This is my linen closet.

It’s tucked away in a little room at the top of the stairs just off the master bedroom.  It’s old-fashioned and vintage and cleverly designed and has been around since Theodore Roosevelt was president.

(total aside:  please look at how those floors turned out.  Seriously.  Remember when they looked like this and we all wondered what in the world was underneath them?)

As much as I love this linen closet, it’s small.

No worries.

The better to get rid of random sheet sets I had in college and my vintage collection of washcloths.

Want to organize along with me?

Oh, good.

Here are my best linen closet organization tips.

And how my mother-in-law taught me to fold my towels.

Here’s a better look at the front of the closet.

It’s hard to tell from these pictures, but it’s actually a backward L.

There’s a whole part of the closet that extends back to the left.

The top is storage and the bottom is a dirty clothes hamper.

Here’s what it looks like when you open the door.

Sigh.

Does that make you as happy as it makes me?

Every time I open it, I smile.

Can we open it again?

Just one more time?

Here’s how I organized it to look like this.

Take everything out of the closet

Everything.

Don’t try and tell yourself that you want to leave a few things behind.

Take out every single thing and place it on the floor.  And then?

Act like you have a linen sorority.

Unfortunately, not everyone makes it in.

For now, place everything on the floor and turn your attention to the closet.

Clean and/or paint your linen closet

When was the last time your linen closet took a bath?

Clean out the cobwebs.

Wipe down the shelves.

Use a cleaner that smells really good.  For some random reason, a cleaner that smells good always makes me clean longer.

If you want to take it to the next level, you can paint the inside.

I painted this closet SW Extra White in a gloss.

Purge your closet

Linen closets have an awkward way of collecting all the things we think we MIGHT need one day.

You don’t need 27 sheet sets.

You don’t need those towels from the bathroom renovation of 1999.

You don’t need enough washcloths for every day of the month.

I know it seems like you might.  I know you’re thinking that you might have a run on handtowels in the near future.  I know it seems like that one day, the entire winter Olympic team will show up at your house and ask for beds and you’ll regret getting rid of all those sheets.

Here’s the truth.

YOU WON’T NEED ANY OF THAT STUFF.

All those extra towels and washcloths and sheets are just DECISIONS YOU HAVE PUT OFF MAKING.

Assess your linen needs

Take stock of the people in your house and potential visitors and how many sheets and towels you think you might need.

Here’s what I decided we needed.

I kept 10 bath towels.

8 hand towels

10 washcloths

2 twin sheet sets (folded sheet, flat sheet and 1 pillow case)

2 full sheet sets (folded sheet, flat sheet and 2 pillow cases)

1 queen sheet set (folded sheet, flat sheet and 2 pillow cases)

1 matlesse coverlet

Extra pillow shams

Extra pillowcases

(total aside:  I don’t keep the beach towels or comforters in here.  There’s not enough room, so those are stored in another place.  Also, my table linens are stored in another area.)

Use baskets

I do have one set of sheets that are red and white checked with a monogram.

They didn’t match the rest of the linen closet and I really like them.

So I put the set in a basket at the top of the closet.

Baskets are perfect to help organize a closet and store non-matching sheets.

Let it go

In the wise words of Elsa the Queen, let it go.

After you’ve chosen what you actually need for your linen closet you will have a pile of extra stuff sitting there.

Some you might want to donate.

Some might need to be trashed.

Some might need to be given to someone who really needs a polka-dotted sheet set with matching Laura Ashley pillowcases.

All of those linens need to go and live their best life.

They do NOT need to stick around in the hopes of making the linen sorority next year.

As I was folding towels and lining them up, I was all about them.

I’ve been folding towels this way since my mother-in-law showed my husband how to fold a towel and he showed me.

There’s nothing that makes me happier than a well-folded towel.

And here’s how I fold mine.

(total aside:  you probably don’t need this because I’m sure you are a brilliant towel-folder in your own right.  But just in case here’s a short photo step-by-step.)

I also fold and stack the towels before I put them into the linen closet.

That way they all line up perfectly.

It’s so much easier to line them up before they go into the linen closet and all start sticking together.

If you have been putting off organizing your linen closet and you hide your eyes every time you put a washcloth away, I hope this post inspires you.

Clutter is a real thing.

It can be scary.

And overwhelming.

And make you want to run back to bed and pull the covers over your head.

If that is you today, I just want to encourage you.

You got this friend.

Truly.

There’s no one else in this entire world as amazing as you.

Now go forth and conquer.

Start accepting your sorority nominations now. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Image for Eileen Eileen

    I've never done the second fold in half thing. I'm definitely trying that. Also, don't discard old towel/wash cloths. Cut them up(or not) and put them in the garage for rags. You'll be glad you dig when you need to wipe something up and don't want to use paper towels or good stuff.

  2. Image for Claudia Claudia

    I fold my towels this way, but I display them so the smooth, folded side faces out (rather than the ends). It gives a more uniform, neater look. It also makes it easier to grab a towel.

    1. Image for Patrice Patrice

      Yes, so do I Claudia, I can't stand the cluttered look if all the ends are sticking out. (I'm kinda anal about that sort of thing, Ha ha!)

          1. Image for JV JV

            Right there with you 4 ladies! Learned how to fold them that way and display them with the smooth side out for display purposes when I worked at a store in high school and can't do it any other way!

  3. Image for Andrea Meeks Andrea Meeks

    I'm so excited! We have ONE thing in common - HOW WE FOLD TOWELS!! (lol) I'd like to have more in common (like your decorating, blogging, and creative skills) but we'll leave that right there. LOVE your posts!!

  4. Image for Sheila Sheila

    The hall linen closet is my next KonMari project so your post is very timely for me! Don't you just love that closet-quaint but so functional. Were carpenters more intentional back then? Anyway, I love this practical, pretty part of your lovely home!

  5. Image for Jenn Dynys Jenn Dynys

    This is how I fold my towels, my Mother taught me this way. When my husband and I got married, he folded them the way his Mother folded them which was...well boring and not very pretty. I prevailed on the way we fold towels, but I conformed to the toilet paper always going on the roller with the tail coming over the top. Huge compromises in a marriage you know! Ha!

  6. Image for Rachel B Rachel B

    So do you store linens for company somewhere else? Because -- when all my kids and their families come home I need A LOT of stuff.

  7. Image for Betsy Betsy

    Watch Tidying Up with Marie Kondo in Netflix....she is full of good ideas. She also has a book covering tidying up the entire house, well worth the read!

  8. Image for Shirley Shirley

    Okay, okay I've re-folded all my towels...happiness. Now on to the rest....you gave me the inspiration I needed.😊🤗

  9. Image for Stephanie Brown Stephanie Brown

    Lovely yours is. Yep I need to clean and organize mine. No excuses.. another snow day in KY! Single digits but up to almost 60 Sunday.. don't you miss the crazy winter weather of the Bluegrass State? I will get busy.. just one more book and cup of cocoa to drink! Thank you for tips and encouraging me to literally get out from under the covers in KY!!

  10. Image for Byrdie Byrdie

    I love the comment to let your excess items “go and live their best life!” Humane society, your vet, friends that have pets will welcome your old towels. Also, I save well used wash cloths for trips to Europe....often no washcloths in hotels so I just use and toss as I go.

  11. Image for Joy Joy

    I have two linen closets to go through!! My master bathroom linen closet stays pretty organized since I'm generally the only person to go into it. My husband takes stuff out but I'm the one doing laundry and putting it away. The main linen closet, however...UGH! I have towels from my college days (let's not talk about how long ago that was!!) and I have washcloths that have seen better days. And sheet sets!! Don't get me started. I do NOT look forward to organizing that closet. But I do use the same folding technique so there's that! ;)

  12. Image for Janet D Janet D

    I have been folding my towels like that forever! Learned from my Mom. Old towels and blankets can be donated to any Animal Shelter. They could sure use them! I just cleaned out my closet a few months ago and took everything to the Shelter.

  13. Image for Kathy J Ayraud Kathy J Ayraud

    I donate my nicer towels to my local animal shelter and the rest of them I give to my hubby to use in the garage & workshop.

  14. Image for Ellen Ellen

    I love that someone else must have properly folded towels. Well, actually you do not fold them "my" proper way but yours is good too LOL My linen closet makes me happy too! And on a side note, I have noticed towels and sheets are hugely popular items at garage sales and I would guess places like Goodwill. Let those items go if you don't need them....somewhere there is a happy home for them.

  15. Image for Rhonda Rhonda

    Dog/Cat shelters are a great way to give new life to towels/sheets that don't make the cut. They are happy to accept them.

  16. Image for Karen Karen

    I purged my sheets a long time ago. But because we live in the Midwest where today was -24 when we got up, I have winter flannel sheets and a set of cotton for summer! Only two sets. I wash my bed linens every week and put them back on the bed.

  17. Image for Jillian Jillian

    This must be the way we older ones learned to fold towels :) My kind of linen closet! I am a little surprised at the big deal over the netflix lady helping organize people. We learned to clear out and organize early on, what has been happening, has this fallen away? You are always clean, spacious and organized...love that. It is very soothing to see.

  18. Image for Ellicia Ellicia

    I am in the midst of a purge. I have saved the older wash cloths in a special stack and put a label under them that says "makeup cloths". They are great for removing makeup at night and not spoiling the ones that match the towels. I use the hotel fold for my towels. that I found on YouTube a few years ago. I like the nice even edges it gives to the linen closet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeFp48eFYsg I also came across an article the other day that the Netflix series with Marie Kondo had such an effect on Australia that the thrift shops had stopped accepting donations. Thank you for your continued inspiration.

  19. Image for Valeri Valeri

    Well there are definitely many ways to fold a towel and all of them are fine if that's the way you like it. I fold mine hotel style and when you hang them on the towel bar they look so nice as well as looking nice in the linen closet

  20. Image for MerriJo MerriJo

    Exactly how ai fold my towels....but I have the fluffy, round edges facing out, cuz to me it’s prettier that way when I open the door😉. I have had guests tell me that I am the only person who opens the linen closet & encourages them to “help yourself to anything else they might need. A few have been known to just linger a moment, looking at the prettiness. **your linen closet is the cutest ever, with the adorable doors & built-in hamper!!😍

  21. Image for Terri Terri

    I do believe we share DNA.. we must be from the same linen closet/ towel folding blood line !!! I have always.. always folded my towels like you described... I always fold my towels ... stack them so they line up perfectly .. and THEN put them in the closet !!!! lolololol.... But I was wondering ... are you sure I won't NEED that electric blanket for something?? The one that no longer has a working control with it ??? lolololololol.... Just sayin... ( The floors realy are drool worthy... aand oh that vintage closet.... dreamy !)

  22. Image for Denise V Cox Denise V Cox

    🙂... So funny... This is how my Mom taught me to fold a towel. As she was also an RN, she taught me how to make a " hospital bed".. 😁 when I was just a wee lass in elementary school. To this day, there's nothing better than a tight, squared off corner when putting fresh linens on.

  23. Image for Leslie Watkins Leslie Watkins

    I laughed when I read this because my boys brought tons of kids home from college. So many that they didn’t fit in extra beds and sleeper sofas—.we are talking wall to wall on a floor in one room. Since they have left, I have had an entire family from New York stay with me for a funeral; a crew from Los Angeles that filled every space, and all of my kids and grands in for visits—all 10-15. Sooooo- my linen closet has lots of towels, hand towels and wash clothes with bedding stored elsewhere. I love folding my towels like that, too. Thank you for reminding me to toss those “vintage” things that although sentimental, have lost their cuteness and reality of use!! Thank you always, sweet friend, for the inspiration.❤️

  24. Image for Jeannie Jeannie

    Great inspiration! I’m getting my paint brush out this weekend...been wanting to do this for a long time. I’m going to put pretty paper on the shelves, too. Thanks!!!

  25. Image for Amy Jablonski Amy Jablonski

    Love everything about this! I’ve been purging for three years now...parents’ houses, downsizing our own house and now, Marie Kondo organizing! Some advice I received about old towels was to donate them to animal shelters. They are always in need of towels and I love knowing my towels are getting a second, very important, life 😉

  26. Image for Kelly Kelly

    You fold your towels the same way I do! My daughter and I got the whole family together in our (extended) family vacation home and gave them lessons! I have a friend who is an artist, and he gets all my old towels. My old sheets and blankets go to the animal shelter.

  27. Image for Pam Pam

    I love a well organized linen closet. Actually I like all my closets and drawers organized. My husband says I have a problem lol! I fold my towels just like you do. I think they look nicer and you can fit a lot more towels in a smaller area by folding that way. It took awhile but now my husband even folds them that way too. Only took 15-16 years lol!

  28. Image for Mary Streber Mary Streber

    i also have different size beds.. i take a fitted, flat and pillow cases and make a bundle and tie a purple (king) ribbon around, or pink (queen), or blue (double). Easy to find the size you need. Love all the white. Cosco has great white towels by bulk super reasonable.

  29. Image for Teresa Gonzales Teresa Gonzales

    We are on the same page!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!I just did the same thing to my lines AND I fold my towels the same way!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  30. Image for Jeanie Jeanie

    My mother taught all the girls in our family how to fold the towels just like this. My neice asked her one time why do I have to fold it that way? My mother said, well if not, why bother? lol. I thought that was funny and I could see her saying that. Your linen closet looks so great, clean, functional, organized. Love it!

  31. Image for Charlotte Delaire-Meyers Charlotte Delaire-Meyers

    LOVE an organized linen closet. We downsized a year ago, and while I'm fine with less space overall, I miss my nice, big, organized linen closet. Now I have 3 linen drawers. Just not the same.

  32. Image for Linda Linda

    I always donate my sheets, towels wash cloths to the animal rescue. They love everything like this....doesn't matter if it I has holes or if it's thin enough to see through. They can always use them for pet beds and for cleaning up from pets. I also give them old pet TOYS that maybe my two Goldens are tired of or have chewed off an ear or leg.

  33. Image for Loryl Loryl

    The linen closet looks fabulous! I did mine last January and got rid of a lot of items that didn’t make the “pledge class” teehee. But Ineed to straighten and do it again. Maybe it would be a good time today since the temperature has risen to a balmy -5 and I wont be going anywhere🥶

  34. Image for Linda Miller Linda Miller

    So here's a funny...I'm reading down through your blog quickly with my coffee and I read "Asses your linen needs" and I was WHAT?! HUH?! WAIT?! And then I read it again and was "Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...a-s-s-e-s-s your linen needs". I was cracking up!! Loved your advice and I'm parting with old sheets today that haven't seen the light of day for years. (Like the twin sheet sets, because I no longer have a twin bed in the house???) lol Now we need a tutorial on the makeup drawer. :-O Have a happy day my friend!

  35. Image for HollyG HollyG

    Thank you! Brilliantly articulated ad your words motivated me to begin organizing not only the linen closet, but my entire wardrobe.

  36. Image for Brenda Nicholson Brenda Nicholson

    Here's something that might help motivate you to get rid of the extra linens: animal shelters can always use them. Now to tackle my linen closet! P.S. How do you know which sheets are which size? I haven't figured that one out yet.

  37. Image for Teresa Ann Harral Teresa Ann Harral

    Oh dear! I have quickly grabbed my towel or whatever from the linen closet and slammed the door before the guilt of a messy overflowing closet attacked me. But......after reading your post and seeing your closet......it is time to threw in the towel (ha the pun). So it is on my to do list for tomorrow! Thank you!!!!!

  38. Image for Barbara Ann Barbara Ann

    I did have to go through my towels when I cleaned out my parents house. Mom worked for a department store linen dept. She had ton, TONS of towels! Every holiday had it's own set of decorated hand towels. I even found Ralph Lauren towel sets that had not been used! And all with matching bath mats. I gave away about 25 sets and kept a few that matched my decor. But I to change out my towels with the seasons. But have cut down, a bit. Sheets....now that's another story. I change out my bedspreads, coverlets and comforters all the time. Colors, seasons and moods. I"m about to change up my bed for valentines day!! I mix and match my sheets, pillowcases, shams in all sizes. So I have a large selection of bedding. And sizes of pillows!! Sorry but I just have not been to keep it simple. That organizing lady would not like me. But I do have a system. I sort & store by color, prints & size. I separate fitted from flat. I need more space!!

  39. Image for Shelia P. Shelia P.

    Hi Karianne! Great post and one I needed to read! I’m still at the pulling the covers over my head stage. We always had sheets when I was a kid but just one worn out one that we had to wash to change the sheets. I guess that’s why I have an addiction to sheet buying! I want to know I’ve got all the sheets I’ll ever need. But somewhere along the the line, I lost my way and got hooked on bed linens. I have one small linen closet for all these sheets, many that are brand new in the package still. I did however finally make one decision, and that’s that I only want white sheets from now on. I bought several sets of white ones, too many though. You’ve opened my eyes! I’m going to put these sheets on Craigslist and see if I can’t make back some of the money I’ve Wasted on all these stupid sheets. Thanks for this post, I really needed it before I ordered anymore! HAHA! Shelia P. 😀

  40. Image for Deb Albert Deb Albert

    I fold my towels exactly like this too, however, I alternate one white, one blue! When I was a little girl (about 50 years ago!) I remember opening my aunt's linen closet and being in awe at the way her towels were neatly folded and alternating white and peach. I resolved to have a linen closet that amazing someday. Of course, I had to wait until the kids left home to be able to keep it that way!

  41. Image for PJ PJ

    I just love the fresh start that white enamel paint gives to any closet, kitchen cupboard interior, or pantry. You have inspired me to paint my linen closet. Thanks, KariAnne!

  42. Image for Marjorie Marjorie

    Your closet looks so nice. I definitely need to straighten mine. And I fold my towels the same way. My daughter showed me several years ago. She’s much better with organizing than me!

  43. Image for june june

    My mom taught us to fold our towels that way...all six of us still follow her teaching. She would be 98 if still alive. Love your organized linen closet. Here’s my white towel tip that has nothing to do with presentation in the linen closet but can really be a life saver. I have white hand towels under every chair cushion in my home and under one of the cushions on each of my sofas. This way if something gets spilled you are assured what you use will not transfer color to your furniture, rug, carpet, etc. I remember like yesterday being at a party and the guest spilled some of her white wine...when she went to blot it with her teal colored napkin the dye transferred to the hosts beautiful creamy colored carpet.

  44. Image for Karen Karen

    That's the way my mom taught me to fold towels too and I've done it all my life (I'm 67)--they look so much nicer that way. :)

  45. Image for Lisa Lisa

    I fold towels in 1/3s the long way first, then fold smaller. Then you don't have to refold to hang on a towel bar.

  46. Image for katherines corner katherines corner

    Woohooo, looking good my friend. Hey, we fold our towels the same way! Our linen closets are all well organized. I have a linen closet for our master bathroom and I am lucky enough to also have a second linen closet for sheets, beach towels, blankets, and the guest room linens and towels. I love using baskets in my linen closets. I also have an unwrapped bar of lavender soap in there, it keeps everything smelling wonderful. I also use these wonderful slide on the shelves organizer thingies. Seriously love them. They are about 12 inches high and you slide them onto the shelf and it keeps things from toppling over and everything looks nice and tidy. My under bed storage is a complete beast though. Hugs!

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