Let me say it and get it out of the way: buying a closet system will not solve organization problems. Nope. Nor will any number of bins, containers, cabinets, or shelves. However, if you are committed to working at increasing your level of organization, these things can be useful tools, if they are used correctly.
It makes me sad how many times I’ve seen someone install a closet system that doesn’t meet their needs, or buy the perfect bins for organizing, which end up in the basement, piled up with all the other stuff.
If you are considering a closet system, there’s some important considerations you need to take into account.
First, you need to figure out what you need. Do you like to hang almost everything or do have a fair amount of things folded? How many shoes do you have and do want a system that contains them? Do you want room for purses, jackets, belts, or ties? What do you currently have in your closet and what you realistically want in your closet? Do you want to use for something other than clothes?
Second, consider whether you will want drawers, baskets, or one-purpose holders for those purses, belts, or ties? What happens in five or ten years from now, will you still want those things? These can be useful though a more generalized system is more modifiable. Closet systems often have various shoe gadgets built into them, some are really clever, yet I cannot help thinking that it limits the use of the space. What if someone suddenly decided that they would have a shoe rack by the door for their shoes? That nifty area in the closet suddenly is useless. Shelving is wonderfully versatile, holding purses nicely displayed or stacks of clothing. One thing that is universal, large, deep drawers or baskets are not as useful as they appear. Anything kept at the bottom of these disappear and if you need to actually get at them, you mess up the things above it. Stay away from deep drawers or baskets, maybe one if you insist for large purses which can be lined up and equally accessible.
Third, how easily can the system be modified? Although you might hang almost everything right now, things can change down the road, so can shelves replace part of the hang area? If you want to have a system that works well for your child right now, that may not be good when they become teenagers. Some companies are constantly revamping their product line, will the closet system you get become one of those? If they might be, it could be challenging to get different parts if you want them. As with the specialty features, a system that can easily modified is ideal, allowing the system to benefit and conform to you and not trying to force you to adapt to it.
Fourth, what is the design of the shelves? There seem to typically be three types of materials used: wire, laminate, or metal. Wire shelving comes with serious drawbacks: things can topple, fall through, or get things caught in them. They do make a plastic covering you can buy separately, though these are made for specific shelves and cannot be used on every wire shelf. The laminate or metal at least are solid and will hold things evenly.
Fifth, how sturdy is it? There are so many systems out there these days that you can go to Walmart and pick up a system to put into your closet. How long will it last? The unit itself needs to be sturdy as well as the part that attaches to the wall. Although price is rarely not an issue, going for the least expensive will probably waste your money in the long run.
Finally, are you willing or able to install it yourself? There are companies that specialize in closets that will offer a do-it-yourself option with a minor price cut. The Container Store‘s Elfa system is mostly a do-it-yourself system though they are providing an installer for some areas, but they offer extensive phone support for installing the Elfa system. Some companies only have the professional installation option. Interestingly, I found that the professional installation does not always add up to costing more.
These are the major points that I have come across when people have or need a closet system. I would not wish the bad closet design on anyone, so if you decide that you want to have a system for your closet, consider these points, or maybe even consult with an expert who will know what questions to ask to get you the system that will fit your style and needs. As with any tool, you need it to benefit you and not end up making you change to use it.
Is a closet system the thing for you? Not necessarily. It is not the simple, easy answer to all problems. If used correctly, it can assist you in your efforts at getting organized. This is what matters most, finding ways to help yourself, which means that a system may not even be useful to you.