I received an email from a parent asking if I had any tips for organizing a bedroom closet for someone who is blind or that has low vision, as they felt that their child was having trouble with finding items in their closet and they often had to spend a lot of time figuring out where items were located. Earlier this year, I helped another person with no usable vision to organize a reach-in closet so that they would be able to get dressed more quickly for work, and months later this system is still working well. Here are my tips for organizing a bedroom closet for people with vision loss, with a special focus on reach-in closets that are typically found in bedrooms, dorms, and apartments.
Is it better to hang or fold items?
While each person with vision loss is different, many of my friends prefer to hang items in closets over using folding systems, because it is easier for them to identify individual items of clothing and they find it easier to put items on hangers as well. Others may prefer to have certain items folded instead of hanging them on hangers- for example, they might prefer to have pajama and athletic pants folded on a shelf or in a drawer, while they prefer to hang jeans or work pants on a closet rod.
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Make sure shelving and storage areas have defined segments
One of the most helpful strategies for shelving and storage areas is to ensure they have defined segments so it is easy to identify where items are located, and to avoid having items spill on top of each other- it can be challenging to grab a pair of pants from a folded stack if there is a pile of socks leaning against them. I used shelf and drawer dividers to define different sections for clothing and make it easier to grab items, which were purchased online, though there are multiple DIY options available as well.
Group items together
Whenever possible, I try to combine entire categories of clothing in one centralized spot so that things are not scattered across the space. While some people prefer to organize by occasion, I find it easier to have all items of one category in one place- dresses on one rack, shirts on another, etc, and used this strategy when organizing the bedroom closet as well. This also helps if someone else has to grab something from the closet or when putting laundry away.
It’s worth noting that the person I was organizing for had a year-round wardrobe, meaning they did not rotate out clothing depending on seasons. Some people may prefer to group items by season and then by category, storing out of season items in a secluded part of the closet or in bins when not in use.
Arrange items by color
Once items have been divided into categories, I like to organize them by color because I like the aesthetic of having items sorted in rainbow order and it makes it easier to locate items. One of my friends who has no color vision has a tactile label on their clothing tags that indicates the color of the item, and they use this as a guide for organizing items in their closet, while another friend uses a color reader or visual assistance app to identify the color of various items.
Organize tops by sleeve length/pants by length
When I organize tops and pants, I sort them by sleeve length or pants length. Within each color section in my closet, sleeveless items are organized in a group together, followed by short sleeve, 3/4 sleeve, and long sleeve items, and pants/skirts are organized by length as well.
Have a place to put vacant hangers
To avoid having empty hangers cluttering the closet rod, I added a purse hook to the end of the closet to hang empty hangers, which also makes it easier when it comes to putting clothes back in the closet after they are washed. Other options for storing empty hangers include a laundry bin, tote bag, or dedicated section in the closet.
Place items within the line of sight
I try to keep clothing items within the line of sight so that I don’t have to move around a lot when trying to find assorted items the closet or have to worry about bending over to reach items. When organizing the bedroom closet, I tried to keep as many items as possible at waist height or higher so that the person would not have to exert much effort when grabbing items from the closet, and so the floor area would remain clear and free of tripping hazards.
Summary of organizing a bedroom closet for vision loss
- Many people with no usable vision prefer to hang items over folding them because it is easier to identify individual items, though this is personal preference
- Make sure shelving and storage areas have defined sections so that items do not spill over
- Group items together by category, such as shirts, pants, etc
- Arranging items by color is another way to organize a reach-in closet- there are multiple options for recognizing color with assistive technology
- Organize tops by sleeve length and pants by length
- Have a place to put vacant hangers so they don’t clutter the hanging rod
- Place items within the line of sight so that the user does not have to bend over to pick up items