Is everything in your linen closet except for your linens? That’s okay, you have towel racks. But if you’ve made up your mind to clean your closets and feel a little overwhelmed with where to start and what to do, here’s the help you need.
Closet Cleaning, Step by Step
Designate a space outside of your closet and then break up that space into four zones.
The zones are for separating the items you’ll KEEP, the items you’ll TRASH, the items you’ll DONATE, and the items that DO NOT BELONG IN YOUR CLOSET. If you are interested in selling some of your unwanted things, you can make a fifth zone. To make it even easier, have a trash bin or bag handy for the trash items, a box or laundry basket handy for the items you’ll donate, etc. This will save you a lot of time in the end.
Next, you need to remove everything from the closet.
You don’t want to take things out by the armload and dump them on your bed, and you don’t want to spend hours scrutinizing over every thread. Start at the front of your walk-in, or from your dominate side, and take one item out at a time. Try to decide what you will do with it in 30 seconds and put the item in the zone you choose. The 30 second rule will help if you’re trying to scale down your closet. If you need to deliberate longer, you’ll probably keep more than you planned.
Now that your closet is empty, you need to assess the situation.
Check for odors, dust and dirt, evidence of pests, mold, and leaks. You may find a larger problem that needs your attention.
Dust and dirt, you can handle!
Get a sturdy step ladder or a stool and start from the top with a damp rag. Plain water is fine for capturing the dust and won’t leave oils on the shelves. If you find that your shelves are sticky or that your closet smells a bit like your gym locker, you can use an all-purpose cleaner or put a 1/2 cup of white vinegar in a bucket of warm-to-hot water. Wipe everything down and finish by sweeping the floor. Wiping the floor with the rag isn’t a bad idea if you’re planning on throwing it away anyway. A dust mop would do the trick too.
If you did find a bigger problem, you need to handle it.
Moths don’t like mothballs, cedar, or lavender, so that may be an easy remedy. You can find those items in the laundry section of most department and grocery stores for as low as a dollar and up to ten bucks. You can spray for ants, roaches and silverfish around the baseboard with your choice of product. If you’ve found mouse droppings, you should look for their entry point and stuff it with steel wool. Chances are the mouse slipped in under the closet door and your problem is even bigger than you expected. To deal with the task at hand, just know that little mouse noses can’t stand some really big smells like peppermint oil. Saturate a few cotton balls with the stuff and leave them in the corners to let them know they aren’t welcome. For mold, you want to spray it with a bleach solution, a capful in a spray bottle of hot water for a mild situation; another cap-full for worst cases. You want to let that dry before putting anything back in the closet. The worst problems are pet urine seeping into wood, and a water stain from a leaky roof. See “Getting the Stink out of your Closets” for the pet urine tips. Call a roofer to handle your roof. You will probably be able to continue using your closet until help arrives.
Now that you’ve wiped the closet down, air it out.
Let the dust settle. You’ve just stirred things up and even though you’ve wrangled up most of those renegade dust bunnies, there’s sure to be some particles floating around. Letting some fresh air in will handle the average stuffiness. This is a good time to scoop up everything from your trash zone and head for the dumpster, and put the load you’ll donate into your car. Trust me, getting back to your room and seeing the new space you’ve made along with a fresh, empty closet will make you feel accomplished and determined to finish the job instead of being ready to move and start over in another state.
Put it all back together and make it pretty.
For organizing tips, see “How to Organize your Closets”. To keep it fresh, you can put a box of baking soda in your closet, but it may fall over and create a new mess. Charcoal absorbs odors without leaving a fragrance of its own. Of course, you do not want the kind with lighter fluid, and a big bag of barbecue bricks takes up the space where shoes can go. Willert Home Products makes a closet deodorizer with “odor absorbing charcoal” that “lasts up to 4 months.” You can find it in the laundry section of your local supermarket, or online.
(coat closet, linen closet, utility closet)
The method for cleaning closets is pretty universal with the difference being the items you need to remove and put back, the organizing of the items, and the idea that you may not want your power tools smelling like they’d been set out on a bush to dry in the mountain breeze.