I know I am not the only one who has looked at those photos of professionally reorganized closets and wept with envy. I am pathetic in the organization department, and my closets are the worst example of it all. In fact, they’re less closets and more like black holes.

It’s always been a dream for some professional closet organizer to swoop in and organize the mayhem.

Dream! (above)

my sad closet

(Includes bent clothing rod and recently discovered squash racket
that doubles as handy child-sized air guitar)

So when the kind folks at Closet Factory offered to help me customize my highly (highly) embarrassing front hall coat closet and then share the results, it was my version of the fairy godmother coming down with glass slippers. Or uh, brushed steel coat hooks.

These guys are like the closet designers to the stars.

If you’ve considered having your closets custom done, I learned so much about the process. Here are a few things to consider if you’re going to take the plunge.

And wait until you see my “after” pictures. Swoon!

1. Do you DIY or call a pro?

As for me, I’m not a great DIYer. I can put together a Billy bookcase by myself, but I can’t be trusted to measure, build and reorganize an entire hall closet, nor could I find the time. So for me, the expense is worth the final result. In fact, the designers at Closet Factory reminded me just why organizational professionals exist (and why I am not one myself!)

If you work with Closet Factory, they’ll come over for about a 60-90 minute meeting (which is free!) and ask lots of questions to make sure they understand what you’re going for–and then bring it to life.

2. Know what you want. Know what you need. Figure out the difference.

closet before

In my dreams, I have 90210-style walk-in closets with 5 inches of space between each coat. In my reality, as you can see to the left, my this is not the case. In fact, my entire apartment is about the size of one of those celeb closets.  So I had to prioritize my needs:

-A special rod within reach of the kids, so they’d know where their stuff goes. (Part of my dreams involve not having to pick up small jackets and backpacks off the floor every time I walk in the door.)

-Deep shelves for things like sports equipment or an air mattress

-Drawers, which can hide a multitude of organizational sins. Because let’s be honest, I’m still going to “throw stuff in there” when last minute company comes over.

-Hooks at various heights because the sigOth, like the children, has some sort of weird aversion to hangers.

If you can think through your priorities before your consultation, it will help you to be clearer about your goals so they can do a better job for you.

3. Take inventory

Turns out, half the stuff we had shoved in the closet didn’t belong there. In fact, it didn’t belong anywhere. Know what you have, what you need, and what you don’t. I didn’t do this beforehand and I probably should have. It will be easier for your consultant to know what they’re dealing with. That goes for the number of coats or shoes or boots or handbags you’re dealing with too.

4. Purge! Then purge again

elle decor circa 1992

Ten year-old boxes of tax returns were shredded, and Elle Decor issues from 1992 hit recycling. The fishing poles that are used once a year were stashed in the basement. Old coats were donated to a local rive, and my sigOth’s 6000 sweaters were judiciously sorted into save/donate/move to bedroom piles.

Seriously, he has a sweater problem.

I did a lot of this purging after the consultation but honestly, it’s helpful to do some of it before she comes over so you have a better sense of what you want to keep in there. It will be majorly helpful.

5. Measure – or better, let them measure for you

While you won’t be the one wielding the tape measure, it’s really important to know what kind of coat or hanging storage you’ll need. The consultant should help you measure the longest coats that you own (for height) as well as the estimated width needed for long coats, shorter coats, and kids stuff.

In our case, this enabled us to create more space by double hanging some of the rods. If you don’t take inventory properly, you could end up with too much space for size 4T jackets, and not enough for those full-length down parkas. And vintage kimonos. (Why do I own so many vintage kimonos? And more importantly, why don’t I wear them

Again, this is a good reason to purge before the consultation.

6. Consider modularity

One of the things I liked about the Closet Factory is that the closets can be modular. We can remove hanging bars as the kids grow older and their jackets get bigger, adjust shelves up and down, or even move the poles around.

I also love love love the sliding valet rods which slide out to give us temporary extra space when guests come over, or allow us to hang wet umbrellas or coats without dripping on everything else.

valet hooks!  | Tips for reorganizing your closet

Valet rods! I had never heard of them before and now it’s probably my favorite thing about the closet.

7. Pick your style

This is actually harder than it seems. The designer at Closet Factory showed me a ton of options on the iPad (so smart) and it was overwhelming. There’s even a selection of eco-friendly woods that are totally recycled with no added formaldehyde, if you’re willing to spend a little more.

I realized I really liked the look of a lighter wood so I went with a beech veneer, with brushed chrome hardware to give it a modern vibe. (Definitely spend some time thinking about the kinds of drawer pulls you want–that makes or breaks the look, in my opinion.)

We had a lot of discussion about lucite drawer fronts which allow you to see what’s inside but uh…I need a few places that no one can see. You can also opt for full drawer fronts or half-fronts which again give you a peek as to what’s inside.

8. Approve the plans

Closet Factory schematic | Tips for reorganizing your closet

The designer will do a little sketch on the spot, then send you the plans via email. Take a good look at the design and measurements and make sure it’s what you want. They’re going to custom cut and order everything when you give the thumbs up so this is the time to make a change if you’re like, wait! I just realized I need a storage solution for 6 soccer balls too!

Here, I realized that I liked the really deep shelves in the center, but that we didn’t need a fishing pole hanger, and the lucite drawers weren’t my style. So we made those changes. Because next thing you know, you’ll have a guy in your home, ripping out the old and putting in the new based on this drawing.

9. Prepare to repaint

One thing I hadn’t thought about is that after the installation is complete, you’ll need to re-spackle/repaint the interior walls so everything looks shiny and new. It was so frustrating not to be able to put things away in my pretty new closet because I needed to wait a day for paint to dry–but yeah. Prudent choice, I’d say.

10. Behold!

Closet Factory finished product | Tips for reorganizing your closet

It’s okay, I have extra tissues for you. I understand.

11. Accessorize! Whee!

For me, the final part is the fun part. Our vintage bamboo umbrella stand looked terrific in there, plus I added a bamboo bowl for gloves, and some leather baskets for tossing small items in and trays for organizing scarves we want to slide in and out. I even tracked down some great looking but inexpensive wooden hangers from IKEA which make a huge difference. I have never seen my closet without bent, mismatched wire hangers before. And I like it big time.

finished closet! | Tips for reorganizing your closet

ikea hanger | Tips for reorganizing your closet

bamboo bowl for gloves | Tips for reorganizing your closet

bamboo umbrella stand | Tips for reorganizing your closet

drawers! | Tips for reorganizing your closet

Does it look like a closet perfectly styled for a magazine spread? Not really. It’s a gorgeous closet, but we’re still a real family with actual items that need to go in and come out, and more than three wee little shirts on every rod. And that’s what I liked about Closet Factory–they understood I had real needs, real space issues, and wanted a closet for more than showing off my handbag collection.

Now, my kids are now hanging their jackets (yessss), we’re not frantically searching for scarves before school each morning, and I’m definitely not embarrassed to open my closet for guests.

Plus, I get to show off the valet rods. And I do. –Liz

You can request a free consultation from Closet Factory by visiting their website. The not only do closets, they’re great for playspaces, fold-away beds, shelving and more. You’ll also find great organizational tips from guest bloggers on their blog.

Thank SO much to their amazing staff for customizing my new closet at no charge, putting up with my occasional indecisiveness, and for teaching me a ton about how the process works. I feel so grownup. And now, I’m saving up to do our bedroom closet with them. Which is an even bigger challenge, trust me.

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