Your linens take good care of you, and they deserve the best treatment in return. But often, our linen closets become junk drawer equivalents for our rags, towels, and miscellaneous sheets. Take time this winter to reorganize and restock, and start the year fresh as a Tide laundry detergent pod: crisp, clean, and super efficient.
1. Start by purging
The first step to any well-organized closet is getting rid of the non-essentials: ratty old towels, sheets that don’t fit anything anymore, stained pillowcases; you name it. Not all of them need to be thrown out, so if you’re worried about waste, cut up old towels and turn them into rags, and store a couple old sheets in the garage to use as paint tarps on your next DIY job.
To pare down, a good rule of thumb is to cap out your linens at three sets per bed or person. That means that for bedding, you should keep a max of three sheet sets for each bed in the house, and for towel sets, a max of three towels and washcloths per person. That leaves one in-use, one in the hamper, and one in the closet at all times. Storing two sets works just as well if you’re an efficient laundry-doer: just get those linens out of the hamper and into the dryer the minute you change sets.
2. Sort it out
Before re-stocking your closet, take inventory of everything you’ll need to store there, and designate certain shelves or zones for each item. Keep items rarely used—heated blankets, extra sheets for guests, beach towels, and tablecloths—on the topmost shelf where they’re still easy to find, but not clogging up the shelves in arm’s reach. Figure out the rest of your item categories, besides for bath towels and sheets, and label a basket or tray for each: items like hand towels, washcloths, cleaning supplies, sewing materials, and soaps and toiletries go here. Save space on eye-level shelves for your everyday towels and sheets, sorted by size. Any space on the floor can go towards a big basket filled with blankets, or hampers for clothing with special washing needs (like your dry-cleaning.) “If you have a family with multiple sizes of bedding, label the shelves so anyone doing the laundry will know where things go back,” says Tracy McCubbin, in her book Making Space, Clutter Free: The Last Book on Decluttering you’ll Every Need. ($14.99; amazon.com)
3. Pair, fold, and label
Keep bedding sets together at all times, so you’re not sifting through a teetering pile last-minute, looking for that missing-in-action pillowcase. Martha Stewart’s book, Martha Stewart’s Organizing: The Manual for Bringing Order to Your Life, Home & Routines ($20.49; amazon.com) suggests wrapping sets up in fabric to keep them organized: “Inspired by the Japanese art of furoshiki, in which fabric parcels are used for a multitude of tasks, from carrying water bottles to gift-giving, this idea is easily executed on laundry day: Fold each set—pillowcases, top and fitted sheets—and wrap with a square of fabric (1 ½ yards should do), using like colors to coordinate the sets by room or by sheet size, if desired.” Add labels so everyone—including guests—know what’s inside. You can also just use what you have on-hand and tuck each set into one of its pillowcases. Either way, packaging each set up will avoid teetering piles and lost items.
4. Use the door
Hang an over-the-door ironing board holder that’ll save you space and allow you to quickly de-wrinkle and go. If your door is extra tall, or there’s more than one door on your closet, take advantage of the extra space and store cleaning tools like brooms, mops, and small vacuums.