Yep, the holidays are officially over. One of most often said phrases in the New Year is, “I REALLY need to clean out my closets.” If you’re like Monica from the NBC sit-com, Friends, you are a “place for everything, everything in its place” person…outwardly. Inwardly, though, you may have some storage challenges. Take a look at this clip from Friends, “The One with the Secret Closet” episode:

This is an extreme case, yes, but I’m sure you can relate. Here are some tips to help you clear out the clutter and make better use of your space.

Compartmentalize, then Organize

Evaluate the places in your home or office with excess “stuff” taking up space. You know. The stuff that ended up where it is because you had “no place else to put it.” Take the hall closet at home. Excess bags and wrapping paper end up in there. Parcel boxes you saved to avoid buying new ones. Extra pairs of gloves and scarves you’ve accumulated over the years. How do you keep all this from piling up?

First, pick the main use for the closet. Nine times out of ten, the hall closet has to double as something other than just the coat closet. You have to use it to store shoe shine kits, luggage, tools, sewing kits, extra outerwear.  Looking at what’s in there now, determine the primary storage function: Is it a hall closet that doubles as a utilities closet? If yes, separate items by type and store in plastic bins that work like drawer space.

Second, take everything out of the closet so you can accurately inventory items and determine what you actually use. Eliminate duplicate items and decide what stays, gets donated or gets disposed of. If you have six pairs of gloves, narrow them down to the top three by color, material and level of warmth, Donate the rest. If you haven’t worn ‘em in two seasons, get rid of ‘em!

Third, map out a plan for making better use of the space and its storage opportunities. For example, take advantage of vertical space using hanging shelves for excess items. These shelves average 50” high with 12″ x 12” shelf compartments that create excellent storage with plenty of leftover closet space. Add bins on the hanging shelves, as well as the closet’s top shelf, to hold groups of items.

Find New Storage Possibilities

Making better use of storage space also means being open to reassigning existing space. When we moved into our apartment, I added a jewelry armoire  to our very small bedroom because of an overflowing jewelry box. A mistake because, not only did the room become overstuffed with furniture, but the armoire became overstuffed as well.

I dumped everything out, separated “special occasion” jewelry from “everyday” jewelry, and donated anything I hadn’t worn in the past two years. Because I had done the same with clothes (see how this works?), the top drawer of my dresser was available. This became my new jewelry box. I re-purposed the ring and necklace tray from the old armoire, filled old ice cube trays with earring sets and created an eye-level jewelry box for quick and easy access.

Bins are the Answer

After taking inventory of items in a problem area and determining realistic use of them, incorporate storage bins for a more functional organization system. This sectioning of items creates extra shelf space, prevents clutter and makes things easy to find. Best of all, there is no avalanche of falling pieces, or any embarrassment that might ensue… just like Monica on Friends.