Organize a Greener Closet Today

Photo: Rubbermaid/flickrOrganizing is the “in” thing as we all try to make our lives greener and simpler. And the first place we generally look to improve is the state of our closets. No matter how neat – and environmentally aware – you are, there is almost certainly at least one closet in your home that would benefit from a green makeover.

How Will Organizing Make Your Closets Greener?

Organizing starts with inventory – taking a good clear look at what you have on hand. Go through your closets with an objective eye. Inviting a friend to join you may make this challenging task easier.

You are likely to find forgotten-about clothing and accessories that you’ll enjoy reusing -- either wearing as is or creatively transforming. For example, old neckties can be sewn into a colorful skirt. You’ll also find stuff that others would enjoy more than you, so bundle it up and pass it on to a local charity or thrift shop. CAUTION: Donate only garments that other human beings will actually want to reuse. Anything overly worn or full of moth holes should be repurposed as bedding for an animal shelter, cleaning rags, etc.

Another benefit of closet organization is “found” time. You will be enabling yourself to get ready to go out and face the world more quickly and less stressfully. This not only shaves minutes off your schedule but saves psychic energy.

A Place for Everything

Designate a separate place for each type of gear you own. I have a tendency to think each of my possessions is top priority and must be immediately accessible. Result? I try to store every bit of it close at hand; everything has a place, it’s just all the same place. NOT the best organizing principle. Shelves and cubbies will help you stash essentials for easy access.

Though knits and rugged denims do better folded flat, take Grandma’s time-tested advice and hang up your wovens. You’ll need less electricity for ironing wrinkled duds. Instead of flimsy wire or plastic hangers (8 billion of which head to the landfills annually), use recycled cardboard, bamboo, or wood. Padded hangers maintain garments' shape, while clip hangers or safety pins keep skirts and trousers tidy. To protect clothes from dust during long term storage, cover with a no-longer-new sheet or curtain.

Actually Use Those Gorgeous Kids’ Clothes!

Somehow having kids means that you tend to be showered with adorable teeny-tiny clothing, both gifts and quality hand-me-downs. Make sure your youngsters actually use those cute onesies and fun overalls before they are outgrown. Pin up a wall chart or save an Excel sheet to your computer to remind you of what is stored where. Don’t forget to list sizes!

Green Equipment

Use closet dividers to separate your stuff into logical categories like: Work Clothes, Party Time, Jeans, Sweaters, and so on. You can make an attractive green version from recycled CDs.

If you’d like some illumination to let you see what you have in your closet, install eco-friendly low voltage lighting to save electricity.

Reusable space bags are great when you’re pressed for closet room. Fill them with out-of-season clothing and compress to a fraction of their original size. They are also a humane anti-pest method to keep insects out of your garments.

If your room (or your child’s) doesn’t come equipped with a walk-in closet, improvise in a green way. Repurpose everyday items like tension rods and curtains to create practical, good-looking storage space. These can also be placed inside a closet to improve its organization. For shelving or free-standing wardrobes, reclaimed lumber, such as vintage Philadelphia fence or barn wood, is a stylish option. Use a water-based, low VOC finish.  

Sew Simple

Learn to do simple mending so you can save money and reduce your shopping footprint. You’ll be able to rescue your favorite duds – in a hurry if necessary, as when you’re planning to wear your hottest LBD to a big do that evening. You’ll get bonus points for mending that shirt or dress before you stash it away ... and even more points for keeping a sewing kit in its own designated corner of the closet.

Laura Firszt writes for

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