Just like your emergency household toolbox with a hammer, multi-head screwdriver, nails and picture-hanging gear, your closet needs a toolbox.
You should have some quick-fix staples, also known as items to extend the wear of your clothing and general grooming aids that are on hand while you're getting dressed and disrobing. And you can gather them all together to make a kit for about $50.
If you're at a loss for space, load them in a hanging toiletry travel kit on your closet rod. You could also use a spare hanger or doorknob and a reusable tote bag or old Dopp kit.
Recycle those small plastic jars with lids that were once filled with moisturizer, prescription pills or what-have-you to hold small items such as needles and pins.
Now, assemble your kit — don't just check items off and leave them scattered in random junk drawers. Making them harder to find means you are less likely to use them.
By the way, you should probably excavate that ironing board out of the back of the hall closet, too. This goes for your iron, too, if it's hard to find or located far from an electric plug; remedy that. Pick a spot where you'll iron or steam, and if the plug is difficult to access behind furniture, add an extension cord (preferably with an on/off switch) that you leave there.
This is all designed to save you time on a frenzied Monday morning when you're on the way out the door and you notice a fallen hem or are staring blankly at a garment that needs a simple repair in a hurry. With the right gear, you can sew a button back on in less than three minutes, but most people don't do it because it takes 10 minutes to find the right tools.
Sewing needles and thread
Cheap kits are everywhere. There's a 50-piece kit of assorted threads, including a few safety pins, needles and baby scissors, for $3.99 at amazon.com.
Use: Even if you don't intend to use them, one day you will probably wish you had them. At the very least, keep the free kit from a hotel room. Keep it simple if you don't do a lot of sewing. Cheap thread is fine for small jobs, but it tangles and snags easily and can be very frustrating. (If this happens, a quick tip is to run the needle and thread through a new fabric softener sheet before you tie the knot.) I also suggest investing $2 to $3 in a quality black thread that you might use more often.
A heavyweight thread, sometimes labeled button craft, button thread or heavy thread.
Use: It's better for buttons and it's a heavier weight, so it's great for hems on jackets and coats. It's also a good option for hand-sewing badges or patches onto things. You'll probably need just black or white for most jobs.
Cotton embroidery floss
A small multi-pack with a rainbow of colors will cost you about $4 at a fabric and crafts store.
Use: Better to use on knits to repair snags, tears or loose buttons than thread because thread can cause more damage than good by cutting knit fibers. You can also darn socks. (I know, but you could.) Note: This thread is thicker, so you'll want at least one needle with a larger eye to thread it through.
A small sturdy pair of craft scissors for $2 or less will serve you well.
Use: Cut hanging threads from garments or thread for sewing. Make repairs with your other repair kit items. Remove tags and stop just ripping them off like you're the Incredible Hulk; you know better.
Jumbo safety pins
Pick up a pack of extra-large safety pins for $2, and you'll get around 10 to 20.
Use: Mark an area that needs attention. If a button fell off, attach it with the safety pin to remind you of the repair. If you can't find the button, put the safety pin there to remind you to get another. If you have a rip in your jeans, fallen hem, hole at the seam, put a safety pin there. Some people see a problem and put the garment back into rotation. Then they are sitting at work or in the grocery store when they remember, "Oops, there's a hole in the thigh/chest/butt."
This is optional if you have a pair of scissors with a precision tip and a steady hand, but it's about $2 at a craft store for a basic model.
Use: Take out annoying tags in clothing. Open factory-closed pockets or back vents in skirts and jackets or otherwise remove stitches without harming your garment or testing your patience.
Rotating leather punch tool
Also optional, but you can get one for about $5 if you use that weekly 40 percent off coupon from Jo-Ann or Hancock Fabrics stores.
Use: Thanks to high-rise, low-rise and mid-rise jeans, the demand for belts is crazy. Inevitably, the one you pull out is one hole too short to be effective. If this saves you one belt, it's paid for itself. You can also use it to add or repair rivets, if that's something you'd like to try.
Generally about $3 or less at drugstores.
Use: The obvious uses, and you can also perk up suede shoes in a hurry or hunt for tiny objects dropped on low carpet.
Among the many brands, Stitch Witchery is the most common and can be purchased for about $2.
Use: Repair hems in a hurry with a little of this and an iron. You can cut the width in half or thirds for small jobs on light fabric, and if you'd like a gold star, go back and reinforce the hold with a few hand stitches of your own.
Keep a small container for all those extra buttons that come with your garments.
Use: Extra buttons come in handy even if you don't have the right one for the job you need to do. If it's a shirt and you don't use the top button, move it down to fill the empty space. Now you can add a subtle colored button at the collar to give it the look of a more expensive shirt, or you can leave it empty if it's not that noticeable. YouTube a two-minute button video if you're a novice.
A cheap battery-operated item will cost less than $3, but you can invest in an electric option for $10 to $20.
Use: This is not something you want to overuse. Try the lint roller first and then use this for excess pilling. There are a few drawbacks and potential harm in being overzealous, so use it sparingly.
Spare key ring
You can use this in a pinch to fix a problem zipper that won't stay closed. Slide it through the hoop on your zipper tag and then anchor it around the button at the top of your pants before you button up. You can also invest $4.99 in a three-pack of a product such as Zipperade at zipperade.com (same concept as the key ring but looks a bit better). In a pinch, you can also use a paper clip.
A cheap $1 pair is fine. No, not the same one from the bathroom. Why? Because you sterilize that after each use, right?
Use: It can help remove fabric from a stuck zipper or pinch a thread that was snagged in a knit garment to pull it back through to the right side.
You can find fairly cheap versions for leather, cotton, silk or man-made fibers if you look for dry-cleaning spot treatments, but Grandma's Secret Spot Remover is less than $8 at fabric stores, and it's pretty good.
Use: Do a test on sensitive fabrics first. And remember that a little goes a long way.