The new year is here, and for many of us, it’s time to get organized and purge old stuff to make room for the new. In brownstones and townhouse apartments, where closet and storage space are often limited, decluttering can seem overwhelming. We asked some professional organizers for their top tips for brownstone dwellers.
1. Put It on the Wall.
“For me, what I’ve learned is to utilize the wall space, and that could be floating shelves or hooks. I put up a wall grid with hooks,” said organizer Karin Saldana, who recommends the Gladiator wall storage systems sold at Home Depot to store, bicycles, balls and athletic equipment in the cellar or on the ground floor.
“A lot of families have kids, and kids will have strollers and bikes,” she said.
Even if you’re on a budget, there are steps you can take to create more space, Saldana said. Drawer dividers like the clear expandable drawer dividers from The Container Store keep items like T-shirts and socks organized. And a wall rack like the one made by elfa attached to the inside of a closet door can keep items off the floor.
“Everything, in my opinion, should just be kept off the floor,” Saldana said. “With the New Year, it’s a really good time to look at your space and always plan before you go and purchase. Make sure you measure.”
2. Zone Your Entry (in Lieu of a Closet).
For brownstone entryways, where halls can become clogged with coats, scarves and scooters, organizer Amanda Wiss of Urban Clarity suggests a shoe bench, hooks, containers designated for each family member, and a spot for mail and keys.
“You need to create a landing spot and you often have no front hall closet, so we usually try to go vertically so that all that stuff doesn’t gravitate into your house,” Wiss said. “You have to figure out what things you need for each family member.”
3. Place Needed Items in Reach.
Wiss said a seasonal clothing swap is especially important in brownstones, where cellar space is abundant and can accommodate shelving for clothes that are out of season. And putting an extra set of items like toothbrushes and hair ties on the ground floor can save a lot of time and aggravation when you’re rushing out the door in the morning.
“We had a client with four girls who had this amazing set of ribbons and hair bows and they were all part of this amazing system in her front hall closet,” Wiss said. Also, she suggests keeping duplicates of items like tape and scissors on every floor.
“What are things you need to have in arm’s reach that you’re not willing to go to another floor for?” Wiss asked.
4. Spiff Up Your Closets.
When it comes to clothing, stylist and closet organizer Ashley Gold Kanfer recommends grouping by category or color to make things easier to find. And utilizing the vertical space in most brownstone closets to store less-worn or seasonal items up high can be helpful.
“Standardize your hangers,” Kanfer said. “Use the same nonslip hangers throughout your closet and you will be able to fit twice as much, and better be able to see what you have.
Kanfer advises hiring a carpenter or closet company to install a built-in storage system, or doing it yourself.
“Whether you splurge and have someone install closet built-ins or do the job yourself, this will be money well spent and can quadruple your closet’s precious real estate,” Kanfer said.
5. Optimize Nooks and Crannies.
If you’re gearing up for a renovation, a professional organizer can consult with your architect to make sure everything has a place.
“That’s the best time to come in, especially in a brownstone, to tell you when there are nooks that you’re not utilizing,” Wiss said. “We can eyeball the plans and make sure you don’t forget about the broom closet, or space for a vacuum.”
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