How to organize this linen closet?

itltrotSeptember 19, 2012

First off, I apologize for the horrible picture that barely shows the linen cabinet. Apparently I've never taken a picture of just the cabinet.

This space has always been an unorganized mess of a closet/cabinet. As you can see the hallway is a mess. We just installed new flooring and I was trying to determine if we should do wainscoting in the hallway hence all the tape. We decided against it. But with new flooring, baseboards, freshly painted trim and walls the linen cabinet was feeling neglected.

The cabinet is 29" wide and approximately 22" deep. The top half has 4 shelves all the way to the ceiling the whole width of the closet. The bottom half has 4 equal sized drawers.

I don't know how to organize this or even what should really be in it. And we've lived here 11 years this month. It had games, blankets, sheets, towels, beach towels, wash cloths, hand towels, wrist/ankle/knee braces, heating pad, poison ivy wash, candles, candlesticks, votives, old cough drops, you can see just about everything.

All the towels were in the drawers. The games at the very top where you need a ladder to get to them if you are only a smidge over 5'. Candles and medicine like stuff where on the bottom shelf. The other shelves had blankets and sheets stuffed in them. It was scary.

It's just DH and I but we have enough towels for a family of 20. How many towels should a person really have? We keep the guest towels in the guest bathroom. Guest extra blankets/pillows in the guest room closet.

I see closets like these and they make me wish mine was organized too.

Help me, please!!

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# of towels: this depends on personal preference, and how you use towels. I use a towel for my hair and another for my body, whereas DH only uses 1 for the body. It also depends on how often you use a fresh towel and how often you do laundry. I like to keep a handful of old towels to use for clean up jobs, exercising, wrapping hot dishes in for transport, etc. But you don't need THAT many, so I'd go through and get rid of most of the old ones that you don't use. Then I'd divide up the towels based on function: keep the bath towels together, the beach towels together, and the crappy towels together. That way it'll be easy to access exactly what you need without going through a huge pile of miscellaneous towels.

As for sheets, I use the trick where you keep the fitted, flat, and pillowcases inside one of the pillowcases. That keeps the set together, it looks neat and you can quickly grab a set when changing. They can also be stacked neatly in the linen closet.

Keep all medicines together. I would probably put those on a shelf, and get some bins or dividers to divide the stuff up as they would in a drug store. Keep cold/cough stuff together, pain meds together, digestive, first aid supplies, etc. That way, whenever you need medicine it'll all be together in one place and you'll know right where to look to find what you need.

Do you have somewhere else to store games/candles/etc? It's easiest to store things as close as possible to where they're most often used. I'm not sure about your house set-up, so the linen closets may be the best or only option. But I'd try to store games in/near the family room, and I put candles and other decorative stuff in my dining area since I most often use it for centerpieces and such.

I think the first steps in organizing are get rid of whatever you don't need, then group like things together, and finally find a place/way to store them so they're easily accessible and close to where they will be used.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 12:46PM
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Those example closets are for show only. Of course they look perfect!

Put blankets on the top shelves because they take up the most space. If you still have room left on the bottom upper shelves, add towels.

The drawers are a good place for sheets and pillow cases. You can organize the drawers by size of the sheets if you have a lot of them.

Do the towels last. You can always find a nice spot in the bathrooms to store towels, from stands to large baskets, or if you have cabinets in there.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 12:57PM
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See-through boxes are great for organizing smaller things like medications. You can make a box for each type like first aid, cold and cough, muscle aches, etc and label them on the outside.

I don't know how deep your shelves are, but sometimes you can store less used items in the back of the shelf with frequently used items in front. For instance, board games could stack across the back of a shelf and medicines in small clear shoeboxes could be in front. Both would then be accessible without a ladder.

Sometimes, the best thing to do is to pull everything out, sort it and then plan how you can put the items back in a way that makes sense for you based on frequency of use. I recently did that with a set of shelves in my closet. They started out organized but had become a jumbled mess. The shelves look so nice now and the process only took me about 30 minutes.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 1:42PM
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You CAN have a closet that looks like that. It just requires a little organization. I would keep only "linens" in this closet. Here is what I do with our linen closet, which is in our master bath. Sheets, blankets, any bedding stuff on one shelf together. On the top shelf I put stuff we don't use as much - heating pad, etc. I do keep a few pet items on that shelf as my pup hangs out in our bedroom. Towels are on another shelf and divided by washcloths, hand towels, bath towels, etc. I'm sure we have 20+ towels for the two of us also, but you just have to wash towels less often LOL. Another shelf holds the supply of toilet paper, kleenex. I also use baskets in closets like shown in the picture above. I have them on the bottom shelf in my kitchen pantry and LOVE them.

Another tip is on that one picture you showed - with the basket on the bottom shelf - see the shelf dividers. Those are great for towels - they keep things looking tidier. Check The Container Store for lots of good closet organizing items.


    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 2:04PM
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LOL, Tina! ;) Realisitically, who has a closet that uncluttered and organized unless they have multiple linen closets?

If the OP has children, then it's impossible to have such few things in the large closet in the inspiration picture. The blankets in the top picture look to be all flannel and thin. No wonder it looks neat.

The second picture looks to have only 3 blankets. If only 2 people live there, then I can see how a closet can be so sparse.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 2:33PM
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Iltrot - I forgot to mention - we don't keep medicine in the linen closet. Do you have a vanity in your bathroom? I have a space in the kitchen where I keep all our meds.

Also, we have a second "linen" closet which I really don't use as much for linens. Since we are like your family - only two people in the house - we don't need two closets for linen. Plus the linen closet in the master bath is large. Under our bottom shelf, instead of drawers like you have - I left it open and we have three hampers and a small wastebasket.

Anyhoo, the second linen closet is in is in a small hallway, outside another bathroom. I do have guest towels stored in that closet. But that is also the closet where I have candles, a few vases, trays (decorative stuff), in the floor area I even have a couple of lamps LOL. I have one shelf where, again, I've used baskets, and have some cleaning items.

I am organized, not compulsively so, but it makes life so much easier. I like neat closets. Pantry too!


    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 2:57PM
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" It had games, blankets, sheets, towels, beach towels, wash cloths, hand towels, wrist/ankle/knee braces, heating pad, poison ivy wash, candles, candlesticks, votives, old cough drops, you can see just about everything."

Sounds like this closet became the junk closet, like many people have junk drawers in their kitchens.

There's nothing wrong with a catch-all closet, unless you don't like it.

What I'd start with is determining what you want to store in the closet. It could be linens, but it could also be anything else that you have to store but don't have room for elsewhere.

It looks like you used to store a few categories of things in the closet:

1. Linens. blankets, sheets, towels, beach towels, wash cloths, hand towels.

2. Medicine/first aid supplies: wrist/ankle/knee braces, heating pad, poison ivy wash, old cough drops, nyquil.

3. Decorative items: candles, candlesticks, votives. Or maybe these were black-out supplies?

4. Games.

Storing things where you use them is a great idea. You are already doing this with the guest towels and sheets. Can you do this with any of the things you are currently storing in the closet? The games in the family room, the candles in the kitchen or living room? Or you could store all linens in the rooms they are used in (if there is storage space) and use the linen closet for games and candles and decor items. Just because someone decided to call this a linen closet doesn't mean you have to use it as one.

But let's say that you decide to make the closet for linens and medicine/first aid. Spend a little time thinking about how you use your linens. Do you and DH use a clean bath towel daily, or use one for three days or use one for a week? How often do you do laundry? How often do you have overnight guests? What else do you use towels for--laying sweaters out to dry, drying a dog, wiping up spills, workouts, etc.? Get a feel for how many towels you use in a week, add in a few spares for emergencies, and you have the number of towels you need to store.

Go through the same thing with sheets and pillows. Err a little on the side of too much rather than too little. I live alone and while in a decluttering mood, thought that I only needed two bath towels. Completely forgetting that I handwash most of my sweaters and need one towel to squeeze out most of the water and another to lay the sweater out on to dry. Yeah, that required a trip to the store.

For small stuff, like OTC medications, I find it helpful to group them in a container. I like to use those boxes they sell for photograph storage--there are a lot of pretty ones out there. Then label the box. "Cold stuff." "First aid stuff." "Painkillers." "Braces and wraps."

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 3:02PM
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Thanks for all the input and suggestions so far!

Most of the medicine has acutally moved to the kitchen but I'm not sure if this was overflow or left behind. So medicine won't need to be stored here any longer.

This is our only closet/storage space besides the bedroom closets for games or candles. This will have to be a multipurpose cabinet.

For now it is where we store our towels as our current bathroom has zero linen storage. In a upcoming remodel, I hope to add some space to store towels as it is inconvenient should you realize you don't have a towel in the room anywhere.

I do have a cedar chest in my bedroom that can store some of the blankets as it's currently empty. I had considered getting rid of it but sentimental value got me and I am keeping it.

I do want to try to add the shelf dividers like in the inspiration picture but since the shelves are so deep everything I've found at Lowes looks rinky dink. Any suggestions on finding a larger scale divider (bracket)?

I'd like to organize the candle storage, I'm tired of the wax residue on the shelves. Is shelf paper acceptable these days? Honestly most candles are kept as emergency lighting. Which brings up another thing that I'd like to store in this space, our emergency supplies. Not like water/food but candles (check), flashlights, radio, etc.

I'm excited to make this a little more functional and a whole lot more pleasing to the eye. And the bonus to it, DH won't be able to find anything. He thinks it's a game I play to keep myself entertained at his expense. Maybe it is..... :)

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 4:15PM
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Check The Container Store (has website) for the shelf dividers - not sure about the sizes. You could also put the candles in a basket/box/bin, etc. to keep them all together and that would solve the wax problem.

You sound like Allison when she plays the game with her husband "when will he notice" LOL!!


    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 4:45PM
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For the emergency supplies, including the candles, get some easily portable boxes or bins to store it all in. They can look attractive on the closet shelves, but be easily moved to wherever you need them when the power goes out.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 6:19PM
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I was thinking you wanted all linen in the closet, but putting blankets in the cedar chest is a great idea. I have my late grandmother's old cedar chest and that's where I store blankets. It sure does save a lot of space.

And that will give you plenty of room for towels.

I have a kitchen drawer filled with scented candles and I like having them together.

I actually think this will be a fun project for you!

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 9:24PM
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I took some pictures of the cabinet this morning. I started caulking, sanding and prepping for paint last night.

I'm starting to get excited about fixing it up after the great suggestions. I'm heading to the container store online to see what I can find to organize!

I'm still not sure what will work the best in the drawers.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2012 at 11:35AM
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