  They don't fit well, or they are too fussy or not stylish or too worn for a night out - but hey, I could wear them to work on the car, right?  But that never happens, for some reason.

IT IS HARD to get rid of things like this.  But it is expensive and a drag on your psyche to build closet organizers and more and more "storage" space for clothing and things you no longer use or no longer need.  Keeping Halloween costumes from a decade ago on the premise that you *might* get invited to a costume party at the last minute is never a good idea.  And yet, I know a lot of people who have such space-wasting nightmares in their closets.

Before you shell out money putting closets in your closets, take a good look at what you own and think about just chucking most of it, instead.  It is the cheapest and most effective "closet organizer" there is.

And the local GoodWill will thank you for your donation!

Update:  October 21, 2013:   We have tried valiantly to downsize our show collection and wardrobe, with some success.   We have a simple rule - if it is torn or ripped or missing a button, in the trash it goes.  If it doesn't fit, it goes in a weekly box that goes to the Goodwill or whatever.  We are making some progress.   The urge to "keep something because it is good" or "that would make a good rag" or "that would be good to wear for when I work on the car" is strong.   But even if I used my dress suits to mow the lawn, my supply of them would outlast my lifetime, at this point (although I do look good in a tux).

There are some things we do keep in the garage and USE regularly, such as the pressure washer and compressor, and a storage cabinet for these things might make sense and improve the look and value of the house.   We do plan on doing a garage makeover as the ceiling paint is peeling and the stained floor could use a coat of cheap concrete paint.

But getting rid of things makes much more sense than buying organizers for them, particularly when they are things you never, ever use.