5 tips for cleaning a linen closet (or any closet, for that matter)

The linen closet.

It is the sneakiest room in the house. By its name alone, we dream of crisp, white tablecloths and napkins; fluffy towels that smell like the sun. Pinterest will show you a host of images that will leave you salivating – wicker boxes packed neatly with who-knows-what and rows of spare cleaning supplies. For the majority of us, these closet aspirations are completely unattainable and out of reach.

Why?

Long ago, maybe a linen closet was used for just that. But women “long ago” didn’t have tampons. And 58 kinds of pain reliever. And Target. So their linen closets were used for, well, linen.

The other problem with this room is that it is often in an obscure location or has incredibly deep shelving and of course, one shelf that is basically in the attic. What exactly are you supposed to put there without risking a head injury? I actually have a friend with a linen closet over her basement staircase – yes, you read that right. Needless to say, there is NOTHING stored there for risk of certain death.

When cleaning a linen closet, I have a few rules that I follow and it seems to serve me every time. Stick with me and we can take this unruly space back under our control.

1 – Take It All Out

I know you don’t want to. But trust me when I say things have to get worse before they get better. And when you do this, you will see the 5 bottles of conditioner that you keep buying because you didn’t know you had any. Take it all out and separate it into piles – towels, sheets, cleaning supplies, toiletries, medicine, etc.

After separating, try to pare down to what you need in this area. If you do in fact have 5 conditioner bottles, maybe they don’t all need to be taking up precious linen closet space.

2 – Store Seasonal Items Together

It seems most efficient to store all your tablecloths and napkins and candles in one place. But what happens is they never get used because you actually can’t find them when you need them. I like to store my seasonal things together. I have a bin for fall, a bin for Christmas, a drawer for spring, etc. So when I pull out a bin from my basement, I won’t forget about those cute towels I bought last year when all the Christmas stuff was clearing out – they’re right there with my Christmas candles, my Christmas tea towels and my Christmas decor.

If you don’t want to store your seasonal items this way, then try to keep them together in a harder to reach spot. Maybe seasonal decor and linen is kept at the back of the closet, where you only need to access it once a year. Keep every day items at the front, where they are within reach.

3 – Keep It Together

Does this scenario sound familiar?

Spouse 1: “Hey hon – do we have any more hand soap?”

Spouse 2: “Oh yeah! Under the sink”

Spouse 1: “Nope.”

S2: “Um…try the pantry. Or maybe under the kitchen sink.”

S1: “No….”  (hands are still dirty and kid #2 now needs to use the bathroom)

S2: “Ok. Maybe the linen closet..?”

S1: *has given up and is eating straight from the cereal box*

I may be organized, but this is not an unfamiliar scene in my own household. So in order to serve my husband (and keep sanitary conditions under control), I try to keep all items in once place.

So. If you have facecloths in the bathroom closet, keep them ALL in there. Don’t separate them. Same with medication – keep it together. You will thank yourself when you’re searching for cold medication at 4 am. Maybe it makes sense to keep a spare handsoap under each sink. That is a great goal and I applaud you if you can keep on top of it. But I find more success in keeping everything in one place so that when I need it, I know where to go.

4 – Use The Door!

The door of any closet is often the most under-utilised space in the whole joint. It is just begging to be useful! There are so many great storage solutions now that give the door of your closet new life. Shoe hangers, over-the-door hooks, command hooks, ironing board hangers – the list goes on and on. I find this is the best place to hang or store awkwardly shaped cleaning products such as mops, brooms, dusters, cleaning supplies, iron and ironing board, etc. It’s also a great spot to store items that get used frequently, such as hair dryers and curling irons. I’ve even seen small IKEA shelves attached to hold nail polish (not recommended for families with any kind of curious children).

5 – Label Your Little Heart Out

Labeling is not just for the professionals. This is available to you – right now! Whether you want your closet to look cute or practical, you will not look back once you label your stuff. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked where something is. In fact, I think “where is the” is now on my passport as my official name. But, when I label something? It’s like a miracle has happened. My people can FIND. IT. Pillowcases? Labeled. Cold and flu medication? Labeled. Extra deodorant? IT. IS. LABELED.

Labeling is an inexpensive and practical solution to keeping your stuff together. Use a dry erase marker on plastic bins. Use a file folder label from the dollar store. Use chalk, permanent marker, or card stock and string. You don’t need fancy tools to stay organized – just use what you’ve got! (there you go, that was #6 but I’ll let you have it for free).

Happy organizing!