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Becoming Mr. Clean
Kevin shares his tips for turning a small closet into an airy and organized laundry center with smart, space-expanding gear and gadgets.
I never liked doing laundry -- until now. When I moved into my apartment, the laundry "room" was a stacked washer and dryer set in a coat closet. My cleaning supplies were in bins, one on top of another. The space was like a giant junk drawer. So I unstacked the appliances, and with that one counterintuitive move, I created a work surface and space for storage overhead and still had room for the ironing board and two vacuum cleaners. Now every square inch is functional and attractive -- even the backs of the doors.
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Kevin's Streamlined Solutions
A Place for Everything
I wanted everything necessary to clean and care for my clothing in one place. I put together kits for minor sewing repairs, stain removal, shoe care, and clothing storage, and set them within easy reach on the lowest shelf. A catchall holds loose change, popped buttons, or whatever else is in my pockets. I decant powder detergent; a glass container makes it easier to see when you're running low than a cardboard box does. PP Make Boxes, muji.us. Montana glass jar, 1 1/2 gallons, bedbathandbeyond.com.
A proper work surface is key in a laundry room. The most convenient place to position it is on top of the washer and dryer. This stainless steel countertop is wonderfully utilitarian. Not only can it handle spills and stains, it's reflective, which helps brighten the space. Vika Hyttan tabletop, ikea.com.
The closet is in an entry hall that doesn't get much light, so I did what I always do to brighten a dark space: I clad the back wall with mirrors. Basically, wherever you'd like to have a window, have a mirror cut to fit the space.
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More Sleek Solutions
The shelf just above the washer and dryer is only eight inches deep; the others are twice that. The shallow shelf holds the cleaners and stain removers that I use regularly and doesn't crowd the work area. If it were any deeper, I'd feel claustrophobic every time I folded a washcloth or spot-treated a shirt.
Since the whole laundry operation can be easily hidden behind closed doors, I wanted everything on the inside to be right in front of me. This way, I can see where things are and when I'm running out of something. See-through storage options show up in the least likely places. These wire baskets are from a commercial-supply company -- they're blood-pressure cuff holders! Medical BP cuff basket (wall mount), and storage basket, rbwire.com.
Time to Fold 'Em
I'm not a big fan of hanging delicates to dry in the bathroom, but I didn't have room for a fixed drying rack (bottom left). I found the ideal solution: a collapsible model that's just two inches thick when it's folded. And it's so lightweight, it can hang on the inside of the closet door. 2-tier collapsible freestanding dryer, containerstore.com.
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All the connections to the appliances were exposed on the wall behind the washing machine, so I boxed them in with wood covered by a piece of magnetic galvanized sheet metal. It's the perfect place for dry-cleaning tickets, a stain chart (marthastewart.com/stain-chart), and even a clock. Stainless steel suction clock, by Forma, containerstore.com.
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Most of my house-cleaning tools are extendable, so they fit on the closet's nine-foot doors but can expand to reach the 12-foot ceilings. Inside the closet: Extension ostrich feather duster, containerstore.com. On door, top row from left: Microfiber string wring mop, casabella.com. Lightweight mop, bissell.com. Swivel-It microfiber floor cleaner, microfiber extendable window washer, and Swivel-It broom, casabella.com.
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Clever Hang-Ups: U Hooks
Vacuums come with so many pieces, I tend not to use the right one if I can't see it. A heavy-duty U hook designed to hold garden tools keeps the floor-brush attachment in place. Heavy-duty extended U hooks, by Tornado, racorinc.com.
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Clever Hang-Ups: Swinging Hooks
For tools with a hole or a ring, pivoting hooks are ideal for hanging. When the hook isn't in use, fold it back against the door. Stainless steel friction swing hook (similar to shown), by Sugatsune, from simonshardwareandbath.com
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Clever Hang-Ups: Spring Clips
Long-handled tools should be secured to the door as tightly as possible so they don't swing. This spring-action clamp keeps them straight and steady. Tension clip (similar to shown), by Crawford, from acehardware.com
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Clever Hang-Ups: Great Divider