Select-an-Effort: The Linen Closet

Select-an-Effort: The Linen Closet. Seana standing with a towel bar with towels on it.

Get Organized (GO!) Month is rolling along, as is “Select-an-Effort: Organizing Tasks for 2023.” I hope you are feeling more and more organized. Today we will be heading to a location that I find is frequently in need of a little love: the linen closet. Of course, you may not have a full closet, so wherever you keep sheets, towels, blankets, etc. is going to be our focus.

Ready to get started? Select one of the following:

Low Effort

Similar to the pantry effort yesterday, pick one shelf, one container, or one drawer to review. You could also go through one type of item, such as rags or pillowcases. Now is the time to let go of sheets that no longer fit the beds in your home, linens that are no longer age appropriate, and anything that you no longer use.

When it comes to linens, a good rule of thumb for how many to keep is to keep at least two sets for each location (e.g., 2 sets of sheets per bed, or 2 sets of towels per user). This way, at any given moment you can have one set in use and one backup set either in the laundry or in storage.  If you are someone who loves linens, and/or if you have sufficient space, you may choose to keep many more. For instance, up here in New England, many people have a set of flannel or fleece sheets for the winter. Some enjoy switching their linens seasonally or for holidays. When I had small children, I liked having a stack of extra washcloths and pillowcases for sick days. There really is no “right” or “wrong.” At the same time, if you are struggling to accommodate your collection, this may be the time to let a few things go.

I am often asked what to do with old linens, particularly if they are torn, stained, or have holes. One option is to place them into textile recycling bins. Items collected via this channel that are not damaged are cut into smaller pieces to make rags, diverting as much as possible from landfills. Another great choice, especially for pillows, blankets, and towels, is to drop them off at your local animal shelter or hospital. These organizations are often happy to accept old linens for animals undergoing surgery or treatment.

Medium Effort

If you have a bit more time, dive into another area, such as an additional shelf, another room, or perhaps a box under the bed. Alternatively, expand your efforts by assessing another category, such as kitchen towels, blankets, beach towels, or sleeping bags.

As with all decluttering projects, it helps to put like items together so you can see what you have. Now is the time to match top sheets with bottom sheets and pillowcases so they can be stored in sets. I know this can be challenging, since sheets seldom have clear labels, but it is worth the effort!

Large plastic bags are perfect for collecting whatever you decide to donate.

High Effort

If you want to go “all in” today, take the time to review all of your linens. This may mean emptying one closet, and/or it might require you to move around your home and pull everything out to a central sorting location. Table linens are something of a separate category, but if you want to look at those as well, tips for doing so are here.

Review what you have in each category, and mindfully decide where you want to store everything. This is the time to change any systems that haven’t been working well. For example, maybe you have always stored all towels in a central closet, but now you think it would work better to store towels in the bathroom where they are used. Similarly, perhaps your have overflowed your small linen closet, and you are now considering putting the extra set of sheets in a box under the bed in each bedroom. Maybe, to make room, you decide to relocate sleeping bags that are used infrequently to an attic or basement if they are used infrequently.

One other thing to note: I often find that linen closets are being used to store items other than linens, such as medication, first aid, cosmetics, etc. These items are not part of today’s challenge, but of course, feel free to examine these items as well if you want to fully refresh a space. Bear in mind that it is hard to keep small items organized on a large shelf, so you will probably want to add some structure. Stacked and divided turntables, smaller bins, and shelf risers are all possibilities. You might also find it helpful to have a rack on the inside of the closet door. Just be sure that you have sufficient clearance between the back of the door and the front of the shelves before you purchase. Also, while these can hang from hooks over the door, I usually find that they work better when secured to the door itself, so check to see if your door is hollow.

When reloading, remember to keep the items you use most frequently at eye level. Large and bulky items should be kept down lower, and possibly inside a plastic bin since this space tends to get dusty. Sentimental linens (e.g., grandma’s antique lace) can be placed inside smaller containers that go up high for safe keeping.

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When was the last time you assessed your collection of linens?

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Select-an-Effort: Organizing Tasks for 2023

4 thoughts on “Select-an-Effort: The Linen Closet”

    1. That’s common. Sometimes the linen closet is in a convenient place (like an upstairs hallway), so it becomes the storage location for lots of items. Satisfying to clear it out, no matter what is inside!

  1. My linen closet is well organized but it’s important to take things out that haven’t been used for awhile and wash them as they can start to deteriorate along folded creases. There are always things that end up there that don’t belong there. Good suggestions.

    1. Good idea to take items out for a cleaning. If items are deteriorating along the fold, that might suggest you don’t use them enough to warrant keeping them!

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