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How to Organize a Linen Closet

After spending all that time folding the laundry, it is tempting to just stick a pile of sheets and towels anywhere they might fit in the closet. Or your once neat piles have become not so neat just through regular use. But because of size differences—hand and bath towels/bath sheets and twin/full/king bed sheets—not having a designated place for everything can quickly lead to a jumbled mess and cost you in time searching through it for what you need. An unorganized linen closet is also the perfect hiding place for worn out towels and sheets that need to be retired and replaced. If you don’t have the budget for a closet reno, or even a high-end organizer, there are a few easy and economical ways to make sense of your linen storage.

Before You Begin

Calculate how much linen closet space you have. Is it all in one location, several places, or on more than one floor?

Plan on three sets of sheets for each bed in the house, and three sets of bath towels for each person. This will allow for one set in use, one in the wash and one in the linen closet. For older children and pre-teens, have four sets of sheets per child on hand.

If you will be storing most of your linens—bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and dining room—in one place, assess how you will be utilizing the space you have. Even if you are stuck with a linen closet with fixed shelving of a standard size, you can still customize it to your personal storage needs with baskets, bins and shelf dividers.

To free up even more space in you linen closet, consider purchasing a towel tower or a space-saver. Space-savers are a set of shelves designed to utilize the wall space directly above the toilet tank and are ideal for keeping your towels organized. Roll up hand towels and face cloths for that decorative touch.

Perhaps you would prefer to store linens in the room they will be used—tablecloths in the dining room, sheets in the bedroom, etc.—and reserve the majority of the space in your closet for comforters, additional bath and beach towels and tablecloths.

Don’t have a designated linen closet? Create one with an armoire with drawers and adjustable shelves.

Sort First

Did you upgrade to a queen size bed, but still store the double sheets for your old bed in the linen closet? Are you hanging on to the cute clown bedding set that your teenager has outgrown? Are there linens you were given as gifts but have never used? Do you have mismatched sheets that you don’t want to get rid of, but that you don’t use because they are mismatched? At first glance, it might look as though you don’t have much room in your linen closet, but once you start purging, you’ll have more space to work with.
Remove anything from your linen closet that can be stored somewhere else, such as extra bars of soap or material for your crafting projects.

If you can take all of your linens off the shelves in your closet and lay them out in one convenient place like a table or counter, it will be quicker and easier to go through them.

Once everything is out of the linen closet, take this opportunity to give your shelves a thorough cleaning.

After the shelves have been wiped down and before you put your linens back, install any shelf dividers, closet organizers, baskets or bins that you have decided to use.

Sort through your linens and see if there aren’t any sheets and towels that you don’t want anymore or ones that are worn or too old to keep. When a pillow can no longer be fluffed, it needs replacing. Throw anything out that’s not worth recycling as cleaning rags or potential Halloween costumes. For the ones that you don’t want to hang on to but are still in good condition, consider donating them to a charity organization, pet shelter or second-hand store.

Once you have decided what you are keeping, if they aren’t already, rough sort your linens into sheets, towels, etc. Now subdivide each pile by room—master bedroom, each child’s room, the downstairs bathroom, etc. Keep spare bedding sets together, preferably in the original bag they came in.

Separate seasonal and holiday themed sheets and towels from your regular linens; store them on the shelves reserved for lesser used items.

Now you’re ready to put things back into your linen closet or relocate linens to the room they will be used.

Getting Organized

Even if space is at a premium, resist the urge to stack bedding and towels too high. Fabrics need breathing room to prevent them from retaining moisture, which in turn can contribute to mold and mildew.

For larger items such as blankets and comforters, you will most likely place them directly on the shelves of your closet. But for smaller items or ones of varying sizes, like additional pillow cases, hand towels and face cloths, you might want to use one type or a combination of organizers.

Remember the highest to lowest rule: store linens, such as your seasonal bedding or sets of sheets and towels for guests that are not used as often on the top shelves and the ones you will use on a regular basis at eye level or on the lower shelves.

Arrange like with like, so that the next time you are looking for a face cloth or a pillowcase, you will know exactly where to find it. Store matched sheet sets together.

Stack sheets and towels on a shelf with the fold facing you; this will make it easier to grab just one.

Place seasonal bedding such as flannel sheets and wool blankets in zippered bags made of a cloth/plastic combination when storing them. Cloth will allow air to circulate and plastic will let you easily see what the items are. The same applies to extra pillows, comforters and anything else not used on a regular basis. Storage bags will protect them from dust.

Keeping It Organized

Make sure everything is visible; not only will it be easier to find things, it will ensure that items won’t get pushed forgotten out of sight.

Assign a specific place in the closet for each category or pile. Get into the habit of putting items back in the same spot.

Schedule regular maintenance times, like once every two months for straightening and tidying the shelves; this will guarantee that clutter and disorganization won’t creep back in.

Employ the one in, one out rule—for every new item you add to your linen collection weed a similar one out.

Avoid hoarding. While it’s tempting to have several backups on hand, too many extra pillows and comforters can eat up valuable storage space. Replace things like worn out mattress pads and old pillows on an as needed basis.

Finishing touches

To keep your linen closet smelling fresh, place a sachet or a ½ sheet of fabric softener on each shelf.

If you plan on using scented shelf liners, check to see that they are linen-friendly—the scented oils in the paper could stain your bedding and towels.

Many manufacturers use zippered plastic bags to package their sheet and comforter sets; use them to store their original contents or recycle them for any of your other linens that need to be protected.

Store tablecloths and napkins in stackable boxes. Label them so the contents are easily identifiable.

When not on display on your blanket rack, protect heritage quilts and other vintage linens by folding them in acid-free paper.