Linen Closet Makeover

We have several large, long-term organizing and decluttering projects ongoing in our home, but it can be easy to lose motivation and momentum when the end never feels in sight. Last month, I decided I wanted to tackle a smaller, more self-contained project, something that I could start and finish in a short amount of time while still making a visible impact. Our linen closet is the first thing you see when you walk into our bedroom, and it was just the scope I was looking for. With some simple decluttering, rearranging, and repurposing (and, okay, the indulgence of a few new organizational baskets), I was able to achieve the dramatic improvement between these before and after shots.

Here’s are the details, from the top down.

Top Shelf

We used to keep a big red suitcase on the top shelf of our linen closet. It was a good fit for the space, but something we only use once every five years didn’t need to be front and center in an area we pass by many times daily. I found a more out-of-the-way home for the suitcase in a different closet and decided to use this shelf to store the tissue boxes and paper towel rolls we buy in bulk.

Upper-Middle Shelf

This shelf used to be full of old towels we rarely used, but now it’s home to two baskets. The smaller one holds spare toiletries and serves as a convenient, centralized place to look if we need a new bar of soap or an unopened bottle of shampoo. The larger basket holds a spare sheet for our bed and one spare pillowcase for each of the pillows on it. It does not hold the old sheets that only fit a bed we haven’t had since 2016; we took this opportunity to finally get rid of those.

Middle Shelf

This middle shelf of our linen closet was once crammed with assorted linens, but it now holds our newly-streamlined towel collection. We decluttered nearly all of our old towels, most of which were well over a decade old, and treated ourselves to a set of luxurious-yet-affordable new towels from Target. We now have a total of six wash cloths, six hand towels, and six bath sheets: two for each of us, and two for guests. It’s a perfect number. (And, yes, that’s a math pun!)

Lower-Middle Shelf

This shelf was home to some extra comforters, which we only use on the rare occasion when we host an overnight guest during the coldest days of winter. We relocated them to a different closet and made this a cleaning command center. The basket on the left holds all of our laundry supplies: mesh wash bags, soap nuts, wool dryer balls, our laundry room key. The basket on the right contains all the parts and extensions for our cordless vacuum, except that wand in front, of course.

Bottom Shelf

The bottom shelf of our linen closet (also known as the floor) used to contain a plastic storage tub and a paper bag stuffed with paper bags. We moved the tub out of the way — I’ll be honest: sorting through its contents is still pending — and recycled the paper bags. We repurposed this space as a home for the bulk toilet paper that we buy 96 rolls at a time. I was pleasantly surprised that they all fit, with room to spare.

Front and Side

We used to keep our laundry cart in front of our linen closet, but that made it hard to reach the shelves. Instead, we moved the cart to a different area of our bedroom and gave its spot to this darling elephant hamper that we received as a wedding gift. The wreath of flowers on its head is actually the wreath of flowers I wore on my head during our wedding! The elephant holds all of our spare linens that we use infrequently but want to hold on to: some throw blankets, a sleeping bag, a few emergency towels, a picnic blanket. It’s roomy enough to meet our needs while encouraging us to be selective about what we keep.

The shelves in our linen closet narrow on one side, making the resulting space awkward to use. However, as I was reimagining this closet, I finally had the perfect brainstorm for how to make use of that space. I printed out some of my favorite photos from our honeymoon, placed them in 5″x7″ picture frames we had used to hold signs at our wedding, and put one on each shelf (arranged, much to Lawrence’s amusement, in order of elevation). I chose landscapes that featured greens and blues to connect the greens of our bedroom to the right with the blues of our bathroom to the left. By a happy coincidence, the frames even match the elephant hamper! I love the difference these photos made for this space. Now, every time I walk into our bedroom, I’m greeted with the welcoming sight of happy memories — and the relief of a well-organized space!




Spring 2017 Clothing Declutter

A year or two ago, very early on in our interest in more minimalist living, Lawrence and I did a major, systematic declutter of our wardrobes, sorting through over a decade’s worth of accumulated clothing. It was the brand of tidying up that Marie Kondo sells as a one-time, life-changing event. In practice, though, even though our mindset toward our possessions may have permanently changed, the need to periodically clean out our closet didn’t. We’ve found that something as fluid as a wardrobe needs the occasional upkeep, and it was time for ours.

Here’s what we did in our Spring 2017 clothing update:

Routine Decluttering

We went through our dresser and closet, taking stock of our clothing and letting go of those pieces that didn’t fit anymore, were worn out, or we simply never wanted to wear. Even though we started from fairly pared down wardrobes, by the end, we had filled three paper grocery bags with clothing we no longer wanted or needed.

Revisiting Sentimental Boxes

The last time we decluttered our clothing, we came across a number of items that we didn’t wear but wanted to keep for sentimental reasons. We boxed those pieces up and set them aside. This time, when we re-opened those boxes, we realized that we were no longer as attached to some of the contents. We were able to get rid of quite a few things that we hadn’t been ready to part with previously.

Textile Recycling

We took our three paper bags of clothing we no longer wanted to our local Saturday greenmarket for textile recycling. The organization that collects textiles in New York City’s greenmarkets sorts through the collected items, sends those in good condition to secondhand markets for resale, and recycles the rest into lower-grade fiber materials such as insulation. Pretty cool!

New Hangers

In the afterglow of our initial Kondo-inspired decluttering success, I adopted some of her clothing storage suggestions as well: I folded my shirts and pants into neat rectangles and, for the first time in my life, refrained from rolling my socks into balls. However, I’ve been missing my lifelong practice of hanging most of my shirts and pants rather than storing them in drawers. Hanging makes it easier to see when we’re running low on clean clothes and faster to put away the laundry. Plus, I like having the big-picture view of my wardrobe at a glance. We sprung for some of those slim hangers — plastic, not velvet — which look great and markedly increased the hanging capacity of our closet.

Consolidating Drawers

Since we hung up some of the clothing we had previously stored in our shared dresser, we were able to consolidate what was previously seven stuffed dresser drawers into six loosely-packed ones. It feels weirdly luxurious to have unused storage space!

Filling Gaps

While we were taking stock of our clothing, we also used the opportunity to take note of any obvious gaps in our wardrobes and fill the holes we found. For example, we replenished Lawrence’s supply of undershirts, and I got a couple of cardigans that have added layering options to my wardrobe.