So after we finished up the master bedroom closet de-cluttering this past weekend, we turned our attention to the hall closet (which sits right outside of our bedroom door). It was home to photo albums, old videos and notebooks, random personal keepsakes and a plethora of spare shopping bags. In the words of Christian from Project Runway, it was a hot mess.
Our technique for this closet was to simply undo the thoughtless hodge-podge approach that created this clutter to begin with. Which meant actually putting photo albums together (there’s a novel idea) and not keeping every single bag and box that we brought home “just in case.” Plus we had to commit to- and this was possibly the scariest part- cutting down on the personal keepsakes that filled those two plastic towers of clear drawers… all in the name of earning back valuable square footage and finding a place for things that were offset by the third-bedroom-to-nursery conversion.
Once we actually resolved ourselves to doing this it really wasn’t that hard. We were saving a lot of “fluff” that we didn’t need and it actually felt better to toss anything that didn’t mean much to us anymore (which also allowed us to really appreciate the stuff that made the cut since it wasn’t buried amidst piles of useless junk). After all, just because a photo is old doesn’t mean it’s always worth keeping (do we really need every poorly-lit picture of high school homecoming and shots of our cluttered dorm rooms from every angle?). So Sherry and I sat down and enjoyed one last flip through some of those old memories, said our goodbyes to a bunch of them, and filed away the remaining keepers to really be enjoyed instead of “watered down” by weird stuff that had no business being kept for so long. But you know I campaigned to keep this photo of a blond teenage Sherry posing with her childhood dog Dante, right?
Let’s take a closet look. Note: At this point Sherry would like to interject to explain that those were suede pants and they had a side zipper and they were from Delia’s. Hot stuff. Try to contain your jealousy ladies.
One rule that we decided to re-enforce on ourselves was to limit our relationship keepsakes to one box. For instance, Sherry’s quite sentimental when it comes to John + Sherry memories (she has plane tickets from our first vacation together, a napkin from our wedding, etc). But the great thing about her (love ya babe) was that long ago she designated a special box for “relationship memorabilia” so not only was everything in one place, but it forced us to limit what we saved. If it didn’t fit in the box, we either didn’t keep it or found another way to memorialize it (like taking a picture of it and throwing that in the box instead- or framing it if it was really important).
This weekend we realized we were unintentionally overflowing into a second box (the shame) so we whipped ourselves right back into shape and pared things down to that single solitary box again. Which actually felt good because it was fun to flip through everything – and we were happy to lose a few items that didn’t mean as much anymore in return for adding some fun new stuff to our “limited edition collection.” It’s definitely important to find a place for the things that matter most in your home (many of which are photos and other memories) but there’s a fine line between keeping a few of the most meaningful items and saying that every last scrap of paper is special and letting those things slowly overrun your home. It can actually interfere with your day to day happiness (anyone watch Clean House?) not to mention rob you of space that could be much better served for storing something else that you actually need. So we do our best to walk that delicate line (and probably err on the side of minimalism just because we lived in NYC long enough to adapt to living with zero storage space).
In the end we achieved our goal of eliminating one entire plastic three-drawer tower of random paraphernalia (victory!) by condensing things that we had (grouping like with like, etc) and eliminating weird odds and ends (like business cards from our old agency jobs in NYC and ancient notebooks full of college assignments). And the good news is that we actually earned a new place for our vacuum – which had been displaced from its former home in the now-nursery closet – along with our fireproof safe (we actually have a safety deposit box at the bank so it’s not full of “valuables” per se, but it’s where we store things like a CD of our wedding photos and our wedding video along with copies of other irreplaceable momentos that we would want to survive a house fire – just in case).
As of Saturday afternoon I was left feeling pretty satisfied with how the hall closet was shaping up – er, paring down.
But Sherry had bigger plans in store. Since she also lost her wrapping paper/stationery station in the nursery switcheroo, she was on the hunt for a new storage spot for that stuff. Gift bags, ribbons and wrapping paper had temporarily been shoved above the laundry nook and was later moved to an underbed storage bin in the guest bedroom…
… but with bending over becoming more of a challenge for my cute prego lady, Sherry saw the never-used-mirror on the back of the hall closet door (thanks to the wood full length one in our bedroom) and immediately envisioned a remedy to her underbed wrapping station situation. I almost literally saw the light bulb go on as she stared at that door rubbing her chin.
So off came the mirror (thank to a few quick pulls of the 3M Command strips that we had originally used to hold it in place) and off we went to Target to find some sort of back-of-door wrapping paper hanging solution/caddy. But once there we were quickly reminded that Target is no Container Store… and something so specific was nowhere to be found. Instead we settled on three of these “wire CD baskets” that showed promise (on sale for just $5.39 a pop).
Our big idea was to screw them right into the door since they seemed about the perfect size to house stationery, wrapping paper, envelopes, and other random accessories. And all it took was a little pressure with a screwdriver to create a screw-sized opening in the back of the wire basket…
… which we then screwed right through (and into the door) in two places to hold our baskets nice and steady.
In about five minutes the top half of the door was equipped with two bins spaced about eight inches apart for housing stationery, birthday cards, envelopes, and other gift-related paraphernalia:
And the bottom half of the door got the third basket which we planned to use to store wrapping paper. But because we didn’t want the paper to flap around every time we opened or closed the door, we had to brainstorm a way to keep it easily wrangled. Our solution? Screwing two small white coat hooks right into the door, about twenty inches above the top edge of the basket. These hooks – along with a ribbon that we had laying around – created a nice little “seat belt” of sorts for our wrapping paper (which can still easily be slipped in and out from behind the ribbon whenever we need it).
Then in an impressive bout of energy that could only be attributed to true nesting, Sherry decided that 8:45pm on Sunday night was the perfect time to touch up all that dated wood trim inside the closet that she hadn’t gotten around to painting yet. So before I could say “aren’t you supposed to be tired in your third trimester?” my wife had a gallon of no-VOC Freshaire trim paint cracked open and was furiously painting the dark wood trim, shelf and even the dowel in there. And I must admit that it looks a lot more clean and current thanks to her little Sunday night paint job. Even though I thought she was crazy at the time…
You’ll also notice that we further pared down all those collected gift bags and added a hanging shoe/sweater organizer (a free gift from a friend- thanks Kristin!) for the rest of our present-wrapping supplies. It’s definitely nice to have a caddy full of things like tissue paper, a box of smaller tags and little fabric totes, a box full of ribbon, and small gift tins & containers housed within larger gift boxes that we can use whenever the occasion strikes. It all goes back to grouping like with like, so instead of spreading our wrapping supplies throughout the house we now have a one-stop-wrapping-paper-shop of sorts in our hall closet. Which certainly beats the unused $5 mirror that previously hung on the back of that door.
And yes Sherry did paint the pebbled black sides of our wall-mounted plastic bag dispenser while she was attacking the trim. She’s a wild woman and she just can’t be stopped. But to her (admittedly insane) credit, it does blend in better now. Even if it’s an absurd way to spend four minutes of your life. In fact the whole closet looks pretty great- especially considering that it look like this a few short days earlier:
So with that project done, we finally turned our attention to the usually-concealed shelves above the laundry nook (we love those bamboo blinds but they were like a personal challenge to be as messy as possible since everything’s so well hidden). Of course you already know that a big step in improving this area was getting all the random wrapping paper into the hall closet. But there was still a lot more paring down/cleaning on the agenda to get this beast of a before picture under control.
Admittedly there wasn’t much science to cleaning this area, since it suffered less from too much stuff and more from just quickly tossing things up there instead of actually finding a smart place for them and grouping like with like (although we did ditch our rusted and mostly useless drain snake as well as FINALLY recycling the cell phones that we replaced back in August and stored up there with dreams of donating them “someday”). And I would like to earn some points for actually volunteering to vacuum the dust that was collecting up there. Secure in my manhood? Check.
In the end we didn’t reinvent the wheel up there, we just whittled things down and organized a bit, which resulted in some much appreciated freed up space that is now ready for who-knows-what (our guess: more baby stuff- at least that’s what everyone keeps telling us). No matter what ends up living in there down the line, we’re just breathing easier knowing that we have more empty space in our not-very-closet-riddled home to store things as our family grows. Whew.
So that’s the end of our closet sprucing weekend extravaganza. One thing that we now realize wasn’t photographically captured were the errands that we ran after it was all over, which included:
- Bringing a huge bag of clothes, shoes, and accessories to a local clothing drop box (if you don’t know where to go in your ‘hood, try googling for a Salvation Army or a Goodwill near you)
- Returning a bunch of books/clothes/DVDs and other borrowed items to two of our friends and one family member (thereby lightening our load substantially and earning us points for those timely returns)
- Finally recycling our own cell phones- yes, the ones that we replaced way back in August- at Best Buy (after a few attempts to donate them at local stores or police departments for causes like battered women or Haiti relief failed us)
- Dropping off two giant sacks of old books and magazines to a local used book store (your neighborhood library may take them too, but ours only accepts things during certain times of the year)
- Bringing all of the change that we found to Coinstar (it turned up in some of Sherry’s old purses, our car, my key & wallet bowl near the door and our piggy bank- the crazy thing is that we made 54 beans for our trouble- not bad, eh?)
In the end we only spent around $16 for those three wire baskets that we hung on the back of the hall closet door, and thanks to our change drop-off we made $54. So if you subtract our basket purchases we still netted $38 which was definitely the icing on the extra-storage-space cake. But enough about us. Let’s talk about your closet sitch. If you haven’t already shared your closet de-cluttering adventures or tips on this morning’s post, we’d love to hear all about ’em right here – especially if you found yourself culling down personal keepsakes, creating new storage solutions or finding new ways to reuse or recycle items that you were purging. Oh, and if you’ve got pics to share, head over to to post ’em for all to see.