Hall Closets: The Disgrace of the House

That may be a little dramatic but it’s true. The hall closet just becomes the catch all for everything else that doesn't have a home. You can’t see all the nooks and crannies and things get lost. Kitchen things and food go in the kitchen, clothes go in the bedroom but the hall…who knows what lurks there. 

After our second move to Charlotte this October (and eleventieth move overall since we’ve been married), I was unpacking and sorting through our stuff for what seemed so long. I had finally put together the rooms, the kitchen, the bedroom closet and the laundry room. And then I was burned out.

I reached a breaking point and did a big no-no. One of the biggest no-no’s of all. 

I just…stuffed the rest of it in the hall closet and quickly closed the door before it came tumbling out. For shame! My mother would have been horrified. Sometimes, you just have to get on with your life and finish the rest of the organizing in pieces. That, I am pretty sure, she would have agreed with. 

A month or so later, I decided it was time to tackle the closet. The problem was this: Not only was it messy, but I had 3 times as much stuff outside of the closet hiding at my in-laws’ house that I also needed to some how get in there. How did this happen? I preach all day long of the liberation of purging and I can’t even fit everything we have in our own apartment. 

I decided to start with whittling down the closet as much as possible; working on the stuff at the in-laws is a project for another day and another post. 

Ok, so it's not as bad as it could be, but here's the problem: I don't really know where things are, I've got stuff in there I haven't used in years and I have to fit way more stuff in my house in this closet. 

And what's in those mystery bags anyway? I don't know why I put stuff in bags. I suppose it's because it's an easy quick container and some how I convince myself that I will go through it "later."

Here is just some of the stuff I have lying around that I have to stuff into that closet as well (sigh).

Now, normally I try to make the sorting and purging as quick as possible. I give myself a time limit for how long I am going to work on a specific area and I sort it within the confines of the area. Meaning, I don't usually take everything out and lay it all over the floor. I try to sort it within the closet or as near to the closet as possible. That way if I get stopped in the middle or it takes too long, I can just shut the door without having a mess every where. However...for purposes of this post, I pulled everything out and layed it on my living room rug so you could see how it's done.

You need to have certain tools nearby when you are going through a closet or a garage or spare room or whatever you are working on. 
  1. A box to put stuff that will be given away or to a donation center i.e. Goodwill etc.
  2. A bag to put the garbage in. These are things that you don't want to store any more and are not in good shape to give away.
  3. Containers. I usually take a look at what I have in the closet to get a general idea of what I might need. I go to the store and buy a bunch of containers and return whatever I don't use. That way it all gets done in one session.
  4. Labels. You don't have to label every single thing, but it really helps you from getting stuff creeping in to places it doesn't belong.
  5. A friend, a timer, a bet, or something to help you get through it quickly and painlessly. 
  6. A goal, such as "I need to get rid of 1/3 of the stuff here." 
  7. Cookies. This is serious mental work, people. We need our mental batteries fully charged.

So the first step is to sort. You are welcome to purge as you sort if it's convenient. However, you will be doing another purge later so don't worry too much about it right now. 

After you have sorted everything into piles, you need to take a hard look at what you have.  Do you really need 47 million bags? Just because something is usable doesn't mean it's worth keeping. If it's more items than you use, you don't need it. If you haven't used it in 12 months, you don't need it. There are plenty of people who could use that and you could do some good by giving it away or donating it.

I looked at this pile of bags and decided I was only going to keep a third of it. I actually ended up keeping just 5 bags. Since then, each has been used. And there hasn't been one bag I have missed. I gave some to my siblings or friends and the rest to Goodwill.

Some of my hygiene items were in the closet so I decided to look at all of those as well. This is decently organized, but there is still an awful lot of stuff and I know we don't use all of it. And we have a tiny bathroom. 

There's only two of us. We don't need 9 pair of glasses. And what's even in those boxes on the top?

I collected all of the bottles of lotion I have. I don't even use lotion! I am blessed with pretty normal skin. I only use it occasionally after shaving, when I go out in the sun, and to moisturize my face. I don't need 17 bottles of lotion!

I whittled it down to these. I put the rest, along with unused or old makeup in a bag and gave it to the teenager girls at my church. I told them if they didn't want it to get rid of it.

This is what I ended up with after I went through all of the hygiene and beauty products. Labeled, bagged and tagged.

After I sorted through everything, I realized some items should go some where else besides the hall closet. For instance, I put the wrapping paper box under my bed. All of the beauty products went in the bathroom and not the closet.

The remaining items that I decided were staying in the closet were put into containers and labeled.

This is what the closet looked like after. So much more space! Now, to just go through the other five boxes hiding at my in-laws' house and get them to fit in there (sigh). That's for another day. I'll enjoy this while it lasts.

All of this stuff went to the garbage or recycling. There were so many broken bottles, old papers, ripped bags and other unusable junk that was taking up that space. Get it out!

All of these items went to Goodwill. In another post, I will tell you about all of the amazing things that happen when you donate to your local donation center. So many of us have more stuff that we actually use and it is such a great feeling to give it someone who will really use it. It certainly helps me tear myself away from something that is still in usable condition.

And that's how you conquer the hall closet!


  1. Thanks for the tips. I'd love a post about the medicine cabinet. We put all our medicines in one plastic bin, but then when you grab some Advil another thing falls over into the empty spot and a domino effect keeps the bin from ever looking useful again.

  2. Thanks for the idea, Pace! Email me some pictures at carly@aneatnest.com and I'll write a post about it.

    1. Yes, I'd love ideas for the medicine cabinet. My one hall closet stores all bedding and medicines; I have no actual medicine "cabinet" in my bathroom. That closet is stuffed to the gills, and the system I have in place for sorting medicine just isn't working.

  3. What a fun blog! Makes me look around my house to see what I should organize. I think I'll start with my hall closet that seems too small. I guess me having too much stuff is what makes it seem too small.