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Simple Closet Makeover & The What Not To Do List

by | Mar 10, 2011 | Organization

Simple Closet Makeover & The What Not To Do List

image via Design Sponge no, this is not my closet or my bathroom. bummer.

As I mentioned, I planned to follow along with Simple Mom’s Project Simplify challenge this week. Although I did procrastinate starting until Thursday. I have to confess (as you might already know if you follow me on Facebook) that I panicked a little bit when I read that this week’s challenge was to work on our closet. MY CLOSET? NO! That was my dreaded project. I knew I was too busy to do a “closet makeover.”

In fact, I have been putting off even hanging hooks in there since we moved in. Why? Because I have a sickness. I think I need to paint the closet first, map out where everything will go, have custom shelves, hang beautiful hooks, put lovely baskets on the shelves — basically make it all charming AND organized. Because I’m insane. And, I have 5,000 other projects waiting in line before my closet, so that means my closet was going to stay the way it was, nonfunctional and not pretty, for probably another year.

But, I promised Simple Mom I’d follow along with her challenge this week. And she said to work on my closet. She didn’t say to make it beautiful or ready for a magazine. She said SIMPLIFY.

Soooo, after dreading “the closet project” all week, I finally decided I better open up Simple Mom’s book for inspiration. She likes to simplify stuff. And clearly I was making this too complicated. On page 121 I saw this heading for a list I should make:

Today’s Items NOT To Worry About

BINGO! That is what I needed. The What Not To Do List. I needed to lower my expectations. But I didn’t need to lower them to doing NOTHING. I needed to stop worrying about everything I should do, could do, would be nice to do, and just pick ONE project in the closet in order to make PROGRESS in having a more functional closet. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing! DOH!

So today I decided to just tackle ONE project in my closet. Just one thing that would simplify my life.

It wasn’t about making it beautiful. It wasn’t about the amazing AFTER photo. It was about making something better than it was.

So what if I can’t paint this closet yet? So what if I can’t have custom shelves and a ladder put in my bathroom? I can at least get my SCARVES and BELTS off the dresser top and floor, right? Sheesh. Of course I can.

Simple Closet Makeover & The What Not To Do List

Closet Wall. BEFORE. Yes, those are random cedar planks.
Simple Closet Makeover & The What Not To Do List
Closet wall. AFTER.

So I looked around for a way to hang them easily. I happened to have a curved iron towel rod that I’ve been saving for use somewhere. I’ve been waiting for the perfect spot to use it for like 7 years. It just sits there doing NOTHING. Year after year. So why not let it be a scarf hanger? Ha. Finally, I’m putting this to use!!

The only available wall had a wonky electrical panel thing that I couldn’t cover up, so hanging the rod above it did the trick.

Simple Closet Makeover & The What Not To Do List

I know the rod looks crooked (it isn’t), and so not staged fancy or magazine cover-ish, but you get the idea.

It took me about five minutes to hang it and tie the scarves on. I set a mirror on the floor of the space to solve the problem of having no mirror to see our lower half.

Two problems solved in five minutes. What was I waiting for again? Oh yeah. Beautiful? Charming? Oh well. Maybe next year.

What holds you back in making progress on projects?
Are you an all or nothing girl?

PS. My friend Krista Colvin has a great online resource for organizing your closet!  She is awesome! Thanks Krista!


  1. Carolyn

    Melissa, I have a confession to make. I lied to you. In a previous comment, I told you I was going to check out Tsh’s site pronto. I didn’t check it out until just now. I know, I’m a terrible person. However, you have inspired me, and I’m going to try to get on the organization bandwagon. I laughed when she wrote about the 10 items she always wears. I swear, I have an outfit that I call my “uniform.” I always seem to see the same one of my friends every time I’m wearing said “uniform.” I think she believes I have no other clothes :) Thanks for the inspiration. I’m tackling my closet this weekend!

    • Melissa

      I know the feeling, sometimes wearing “the uniform” is so much easier than having to come up with something new every day ;-)

  2. Nancy Hood

    I tackled our master closet just a few weeks ago and have almost broken my arm patting myself on the back each time I open the door! Such a little thing to be so excited about :) but seriously, I only bought two small shelves. The rest was simply cleaning, throwing out, and giving away. $2 batches of black hangers from Target, items hung neatly, folded neated on shelves. What a difference. I’m lovin’ it!

    • Melissa

      Way to go, it is amazing how simple it can be if we don’t complicate it ;-)

  3. Faith

    Oh my closet needs this…it’s probably the most overlooked “room” in my house and it’s driving me bonkers. Maybe I’ll tackle a small closet project this weekend. Any progress is bound to be better than none at all.

  4. Kathysue

    Melissa, You and I wear the same hat. I am of the school if I can’t do it perfectly I keep putting it off until realism sets in and I realize as you did, something is better than nothing. I now chip away at projects, I take longer than I use too, but I do get more done this way!! I love your honesty and your solutions are alway so doable and realisitc. Happy closet cleaning!! KS

  5. Alicia

    Good for you! I suffer from Perfection Paralysis all the time. When I finally allow myself to do just a little bit, I am always so surprised to find out how much better “Good Enough” is!

    (I’m still too scared to tackle my closet but I’m thinking about it :-)

    • Melissa

      Oh, that is totally what I have. Perfection Paralysis. I’d rather do nothing than not do it well enough. Got to get over that. And look at me today?!!! So not awesome, but it WORKS! YES!!!

      • Paula

        I suffer from this WAY more than I’m willing to admit… can we start a group or something?

        • erin

          I think I would definitely need to join that group. Save a spot for me. I’m going to do something closet-wise tomorrow I think! wish me luck!

  6. Kari

    I could totally relate to needing to have the total plan before doing anything and you’re right, it holds me back from doing anything at all! You are so right! How come it makes more sense coming from some one else’s thoughts than my own?! Thanks for the motivation to finally work on the closet.

  7. bridget {bake at 350}

    Can you come over and help me get organized, please? ;)

    That top picture reminded me of being a kid….my dad built me a REALLY high loft bed (our rooms had high ceilings) and I had a rolling ladder from an old shoe store to get to it.

    We live about 15 minutes from that old house now…I often think about knocking on the door and asking if that ladder is still there. ;)

  8. Julie B

    Melissa: Thank you so much for the inspiration. I love your blog. It’s so genuine, and in no way judgmental. Thank you for the gentle push. Hoping I can accomplish at least a portion of something this weekend!! BTW, love your use of the towel rod. Seems it was worth hanging onto for those seven years. ;-) And I love your scarf collection. =)

  9. Amy

    Now I can do one little thing at a time. I like that! Just getting things off the floor is a major bonus for me these days:-)

  10. Melissa Lewis - Midwest Magnolia

    Haha, that so sounds like me too Melissa! You should see my house since we moved in this past Fall. And even more of a stumbling block for me is that it’s a rental. So I just can’t get my head wrapped around – will we be here for just another year, or will we be in this house for like 5 years? Ugh!

  11. Heidi Milton

    Don’t you think we just get overwhelmed sometimes? Don’t know where to start, feel like we need to dedicate an entire day to “getting it right” and of course, who ever has an entire day to devote to anything? You’re so right, Melissa– small changes can make a difference, too! Thanks bunches for this reminder. My to-do list doesn’t look nearly as daunting now. :)

    • Melissa

      YES. Exactly. If I don’t have an ENTIRE day, I probably give up. Today, I gave myself permission for a 5 minute project. FREEING!!! I have plenty of all day projects and never enough free days to do them! ;-)

  12. Rose

    oh yeah I cripple MYSELF all the time. I get it in my mind I need to do something then I think, first I have to do this, and that, oh AND that. Then I decide oh my goodness which one do I need to do first and then I just put it off because it’s just too stressful. Wasn’t THIS bad until DH retired and since he’s here 24-7 now it’s even harder to get anything done.

  13. Jo

    What a great use of a pretty towel bar! I didn’t do anything with my closet this week. It is about a foot and a half wide. If I followed Tsh’s steps for clearing out the closet, I literally would only be left with the 10 or so things I actually wear ;-) I guess I probably should do that anyway.

    But awhile ago, after being annoyed with my belts and at home sweaters being all over the floor all the time, I added some hooks to my closet too. WE had a little 3-hood thing that we had no use for, so I put it up in my closet. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in there!

  14. tamela

    Thanks for sharing Melissa! Looks great! And you’ve totally inspired me to get some cool scarves ;)

  15. Norell

    Glad to hear I am not alone – the perfection paralysis is my downfall. I also feel like a need a vision before I start or at least a written plan. Thanks to today’s blog and all the comments, I am going to try to do at least one part of the closet this week/weekend. I know know I don’t have to spend the entire day in my closet trying on clothing I know doesn’t fit!!! Maybe I can start with tee-shirts and jewelry and move on to jeans after I get the initial rush from doing the easy things first.

  16. Sherman Unkefer

    I love your organizational skills. Thanks for sharing, now I have some ideas!!

  17. FairfieldHouse

    Yes, unfortunately I am an all or nothing gal. It’s a curse. But I am working on it with the 40 days 40 bags project. Two days in and two closets are cleaned and organized!
    Your closet looks great! I have all my scarfs rolled and in a basket.
    On another note, you posted this yesterday but it just showed up in my email.

    Your Friend,

  18. Faith

    I do the same too, Melissa. Over-complicate things because I have a grandiose idea of how the whole project should look. When in fact a small change like hanging a beautiful rod to hold scarves is satisfying. Precious little time involved and no money spent! Love it!

  19. teresa

    Time usually holds me back…never seem to have enough of it….plus I have the hardest time with closets….because I usually share them with my HD and he is less than helpful keeping it picked up. =)
    Thanks for your tips and ideas….
    Have a wonderful day

  20. Erin - The Smallest Sparrow

    Love it! I just cleaned out my closet yesterday and five big garbage bags full of clothes are on their way to a homeless shelter. Yippee! It feels so good. Love that you used your towel bar for scarves. Great idea!

  21. Imperfect

    Our master bedroom closet always seems so small to me. But I finally figured out the problem last week – laundry tends to make its way onto the closet floor instead of in the basket. I finally picked up a big pile (which appeared to be sorted for washing, but never got down to the washing machine) and shoved it into it’s proper place. Suddenly we had so much floor space! Amazing what a difference something as simple as putting things where they belong can make!

  22. Jen

    Thanks for the reminder. We did a reno a couple of weeks ago and didn’t finsih the closet, must get on that.

  23. Karen

    The scarf holder looks great and I think it’s great that you were able to use something you have wanted to put to good use for sometime. That whole “divide and conquer” thing really works! I may tackle my linen closet this weekend thanks to your inspiration. :-)

  24. Sam

    I have that same sickness! I like it ;)

  25. Kayla

    Found your blog through the links on Project Simplify – I did the same thing with a rod I had laying around! My scarves and belts always ended up all over the closet. I had previously tried using a hanger to keep them off the floor and shelf, but it was even worse than just letting them be. I was so excited when I had the idea of putting the rod in my closet and using it for the scarves and belts – great minds think alike!

  26. Emily Joyce

    I did the challenge, and my scarves and belts were my biggest problem. I love your solution! It’s so simple, and I never would have thought of it!

  27. jimi ann path of life

    I hear you! My problem is starting and being all excited, then waning out and letting the project fizzle out as I move on to something else. (Very bad habit). I did what you suggested and just tackled one thing in the closet, which was putting clothes I’m not going to wear again into a bag for Goodwill. But, I was so excited about doing it that I forgot to take a photo! Next week.

  28. {darlene}

    Oh! the SAME thing holds me back. I think I need to do it ALL and I struggle with lowering my expectations. alas.

  29. Danielle

    I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels like I can’t do something until have the time/money to do it all in one shot. It’s a constant inner struggle for me! However, I was pretty impulsive over the weekend and decided to tackle updating my kitchen without having all the time to take to do it. It’s going to be a longer process than I would ideally want BUT I’m feeling so much better that I have finally started it after months of waiting!

  30. Kami

    What a great solution for scarves and belts, Melissa! This post puts me into Spring Cleaning mode. I love this time of year!

  31. angie {the arthur clan}

    This has been a simplifying week for me too Melissa! So far I’ve completely cleaned out our storage room and now have 2 extra walls to hang shelving on (woot!) and today I completely cleaned out my boys’ room (even down to every single basket of toys.) I’m so proud of myself!

    Now I’m off to tackle my daughter’s cluttered room. {sigh}

  32. Natasha

    I joined too:0)
    i can see my clothes now!!LOL
    I wish I had a closet like the top photo too,sigh!

  33. jen

    It looks great Melissa!! I always feel so much happier when things are organized and I can find things.


  34. Dana

    I’m an all of nothing girl!

    As a matter of fact – that can be almost paralyzing! I’m what they call a “High C” in the DISC profile…

    I can get bogged down in the minutia. And, get so distracted with the size of color of boxes or colors, shelving or anything else.

    But, yeah, if I break things down into small projects – it’s manageable.

    I’m so excited with the Simple Mom series. And, I can’t wait to follow more of your push through to a simpler life. I’m doing it, too.

  35. Becca

    I am 100% an all or nothing girl – and I realized I needed to get over that since having my son;I was only getting the daily basics accomplished. It is definitely a matter of setting small goals and sometimes waiting on something like the dishes in order to begin a larger project.

  36. Diane M

    Thank you! Truly…I was way overwhelmed by Simple Mom’s suggestion to clean out my closet. Seriously it isn’t a big mess…yes, it is *tight* But going through the clothes, trying them on, yikes! So…when you added the link to Krista Colvin I thought I’d check it out. Now…her suggestions are sooo doable. Maybe, just maybe, I *can* do that tomorrow or Sunday….and I can stay with “the program.”

  37. Margaret

    My closet was a mess. We had new floors put in and I had to empty the floor so I straightened the rest of it. I am so enjoying just looking at the clean floor and straightened clothes. Rather expensive closet redo but the rest of the house looks great (at least the floors do).

  38. Rachel

    My problem isn’t coming up with ideas for how I want things. Or even the time to make them happen. But that one project relies on another one being done first. And there’s one that has to be done before *that* project can be done. Etc, etc. And of course, the first project that *must* be tackled, is always one I need someone else’s help for…or money I don’t have. If I can’t get the help, or the money has to go to something else, the projects sit. And wait. But the closet is something I can do (and I know it won’t take long, its just a matter of getting around to it–I spend so little time in my bedroom during the day, I don’t even think about it most of the time). Hopefully, I will clear out plenty of space tomorrow!

  39. Alanna

    You’re cracking me up! I totally meant to do the challenge too, and I haven’t because, like you, and I am worried that it won’t be perfect. I should take the plunge, I bet I can knock out dust bunny removal, shoe purging and purse organizing pretty quickly…
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  40. krista colvin

    melissa, thank you for including me in your post :) i hope i was able to help some of the perfectionistas tackle their clothes closet ;).

  41. Kim Christopherson

    Melissa – I am so much like you — wanting to wait until I have it “just right” kind of thing – the paint, the plan, etc. I love how just decided to tackle ONE project and it didn’t need to be perfect. Your entire post was fantastic – thank you for the inspiration!

  42. Jennifer M.

    Excellent idea! This reminds me that I have a spare rod in my back room that’s not being used. I wonder if I can do something useful with it? Hmmm….

  43. lorrie

    that was a great idea im slowly working my way on organizin my room and things should be done by end of summer or before


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