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Back to School: 10 Tricks for Organizing Your Closets

A Key to “Happy Schooldays” at Home: Clutter-Free Storage and Preparation Zones


With a new school season fast approaching, it's easy to focus on getting supplies, meeting new teachers, and squeezing the last bit of fun out of the summer. Of course, another major part of a new school season is shopping for new clothes. Before that new wardrobe comes home, however, there's a distinct area that needs to be tended to – the closet.


Unorganized closets can be a disaster. A child might have five to ten outfits that have never been worn because they're buried at the bottom of the same clothes that make their weekday rounds. Closet organization is important for clearing out summer clothes and making sure outfits are optimized for the season. Old items can be given to the needy or sold for extra cash, and an organized closet can only help with production in school.


And clothes aren’t the only items that need organizing in closets. There are also accessories like backpacks and sports/play equipment, school and study supplies, and food and food preparation items for school lunches, to name a few. These and other school necessities need a home where they can be found and used easily. Here are some tips for organizing your “school closets” at home.



1. Store Backpacks, Shoes, Etc. Somewhere Else

Regardless of how organized your coat closet is, you're always going to be at the mercy of space. Think of packing your luggage for a flight – regardless of how tight and neat you fold, there's still a finite number of belongings you'll fit. One of the best ways to organize your closet is to get rid of bulky articles of clothing and the like. Backpacks, shoes, and similar objects are essential to school-goers, but at the same time, they are bulky. Therefore, buy or construct a special cubby to keep these items easily accessible and, more importantly, to free up room for closet organization. 

Storing backpacks and bulky items in their own cubbies

Using cubbies, with or without doors, to store bulky back-to-school items ensures that your other closets won’t get overstuffed and will be able to accommodate clothing and outerwear as they should.




2. Prioritize Space

Most of the time, the most valuable space in an area would be in a room itself instead of in the closet. That might not always be the case, though. One way to proverbially kill two birds with one stone is with design components that double as storage. Very similar to shoe and backpack cubbies, some types of storage fixtures can also add contrast and accent to a room. Space in a room isn't good if it makes the area look bare – and at the same time leads to the closet being organized.

Mudroom storage unit in House Plan #106-1313

If closet space is limited or you just want to add a storage feature to a room, consider items that double as decorative and functional. This storage unit in the mudroom of a 3-bedroom, 2-bath Traditional style home plan serves a practical purpose but is attractive enough to be a focal point in a room (House Plan #106-1313).



3. Manage Options – and Save Time

The key to closet organization isn't just getting everything in order; it's keeping it that way. When your child has to dig for an outfit every morning, there's a good chance all that rummaging is going to lead to clothes ... everywhere. Put all the underwear in one place, the socks in another, the t-shirts in one section, the jeans in another, etc. This will not only save time in your kids picking out their outfits, but it will also (hopefully) keep his or her closet organized for more than 20 minutes. 

Novel organization for kids' socks, T-shirts, and underwear

Organize kids’ underwear, socks, T-shirts, and the like in shoe organizers designed for closets. The clothing items will be easily accessible as your child is in a mad rush to get ready for school, and he or she won’t have to mess up other clothing, keeping your closets and drawers tidy.



4. Maximize Your Closets

One of the best ways you can make the most of back-to-school closet organization is by treating the closet like any other room in the house. A closet doesn't have to be just a “space.” It can and should be a functional area. As a related example, you could leave a finished basement as just one big open area – it might appeal to some buyers. However, your home will have more value if you frame in that square footage to include a bathroom, perhaps a guest bedroom, a closet, and an inviting entertaining area. Don't be afraid to do some construction on a closet as well to include multiple types of shelving, racks, etc.

Well-outfitted closet in House Plan #117-1103

This modest walk-in closet in a 3-bedroom, 3-bath Texas style home plan may be on the small side, but it accomplishes a number of multi-functional tasks thanks to its built-in shelving. Each hanging rod has a shelf overhead, and there’s a vertical stack of shelving on the right-hand wall. The shelving can accommodate sweaters, T-shirts, shorts, jeans and other casual pants, and even shoes, as well as kids’ backpacks and sports equipment (House Plan #117-1103).



5. Height Matters!

One of the bigger design trends with regard to storage is to make the most of your vertical spaces. In the kitchen, for example, one of the most underutilized areas for storage is the spot above the kitchen cabinets but below the ceiling. Even if that “window of opportunity” is only a couple of inches, it could still be used for pans, sheets, trays, and other items to clear up room on the “main floor.”


With a child's closet, you can't always take the approach of using all your vertical space. Well, you can and you can't. What you'll want to do is keep all the everyday items at a safe height for your child to reach so that he or she doesn't require a step stool or your assistance every day. You can then still use the higher shelves for items that might not be used every day, like a princess tutu or a Chewbacca mask – which may be worn only occasionally.



6. Take the “Locker” Approach

One of the most fun activities for kids at school is to decorate their lockers. This helps give the youngsters a sense of individualism, and it makes those boring storage spots a bit less mundane. You can take that same approach with closet organization. A closet can still be “fun” with decorations, stickers, lighting, and other objects. A closet that your child loathes a little less maybe one they are more active at keeping organized.



7. Doors Off!

When you tell your kids to clean up their rooms, and they're back down looking for treats in two minutes, it can be telling – and obvious to anyone but, of course, your children: you know that the odds are they just threw everything behind the closet doors in order to give the appearance of a thorough scrubbing. Then when you go to open that closet, there's a 50-50 chance you're going to get barreled over by stacked clothing, shoes, toys, etc.


One way to avoid this situation and to aim to keep the closet organized is by taking off the doors. A doorless closet still looks cool – think cabinets without doors in a kitchen. With the doors off the closet, your children will all but be forced to keep a well-maintained area. They still probably won’t, though!

Teenager's closet with no doors

Take the doors off your child’s closet, and voilà there’s the motivation for him or her to keep it neat. Or at least there’s no hiding a mess behind doors on “clean up” day.



8. Take the Romantic Comedy Route

We've all seen movies with two fighting roommates or a couple who break up and have to stay together for the remainder of their lease. Their solution is always a piece of tape down the middle of the room and the “my side,” “your side” laughs that ensue.


Having two kids who must share a closet can wreak havoc on organization – however, it is possible. You can do just as they do in Hollywood and split the closet right down the middle. Make it fun, however, with color coating on each side and multiple storage options, including shelves, dividers, and more. Maybe even throw in a “cleanest closet side of the week” incentive for your kids to stay focused.



9. Shelving Brackets to the Rescue

One of the biggest threats to closet organization and de-cluttering in general is the hanging pole running from left to right that takes up about 85 percent of the space. It also takes a lot of time to rummage through this rack, and it's very easy for items to fall to the floor, creating a messy closet area. One solution is switching to shelving brackets for use with hangers instead. These allow you to sort the type of clothes (dress shirts, casual shirts, pants, etc.) in a more efficient manner and utilize a front-to-back setup rather than side to side. 

Shelf brackets as small clothing hanger rods

Do away with a linear hanging rod in the closet and instead use shelving brackets to hang your children’s clothes. You can use different brackets for different types of clothing, and even place them and group them in the most convenient way for each individual child. It maintains order, improves organization, and most of all, keeps things neat.



10. Divide and Conquer ... Everything

With kids especially, most of their clothing and accessories are in a word – little. This can be hard on closet storage not to mention making multiple contributions to the Island of Lost Socks. Don't be afraid to go overboard and make basically the first 3 or 4 feet of the entire closet wall a dividable space. This is great for kids because most of their clothing is stored at eye level and it does wonder for organization – and retention of clothes. 

Organize using a wall of cubbies

If you dedicate the lower portion of a closet wall to organizers, the children will have easy access to their belongings and will be more prone to put things back where they belong – thereby developing a sense of ownership. Best of all, the room and closet will be less cluttered, and you’ll be less stressed.


And don’t stop at kids’ closets; take a look at your own kitchen cabinets. How many times have you rushed to make the kids lunch to take to school, only to find you can’t locate the sandwich container or the thermos or the lunchbox or the Goldfish snacks . . .? If you dedicate one of your smaller kitchen cabinets to lunch accoutrements, you’ll never have to go searching for items and lunch making will go a lot easier!

Well organized lunch-making closet

Dedicate a kitchen cabinet to lunch-making essentials, and you will be more organized and more productive – and less stressed – in the morning, making schooltime lunch for the children.


Closet organization  – and making sure you have plenty of storage in your home, to begin with – is a key component to de-cluttering a house, saving your sanity, and making sure kids are performing well and dress appropriately for school. There are countless organization strategies out there; click here for more ideas on closet  and home storage de-cluttering solutions.


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