I don't know how my clothes manage to breed when I'm not looking but my sock drawers are looking over full these days and that's not the worst of it. Even with vigilant weeding, my clothes have expanded inexorably to fill every square inch available, so I thought I'd share what I've had to learn about getting the most out of perpetually inadequate clothing storage. Today I'll focus on reach-in closets, those shallow six or eight foot long spaces in most modern American bedrooms, as they are the most common.
First, the basics. The most important principle of clothes storage is that a man must be able to see what he has. In practice, that means that as little as possible should be stored in drawers. Underwear's OK, as are socks, and I haven't found a better way to store pocket squares. But shirts, jackets and trousers should be hung and shoes and knitwear placed on not-very-tall white shelves where they can be seen easily.
Good visibility requires plenty of incandescent lighting so no time is wasted wondering whether something is black or blue (flourescents don't show color accurately). Since few reach-in closets are built with lights, and incandescent bulbs can be a fire hazard in enclosed confines anyway, one good idea is to install ceiling lights angled to shine into the closet. A company named SoLux makes moderately priced closet lights (one model is pictured) that the company claims duplicates natural sunlight, but I have't tried them.
Of course, a closet's doors have to be open for that light to reach the clothes. Doors generally are a bother and the sliding version is one of the first things to upgrade. Sliding doors make it hard to access the center of the closet and always seem to be in the way generally. If doors are required at all, install folders. Killing two birds with one stone, they let the ceiling lights cover the entire space.
Once doors and lighting are handled, another useful principle is that clothes should be reachable without disrupting other clothes. Those very tall shelves minimize stacking. Seven inches is plenty of height for a pair of shoes or a sweater or two, 16" suffices for boots, and a foot at the top of the closet is the right height for hat boxes. Getting shelves in place calls for a man handy enough to install his own hardware, or one of the many closet remodel companies.
My own closets were built out by California Closets, not that it matters as there seem to be equally competent closet specialists in every city (another word of advice - I've yet to find a closet company that paints, so if you are thinking about having one re-do a closet for you, you should have them quote demolition separately from construction so you can have the closet painted after it's ready for the new shelves but before they put the new shelving in). The objective is to install all the double rack and not very tall shelves that will fit, so you can let your wardrobe expand to take advantage of them.
The drawing at the top of the post illustrates one way to fill a reach-in with shelves and hangar bars. I can't take credit for it. I found it on the Web a while ago and have forgotten where, so I can't give credit to the originator. But I thank him or her nonetheless.