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Organizing a Linen Closet

Organizing Good Things 2004, Volume 2004 Special Issue 2004

Wherever you choose to keep your linens, the organizing principles are the same: Shelves and drawers should be clean and freshly painted or lined (unfinished wood can stain the fabric over time). You can fold linens to fit wide or narrow spaces. If the shelves are adjustable, set them at the various heights indicated below. If the setup in your closet or cupboard is inflexible, use baskets, plastic bins, dividers, or plastic-covered wire shelving to create customized surfaces and spaces.

Sheets and Towels
A shelf height of about 10 inches is good for sheets. Keep sheets of the same kind (queen fitted, for example) in stacks together, or sort sheets into sets (flat, fitted, and pillowcases) for each bed. Allow about 12 to 16 inches of shelf height for towels; organize them by size or by the bathroom they'll be used in.

Comforters and Blankets
Bulky comforters, wool blankets, and extra pillows may need 18 inches of shelf space. Stack these linens at the top of the closet, since you probably only reach for them a few times a year. Store blankets and comforters in zippered bags to keep them from getting dusty. A trunk, a chest, or a box that slides under the bed is also a good storage solution.

Table Linens
Sets of napkins should always be kept together; wrap each set loosely in a sleeve of clear cellophane to keep them organized and easily identifiable. Tablecloths can be folded flat or hung on sturdy good-quality hangers (but not on flimsy wire ones).

Antique Linens
Antique linens should be professionally cleaned and packaged in acid-free tissue paper, which helps keep fabric from yellowing. Depending on their shape and size, they may be stored folded, hung, or rolled on cardboard tubes.

You should never have to unfold something to find out what it is (and when they're properly folded, fitted sheets are impossible to distinguish from flat). Take a few minutes to tag shelf edges, using adhesive labels or card holders.

Pest Prevention
Cedar blocks help deter moths when tucked into drawers or placed on shelves where linens are stored. You may also want to use sachets to add a subtle fragrance to linens.

Do You Know?
Using sachets to add fragrance to linens is a custom that dates back hundreds of years to when brides were given a trousseau of fine linens meant to last a lifetime. The young women were also often given a chest or armoire to keep them in.

Comments (11)

  • Dean Ashby 26 Jun, 2013

    A really useful set of guidelines for the storage
    of linen and sheets. Especially for the pest prevention portion. I often find my comforters and blankets covered in tiny holes that I first thought were just worn-off holes. After a while, I have discovered tiny bugs chewing their way through the cloths! Thanks for sharing and I do agree a little organizing with boxes and drawers would help in creating more space.

  • Lizzy Hinson 30 Aug, 2012

    Does anyone know where You can get the labels?

  • gotogreece 28 Sep, 2011

    One of Martha's magazines had real physical dividers (plastic-hard?) to separate towels from sheets from wash cloths..........can't find where I saved it. Do you still have that information? Thank you............. :)

  • happylala 2 Feb, 2011

    How would you suggest folding bedroom linens? I have lots of euro, boudoir, king, queen and other miscellaneous pillow cases. I'm re-doing my limited closet space and deciding how to fold everything to put in clear plastic bins. Thank you!

  • Jynuine 2 Sep, 2010

    We have 8 people- 6 are kids 11 yrs and under. Queen sheets

  • Jynuine 2 Sep, 2010

    We have 8 people- 6 of which are my kiddos 11 yrs and under. I have queen sheets

  • sparklymommy 19 May, 2009

    My sympathies too Jeanie.

  • JMarsden 16 May, 2009

    I have one of these, I love it, I think I need to organize it, again. It really helps out when you need lots of space.

  • mjeune 21 May, 2008

    My sympathy ..... I hope that you will feel comfort doing what you both agreed to do together. May God bless you.

  • jenniferservello 27 Mar, 2008

    I'm sorry to hear about your husband Jeanie. I think doing this project just might make you feel good, he would definitely love to see you smile. You could have a friend or family member help you.

  • JeanieCurry 27 Mar, 2008

    I wish my linnen closet looked like this. My husband and I were going to work on ours this summer. Unfortunatley he passed away on March 2nd. At this point I don't know if I will do this without him. I may or may not.