After 9 years of being a military spouse, I’ve gotten really good at moving, organizing, and saving money while making each new house a home. When my husband and I moved to our little apartment in Washington D.C., I headed straight to almost every single Goodwill in the area to get our home in order.

The first place I always start organizing is my closet. I assume most of you are also avid thrifters, and thrifters tend to have FULL closets. Let me introduce you to our closet in both its former and current glory.

Two pictures right next to eachother. They are both of the same doorless walkin closet. The one on the left is a before picture in which the closet is empty and wall to wall carpeting. The picture on the right is of the same closet except refurbished with wood flooring, a black and white polka dotted wallpaper, and now it has items like hats on the wall, shoes on the shelves, and necklaces and other accessories on the wall.

Before and After

As you can see, the closet was poorly organized (although it did have hardwood floors under that carpet!!!). Around the corner, there are two walls of hanging rods, but the open entrance was mainly wasted space. It was also sorely lacking in shoe and accessory storage. As an avid thrifter, I have (for better or for worse) collected quite a few accessories, and having them all available in sight is the only way I remember to wear them. “Out of sight, out of mind” is unfortunately accurate when applied to my hoard of accessories. However, I also needed our closet to be aesthetically pleasing since it doesn’t have a door to hide normal closet chaos. Enter: Goodwill.

Here are 3 rules I follow when thrifting and staying organized at home:

The same picture of the completed closet from the first picture except this one has descriptions around it. One desciption points to a clear plastic box and explains how it is used to organize accessories. Another description points to small gold teacup holders that have been used to hold hats. A third description points to a bookcase that is now converted to a shoe rack. And a fourth description points to a small mounted shelf that was purchased at Goodwill.

Rule #1: Be open to alternative uses for items. Instead of traditional hampers, I thrifted two Chinese water baskets we now use to separate laundry. A small bowl, decorative plate, cute basket, or clear drawers can be used to display your favorite jewelry. Bookcases, large shelves, or large baskets can be used to house your shoes. Hooks, unique hangers, and towel bars are great for keeping long necklaces and scarves untangled and organized. Even wallpaper can be simulated with decorative contact paper or by applying gift wrap to the wall with double-sided tape.

A picture from the inside of the closet out into the bedroom. In the bedroom there is a bed with a white comforter, a large headboard, a red carpet, a cow skill above the bed, wooden floors, and a side table with a lamp

Rule #2: Be practical and know your own home and lifestyle. I found A LOT of fun items at Goodwill that could have been used in my closet, but the goal was to organize (not to hoard more “treasures”). Instead, I had to think about my morning routine and how I needed the space to be used. For example, we don’t have a place to hang wet clothing in our home. I knew I needed to create a space to dry clothes and putting it in our closet would keep everything out of our way throughout the day. In the above picture you can see my scarves (top right) are hung on a metal contraption. I found a hanging/folding clothes rack that hold my scarves full-time, but it can also pull out and work as a drying rack on the days I wash delicate clothing. When living in a small space (ahem- D.C. Metro Area), it’s imperative to incorporate practical items that can serve two or more purposes.

A woman with long brown hair inside the closet using a powerdrill to install different pieces to refurbish the closet.

Rule #3: Be patient. You probably won’t find everything you need in one (or possibly even two) trips. I’m lucky I work near FOUR different Goodwill stores (and that thrifting is a fun pastime for me). I will pop into a couple stores each week if I am working on a particular project. Sometimes, I leave with nothing, and other times I leave with a huge haul. Cultivating a home takes time, and it’s worth it to wait until you find pieces you LOVE.

A picture of the outside of the closet. There is a blue chest of drawers and a couple of Chinese water baskets under a window sitting outside of the closet

Now, when I enter our bedroom I can appreciate all of my thrifted finds and our open closet doesn’t distract from the bedroom decor.  Adding a bit of DIY art in the closet also helps make it feel like an extension to our bedroom. *In a later post, I’ll share how I made the Roman blinds in the above picture from fabric found at Goodwill!  It’s a renter-friendly hack that can be done with or without a sewing machine!

Join me next time as I share how to turn pieces you like into pieces you LOVE.

A picture of Ariel Enoch. A woman with long brown hair in a white t shirt

Ever since she can remember, Ariel has looked for a creative outlet.  From decorating cakes and sewing to repurposing furniture and interior design, she enjoys creating beauty around her.  She established her personal decorating blog District of Decor when she and her husband moved to their little apartment in Washington D.C. in 2015.  You can follow her on Instagram @districtofdecor

Ariel is an avid “thrifter” and budget decorator, as well as a teacher and expectant mom (any day now)!  After being a military spouse for 9 years (and moving 7 times in the first 7 years), her focus is on making a house (or in this case, her small city apartment) into a stylish home on a budget.  She also has a penchant for Chesterfield sofas, Campaign dressers, and bar carts of all types.