Thursday, June 24, 2021

Death of a Closet

I have a confession to make: I kill closets.  You may not have known it was possible to do such a thing, but I am here to tell you, I murder closets.  Although I admitted to the death of my current closet on Instagram a couple of weeks ago, this is, in fact, number 3 on the hit list.  It's embarrassing, and I have never before admitted this, but I am releasing that truth out in the world on the off chance that someone else is ashamed of the fact - you are not alone! 

The first victim was in the first apartment I ever lived in.  Prior to that, I was dealing with old homes that must have had some well built closets.  Turns out, the 7 or 8 foot long closet in this apartment had a shelf that was supported by two pieces of plastic on both side walls, plus two or three dinky little metal supports that hook onto the shelf front and get screwed into the back wall at a 45 degree angle.  This, of course, was not enough to support my metric tonnage of clothes and shoes, but how was I to know?!?  I came home one day to the contents of my closet on the floor.  Thankfully, the maintenance guy was really understanding and put it back up and added a few more supports throughout the length of the closet.  Case closed!

A few year later, I moved to another apartment building and the same darn thing happened again.  But this time around, after living in the apartment for a couple of years, there was a massive crash in the middle of the night right next to my bed.  It woke me out of a deep sleep and terrified me.  Not entirely sure what had happened, my heart was pounding for what felt like an eternity.  Then it came to me:  I had killed another closet.  Aarrrgh!!!  So I lived with my clothes covering the sewing table in the second bedroom for a few days before a second maintenance fellow reinstalled the closet (which, coincidentally, was built exactly like the first one).  He also shored up the second bedroom closet, just to be safe!

That brings me to Sunday evening a couple of weeks back, this time in my condo, so no maintenance man to help, nor building owner to pay for it (because now, that's me!).  And, quite frankly, I am done with these stupid Closet Mate systems that are screwed into drywall in the middle of the closet wall.  They don't work for a person who has multiple tea length circle skirts made of heavy wool (how much does one of those weigh?, not sure, but it has to be at least 6 pounds, right?), and underlined and lined garments, and so, so many shoes.

One day I hope to live in a home with a spectacular walk-in closet.  That day may never come, but I can still dream.  And until then, I am pretty happy with what I found at The Container Store.  They are more expensive than the Ikea system, but looking at the specs, the Container Store can handle more weight.  Sturdy is what I need, so I spent a little extra, and so far, so good.  Only time will really tell, but this system hangs off of a track at the top of the closet where there was a horizontal stud, which I am hoping does better than the previous piece of garbage tenuously attached in the middle of a wall.

I do realize that I should probably get rid of some of the clothes.  But, as discussed on Instagram, it's really difficult to let go of things that I have made.  If I donate them, will they end up on a barge to India where they will be ripped apart to use as carpet insulation?  And the whole "fit" thing doesn't help all that much when weeding through the masses of clothes.  For most of these garments, I am a skinny or fat day away from wearing them.  Out of style also doesn't apply since all of my clothing is so far out of date, it's almost coming back into style!  There is also the idea that something that isn't worn for a year should be tossed.  To which I say, *&%$ that.  I come back to clothes that have lived in the back of the closet for years only to decide they are now my favorite item some five + years after they were last worn.  I have three dresses that I wore in middle school and high school that I rediscovered a few years back and they are in heavy rotation during the summer months for the past three years, and those aren't even hand made.  Whatever shall I do with all the clothing?!?

But I have found at least one handmade skirt that I am willing to donate and hope that she gets a second life with someone else, although I am fully aware that she may end up in the scrap heap.  It's not a pleasant thought, but it's one that I have come to accept.

This was one of the first sewing projects I ever made.  I remember going to Britex Fabrics and finding this yardage on the remnant floor.  I specifically asked for something other than wool because I wanted to wash the garment.  [These days I hand wash almost all of my wool yardage before cutting into it, and I hand wash those skirts with no issue.]  And while the skirt still fits fine, it does have a tendency to have static cling, and the inner finishing leaves me slightly embarrassed at this point.  Here is proof . . . yikes!

But I am talking one last look, realizing just how far I have come in my sewing journey, and moving on.  One less skirt in the closet, and a pound or so saved on the hanging rack.

When the mood strikes, I am going to go back into the closet and find a couple more items that I can part with!

And, of course, I am open to any suggestions that you may have about space saving and/or ways to get rid of precious home made items that hold emotional significance.  Please be advised that there are also multiple bureaus that hold my sweaters, and boxes stored under the bed that contain hats and costumes that are neatly folded out of sight, so rotating seasonal items in and out of the closet is not really an option.  And I am far from ready to stop creating, so while the knitting, quilting, and cross stitching may slow down the influx of new clothing looking for a home in the closet, it won't stem the tide for long.  Obviously very first world problems, and I am aware of how lucky I am, but I would definitely be grateful for any solutions!!  Also, if anyone has a closet system recommendation, I would love to know.  I believe I may need to upgrade the master closet before another disaster befalls that one.  

You didn't really think those closet photos showed the entirety of my clothing collection, now did you?


  1. I have had the "closet drop" happen while at work in our last house. I was also of the mind set of thinking that anything I made certainly could not be given away. Moving to another home a couple of states away cured that, and that was after decades of sewing and keeping those hand mades. I decided to pick the best of the best, the legacy garments. It didn't matter if I wore them or not and some I did and some I didn't. I kept those and carefully packed them for posterity. Others I donated to a church group that I know would not send them to India and would directly get them on the backs of those who needed them. Were there perhaps some exquisite made garments on the backs of homeless or abused women? I hope there were as it might have been the brightest moment of their day when they left their abode to walk out into the world in something nice. So with that attitude I purged. Here I am 3 years later and the lightness that the purge brought on I would not trade for the world. I continue it after years of holding tight. Guess what? our new home has that fabulous closet, too!

  2. My closet bar collapsed recently too! It was a long bar with plastic brackets that ripped, and my husband replaced them with metal brackets. I had a serious reckoning with my clothing problem and I got rid of a lot. I’m not as attached to my clothes as you are, though. Any store-bought stuff I can easily part with, and the me-made makes that I wasn’t wearing but also didn’t want to see on a barge to India got put in a Rubbermaid tote (side note, have you read Unraveled: The Life And Death of a Garment? It’s so good)

    I’m trying to make a concerted effort to buy less, but when you’re someone who loves clothes and especially new clothes, it’s so hard! Most of what I wear is vintage and second-hand, but I still feel guilty when I wear it a couple times and then donate it again.

  3. My husband and I have now installed a Rubbermaid Closet Configurations system in 5 closets over the last decade. You can get parts from Lowe's, Amazon, or stalk Facebook/Craigslist for parts. Like your current system, it all hangs from a rail at the top of the wall and is infinitely reconfigureable.

    The most important thing with any closet system is to screw into as many studs as possible. It looks like your failed closets had supports going just into the drywall.

    For the configurable systems, hit every single stud you can along the rail. Most likely, your vertical supports will not be on studs. If you buy the system new, it will come with heavy duty drywall anchors. If you get it used, buy good anchors for the verticals.

  4. My husband and I made closet systems in all the houses we built out of the drilled melamine panels you can buy at Home Depot and Lowes. We use the big shower/curtain rods and brackets. We use 1 x 5 material glued and screwed into drywall and stud to provide additional oomph support vertically and horizontally. For longer lengths (over 30") of closet rod we only use the Stanley closet rod brace as Stanley's quality control is the best. I have a book "The Complete Home Organizer" by Maxine Ordesky that helped immensely in building the systems. SUNSET also has books on closet systems. You can probably find a used copy of Maxine's book on line. I did when I loaned my copy to a friend and never got it back.
    Theresa in Tucson

  5. Have you considered offering your items on your blog/Instagram/other social media? That way they would be going directly to someone who values them and their handmade loveliness.

  6. I reluctantly gave away to Goodwill a dress I made 40 years ago, only to find it a couple of months later in the local vintage shop with a 40$ pricetag!

  7. So you are close to living in a "warren of rolling racks, and drying racks bolted to the ceiling" above your bathtub.

    Fellow readers: kindly refer to my April 17, 2017 comment, it's loaded with theories, speculation, and newer readers may find it a fascinating take on the Laura Mae they only thought they knew:

    Laura Mae, keep creating. You are the sewing world's shooting star in close orbit. Constantly whizzing by, displaying talent, ingenuity, and determination. If there any suggestion mixed into my bag of editorial observations, it would be to start going couture. The best fabrics, fewer garments, more time on each one. Linen shift and sheath dresses with whisper thin linings, deep back cowls with a small weight sewn in for an ideal drape.

    Also, you shared having made a garment for your mother. Since she appears to be beholden to current and contemporary fashions, could she not be permission for you to interpret modern day stylings? She has linen sheath dress written all over her - tell me I'm wrong! With various necklines and/or narrow cut-outs below the neckline, you could create the first "Mom-genue".

  8. Everyone has good suggestions. I donated 4 black trash bags of patterns I bought at JoAnn's and on ebay to Goodwill. I do not care if Goodwill sells them on ebay for the amount I paid. Also a local church may have members who are about the same size as you. I have given many clothes that were size 4 and size 6 to petite ladies after I gained weight from taking so many steroids. I had to admit that I was not going to lose weight and be able to wear these beautiful clothes that someone else could wear and enjoy.

    I think the reason we have a hard time parting with our clothes are because they are still like new and we either spent a lot of money for designer brands or hours and hours handstitiching and ripping and restitching. People who do not sew do not realize how much planning and work goes into making a garment .

  9. I hung the closet rods and shelves in our home after we remodeled so I have only myself to blame. Drywall stinks.

  10. In my hometown, there is a church running a charity specifically for people who need new things to go on job interviews and can't afford it. Check around, you never know, there may an anonymous charity of that sort somewhere near you.

  11. Coming in late to comment…I too have been guilty of killing closets. I think I have finally solved the problem by using the Closetmaid system available at Home Depot. Heavy metal brackets with slots screwed to the studs will hold wire shelving with rods to slide hangars the full length of the shelf. Lots of customizable accessories such as a curved corner. I have lots of leather jackets on the lower shelf, weighing in at a couple hundred pounds, and it is still holding up. As an added bonus, I installed an IKEA cable lighting system with four heads, so I’m never without bright lights, but I keep a small flashlight handy when I need to see beneath things and it’s dark. Even with two levels of heavy duty shelving that is now crammed with garments, those wall brackets are still holding up.

  12. Thank you for sharing this Laura Mae. My first closet collapse was about a year ago, my husband fixed it only to have it fall again under the weight of my massive dress collection a week later. He hired someone to build a solid wood closet and have it installed professionally. I view my collection like you do and struggle to part with things unless I can find a home for them that will love them as I have.