Closet Clean Out Project #4: Linen Closet

linen closet b n a

OK, for those of you who haven’t fallen asleep while I chronicle the scintillating closet cleaning project upon which I’ve embarked, another project complete!  I didn’t think I’d be this excited about getting this task done, but I honestly spent part of our New Year’s Eve celebration telling friends about it.  Which is completely lame.  And then they were all impressed, so the question is: not lame, or friends lame like me?  I’m actually hoping for the latter, because the thing we should all wish for this year is to find Our People, the ones who Get Us.  And I am nerdily enthusiastic about this geeky closet adventure.

Step 1: Assess and evaluate

This seemed like the worst of all the closets, by far.  I have arranged and re-arranged this one at least three times that I can think of since we moved into this house a year ago, and because of the alarming rate at which we go through sheets an towels, plus the disturbing number of linens we have, it always got out of control.  Look:

linen closet before

Just way too much stuff.  Plus, I mentioned before that there is space for another shelf on the upper level, but no shelf to fit there.  So my assessment of this space was that we needed to add a shelf and get rid of some things, and then arrange everything in a way that made sense–towels at eye level, sheets all together, pool towels tucked out of the way until pool season, spare pillows up high for when guests come.  Nothing too major, but it was going to take some time.

Step 2: Purge and empty

This wasn’t hard, but it took well over an hour to pull everything out, sort it into stacks (sheets, towels, non-sheet blankets, quilts, pillows, and non-linen things that still go in the linen closet, like footstool slip covers and kitchen towels).

linen during

I JUST DID THIS when we moved out of our old house, and again when we moved out of our rental house–how can it be that I needed to do it again?  I think going in slightly hungry and a little impatient made me less tolerant than I would have been otherwise.  I was pretty ruthless, even getting rid of a quilt or two that I had never really loved.

linen piles

I drafted my oldest in to help me by sorting through the things that we tossed out, and bagging those up.  She made the list that we used to itemize our donation, and the added side-effect was that I only really saw things one or two times, so no chance for pity or second thoughts.  Once I’d let it go, it was GONE.

linen empty

I don’t own a table saw, so I couldn’t cut down the shelf we have that could go on the upper brackets if it fit.  Instead, I figured I’d go ahead and start putting things away, and we’d burn that bridge when we got to it.  Having the whole thing empty for the first time in a long time was pretty nice, though, I won’t lie.  Since it’s situated along a narrow hall, anytime it overflows it’s pretty inconvenient.  See:

linen closet hall

It’s bad enough that the trim is still PINK.  ROSE PINK.  Circa 1984 rose pink.  But because the linen closet (on the right) and the coat closet (on the left) face one another and BOTH have bi-fold doors (that are PINK), if the linen closet isn’t tidy and there are towels and sheets spilling all over the floor, it’s a giant pain in the behind.  Plus, since this is our powder room, it means that any time the doorbell rings, I’m on my hands and knees shoving things into the shelves, making the whole situation that much worse.  Clearing this whole thing out was necessary.

linen bags

All told, we purged FOUR garbage bags full of linens from this closet, and moved a giant stack of kitchen things to the kitchen, where they belonged.  I think we ended up with about half of the original volume once we finished this job.

Step 3:  Re-design

If I had my druthers, I would paint the trim yesterday.  But we’re waiting until later in the spring to get that done throughout the entire house, so it wasn’t on my to-do list at this point.  Ditto the interior of the closet, which is the same dingy not-quite-white as the kids’ closets.  Plus, I have a bone-deep aversion to the bi-fold doors, in general.  In Fantasy House, I’d swap these out for the kind that are also bookshelves, like a secret passageway, because how cool are those??  In the real world here, where I’m cleaning on a schedule rather than doing major construction projects, we’re just going to re-load the shelves with whatever linens survived the Great Purge and call it a day.  I’ll tackle the other ideas another time.

Step 4: Organize and store

linen after 2

Nothing terribly exciting here, just putting stuff away.  You know, no biggie.

linen after

Can you tell that we ended up not needing the top shelf, after all?  Yeah.  Cutting down to half your original pile of linens will do that.  Top shelf: pillows for guests, spare blankets (almost ALL of the baby blankets are gone, with the exception of the ones we got as gifts, and a couple I made), and random non-linen things, like footstool covers (both from my new book, as it happens, and an electric heating pad I didn’t know we owned).  Second shelf: towels, including pool towels at the far right and then bath towels, sorted by color and stacked with their matching washcloths and hand towels.  I don’t think I’ve ever done that successfully before.  Third shelf, sheets, all sorted out with their pillowcases.  I thought about doing that thing Martha does, where she stores the sheets inside the pillowcase so they all stay together, but we have a number of sets where the pillowcases aren’t identical to the sheets, and it didn’t seem to make sense for us.  Plus, since we now have three sets or fewer for each bed (so at any time we can have one on the bed, one in the wash, and one in the closet), sorting and keeping them together is pretty easy!  Bottom level, spare quilts and smaller throw pillows, in a basket on the far left.

linen after 1

Totally boring way to spend your New Year’s Eve day, but what a relief to have it done!  Anyone else in dire need of sorting their linen closet?  Help me feel like I’m not alone, everyone!

Vital statistics:

  • total time invested: 2 hours
  • total donated bags: 4
  • total donated linens: I lost count at 45
  • total cost: $0!

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  • Karina
    January 2, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    Hi There! Can you please get back to me regarding the Etsy purchase from Whipstich Fabrics on November 9th? Thanks!

  • Rachel at Stitched in Color
    January 2, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    Nicely done. I especially applaud your getting rid of quilts you never really liked. That takes GUTS. I find we tend to overkeep on old towels, as if someday our whole house will flood and we’ll use the towels to hold it all back. Then again, it’s always hard to get rid of things that you can’t donate cause they’re too useless. That’s the hardest one for me.