Making Room...in the Linen Closet

A linen closet can easily be a catch-all for a lot more than linens. Sometimes we simply don’t have the luxury of space to dedicate an entire closet to a single category or two. The linen closet is often one of those spaces. It can be very easy to pack it to the gills, close the door and walk away.

One of the things that makes a linen closet look so unruly and difficult to keep up with is how everything is folded – or not. Those pesky fitted sheets pose the biggest problem. I once was promised a marriage proposal if I knew hold to fold a fitted sheet! No thank you, but yes, I do.

Lay Out the Ground Rules

The first order of business is to empty out the closet. Place like with like whether table linens, towels or toiletries. Don’t be intimated by the piles. Remember, folding methods will make a big difference later. Pair up all fitted and flat sheets in each set and match them up with their pillowcases. You may be surprised by just how many orphaned pillowcases, wash cloths, or other long-forgotten items have been living in the closet. This is a good time to inspect the condition of each item. Set aside anything that can be donated so that they don’t end up back in the closet.

When it comes to the number of sheets sets to have on hand, a general rule of thumb is two to three sets per bed. One in active use, one in the laundry and one in the linen closet or for use off-season like a flannel set. The same goes for towel sets per family member-a bath towel, hand towel and washcloth is considered a set. If you have more than that, consider purging the pile. Anything in good condition can be donated to a charitable organization or family shelter. Any not quite worthy for human donation might be gladly accepted by an animal rescue center.

There are a couple of sheet folding methods that you can use so that all the pieces stay together as a bundle. That way, you don’t need to go digging through a stack to find the partners. Once you’ve mastered folding the fitted sheet, it can be tucked into the matching pillowcase along with the flat sheet and other pillowcase. Or you can wrap the folded flat sheet around the pillowcases and fitted sheet into a neat little package. One thing to keep in mind is the depth of your shelving. You may need to get a bit creative to find the best fit.

Once your sheets sets are bundled you can place them in baskets or bins and labeled by size. Before purchasing any containers, be sure to take measurements of the closet shelving. These are often tight spaces, some with narrow shelves; others are wide and deep. You should be able to slide the basket in and out easily, so be sure it clears the doorjamb. A basket with a smooth or lined interior will also protect the fabric from pulls and snags as it goes in and out of the container. If you’re not using a bin, shelf dividers help keep stacked linens in place. As for towels, they generally fit nicely on a shelf when folded ala Martha Stewart. The trick to a visually pleasing stack of towels is to have the smooth side of the fold facing out.  You may want to roll your towels instead. This can provide a bit of visual interest, too. A file sorter is a good option to help keep the rolls in place.

Arranging Linen Closet Shelves

Your everyday towels should be front and center in the closet, along with your most frequently used towels. Tuck any overflow or mismatched pieces on the highest shelves; no need to devote the most valuable real estate in the closet to items not in regular use.

Labels will certainly help ensure that everything gets put away in just the right place.  You can label by the size of the bed linens, by family member name, or by room. The labeling system you choose will make it easy for everyone in the household to pitch in and keep the closet organized.

Space bags may come in quite handy for comforters, duvet covers, and other bulky bedding. As the name implies, they are truly space saving reducing the volume of their contents by up to 75%. They’re reusable, and because there is no air in the vacuumed bag, you don’t need to worry about mildew, odors or discoloration. A word of caution, space bags are not recommended for down-filled soft goods.

For any other items that may be stored in the linen closet such as toiletries, first aid supplies and the like, corral similar items in a storage caddy or bin. A see-through container is best so that you can immediately retrieve anything needed. Labels complete the look and efficiency.

The closet shelving may be full, but you can sneak in more storage on the back of the closet door. A multi-tiered towel rack is a great tool for hanging table linens or blankets and maximizes the space of a small area.

The Finishing Touch

There’s nothing like crisp, clean, fresh-smelling linens. A box of baking soda tucked into a corner or lavender sachet on the shelves will help keep that just-laundered fragrance lingering in your newly organized linen closet. It’ll make you smile.