How best to organize shoes? Over the years, I've tried a fairly representative sampling of the choices available. Here's my take on the what works, what doesn't, and why, for three systems I've tried.
One of the first shoe organizers I invested in was this over-the-door model. Cheap and easy to install, it has its advantages. Ultimately, however, it was just too wobbly: every time I opened or closed the door, shoes inevitably fell. I also found it awkward to reach behind the looped wire and fit the shoe on so that the shoe faced me, as seen in the picture, right. It was much easier to set the shoe down in front of the loop, sole-up, but this made for a rather unsightly view.
The looped wire construction requires shoes with deep toes--sandals, flip-flops, and even some peeps and pumps could not be accommodated; neither can you store boots of any kind on the rack.
Pros: Inexpensive, easy to find, easy installation
Cons: Ugly, flimsy, many types of shoes can't be accommodated
Best for: clogs, mules,tennis shoes, espadrilles; college students; those on a budget or without a lot of shoes
Not recommended for: sandals, flip-flops, boots; shallow-toed peeps and pumps; people with a lot of shoes or those sensitive to aesthetics
About the time I got the looped wire organizer, I bought a little wooden number similar to the one, right, with the idea of using it to corral the shoes that tend to accumulate by the front door. It served this purpose well enough, although smaller shoes did fall through the dual-rod construction. When we moved, its portability was a plus, but I found that when I tried to use the rack on the floor in the closet, visibility became an issue: not only did I have to crouch down to use the rack, I was constantly pushing long coats and dresses out of the way to gain access. The result: a disorganized pile that made me wonder why I bothered with the rack at all.
Pros: Inexpensive, not bad looking, portable, no installation, flexible applications: fits in closets as well as under benches/in entry halls, in mud rooms, etc.
Cons: Two-rod construction makes it easy for shoes to slip through and get disorganized
Best for: Sneakers, boots, loafers, men's shoes; use in entry halls/mud rooms; people with only a few pairs of shoes
Not recommended for: sandals, flip-flops, and compact women's or children's shoes that may fall through the dual-rod construction; use on closet floors; use as primary shoe organization unless you only have a few pairs
Grade: C when used in the entry, D when used in a closet
When we first moved to our current place, I scrapped the loop-wire rack and the floor rack in favor of this one, and I loved it. It wasn't perfect, but it functional: for the first time, I had a rack that could actually hold sandals, flip-flops, and delicate little peeps. The neutral-colored canvas was attractive and sturdy, and installation was a breeze. As time went on, however, I did notice that dirt accumulated at an alarming rate, even though I tried wiping my shoes' soles before storing. And unlike installation, cleaning the rack wasn't a breeze, as you couldn't really just toss the whole thing into the washer as you might imagine.
Ultimately, what did in my canvas rack is the closet space it required. While one rack takes up only 5", I really needed 7 or 8 racks to cover my entire shoe inventory, which, in turn, would have taken up my entire closet.
Pros: Inexpensive, easy installation, holds most kinds of shoes, portable
Cons: Takes up closet space; large shoes like running shoes or men's shoes take up two cubbies--one for each shoe; sagging canvas prevents clear view of shoes; dirt from shoe soles comes off in the cubbies and is very unappealing
Best for: Kids' and women's shoes; people with lots of closet space or with limited shoes
Not recommended for: Men's shoes, large shoes, or boots; people with lots of shoes or limited closet space; people who live in muddy or dusty regions
Grade: B for those with limited shoe collections; C- for everyone else
Tomorrow: The solution that finally worked.