The Good Closet

Imagine a world where your clothes are always just where they’re supposed to be, nothing gets lost, and you always find something to wear. Feels great, doesn't it? If you’re like most people, at least two mornings every week you promise yourself you’re going to reorganize your closet. This week, absolutely. And then you look at the mess and put it off. Well, this time, with our help, you’re really going to get it done. It’s September - time to put away your summer clothes and break out your fall stuff - so what better time for a major overhaul? Here are three workable plans for doing a complete closet makeover. The first is a basic $135 job; the second is midpriced, with more bells and whistles and it costs $325. And if you want the luxury model, a dream closet, the price is $600 to $1,000.

EMPTY THE POCKETS of all the clothes you're going to to be putting away until next Spring, The launder or dryclean everything. Yes, even if you've only worn it once. You'll avoid stains that set before you next wear your clothes, including invisible ones from perpiration, perfume and beverages (like white wine). "Stains become a food source for carpet beetles and moths," says Jonathan Scheer, president of J. Scheer & Co., a New York textile preservationist. "These bugs will eat through the fabric to get to the food." That's also why you should avoid starching clothes before putting them away: The starch not only feeds bugs, it can also weaken the fabric, leading to brittleness, and, in a humid enironment, it can lead to permanent stains..."

ALWAYS REMOVE dry-cleaner bags as soon as you get home, since plastic doesn't allow clothes to breathe. "Whatever residual moisture is in the fiber can help mold or mildew grow," Scheer says. "And any gases emitted from the decomposing plastics can be absorbed by the fabric, accelerating the aging process. That's what causes cloth to yellow." Scheer says. "Fabric is delicate and changes with temperature and humidity." Garages, attics, and unfinished basements are off-limits. If you have an underutilized closet or chest of drawers somewhere, or a spare room where you can keep a rolling rack, great. Otherwise, buy storage containers that fit under beds or in the top of closets. You can also pay a cleaner about $20 to $30 to hold a season's worth of clothes.

INVEST IN moth repellent, ideally made of cedar. "The scents repels moths and discourages them from laying eggs," Scheer says. "But I would not recommend mothballs, which are toxic and malodorous, with a smell that's almost impossible to get rid of in a timely way." Cedar, which comes in hangers, boxes, blocks, and drawer liners, should be sanded with fine-grade sandpaper after each season because otherwise the surface oxidizes, eliminating the moth-repelling scent. A self-contained area keeps the odor from dissipating.

GROUP CLOTHES by fabric. Protein fibers - silks, wool, fur, suede, and leather - require the most attention because they are food for bugs in themselves. That's why they should be kept apart from plant fibers, such as cotton, linen, rayon, and ramie, which don't require as much vigilance.

HUMIDITY AND MILDEW can be controlled with products made for that purpose, or by using the heat of a low-power bulb, about 15 watts, to dry the air.

ACIDITY SPEEDS the deterioration of fabrics. Wood is acidic. If you're storing clothes in wooden shelves or chests, even cedar, for longer than six months, Scheer advises lining them with unbleached, undyed, and washed muslin, easily found at fabric stores.

HEAVY GARMENTS, as well as cashmere sweaters and beaded or sequined gowns, should be folded, with muslin or acid-neutral tissue paper to prevent creases, Canvas or muslin boxes are ideal, though pricey, because they allow air to circulate. Clear plastic containers are also an option for short-term storage - up to six months. The longer 'things are going to be stored, the more finicky you want to be.

CLOTH GARMENT BAGS are perferable to plastic for long-term storage and are essential for leathers and furs, which may crack or break off if kept in plastic. "Fabric needs to breathe. If you don't have cloth bags, hang sheets over garments.

AVOID WIRE HANGERS; they do hideous things to shoulders. Use wide, shaped plastic or wood ones instead.