Organizing a Linen Closet

Smart storage strategies transformed this linen closet nightmare into an organized dream space with adjustable shelves and custom cubbies.

Original_Baer-linen-closet_s4x3 Photography by Michel Arnaud

Space wasn't the issue in this linen closet. It was plenty big and already had built-in shelves. But the shelves weren't adjustable, they were so deep things got lost at the back of the closet, and the highest shelf was nearly impossible to reach. A collection of bedding and towels was overflowing from the shelves and odds and ends relocated from the nearest bathroom after a recent remodel had no neat place to rest. Clearly, a reorganization was in order for homeowner's Laura Baer and Mike Levine.

Debbie Royal, California Closet's design consultant, suggested three changes that would make a big difference:

  • Sectioning off two shelves at eye level with a vertical divider to create four central "cubbies".
  • Installing a slide-out metal basket
  • Recessing the top shelf

The original space was roomy and fitted with shelves, but the shelves weren't adjustable so it was hard to reach high items. The new shelving system organized the existing space more effectively, creating four cubby-like compartments at eye level, adding a slide-out basket for small items, and a recessed top shelf for easier access.

But dividing the space more effectively was only the first step on the road to linen closet nirvana: Weeding the sheet and towel collection down to the essentials was also key. "We all have too many sheets," says Kathi Burns, founder of Add Space to Your Life and author of Master Your Muck. "You really only need two sets of sheets for each bed, and maybe one "extra" set, like flannels if you live in a cold climate."

Kathi also advises keeping each set of sheets folded together in a bundle: "Either fold the flat sheet over the fitted sheets and pillowcases like a taco shell around the filling, or put the sheets and one pillowcase inside a second pillowcase," she says. This helps the sheets stack more neatly on the shelf, and when it's time to make a bed you can just grab a full set.

Another option: "Consider rolling your linens," says Caitlin Mulhern, founder of Impeccable Order. "It's faster than folding and neater to pull one rolled towel or sheet out of the closet&mdash. Often, when you pull something folded from a stack, you end up with a messy pile left on the shelf."


View the Complete Linen Closet Makeover

Clever Custom Cubbies

For towel storage, the new cubbies made all the difference, since stacks of towels won't fall over. One cubby holds white towels and extra, colorful towels at the back of another, behind an easy-to-grab caddy of cleaning supplies.

When you're cleaning out your linen closet, use this equation to determine how many towels and washcloths you really need, says Erin Rooney Doland, author of Unclutter Your Life in One Week and editor-in-chief of Uncutterer.com: "(House residents + guest bedrooms) x 2 = sets of bath towels and washcloths."

Sheet sets fill two cubbies, and individual pillowcases stack neatly in the fourth compartment.

Bags and Baskets

The slide-out basket, which was mounted to the underside of a shelf, is the perfect place for guest towels and soaps, but it could hold anything from first-aid supplies to toiletries. Essentials like toilet paper, tissues and odd-sized necessities, like tote bags and a heating pad stow away in fabric-covered bins on the bottom shelf.

Most linen closets don't have any logical space for small items. "If you're not installing a drawer or a pull out basket, just use bins," says Debbie. "One closet I saw had stacks of clear plastic shoe-boxes, each one labeled with the contents 'Sewing,' 'Medicine,' etc." Shoe-boxes are a really good, inexpensive solution to a common problem.


Watch this Transformation and More Closet Case Studies

Hooks and Shelves

Hooks installed at eye level on the walls on either side make the most of the closet's vertical space. One hook holds a guest bathrobe and a loofah hangs from the other.

The recessed top shelf was a simple solution to a frustrating problem. Linens and bathroom items are easy to reach, and the top shelf is just the spot for extra pillows and blankets.

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