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Easy Ways to Get More Closet Space

By Constance Matthiessen
WebMD Feature

You don't have to live in an old house or a small apartment to suffer from closet deficit disorder -- although it does raise your risk. If you never seem to have enough closet space, you may recognize symptoms such as these: avoiding your closet; approaching your closet cautiously, grabbing what you need, and quickly slamming the door to avoid the jungle within; or finding shoes jumbled on the floor, clothes that have fallen off hangers, and belts and hats twisted together in forsaken piles.

A cluttered, overstuffed closet can even be a safety hazard -- as anyone who's opened the door and been bonked on the head by a falling box knows too well. The answer, of course, is more closet space -- but how can you create it without knocking down walls or moving to a new home? Here are some easy steps to closet deficit relief:

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Evaluate What You Have to Work With

Before you get started, take a good look at your closet. What is the configuration? Could you be using the space, no matter how limited, more efficiently?

Donna Smallin, who has written eight books on organizing and simplifying life, says many people waste the space at the top of their closets, where they can easily add another shelf or two. She advises those pressed for space to "go vertical," pointing out that even if your new shelves are hard to reach, they can be used to store items you don't use often, like dress shoes or clothes that are out of season. (For help planning your dream closet, see the online tools below.)

Declutter

The next step is to go through your closet and ruthlessly purge the items you don't use.

Smallin adheres to the maxim that if you haven't worn an item of clothing for a year, give it away. "Identify the clothes you love, and get rid of everything else," she says. "If you haven't worn something for a year, there's something wrong -- it's not your style, or it doesn't fit right -- and there is no point in holding onto it."

Kimberly Beyer, a professional organizer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, agrees. Beyer often has to press her clients to get rid of clothing that doesn't fit them anymore.  "Our bodies change with time, and a lot of people who've lost or gained weight hang on to clothes for years in case they someday fit again," says Beyer. "I tell clients, 'If an item of clothing hasn't fit for a year or more, you're probably never going to wear it. If you used to be a size two and now you're a size eight, you're probably not going back there.  And if you used to be a size sixteen and now you're an eight, you don't want to go back there!'"

Beyer also recommends getting rid of miscellaneous hangers. "If you hang all your clothes on the same type of hanger, it streamlines your closet and makes it easier to find what you're looking for," she points out. Beyer recommends felt-covered hangers, which are thin and lightweight. Plus, the felt prevents clothing from sliding off onto the floor.

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