This week in the Organized Life Series, we will be organizing our linens. To begin, you need to consider the types of linens that you use in your home. Think about the linens that you store but rarely use. Realize that the non-linen things that you store in your linen closet, like toiletries, need a home as well.
This week we’re going to weed through old linens and get rid of things that aren’t being used or are in bad shape. We will consider the storage locations of items. We’ll learn the best way to store things. We’ll talk about those old items that you never use, but want to keep – like Grandma’s hand-crocheted doilies.
Where Are Your Linens?
If you have a studio or one-bedroom apartment, this may be easy to answer. But if you have multiple bedrooms and bathrooms it may be more difficult. Consider the types of linens that you can own:
- Kitchen towels and aprons
- Dining tablecloths and napkins
- Cleaning rags and microfiber cloths
- Old rags for working the garage and waxing he car
- Bath towels and washcloths
- Beach towels
- Sheets and pillowcases
- Blankets and comforters
- Afghans and throws
- Drop sheets (old sheets used to cover furniture to protect it from pets)
- Toiletries (these tend to land in the linen closet)
- Holiday linens (like Christmas towels and tablecloths)
All of that usually means different locations for all of your linens:
- Kitchen/Dining – linens used in the kitchen and dining room are typically stored in a kitchen drawer or dining room hutch.
- Cleaning – linens used for cleaning are usually kept near the cleaning supplies
- Bath – bath linens are usually stored in the bathroom or a hall linen closet
- Linen closet – bedding linens are stored in a box under the bed or in a linen closet
- Family Room – throws and Afghans are often stored in the family room
- Garage – holiday items or rags are usually kept in the garage
It’s time to go through all of your linens and rotate or get rid of things you don’t use. Kitchen towels, for example, get grungy after a while and can be rotated down to cleaning rags. Really stained cleaning rags can become garage rags. Sheets with stains or tears can become rags or drop cloths. An old sheet is great to keep on top of the guest bed to keep dust and pets from soiling the comforter. Go through your linens and get rid of things you don’t use. Think this through. Is there a new-looking beach towel that your family hates because it doesn’t dry them nicely or it has an ugly design? Purge it! Wipe the shelves and drawers as you empty them. If items have been sitting on a dusty shelf for a while, wash and dry them to freshen them up.
Storing Unused Items
For items that are used rarely or not at all, storage is key. Unbuffered acid-free tissue paper is great for linen storage because it doesn’t discolor fabrics over time. Lay some over shelves or wrap antique linens to prevent yellowing. Yellowing isn’t the only problem with long-term linen storage. So are moths. Wool items should be stored in vacuum-sealed bags to prevent damage from critters. Moth larvae — not moths — are the culprits for fabric disasters, and cedar is known to keep them at bay. Store them in the garage, attic, the top of a closet, or under the bed.
Now that you’ve gone through all of your linens, gotten rid of old items, cleaned your shelves, and put rarely used items into storage it’s time to put things back in an organized fashion. You are probably storing your linens in different rooms, and we’ll look at that in a few minutes, but there are some overall strategies that you need to consider:
If you’re building out a new linen closet, the best shelving to use is adjustable wire shelving. Adjustable shelving is ideal because your needs will change over time. Wire shelving is best because it allows linens to breathe. Air-tight linens can mold over time. When organizing your closet, put most-used items like towels and sheets at eye level. Bulkier and less-used items like blankets and extra pillows should go on the highest shelves. If you don’t have adjustable shelves, or you don’t have enough shelves, consider handy add-ons like under-mount wire baskets or shelf dividers from The Container Store. These dividers snap onto existing shelves to create partitions, forming units of items and keeping them from falling over. Add labels. You can get label holders for shelves but make sure you buy the right kind. Or stick labels on the wall beside the shelf. I recommend post-its so you don’t ruin the wall. Or if you’re feeling particularly crafty, paint the wall with magnetic, chalboard, or white board paint.
Keeping Linens Fresh
When you pull a clean towel or sheet set out of the closet, you want that fresh-laundered smell. You can accomplish this by:
- Giving linens space. This is why people in the old days would “air their linens”. This means don’t cram your stuff tightly into the closet.
- Use Baking Soda to absorb moisture and odors. The fridge and freezer packs have nice removeable front and back panels that allow air to flow but keeps the box spill-proof. Another option is these cute little scented baking soda nursery fresheners.
- Add sachets to your closet. You can buy sachets or make your own. (Just Google it!)
- Tuck used dryer sheets into your folded linens to keep that laundry-fresh scent. For fun, check out this article on Curbly about 25 Alternative Uses for Fabric-Softener Dryer Sheets.
Sort By Purpose
Kitchen – Organize your kitchen linens by type. Dish cloths, dish towels, and aprons need to be in the kitchen. If you don’t have the drawer space, try keeping them in a pretty basket on the kitchen counter.And if you don’t have a cute apron, check out Flirty Aprons.
Dining Room – Tablecloths and napkins should be stored in a dining room hutch. If you don’t have the space, store these in the kitchen or linen closet.
Cleaning Cloths – These are best stored in the closet or cabinet with your cleaning supplies. Think basket. One good solution to consider is to clean by color. Use one color cloth for mirrors, another color for dusting, and so on.
Bath – Bath linens need to be sorted by bathroom, then by use. It’s a great idea to have different color towels for different bathrooms or even different people.
- Towels – Make sure there are enough towels to get you through until laundry day. Most people use the same towel several times. And why not? You’re clean when you use the towel. Just make sure it hangs up to air-dry. In this case, plan 3 towels per person in your household. If every towel in your home is one-time use only, you’ll need more towels. Towels can be kept in the bathroom or the linen closet. Some people store kids towels and washcloths under the sink. Some people have those nice hotel-type wall-mount shelves. (See below) Whatever you do, make sure that it’s easy to grab a towel before a shower. And make sure that when you do laundry, rotate the towels, putting the clean ones on the bottom of the stack to keep them all fresh. Consider keeping guest towels in the guest area.
- Washcloths – Eveyone uses these differently. Some people use them for every shower. Some never touch one. I use one for wiping my clean face after washing it, but use a sponge scrubbie for washing my body. So I use it as long as I use my towel. Make sure you have enough for everyone in your home. Store washcloths next to towels as previously discussed. Rotate.
- Hand towels – Your loved ones probably won’t get a new hand towel like they will a washcloth, but this will quickly become the dirtiest towel in the house. I highly recommend solid white hand towels. It’s easy to tell when they get dirty and you can bleach them clean and sanitary. Keep enough on hand to rotate. If you’re looking for something more interesting in all-white, check out this White Embroidered Linen Fingertip Tea Towel for an idea.
- Beach Towels – These items may move seasonally. During the summer you may want these on a lower shelf, but during the winter you may move them out of the way. Rotate them as you launder them so that the same towel doesn’t get used over and over.
Bedding – You should sort your bedding by room. It’s a good idea to keep different colored sheets for different rooms, but if you get white sheets for everyone, you need a way to sort. The simplest solution is to store the linens for each bed UNDER that bed. You should have 2-3 sets of sheets for each bed. When you launder them, fold them neatly and store them in the pillowcase for that set. (You can throw a used dryer sheet in there to keep them fresh as well.) Or, store all of your sheets in the linen closet and label them. If you’re looking for something creative to do, embroider the pillowcases as labels for rooms. Blankets can be stored by room or in the linen closet, and should be as out of the way as possible.
Throws – Whether made by a beloved family member, purchased at a flea market, or a fleece of your favorite sports team, there’s nothing better than snuggling on the sofa under a comfy throw and watching your favorite TV show or movie. Throws can be stored in a nice cedar chest used as a coffee table, in a basket in the corner, in a storage ottoman, or even in the linen closet. Make sure they get rotated occasionally and washed regularly.
Keep It Organized
As you do laundry, rotate the cleanest items to the bottom of the stack. If you display towels in a basket, consider rolling them for visual appeal. Remember the the key to organization is maintenance. Put things away properly. For more organization, check out the Organized Life Series.