Summer Closet Interventions, Part 2


STYLEsavvy, Organizing by STYLE

So often, we look at the problem areas in our homes and think we have to do a complete overhaul. But overhauls can be overwhelming, exhausting and time-consuming, leading us to dread them, or to not do them at all.

This is exactly when the “T” in STYLE (“Take small steps) comes in handy.

Copyright 2017 Lisa Hess. All rights reserved.

The thing is, every intervention, big or small, leads us in the right direction. If we approach the big spaces (closets, crawlspaces, garages, etc.) with a “Take small steps” mentality, setting reasonable goals for ourselves, it’s easier to get started.

One of my goals this summer is tackling closets and drawers. Most are in pretty good shape but, having recently overhauled one of each (dresser drawer in the bedroom and pantry cupboard in the kitchen) and begun to dig into a few others, I know how great it feels every single time I open them and see how nice they look. In addition, I’ve created more space so that as things come in (as they inevitably do), I have a place to put them.

But finding a huge block of time to dig in is a challenge, so I need to baby-step into these big spaces. First, I need to assess the situation. Open the door (or drawer), look inside and take stock, discerning the “before” situation.

Then, I can set aside whatever time I have and set a reasonable goal — what I want the “after” situation to look like. I’m not talking about the completely finished product. I’m talking about what I can reasonably accomplish in the time I have.

When I tackled my pantry cupboard, I set out to get rid of all the expired/unwanted stuff on the bottom shelf. Once I did that, I had enough space left over to store some things that had been living on the counter because they were homeless. I hadn’t set out to do that second part but, once the clear space emerged, I saw a solution.

Here are my “Take small steps” plans of attack for three closets at my house.

  1. My closets (2) in the master bedroom.

Before situation: Although I’ve been weeding, these closets still contains clothes I haven’t worn for quite some time.

Desired after situation: Clothes have been divided into keep, toss & consider, with only the first and third categories making it back into the closet.

Keep: Dressy stuff that hasn’t been worn because I rarely have a need to dress up and things I still love that still fit and flatter.

Toss: Anything that doesn’t look good on me or is out of style. (Even if it still has the tags on – ouch!)

Consider: Stuff I think I might wear again, as long as it still fits and flatters and is in style. This last category will be returned to the closet, hangers facing the wrong way, so I can monitor whether or not these things get worn. A sticky note stuck onto a shelf or a note tucked into a drawer in the closet (“This closet was de-cluttered in July 2019”) will help me keep track of how long it’s really been since I wore that shirt.

Next small step: Closet shelf, drawers and bins.

  1. Mudroom closet.

Before situation: Contains games, coats, shoes, shirts, and miscellaneous office and wrapping supplies.

Desired after situation: Games have been whittled down to classic games and those we actually play. Coats have been tried on and the same keep/toss/ consider rules I used for the bedroom closet have been applied. Office supplies and wrapping supplies will get a once over, but most will get to stay as I just recently overhauled that part of the closet and all of those have designated spots in the closet.

Next small step: My work here is done, but I will encourage my husband and daughter to go through their shoes and jackets. (I have only one pair of boots in this closet).

  1. Family room closet. 

Before situation: I thought this closet was fine until my daughter suggested we clean it out, declaring it “a mess.” Apparently, my recent overhaul wasn’t ruthless enough. As with the pantry cupboard, I’m going to start at the bottom since I left that section essentially untouched last time (there was nowhere to go with the record collection that’s eating up most of the space) and I needed my daughter’s help in determining what to keep and what to toss from the bottom shelf.

Desired after situation: #1 and #2 were easy, but this one is hard because I don’t know where to go with the stuff. I’m going to have to go for general here and simply aim for clear space in the bottom of the closet and, I hope, a home for the vinyl that’s less intrusive.

Next small step: Overview of the closet to see if a reconfiguration is in order.

I have no plans (and even less desire) to tackle all of these closets in one day. Based on the goals I’ve set, I think I can accomplish my “desired after situation” in each case in an hour or less. When that time is up, I can reassess and declare the space finished or set up whatever small step I choose to do next.

If you’re the kind of organizer who likes to set aside a day and dig in, have at it! But, if you find that baby steps are the way to go, choose your day, set your timer and get to work. If you’re like me, you might even find that taking small steps allows a plan to emerge as you go.

Writing this post gave me a nudge to get started and I’m happy to report that, with my daughter’s help, games have been sorted and stored appropriately (based on usage). The stuff she doesn’t want is being donated to a summer camp where one of my students works and the art supplies are going to the camp where my daughter works (different populations, different needs). In the master bedroom, I actually started in a different place (bins) because another de-cluttering adventure led me to look for space for homeless items.

If you’re a take-small-steps sorter like me, you might even find that your experience will be like my pantry cupboard experience. You set out to tackle one shelf and, fueled by progress and clear space, you just keep going.

Have a success story to share? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Copyright 2019 Lisa Hess


About Author

Lisa Lawmaster Hess has contributed articles to local, national and online publications, and blogs at The Porch Swing Chronicles, The Susquehanna Writers and here at She is the author of two non-fiction books (Acting Assertively and Diverse Divorce) and two novels, Casting the First Stone and Chasing a Second Chance. A retired elementary school counselor, Lisa is a lecturer in psychology at York College and enjoys singing with the contemporary choir at her church.

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