Ask Jennifer Adams: What's the best closet-organizing system?  

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For someone considering a new system, a mix of open storage for clothing and items used most frequently, and clear plastic boxes for less-used items might be the best of both worlds.

Q: My best friend and I are neat freaks who love to keep things organized, but we disagree on which system is the best. She is big on shelves with matching clear plastic storage bins of all shapes and sizes. I prefer a closet where I can easily see everything, with matching hangers and neatly folded clothes on the shelves and in drawers. She has a separate box for every pair of shoes, and plenty of tiny little boxes with only one or two things in each one. Which of us is right?

A: Well, you are both right for being organized and finding a system that works for you. There are plenty of pros and cons with any closet organizer or storage bin system. The most important part is to store only the items you actually use, which I’m sure you both know.

Whatever type of system that keeps your closet, pantry, sports equipment, home office, or garage neat and simple is the right system for you. Just realize that no system is maintenance-free, however. Clear plastic storage bins are great because you can see what’s inside, and it’s a very consistent look — until you need more bins and can’t find the same ones. I also like baskets and decorative boxes for many of the same reasons, except you can’t see inside them.

Plastic storage bins stack nicely, but you have to deal with the lids, and possibly wasted space inside each bin unless you pack them full. And they’re less likely to collect dust or insects. But if there is any moisture inside, odors, mold, or mildew can build. And sometimes the plastic itself releases gasses and creates odor. Any plastic box is better than cardboard, which disintegrates, smells bad, and can attract pests.

With an open closet storage system, you can maximize whatever space you do have with a mix of shelves, hanging space, and drawers. You won’t need to open a box to get what you need or pull out other boxes to get the one at the bottom of the stack. And any moisture in the air will be less of a problem. But your clothes can get dusty or be attacked by insects, especially if you have wool. And you still need enough space for air circulation to keep everything as fresh as possible.

For someone considering a new system, a mix of open storage for clothing ans items used most frequently, and clear plastic boxes for less-used items might be the best of both worlds. Just remember to measure your shelves and consider how many storage bins you’ll need. It’s easy to buy too many, too few, or ones that won’t hold what you want.

Work on one closet or area at a time, quickly, so the store won’t run out of your favorite storage bin or hangers. Let me know how it goes.

Have a design dilemma? Jennifer Adams is an award-winning designer, writer and TV personality. Send your questions to AskJennifer@JenniferAdams.com or on Twitter: @JenniferAdams. For more design ideas, visit Jennifer’s blog on her website at www.jenniferadams.com.