Forget about perfection; just be more organized

By Lisa Skolnik
Special to the Tribune

July 23, 2003

Anyone who has to get to work appropriately attired knows the significance of a well-organized closet. The way your wardrobe is arranged can make it easy or impossible to get out your front door in a timely and calm manner. What should you do to make your closet functionally flawless? For starters, give up any notions of perfection.

"Either extreme--obsessively organized or messy--makes it difficult to function efficiently. If it's too chaotic, you can't find anything, but if you want it to be perfect, you'll always be working on it," says Chicago clinical psychologist Merilyn Salomon.

Instead, realize that keeping your closet in working order is an ongoing process that should be done seasonally. And "resist the knee-jerk impulse to attack and start tossing things out. That's not what organizing is about," points out Harriet Schechter, head of the San Diego-based Miracle Worker Organizing Service, online advice columnist ( and author of three books (including "Let Go of Clutter," McGraw-Hill, 2001).

Here's what the experts say about organizing:

Edit and unload. "People hold on to things because they paid good money for it and think they might need it," says Donna Smallin, organizational consultant and author of "Organizing Plain & Simple" (Storey Publishing, $16.95). But, "you have finite space and can only store so much."

Keep in mind "the 80/20 rule," the industry standard, Schechter says. "You only use 20 percent of what you own, regardless of what it is. ... Focus on keeping only the things that make you look and feel good, not one or the other, like shoes that look good but kill your feet."

Nina Willdorf, author of "City Chic" (Sourcebooks, $12.95) points out that "fit is key ... if your weight fluctuates, make sure you keep garments that span the sizes you need."

To determine what to toss or save, Smallin says, follow the rule fashion advisers use: If you haven't worn it in over a year, get rid of it, unless you want it for sentimental reasons.

The final step is equipping your closet to suit your needs. You can choose built-ins or the more economical wire systems. When organizing, the experts advise grouping like items together and keeping those you use most frequently in the easiest to reach spots.

But keep the following pointers in mind:

Women's apparel comes in a wide range of lengths so try to install adjustable rods in your closet.

If you are short on storage space, consider using the very top part of your closet for seasonal items.

Narrow, closely spaced shelves are preferable because they make it easier to see what you have.

Copyright © 2003, Chicago Tribune

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