Think of how joyous it is to wander around the towel section of a department store — all those jewel-toned towels stacked up, thick and inviting.

Then, picture your linen closet. If it’s like most, it has become a jumble of mismatched sheets and fraying towels and a dumping ground for party favors and other cast-off items.

We talked to some experts who offered five steps for whipping your linen closet into shape.
organize the linen closet of your dreams

1. Purge.

Pull out mismatched, torn or off-sized items and donate them (animal shelters will appreciate even your most worn out items) or re-purpose them for craft projects.

Take stock of how many sets of good linens you have and then do another purge to limit sheet and towel sets to three per person—one in use, one in the laundry, and one in the closet, according to Heather Walker, founder of Functional Spaces Organizing in San Rafael, CA. Stick to the rule of three by making sure one set goes out for every new set that comes in.

sheets

2. Zone.

Sort items by type, and designate shelves for each. There are different ways to sort linens, so choose a system that speaks to you whether it’s by room (child X, child Y, guest, master, etc.), by season (cotton for spring, silk for summer, flannel for winter) or by size (all twin, all queen, etc.), suggests Lauren Williams, owner of Casual Uncluttering in Woodinville, WA.

Consider adding a zone for dining room linens, depending on the space and furniture in your home, adds Ev Greenberg, owner of RCubed in the Chicago area.

Reserve your top shelf for beach towels, sleeping bags, air mattresses and other bulkier items that you don’t use as often, Walker advises. She recommends keeping them neat by storing them in large baskets or the large Ziploc bags.

“You may want to keep a small step stool at the bottom of the linen closet so kids can access the higher shelves,” Walker said.

3. Label.

Closet shelves are a great space for labels to help maintain order. Williams is a fan of Washi Tape, which comes in multiple colors and patterns so you can choose one for each family member, coding all their sheets, towels and bathroom essentials.

While you are labeling, don’t hesitate to create a space for non-linens. Typically organizers recommend keeping closets for their intended purpose, but a linen closet is actually an ideal place to store extra beauty items and toiletries.

“Though most people store medicines and vitamins in the bathroom, the linen closet is a better choice because it’s typically a cool, dry, dark environment,” said organizing and cleaning expert Donna Smallin Kuper, author of Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness. She recommends using clear plastic bins labeled either by category, such as cough and cold or first aid, or family member.

towels

4. Fold.

This is where it can get tricky, but once you master the technique, your linen closet will look like those department store displays in no time.

Towels: Greenberg advises folding towels so they take up the entire depth of the shelf to allow for maximum stacking.

“This may involve folding a towel in thirds one-way, and then in half. Lay out each size and see what works best with the shelving in your closet,” Greenberg said, adding that if you keep the folded edge facing towards you, it is more visually appealing and makes it easier to pull out a specific towel.

She separates by type (bath towel, hand towel, washcloth) though you may prefer to separate by person or set. Another option: Walker finds that rolled towels stack better.

Sheets: Group all the sheets by set — fitted sheet, regular sheet and pillowcases that belong together. Greenberg suggests neatly folding the fitted and regular sheet from each set and place them into one pillowcase from the matching set. Any additional pillowcases can be folded and inserted as well. Then fold the outer pillowcase around each set; it acts as a container to keep each set together so no more searching for a flat and fitted sheet that go together.

5. Organize.

To help keep piles from falling over, consider investing in shelf dividers, baskets or bins.

Linen closets often have wasted vertical space so Smallin Kuper suggests purchasing hanging shelves to corral washcloths or smaller linens; and adding towel rods to the door to hang duvet covers, extra blankets and throws. You also could hang a shoe organizer to store spare bathroom essentials.

To add space up high, she recommends spring-loaded shower curtain rods about a foot or so above the highest shelf to create an additional shelf for lightweight items such as extra pillows or bins for toilet and tissue paper.

If your shelves are deep, add a Lazy Susan for items like soap, paper products and additional toiletries.

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Cathie Ericson