Make the most of limited linen closet space

by Erica Peterson 

While linen closets offer welcome storage, keeping items organized is essential for making them functional.

“Most linen closets tend to be a catch-all for everything,” said Ann Faber, a professional organizer with FAB Simple Spaces in Bath. In addition to towels and sheets, they often contain medicine and first aid kits, extra cleaning supplies and even vacuum cleaners. 

And, linens are often packed in so tightly that rummaging for a towel or pillowcase can send the rest spilling off the shelf.

“Every space should follow the 80/20 rule; you want to keep that space 80 percent full to have 20 percent to grow,” Faber said. “A lot of times you open the closet, and it’s 110 percent.” 

The first thing she recommends is emptying the entire closet to assess what’s in it.
Often, clients are surprised at what they find.

“I’ll hear, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize I was keeping Aunt Betsy’s photo album in here. I should move that,’” Faber said. 

She suggests putting items in groups, like towels, sheets, first aid/medicine, cleaning supplies and paper products.

“You’re also assessing numbers, asking, ‘Do I really need these 10 towels?’” she said. “Usually, all we need is two towels per person. If you have more than that, you probably have too many.” 

Likewise, no more than two sets of sheets per bed are needed. That doesn’t include seasonal towels and sheets or linens for guests, Faber added. 

This is also the time to assess the quality of items and get rid of linens that have holes or are worn. 

Next, map out the closet, deciding what will be stored where. Faber recommends the middle shelf be used for frequently used items like towels, medicines and tissues. Use the top shelves for blankets, pillows, extra bedding and seasonal items. Bulkier items should go on the bottom, including things like luggage, school backpacks, extra beach towels, toilet paper and sleeping bags.

Storage containers are next. People often start at this step, which can cause problems later if they don’t fit the space. 

“People get excited to shop for the bins, but do the hard part first. Measure the shelves front to back, left to right, because that’s going to tell you what size basket or bin you need,” Faber said.

Also, check around the house to see if there are suitable containers going unused. 

Think about what is being stored to make sure the container is appropriate. 

“Some people want fabric bins, but those do not hold up to cleaning supplies very well,” she said. “Textured baskets are more heavy duty.” 

Make sure all containers are labeled so family members know where everything is. 

The most important thing is to organize in a way that works for your family, Faber said. For example, the popular KonMari method of folding and storing towels does save space. But, it’s also more time-consuming.

“If you or family member are not going to take the time to do it, then do it the old way,” she said.