|A wall closet in a residential house in the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
|Picture of inside a closet by Matthew Paul Argall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
My maternal grandparents didn't even have closets in the bedrooms of their large house that was built in 1909. My mother says that there was a closet in the hallway where she hung up clothes. I don't recall ever seeing that closet, but then again I guess I wasn't looking for a closet when I would visit there.
A Nolo Law site article offers that older homes did not have many closets because houses were taxed according to the number of rooms and closets were considered to be rooms. Other sources dispute this idea, but I think it seems like a rather reasonable explanation. This is also probably why the large pieces of furniture known as armoires or wardrobes were used instead. Of course these large pieces of furniture date back many centuries.
The concept of built in closets may have also presented construction problems in some of the palaces and mansions prior to 18th century. An ornate piece of furniture would have been more of an attractive storage solution than a door in the wall leading to a dark little alcove. Rooms were larger in those homes of the elite and wealthy and they could easily accommodate a large wardrobe cabinet.
Closets are certainly more practical in an age of electrically lit rooms where the inner recesses are more well illuminated. A closet in a small room lit by candle or gaslight could be a gloomy little place where things might be difficult to find. When we take into consideration the greater mobility of modern families we can see the problem of moving an armoire from one house to another. Most people who had a big house didn't move as much in earlier times as people do in our age.
There is also the suggestion that closets were not as necessary for most people in earlier times because they didn't own as many things. Clothing wasn't as easy to obtain back in those days since they didn't have big department stores or clothing produced on the massive scale as it is now. A few standard items and a couple of special occasion outfits were probably the norm back then. Fashions didn't change as rapidly either for most regular folk.
Even when I was growing up our family didn't seem to have as much as people have nowadays. The hanging clothes for each of my family members easily fit into a small closet with room to spare for other items. In each successive house that my parents moved to, the master bedroom seemed to have a larger closet, whereas the closets in my bedrooms were always the single door leading into a mini-room storage space.
I can remember sitting on the floor of my bedroom closet playing with toys or just hiding in retreat. As I grew older I would sometimes sit in the closet to work on my stamp collection since that is where I kept it stored. When I got bigger in my pre and early teens I might sit on the floor just outside my closet having dragged out my stamp collection or model building supplies. The closet always seemed to be my base of operations. I kept my closet neat and orderly with everything in labeled boxes.
My closet was my domain even though I shared a bedroom with my younger brother. I'm not sure where my brother's stuff was kept, but he didn't get any closet space in our room until we moved to our house in Tennessee when I was in high school. By that time sharing the closet didn't matter too much since I was now too big to be inside the closet and I no longer did the activities that I had previously done sitting on the floor. But the closet was still the only place I had for storing my things and I continued to keep things neat and labeled so there was no mistaking what belonged to whom. Even after I moved away from home I had possessions stored in that closet for several years until I had somewhere to keep them.
Compared to the ones in the houses where I grew up, the closets in the house that my wife and I moved into sixteen years ago are very large closets. Our house was new when we bought it and like most houses of comparable size built since the early eighties the bedroom closets have double sliding doors and considerable space for hanging clothes and a sizeable shelf at the top. The closet in our master bedroom is of the walk-in style, but nowhere as big as the walk-in closet in my sister's house. Her closet has hanging racks on each wall, drawers, shelves, and enough room for a dresser. This is a walk-in closet that can be considered an extra room!
Even with all of our kids gone from the nest, our four giant closets are jammed full of clothes and an array of other stored items. In the bedroom that I now use as an office, the closet is filled from top to bottom with boxes containing office supplies, books, my stamp collection, and all sorts of items of personal memories. I've been trying to tackle this one to get rid of things. But it's also one of my treasure troves which I'll have to investigate eventually to decide what I need to do with the contents.
Our closets have gone way past the storage of clothing and accessories. We have everything except skeletons in them. If I did have any skeletons to store they'd go in our garage or attic I suppose. But we'll talk about those storage places in future posts.
Do you have enough closet space in your home? What do you keep in your closets? Do you have any interesting closet memories or good closet stories to tell?