Fantasy vs. reality: The closet edition

In the fantasy, I stroll into my perfectly organized closet to assemble my perfectly coordinated outfit. My clothes are color-coordinated and organized by type. Outfits assemble themselves effortlessly. After a quick glance in my beautifully lit, 3-way mirror, I smile at my oh-so-put-together reflection and skip out the door, humming happily.

Of course, in this same fantasy, I also wake up feeling refreshed, joyfully embrace the day, get ready for work in a flash, and stride confidently to my car — sort of like Shelley Hack in the old Charlie perfume ads.

In real life, I stumble out of bed feeling cranky and disoriented, huddling over a cup of coffee for at least twenty minutes before regaining the powers of speech.  By the time I rush out the door, late, juggling too many bags, I’m lucky to make it to the car without activating the panic button and alarming the neighbors.

We all know what a fantasy closet looks like.  We’ve all seen those ads for California Closets.  (If you want to eat your heart out, click here and then proceed through the photos). We’ve even heard stories of glamorous, famous women who converted extra bedrooms into magical dream closets.

But that’s just so self-indulgent, the frugal among us might say.  So excessive.  So very one percent (in occupy-my-closet speak).  No, no, that is not for me.  I will make do with my humble little closet, I think, smugly.

But then when I think about it, I have to wonder.  If I critically examine the amount of bedroom space dedicated to my clothes and accessories, can I really claim to be low-maintenance?

Unlike many, I am fortunate enough to have a large, walk-in closet in my bedroom.

I am also lucky enough to share it with somebody.  In case you’re keeping score, everything on the left-hand side, plus the top shelf in the back, belongs to Mr. Frump.  The right-hand side is mine. (Until very recently, extra sheets were also stored on that back shelf.  But then we noticed that the shelf was pulling away from the wall.  Sheets are heavy, apparently).

Now, since this is lifestyles of the not-so-rich and less-than-famous, after all, you want to see more, don’t you?  Of course you do.

Here is the first row of clothes, along the right-hand wall:

And here is the second row, along the back wall.

Did you notice that I am, at least, somewhat color-coordinated?  This is how I maintain the illusion of being organized and together. The fantasy ends here, unfortunately.

Shoes go on the floor — some inside their boxes, some perched on top of the boxes.

On the right you can see some of my scarves and belts, hung on regular hangers.  And the closet tour ends with my fabulous — or at least well-edited — bag and hat collection.

(Not represented are those bags currently hanging from assorted chairs or lying on the living room floor).

So that concludes the closet. But of course, this is not enough.  Many years back, I inherited a large wooden wardrobe:

One of the doors fell off years ago (you can see it propped against the wall, waiting for “someday”). But this piece is still very, very useful.  And that’s a good thing, because it’s made of an absurdly heavy tropical wood and weighs about 10,000 pounds. The movers barely got it into our house, and I don’t think it’s ever leaving.

Casual clothes, exercise wear, pajamas and assorted sweat pants fill the right-hand side, while the drawers are dedicated to socks, hosiery, underwear, and keepsake items that are saved but never worn.  And although I don’t really store out of season items, because I rely heavily on layering and wear many of my clothes all year long, the wardrobe is a handy spot for shorts in the winter, sweaters and fleeces in the summer.

Yes, it’s pretty horrifying.  But bear in mind: The door on the right-hand side does close. So I don’t have to stare at this pajama-centric carnage every time I walk into the room.

This wardrobe is also the home of my beloved jewelry drawer:

not to be confused with my chaotic-but-it-works jewelry wall:

This is actually located on the side of a shelving unit, next to the never-to-be-moved wardrobe. Not exactly the Piperlime Accessories Wall immortalized on Project Runway, is it?  Nevertheless, I did get some gratification from creating it.

In fact, maintaining and updating this entire organizational system — such as it is — is oddly soothing. It’s fun to create order from chaos. I enjoy striving toward the unattainable ideal of perfect closet organization.  I mean, picking up the phone and hiring a professional wouldn’t be nearly as fun, would it?

After writing this, I find myself wanting to look into all of my readers’ closets.  Is that too creepy?  I don’t know how to set up magical link-up posts, so I can’t initiate the “Show us your closets, America!” blog challenge. But if you happen to have closet photos posted to your blog, you could post links in the comments.  You may also want to check out a new post by Sally at Already Pretty, about closet alternatives.

What kinds of storage systems do you use? What are your challenges? Do you also yearn for the closet of your dreams? 

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About Anne @ The Frump Factor

Reflections on beauty and style, for women who weren't born yesterday. Bring your sense of humor and "Fight the Frump" with me!
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32 Responses to Fantasy vs. reality: The closet edition

  1. Oh sigh – I am so nosy about other people’s closets, I read this post twice, and studied your photos for more clues. I know I am a mental health professional, but I have to ask — is that crazy??
    Of course I long for the closet you describe in your first paragraph. Since I don’t have it yet, at age 56, I don’t think it’s in the cards. I do color-coordinate, and keep long away from short, and try to have a little space between hangers. I think you’ve done a good job along these same lines, and your jewelry is *much* neater!

  2. Joy says:

    You’ve kinda inspired me to share our closet….maybe….if I clean it first….

  3. I also long for a closet which is like a little room…all decorated…with a rug and a chandelier! I only see it happening in my dreams. But you do have me curious about other closets…why are we that way!! Color coordination also gives me the allusion of organization…I am scheduled to clean out the closet over spring break…good thing about teaching…we get a spring break!!

  4. Beryl says:

    The best thing you can do for any closet is to get those new style flocked hangars (Huggable?) from HSN or Target. They save you time, dry cleaning money, and your clothes. I hang wet cashmere sweaters on them. I hang up all my t-shirts so I can see them at a glance and they don’t have all those folding creases on them.
    I don’t color coordinate, but I do hang like with like. All my bottoms are in one area, my T-shirts are together, my tanks, and all my jackets are too. I don’t own any dresses, so this type of arrangement makes it easy for me to see what I can wear with what. I suppose I could color coordinate within each type based on the rainbow, but that would just discourage my husband from washing and hanging up my clothes after my decades of training him to wash and dry the way I like. (Too much pressure!)

  5. notquiteold says:

    I have a structurally beautiful closet, but it gets a little messy….

  6. Ann Marie says:

    Love the reference to Shelley Hack in the old Charlie commercials….they were so uplifting!
    I am very fortunate to have an extra room in our home to use as a closet. It is such a luxury to me because I love to be organized and this helps me to have most everything in one place. We did not do the professional install….($$$$$), but bought the white racks and shelving similar to your closet. (which by the way, is very tidy!) I had a couple mirrored wardrobes from my condo and they help to balance out the room. I did notice in your closet that you are limited in hanging spce because of the type of shelving installed. The bar that you hang your pants, blouses, etc. has small squares or gridwork and you cannot just “smooosh” in all of your hangers. I think that type of shelving is designed for sweaters, etc., and there is another style without the small squares. Does this make sense or am I just “knit-picking” ? I don’t mean for you to re-do your closet, but if you decide to add more shelving, it may be helpful.
    Beryl is right; the “huggable’ hangers are quite good. Your garments will not slide off of them.
    Thank you for sharing your closet space. When I listed my condo with a realtor, the one thing that freaked me out was having to post photos of my closet…..I don’t know why I am so private about some things.

    • Thanks for the comment! Yes, I know exactly what you mean about the shelving. It’s annoying, actually, because I can’t slide hangers back and forth. I’ve always figured this could be changed — or that I could somehow hang a bar from the existing shelving, to hang below — but like everybody, I’m SO reluctant to spend limited funds. Maybe some day. Your setup sounds great!

  7. alwaysjan says:

    I’m afraid that the few closets that were in my 1910 home were ripped out to fit in a half-bath. My entire wardrobe fits in an IKEA wardrobe. (When our house was reappraised a few years back, the guy said you couldn’t call a room a bedroom unless it had a closet – in that case we have three unidentified rooms!) We do have one lone closet upstairs where I rotate clothes for the seasons. So though I’m in California, I have no California closet (and only two seasons). I organize my clothes based on sleeveless, short sleeves and long sleeves. I have all of my necklaces hung on a bulletin board that’s covered with wild paper. It’s sort of an art piece in our bedroom. The size of my IKEA wardrobe forces me to take what I don’t wear to the local Out of the Closet.

  8. Kimberlee says:

    Well your jewelry is nicely displayed! My closet is a mess too. Manhattan closets are quite small so there’s a lot crammed in there. I don’t have many organizing options 😦

    Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  9. gracefully50 says:

    Hi Anne!
    I have a easy closet system. I actually designed it myself on their website and hubby installed it for me. It’s not one of those huge dream closet with a chandelier, but I’m pretty happy with it. It’s a pleasure now to walk into my closet!
    Hope you have a great weekend!

  10. Debbi says:

    I’d love to have a room dedicated as a closet. I do have clothes in a couple of closets, but in a 1960’s home, they did not build closets like they do today. I have stuff everywhere. I really do need to organize. I have good intentions, but just don’t seem to get it done. Your closet looks so organized.
    Maybe someday I will get organized.

  11. Terri says:

    I liked this tour of your closet. Perhaps I should be ashamed to admit that in the past year, I took over ALL of our shared closet and half of the guest room closet. Perhaps I’ll do a tour of my dresser though it is in a very dark spot and photos may be a problem (and I’ll have to tidy it up first). I must say though that your jewelry is the most organized I’ve ever seen.

    • I don’t think you should be ashamed at all. With your revolving collection of mostly thrifted items, you have about the most creative and least wasteful wardrobe I’ve seen! But you definitely need space to store it. (And yes, I love having the jewelry organized. It makes it pretty to look at! Though part of me would love to have everything draped from statues or mannequins, as I’ve seen some people do).

  12. Gail says:

    I’d love a dressing room like Carrie had in the first Sex & The City film. But I would also need the type of shoes that you display on shelves, not Converse or worse……

  13. Wow, your closet is very orderly. Mine is small and cluttered. I have been trying to rationalize things – and I did take some photos for a blog post not so long ago, but I think more work is needed before I show the world.

  14. Margaret says:

    If you’re hungry for more closets you can check out my posts:
    Before:
    http://toofewbeacons.blogspot.com/2011/02/flirting-with-minimalsim.html
    And after:
    http://toofewbeacons.blogspot.com/2012/01/minimizing-plans-great-and-small.html
    And Adrienne at http://wearthehat.blogspot.com/2012/01/closet-redo.html
    I’m a bit upset to notice, for the first time, that I spelled minimalism wrong in the title of that post. Would it kill blogger to enable spell check for the titles?

    • WOW! That is one amazing before-and-after! Thanks so much for posting this. (And I just commented on both of your blog posts). I enjoyed your reflections about the competing urges: desire to collect vs. desire to streamline. That’s a topic that certainly resonates with me! (And don’t get me started about my past history with embarrassing spelling errors….)

      • Margaret says:

        Ah, the essential closet conflicts- more/less, better/budget, edit/stockpile. Thanks for your compliments. I am pretty proud of that closet now, and happy to say that it has stayed quite clean since the photos were taken, which is not typical of me at all. Having done it myself I’d encourage anyone to take even small steps towards creating their dream closet- it does make you appreciate what you have more when it is invitingly displayed. To get me closer to my dream I’d like to replace the utilitarian plastic drawers in my closet with a snazzy vintage dresser, put up a couple of fancy coat hooks, and upgrade the shelving.
        Have you seen this?:http://cargocollective.com/closetvisit
        It’s not exactly a peek inside the actual spaces but if you like to look at other people’s stuff…

  15. Shayla says:

    I envy your walk-in! I went from a spacious walk-in to a standard size closet (or more like 1/2 a closet) when we moved. I’ve found creative places to hang my clothes though until the hub builds me that dream closet! Check it out…

    http://fortyishandfluffy.blogspot.com/2011/08/out-of-closet.html

  16. gingerR says:

    That’s a nice looking closet. I try to keep with nice hangers like those but the wire ones from the dry cleaner have a way of slipping into the mix. I’m always suspicious of closet “systems” that involve buying special things. I feel like “found” storage works about as well, even if it doesn’t look like a magazine. I think you’ve done a good job of working with what you’ve got.

  17. Angie says:

    I enjoyed your post about real life closets very much. I think your collection of stuff is growing and you will need more space soon. I also keep my bags and shoes and jewelery seperately.

  18. BigD says:

    Oh, Anne, I don’t think I could face the shame of letting someone see my closet with the door open.
    I am blessed to have my own closet–his-and-hers walk-ins was a big, big plus when we bought this place. (It was an upgrade, because at our old house, I was just relegated to the guest room, since we don’t share well.)
    It’s not that my closet is a wreck (if you don’t count the floor). It’s that I’m a closet (pardon the pun) clothes horse. I think I’m ashamed of the excess of stuff. I can barely shove anything else on the bars. I keep telling myself stuff needs to go, but I have a hard time. (Maybe I need a shrink.) I try to rotate around and wear most of it. (It’s not like I’m hanging on to stuff that fit before I gave birth twice–I gave up that optimism long ago!)
    My closet just doesn’t support my image as low-maintenance woman.

  19. Love your posts as always. I feel like I could stumble into your house and feel like I was home. I finally broke down and bought the slim hangers (I was getting the expensive ones at I forget what the name of the store is — one of the bath stores — begging all my friends to sign up for their mailing list so I could get the $5 coupon for them), and then found the hangers at CostCo. love that store. And they do give you more room, which my excessive and obsessive thrift-store shopping needed these days.

  20. Vesta Vayne says:

    Oh my goodness, I think you just inspired me to organize my closets, a task I’ve put off for three + years! We have a walk-in, but it’s TINY, and another closet in the office. My husband and I share both, now. I sort of assumed when we married and moved in together that the lion’s share of closet space would go to me (come on, that’s fair, right?). Not so much. My husband has developed a much better sense of style, and acquired a LOT of clothing in the past few years. It’s nice that he looks more put together, but I sure do miss that extra space 🙂

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