I'm exhausted. I worked all afternoon on cleaning up my closet. Right now, I'm not sure it's much better. It still looks crowded, but I can move the hangers back and forth a little bit, so that's good.
What I did:
1. Replaced most of my fat plastic hangers with Real Simple Slimline hangers. I like these a lot so far and would like to get enough to replace all of my old hangers. They made a significant difference in the "move-ability" of my clothes along the rod, since things weren't crammed together so much.
2. I hung most of my skirts on special linking skirt hangers. I would like to get two more sets so all of my skirts are on them. They're a great space-saving device.
3. I hung my belts on a belt hanger.
4. I hung my scarves on a butterfly scarf hanger. This is great, because you can put a lot of scarves on one hanger and they're easy to get to. They don't fall off either.
5. I put my summer shoes in a vinyl space-saver bag designed for going under the bed. It's kind of like this. I'm not crazy about it and will be looking for something better.
6. I tried using a hanging sweater organizer, but it took up too much space in my closet. I stuffed all of my sweaters back in the storage bin which sits on the floor of my closet.
7. I installed a heavyweight double hanger rod from Bed Bath and Beyond. Since my top rod is lower than average, some of my clothes touch the floor, which is not ideal. However, this $14 investment made the biggest difference in my clean-up effort.
THE SHELF: As much as I would like to put more on the shelf, it's not possible due to the ceiling which slants down sharply over it. For example, the space is too small to put a regular shoe box on the shelf.
I still have to figure out how/where to store my tall boots and my purses.
I think that's it! I hope this might help someone else deal with a stuffed closet.
None of this would have been possible if it weren't for the excellent advice I received from YLF. Thanks everyone!!!