The family closet may be the answer
you've been looking for...

I am so excited to finally share the concept of the family closet with you and let you know how much our family has benefited from it. The basic idea is to consolidate all of the family's clothing into one closet - ideally using the largest closet or maybe even the smallest room (if you have a lot of clothing!) in the house. All of the laundry comes and goes to one location, cutting down on needless trips back and forth to other bedrooms to retrieve and put away clothing. It will take serious mettle to make the change and do all of the purging it will most likely require (it is not for the organizational faint of heart), but boy, is it worth it in the end! The family closet has really worked for us!

Why did I do this??

A little over a year ago, I was in the later stages of pregnancy with my third child, soon to bring the total number of members of our family to six (me, my husband, my stepson, and our younger three). I was already fighting a losing battle with clutter, housecleaning and most definitely laundry. I would empty the dryer, and make five different piles of clothing on our bed that would then (ideally) go off to 3 - 4 different locations. Lots of traffic back and forth to get the job done (not to mention time), so most of the time the clean laundry would sit, in a pile on our bed, only to be relocated to the floor on a nightly basis because I was just to tired to do it. We would routinely go to the pile instead of our closet to find something to wear.

I bought baskets. Lots of them. I labeled each one with a different family member's name. So the BIG pile was sorted into the different baskets, with the idea that each basket would be emptied (ie. PUT AWAY). I was an organizational genius!.... with about 7 different laundry baskets, FULL of clean clothes, on the bedroom floor. Day after day. Lots of tripping and subsequent yelling was involved.

Something had to change.

Enter in rain gutter bookshelves. Huh? Well...Kimberly, over at the Raising Olives blog, had a fantastic idea for a way to organize books. So fantastic that one of the moms in our homeschool group, was inspired and shared a link to the rain gutter bookshelf tutorial with our group. I followed the link to the Raising Olives blog, and I was fascinated with how easy and creative these bookshelves were! I wish we had the wall space for these! Anyway, I can never seem to leave a new blog without exploring it thoroughly (remember the Rabbit Hole??), so I spent the better part of an afternoon learning a little bit about everything this mom (Kimberly) does to organize her large family. We are secular, so I glossed over the religious aspects to the site, and just focused on searching for a more efficient way to do homeshcool and household stuff. Then I came across her post for a family closet. Oh. My. Goodness. The clouds parted, the sun came out and I distinctly heard trumpets blaring in the background. My laundry problem was solved! Now, I just had to get my husband on board.

Dean was not convinced that all of the reshuffling of clothing into a family closet was going to create the desired change I was searching for. He thought that this was just another lame attempt by me to create a huge mess under the guise of making an 'improvement' in our household. He was right. The process did create a huge mess. It took about two months to sort it all out.

Disclaimer: Anytime I come up with a project, I routinely fail to remember the fact that I have approximately 12 minutes of "free time" during the day. So therefore, any project I take on takes a ridiculously long time to complete.

I began by designating which portion of our closet/soon-to-be the 'family closet' the kids would take over. I have probably moved things around at least a dozen times since the initial go, (driving everyone crazy), but at last we have what works for us. Don't forget, we had a new family member to work in as well, after it was all set up. I was determined to make the family closet totally accessible to the little kids so that they could take on the task of dressing/undressing themselves totally on their own. So the lower clothing rods were for the little kids, and the lower shelves were theirs as well. We are lucky in that the closet came with four rods at various heights, and one wall had floor-to-ceiling built-in shelving. It was such a bonus to not have to factor in purchasing any special shelving to make this project work. We did end up purchasing one organizer, a unit that hangs from the rod and goes down to the floor. I think the intended purpose is for storing shoes, but Dean and I use it for our socks and underwear.

Then I took every last bit of clothing out of each of the kids' closets and sorted EVERYTHING. This meant all of Jordan's current clothing, a massive pile of his older clothing that was to handed down to Owen (and Colin), everything in his dresser, all of Rylan's clothing and all of Owen's. I dumped out and reclaimed all of the clear storage boxes in the basement (creating another mess, for another time). I sorted out every piece of clothing by size and put what was to be kept into its designated box. Everything that was of current size was hung up/folded and put away in the family closet.

As I mentioned, each child got a shelf (about 4 feet long) in the new family closet. A small bin is there to hold socks and underwear/diapers, and then all of the items that would routinely go into a dresser (pjs, shorts and pants). By stacking them on a shelf, each item is easily seen and you can find what you need quickly. I always hated how small items could get buried in a dresser drawer and then get forgotten about. Since the dressers were cleaned out, that meant that they could be repurposed or gotten rid of. Jordan's dresser and nightstand were sold in a garage sale, thus freeing up a ton of floorspace in his room since he would be using the family closet. This meant that he could now have a bigger bed and pass his twin bed onto Rylan. The dresser that housed some of Rylan's things is also the changing table, so it wasn't going anywhere. We could repurpose it though, and it now holds all of the children's bedding and baby blankets (thus freeing up a lot of shelf space in the linen closet).

Initially, I put the clothing storage boxes into neat stacks in the now-empty closet in what was Rylan and Owen's room. It stayed that way for the better part of year. Also in that closet were their baby keepsake things and baby stuff that would soon be put in use when Colin arrived. In Jordan's closet I left behind a massive pile of clothing that he was currently growing out of, all of his keepsakes, extra bedsheets, and about 10 thousand household odds and ends. One of the important benefits of clearing out these closets is that you are freeing up that space to store other things, or creating a new purpose for them. They could become a private hide-out for the kids, a place to keep their special things, or a place to store their toys. I have other ideas for these two closets.

My goal had always been to get every piece of clothing, either in current use or soon-to-be-used, into the family closet. I wanted the clothing bins in the family closet so that they would be easily accessible. The final push came just after Christmas when we started to clean out the basement. The kids had swapped rooms and roommates, so out came all of the nicely-labeled clothing bins from Rylan and Owen's closet. Piles of clothing that needed to be added to those bins had grown over the previous year, and were located all over the house. And I mean all over. A pile sat on the kitchen counter for the better part of two months. For whatever reason, it was just too difficult to drag out the bins and put stuff away when it was located in a different closet. The newly removed bins sat in the upstairs hallway and in our bedroom for about 4 weeks, waiting to be sorted through again, as I added stuff. When the clothing bins got the boot from one closet, it was only natural that they should go into the family closet. They are now up and out of the way, but totally accessible when I need to get in them - AND there is a step-stool available at all times, so no excuse for random clothing piles anymore!

As for the newly-emptied closet in what is now Jordan and Owen's room, every last bit of Christmas stuff was brought upstairs from the basement and sorted, purged, organized and stuffed into that closet. (we are currently emptying out the basement so that we can finish it) The closet is now full from side to side, floor to ceiling with Christmas stuff. This means two things: 1) Since it is full, I can no longer ADD any more Christmas paraphernalia, unless there is room in an existing storage tub. So, for items like ornaments, there is still tons of room in each child's ornament box. 2) It is an excellent use of space that we only need access to once or twice a year. This means that furniture can go in front of the closet doors, adding sorely needed wall space in that room. Currently, Owen's bed, nightstand and bookshelf are in front of the closet doors. This could definitely be a future post topic!

Jordan's old closet (which is now a part of Rylan and Colin's room) still holds some of his mementos, and the random household items. We had initially brought up all of the ski gear to store in this closet. It became apparent that this wasn't a good idea when Dean was preparing to go skiing earlier this season, and realized late into the night that he needed to retrieve his gear and the kids were already asleep. So...Now, everyone has their own bin/drawer to put their ski gear in -in the family closet. Snow pants are on hangers, and extra hats, face masks, mittens and gloves are now in these drawers. We also moved all of my sewing stuff, fabrics and craft supplies into this closet (again, to empty out the basement). It is in total disarray though, and needs to be sorted and organized. - at some undesignated time in the future.... when I have some free time. ;)

The last of the transformation of the family closet came in the past few weeks. I moved all of the suitcases and duffel bags (from the basement) into the closet. Packing/and unpacking can happen right inside the closet, on a folding table. I also moved in (just yesterday) all of my and Dean's memento-type clothing (wedding dress, suits, Dean's late-father's Naval uniform and pea coat, etc..), and about a bazillion coats - I'm not thrilled that they are there, but there is really no other place in the house that makes sense - and the basement is off-limits. We do have a minuscule coat closet just off of the garage door, but it isn't really conducive to holding coats - it is for storing all of Dean's commuting/biking gear, the vacuum, diaper bag, and small cooler(s) for picnics. Dean mounted 2 rows of coat hooks (six each) for day-to-day coats, but really, this only works if there is 1-2 coats on each hook. Add the 24 different coats that we could potentially use on a daily basis (in the winter time) and the whole ease-of-use concept just breaks down. It doesn't help that Rylan's dress-up princess dresses take up almost the whole lower row of hooks. (We really need a child's-sized coat tree for the playroom).

Well, anyway, I can now call this family closet project OFFICIALLY complete! Enjoy!

This article, The Family Closet, was written by a guest author Kirsten Nicholson, a stay at home mom who homeschools her four children. Be sure to check out her blog Don't Eat the Daisies.

Go to Organized Home from Family Closet