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Built by Blue Sound Construction, designed by MaKe Design, photos by Alex Hayden

Is a Cluttered Closet Robbing You of Precious Hours?

Posted on Sep 21, 2017 in:
  • Seattle Times HomeWork
  • Maintain
  • Homeowners

By Kevin and Terri Kartak, AAA KARTAK Glass & Closet

Q: My bedroom closet is a deep, dark abyss and I'm afraid to venture inside for fear of what I might find. Help!

A: The first thing to do is to go through your belongings and make the hard decisions on what exactly should be in your closet. Let's be honest here: most of us are not motivated to spend an hour or so on this. It's a value proposition, and we just don't see spending our limited time there, right?

But what if spending a couple of hours now would save you a day's work every month going forward?

Have you heard of the Pareto principle? Most people know this as the 80/20 rule. With clothing, for instance, the average person wears 20 percent of their clothing 80 percent of the time. It's an important concept as we look at saving time.

Is saving time important to you? Studies have shown that the average American spends up to 45 minutes a day just looking for their stuff. What if you could save 20 of those 45 minutes per day? Twenty minutes a day adds up to 10 hours a month. That's like saving a whole day's work every month, just by being more organized. Now that's motivating!

Keeping these things in mind, take a look at what's in your closet. We recommend isolating the 20 percent of things you wear day in and day out. Get those things together and then look at the rest. Ask yourself, "Which do I want more—this or 10 extra hours a month?" With that kind of motivation, you will soon find yourself removing items.

Try to get rid of 25–50 percent of those items. For the remainder that you do keep, ask yourself if it belongs in this closet. Perhaps another location will do: a drawer, a box or another less-used closet. The more things you get out of the way, the more of those 45 daily minutes you will be saving.

Once you've sorted your clothing, it's time to look at what's left, as well as the design of your closet. How many feet of short-hanging clothes do you have? How many feet of long- and medium-length clothing? You can get an attractive closet designed that works around your life, saves you tons of time, and looks fantastic. Saving time and making your home beautiful are always good investments.

Lastly, how do you maintain this wonderful closet you've created? The secret here is to notice when you bring new clothing home. You will find yourself doing this, and why? The problem is that the 20 percent you wear every day slowly but surely becomes part of the 80 percent that you won't wear often. Clothing wears out. Our sizes change. Seasons change. So when you find yourself bringing clothing home, get rid of the same number of items. Your smart closet will continue to look great and keep you efficient.


Kevin and Terri Kartak own AAA Kartak Glass & Closet and are members of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties. HomeWork is the group's weekly column. If you have a home improvement, remodeling, or residential homebuilding question you'd like answered by one of the MBA's more than 2,800 members, write to


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Photo courtesy Blue Sound Construction, builder; MaKe Design, architect; and Alex Hayden, photographer