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Clear the Clutter: Tips for Organizing Closets and Pantries

Bonny Osterhage

Written by Bonny Osterhage

Bonny Osterhage

Written by Bonny Osterhage

In our current world of social distancing, many of us are finding ourselves home with a lot of time on our hands. Why not put that time to good use by tackling one of those organizing projects you’ve been putting off? Those jeans you haven’t worn in 10 years aren’t going to get rid of themselves. And do you really need five open boxes of cereal on your shelves? We asked professional organizer Karen Meade of San Antonio, Texas to share some of her best tips and tricks for organizing these commonly cluttered spaces. To begin, Karen recommends grabbing trash bags for trash and items to donate in the future, a laundry basket for placing items that belong elsewhere, and post its and a pen for labeling. Once you’ve got everything, crank up some good music (see our women who still rock playlist) and get started!

Curating Your Closet

Start at the bottom and work your way up: You need a clutter free surface to walk on, so the first thing to do is to pick up anything and everything from shoes to dirty laundry off the floor.

No Wire Hangers: Okay actually, no EMPTY hangers. Go through and collect all empty hangers and watch as the look of your closet immediately improves. Throw out any that are broken.

Choose It or Lose It: Work your way around your closet in a clockwise pattern and ask yourself the following questions about each item of clothing:

  • When did I last wear it?
  • Do I like how I feel in it?
  • Has it seen better days?
  • Does it need repairs?
  • Does it need to be laundered?
  • Do I need to set it aside for the dry cleaner?
  • Do I love it?

Get Colorful: The items that make the cut should now be hung up in an organized fashion. What does that look like?  Karen recommends sorting items by type and color. For example, start with camisoles then go to tanks, sleeveless, short sleeve, three quarter sleeve, and long sleeve tops. Then colorize within each category starting with white, and following the colors of the rainbow, ending with brown, and then black. Repeat this process for other hanging items, such slacks, jeans, skirts and dresses.

Necessary Accessories: Finally, go through your shoes, bags, and other accessories and ask yourself the same questions as above, getting rid of the things you don’t like, need or want anymore. Remember, dealing with less is always best!

Perfecting Your Pantry

What’s the Date?  Start by checking the expiration dates on all food items as you go along. It’s handy to keep a notepad, or your phone nearby so that as you clean out your pantry, you can make a list of what you may need to replace the next time you head to the grocery store.

Think Outside the Box:  One way to keep pantries looking neat and tidy is to take food out of its original packaging and store it in clear, airtight containers, or attractive baskets. This works great for things like pastas, rice, dried beans, granola bars and more.

Contain Your Condiments: Follow the supermarket’s lead and group together all of your condiments, sauces, oils, and salad dressings. A turntable, or Lazy Susan, is the perfect product for storing these items because it makes them easy to locate without digging.

What You See Is What You Need: Keep snacks and other kid’s food at a child’s-eye level, and your go-to dinner prep items at your eye level. Place light items like paper goods on higher shelves, and heavy, bulkier items like appliances, cases of soda, or bulk products down below. This way you make it easier for your family to not only find what they need, but to put it back in its proper place.

Taking the time to organize can save you both time and money in the long run because you aren’t constantly searching for things or buying items you already have. If it seems overwhelming, set a timer and tackle one part of the project at a time like checking expirations or removing hangers. Then come back to it! When we all resume our normal activities, you’ll be glad you took the time.


Post comment

Thank you. I do most of these suggestions anyhow but a reminder is always good.

Laura L Hinson on

When I did my closet, I first separated by color, and then camisole, sleeveless, short sleeve, and so forth. Petsonally, I almost always wear some kind of jeans, then decide which color my mood wants. So, organizing by color first is what works for me.

Cynthia on

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