Making Your Closet into a Fashion Plate for $50, $100, $250

clos·et  (klzt, klôzt)
n.
A cabinet or enclosed recess for linens, household supplies, or clothing.

First thing’s first: without your clothes, your closet loses its purpose. The clothes always come before the apparatus, and the best and easiest way to take care of your clothes is two fold:

  1. First, determining what needs to hang and what needs to lay flat.
  2. Second, by executing the best method for both these requirements.

Jack and I live in an old Victorian house, where closet space is tight. His clothes take up the single small closet in the bedroom; mine require a wardrobe, the closet in the study, guest room, and one of the hall linen closets. (Jack constantly jokes that I have more clothes then we have house, but the reality is that I prefer not to store my seasonal clothes in the basement, and so I don’t.)

Many women, though, do not have the option to simply take over three or four of the closets in the house – perhaps you live in an old house, like us, that’s short on closet space, or you live in an apartment where you’re forced to store your clothes (and everything else) in those six meager feet of storage allotted in the basement of the complex. If this is the case, do not despair! There are steps you can take that will help minimize damage to your clothes in less-than-hospitable environments.

Spend your first $15: PREP YOUR SPACE

Moisture
Start with a desiccant. A desiccant is a substance that helps keep its surroundings dry. (Those little sillica gel packets your sometimes get with products? Those are desiccants.) As a sidenote, desiccants are also used to prevent rust when storing firearms, and many entertaining articles full of bad grammar exist extolling the virtue of desiccants in burying your weapons in undisclosed locations for when The Black Man In Power Comes For Your Guns. For the purpose of this article, however, we’re going to assume you want a small amount for typical clothing storage.

If you have no children or pets in the house, you can pick up a desiccant at your local hardware store or even craft store. (It’s also used to preserve flowers.) Alas, Jack and I have three spoiled dogs who can not be trusted, and so we opt for more organic methods of aridness. Martha Stewart has some great advice for this; in her Homekeeping Handbook, she suggests fastening a rubber band around a dozen pieces of chalk and then covering it with ribbon, allowing some extra to loop over a hook or hanger away from clothes. This will help keep your closet mildew and moisture free, as will a box of baking soda replaced twice a year. (I do all my “twice-a-year” stuff, like turning the mattresses, in January and June in one fell swoop.)

And also, don’t store your clothes in those plastic dry-cleaning bags. It’s tempting to just  hang them up and forget about them until you’re ready for them, but don’t do it – they trap moisture, increasing the likelihood of mildew. Instead, leave them uncovered or invest in garment bags for seldom-worn articles, like formal dresses or coats. Save those dry-cleaning bags on a high shelf (out of the reach of children) for folding clothes when you travel. This will decrease the wrinkles brought on by your suitcase.

Light
Can you see everything in your closet? If you can’t see it, you certainly won’t wear it. If your closet isn’t well lit, consider installing an overhead lighting fixture, or one of those battery-operated push-on/push-off lights for about $5 at Amazon.com or your local hardware store.

So far, you’re up to:
Chalk: $3.80
Baking Soda: $1.09
Ribbon: $2.00
Push Light: $5.00
=
$11.89

Not a bad start.

Spend your next $35: FEEL LIKE A WOMAN

Now, y’all, I’m a feminist, and I’ve got the women’s studies degree to prove it. We can talk about post-structural vs cultural feminism all day long, but when it comes down to it, I’m just girly. I like things to smell like lavender, and I like to bake things, and I like things arranged certain ways.

So of course, my first recommendation to you – the easiest way, if you’re like me, to add a little more class, as it were, to your closet space is to invest in drawer liners or sachets, and good padded hangers.

But for those of you who are recoiling at the image of your Strong, Professional Clothes held up by dainty, pink, silk-padded hangers with bows, hark unto me: there are perfectly legitimate reasons for the “No More Wire Hangers!” scene in Mommy Dearest. Padded hangers help your garments keep their shape – haven’t you ever pulled a blouse off a wire hanger and realized that the shoulders were a little wonky, or worse, had two little horns peeking up that you couldn’t smooth down no matter how hard you tried? A padded hanger will prevent that.

Bed, Bath, and Beyond has a pack of 8 satin padded hangers for $10, Container Store has a 4 pack of pastel damask ones for $10, and Amazon is carrying a set of 10 ivory satin ones for $12.79. Scented ones are a little more scarce, and will cost you more.

This being said, do you need an entire closet full of rosewater scented silk-padded hangers? Nay, good friend. I keep a half-dozen on hand for my most delicate garments, and another half-dozen to add some luxury to the guest room closet. The rest of the closet is filled with wooden hangers (cedar is great if you can afford them, as it helps deter moths) for mid-range-to-nice clothing and plastic hangers for lower end items. Wooden hangers will run you anywhere from $16 for a 24-pack on Amazon to $5-10 bucks a piece at The Container Store. Target also has a 30 pack in various finishes for $20.

(“But what,” you wail, “Am I supposed to do with all these wire hangers, anyway?” Never fear! Wire hangers are always useful around the house. Stretch them out and use them with a bubble solution to delight kids with big bubbles; pass them between your skirt and pantyhose to get ride of static cling; unclog your plumbing, although don’t tell the plumber I told you that.)

8 satin hangers: $10
30 wooden hangers: $20
= a running total of $41.89

What is what: A quick note on hanging vs. folding
Hard and fast rules are: hang any wrinkle-prone material, like linen or 100% cotton; hang delicate things that can be crushed easily, like silk, velvet, or chiffon; hang pressed shirts, suits, dresses, jackets, and pants (jeans optional).

Fold: things that will stretch out of shape, like knits; t-shirts, jeans, scarves, underwear, and those work-out clothes.

Also,  install a hook on the back of your bedroom door for your bathrobe. An over-the-door hook can be had for $2, or one of those Command™ Adhesive hooks for $3-5.

This leaves us with about $6.00 to play with – grab some cedar mothballs for $4 over at the Container Store. You can stop here and pocket your glorious leftover two dollars, or you can splurge a little over budget and grab some Crabtree & Evelyn scented drawer liners in rosewater or lavender for $18, or some delicious Basil Blue Sage dryer sheets from Caldrea for $11.

Bring it up to $100: STORAGE MAGIC

If you have an additional $50 to play with, start investing in some smart storage solutions. Live in Detroit? You’ve probably got a lot of sweaters and not enough drawer space – pick up a hanging sweater bag at The Container Store ($15-20 for canvas, $25 for bamboo). Grab a couple of underbed storage bags for when the weather turns warm: $20 at Target, $15 at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and $8-20 at The Container Store.

This keeps your more slender drawers of a bureau or wardrobe free for delicates, like lingerie, undies, and camisoles.

Hanging sweater bag: $20
2 underbed storage bags: $30
=
running total of approximately $94.89

Spend $250: YOU ARE SERIOUSLY NOT FUCKING AROUND

Shoes lurking around every corner? Go with an over-the-door shoe bag ($20 at Container Store) or even one of those fancy free-standing shoe cabinets at Ikea ($90-$100).

I prefer a combination, and have invested in drop-front shoe boxes, which open in the front instead of on top, ensuring you don’t have to unstack anything. Container Store has plastic for $5 a pop or tweed (love love love) for $18 a pop.

Love hats? I do, but those suckers eat up space like nobody’s business. Hat boxes are the best way to go about storing hats, as they keep away dust and ensure that they never become misshapen or crushed. Gently stuff the hat with tissue and store in a good-sized hat box. If you’re concerned about appearances, Container Store has some beautiful, study boxes ($40 for set of 3), as well as Land of Nod (a Crate&Barrel affiliate) who has some for $25.

Have expensive purses? They’re much the same as hats – they need special care. Like hats, you’ll want to gentle stuff with tissue paper when not in use to maintain their shape. (Ignore this for flat or envelope-shaped clutches.) It’s also important that this tissue be undyed – the best thing to do is to keep the paper that came in the purse, or crib some extra off the ladies at Crate&Barrel or Michael’s the next time you’re in. Forget that green sparkly tissue from Christmas, and never, ever use newspaper, as it may discolor your purse lining. Did that gorgeous new Coach bag come with a storage bag? Use it, or make your own drawstring sack with flannel. (Amy over at Happy Things has a brilliant, simple drawstring bag tutorial.)

Spring for the Park-a-Purse, over at Organize.com, for $29.

Still got cash? Grab some drawer compartments over at Organize.com to round things out; these are useful for keeping your sock, panties, and bras separate.

Over-the-door shoe bag: $20
8 plastic drop-front shoe boxes: $50
Set of 3 hat boxes: $40
Park-a-Purse: $30
3 yards of flannel for drawstring bags: $19.50
= running total of $244.39

Mission Accomplished.

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