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Ask Martha

Getting the coat closet organized for spring

James Ransom

March comes in like a lion. And at this time of year, your coat closet can look like it needs as much taming. Try these systems for corralling coats and shepherding shoes — and when the month goes out like a lamb, you’ll have a calm, serene storage solution to match.

THE HANG OF IT: At this time of year, it’s entirely possible the weather could require wearing a ski parka, a slicker, rain boots, sandals and sunscreen . . . all on the same day. No wonder your coat closet is so crammed and out of control.

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“It’s dangerously easy to get comfortable with the daily fight for your coats and boots,” says New York City professional organizer Erica Ecker, founder of the Spacialist (thespacialist
.com). “But don’t start thinking of your closet as a shove-all.” Indeed, the first step in streamlining the space is going through it item by item and asking yourself if each thing really belongs there.

“This is an active closet, not a storage closet,” says Stacey Platt, author of “What’s a Disorganized Person to Do?” “Aim to only have things that pertain to coming and going.” Considering that you’re often rushing in and out the door, Ecker points out that “the laziest system makes the best system. If you know you’ll never put your shoes in individual boxes, don’t even try. Be realistic.” This is true for yourself and the rest of your family: If, for example, your husband has yet to ever place his jacket on a hanger, it might be time to let it go . . . and assign him a coat hook.

NO MORE WIRE HANGERS. INVEST IN STURDY ONES: “Good, strong hangers are the most important element,” says Elizabeth Botero, a professional organizer in New York City. (Flimsy dry-cleaner freebies often lead to coats on the floor.) Assign each family member a color for his or her hangers, Ecker says. Try using ribbon or paint.

USE A BASKET TO STASH SMALL SEASONAL ITEMS: Give each person a little bin for such belongings as mittens, scarves and sunglasses. “In spring, store away all the winter accessories and replace them with warm-weather stuff like kids’ caps, sidewalk chalk, and sunblock,” Ecker says. (Hang the baskets low, so kids have access.) Store less frequently used items in baskets on high shelves; you can even color-code by contents with stripes of craft paint.

YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY UMBRELLAS: “This is the rare case where more is more. You should have three times as many as you think you need,” says Ecker, who recommends buying inexpensive umbrellas by the dozen so you can quickly grab one as you head out the door (and not waste time looking for your “favorite”).

WAIT UNTIL THINGS ARE DRY TO PUT THEM AWAY: Let wet coats and shoes dry outside the closet — otherwise, you risk dirtying or dampening dry items. Rather than chewing up valuable space with boot shapers, Botero recommends a simple binder clip at the top of wellies to keep them standing upright. Consider keeping towels or bath mats in the closet, too: That way, when you or your kids come in wet or muddy, you can clean off.

PROTECT OFFSEASON COATS FROM MOTHS: Pack away jackets in breathable cotton garment bags, Botero says. Hang a cedar plank — a natural moth repellent — in each one. If a plank seems to be losing its scent, rub the surface with coarse sandpaper (outdoors or in a well-ventilated area).

MAKE PEACE WITH THE VACUUM CLEANER: Vacuum storage may not pertain to coming and going, but in many homes the coat closet is the only place to store one. A wall-mounted organizer for the hose and attachments can keep you from feeling as if you’re wrestling an elephant whenever you open the door.

Visit www.marthastewart.com/organizing-tips for more helpful organizing ideas.

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living.
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