10 steps to a decluttered closet

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Learn how to make your closet work for you — and your clothes.
Step 1: Assess Your Big Obstacles
Are your shoes overtaking the space? Try a hanging-shoe rack or over-the-door organizer. Do your clothes overcrowd? Thinner hangers create space so you can find things easier. Feeling rushed each morning? Dividing shirts, dresses, jeans, etc. bring a sense of order and saves time. Solving your biggest problem will motivate you to create the closet of your dreams.

Step 2: Make it a Family Effort
Getting your hubby and kids involved in organizing can make a difference in your family's day-to-day life. Everyone should be in charge of his or her own clothes, accessories, and toys. This will cut your cleaning time in half and ensure nothing important is thrown away by mistake.

Step 3: Take An Hour
Scheduling just 60 minutes a week can really make a dent in your overstuffed, cluttered closet. Can't spare that much? Try two half-hour sessions. If you're constantly being interrupted by "Hey Mom!" — ask your spouse to take the kids out for the afternoon. Remember to return the favor when it's his turn to hit the closets.

Step 4: Start from Scratch
Take everything (yes, everything) out of your closet. If you don't remove it all, chances are the same unworn clothes will be moved around the closet. Now it's time to sort. Throw out old and damaged clothing. Donate what you don't need or don't wear.

Step 5: Out with the Odd
Remove items that have no business in your closet. Bank statements, insurance information, or tax documents don't belong next to your shoes, scarves, and sweaters. Create a Life.doc to organize and store all of your important documents in one accessible place. File the remaining papers in an office cabinet or milk crate.

Step 6: Organize in Sections
Designate a place for everything in your closet. Shoes in one place, sweaters in another, and so on. This will help you keep order and save you time each morning. Make smart use of the space. Installing shelves will double your storage and help sweaters and t-shirts keep their shape better.

Step 7: Apply the 80/20 Rule
You may not want to admit it, but the majority of clothes you have probably go unworn. It's said that the average American only wears 10 to 20 percent of their clothes. To cut down on the fluff, remove items you haven't worn in a year. Drop off the excess at Goodwill or arrange a clotheswap with friends.

Step 8: Put One In; Take One Out
For each new item you buy to put in your closet, donate one item (or pitch it if it's past its prime). This will keep you from returning to your pat-rack ways.

Step 9: Keep It Going
Dedicate 15 minutes a week to straightening your closet after the "big clean." Spending this small amount of time will ensure you never have to go through a major de-clutter again.

Step 10: Reward Yourself
Recognize and celebrate what you've done. Treat yourself to some new hangers or buy that silk blouse you've been eyeing. Now, you actually have room for it!

Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore are the co-founders of Buttoned Up, a company dedicated to helping stretched and stressed people get themselves organized. They are also co-authors of "Everything (almost) In Its Place."

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