How To

How to pare down and simplify the laundry room and linen closet

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You may have a laundry room and a linen closet, or just one or the other — or perhaps simply a designated space where you store laundry and cleaning supplies. Whatever your setup, let’s face it: Since these spaces are typically tucked behind closed doors — in the basement, garage or upper story — it can be easy to let them get disorganized and cluttered.

If you’re downsizing to a smaller home or just eager to simplify the one you have, you don’t want too many possessions to fritter away your storage space. Read on for help purging and organizing your linens as well as your laundry and cleaning supplies.

Sheets, Towels, Blankets

It can be easy to neglect the linen closet. Shelves can become stuffed, making it difficult to retrieve a clean towel before a shower. Sorting through twin sheets in search of queen sheets may cause disarray. Stacks of linens can topple and sometimes it even becomes hard to close the door. Does this sound like your linen closet?

If so, I would suggest starting with your towels. They should be washed once or twice a week to eliminate bacteria, yeast and mold. I recommend having two to three bath towels for each household member so you have a backup on wash day.

If you have more towels than you truly need, consider getting rid of any that are faded, frayed, stained or no longer smell fresh after washing. I personally cut up old bath towels and use them for dusting or cleaning rags. If that doesn’t appeal to you, feel free to donate them.

Generally, two sets of sheets per bed in your home should be sufficient. If you use a duvet cover without a top sheet, there’s no reason to hang on to unused top sheets. Donate those in good shape.

Many of my clients store an extra winter blanket in the linen closet during the summer, then put it back on their bed during the colder months. This is fine, but don’t let the linen closet become a catchall for blankets you never use. Small fleece blankets, often given as promotional items, might be stashed and never looked at again. Think about parting with these and any other unused quilts, throws or comforters.

Once you have pared down your supply, I suggest purchasing containers to house your bed and bath linens. Store sets together: a queen top sheet, fitted sheet and matching pillowcases can be placed in the same bin to eliminate the hassle of sorting through a stack to find the size you want. Labeling containers is a good way to stay organized. If you are moving, consider the size of your new closet before you buy containers.

Guest Bedding

How frequently do you host out-of-town guests? If you are downsizing to a smaller home, there may not be enough room for overnighters and you’d be wise to let go of guest bedding.

Or perhaps your quest to downsize or simplify your home might lead to fresh eyes for sentimental linens. When my youngest daughter started high school, we painted her room and replaced the quilt and shams she had been using since kindergarten. I had a hard time parting with these sweet linens, so I folded them neatly and placed them in the already too-full linen closet. I rationalized my decision by saying that I could use them for guests. However, since we do not have a guest room, that wasn’t too likely. My decision was based solely on an emotional attachment to something my daughter had used when she was little.

If you simply do not have room to store an unused item, consider snapping a photo before you let it go. That way you can preserve the memory and free up space.

Cleaning Products

A laundry cabinet or closet often gets packed with cleaning products. Many of us lead busy lives and often we buy items at the store before first checking to see what we have on hand at home. In fact, I recently came across seven half-used containers of furniture polish in one closet I was organizing.

The best solution for preventing this problem is to group similar items together so you can easily assess what you already own. Again, I recommend storing products in labeled, clear plastic bins. Many of my clients have separate containers for products that clean floors, leather, bathrooms, furniture and kitchens.

Once everything is organized, try to use up existing items before purchasing new ones. Toss expired products. Once your excess supply dwindles, try to keep only one item of each type on hand. Finally, if you are moving to a home with limited storage space, you may want to reconsider purchasing bulky, warehouse-size cleaning products at all.

Laundry Care

The laundry room is the obvious place to store detergent, bleach, fabric softener, dryer sheets, stain removers and spray starch. Let’s keep that space organized with the same strategies used for cleaning supplies: grouping similar products together and storing them in clear plastic, labeled storage bins. Use up all half-used products then limit yourself to just one bottle or can of each product.

RELATED: Storage Cabinets and Bins in Every Shape and Size

Tip: Avoid saving free samples of laundry products, which have a way of lingering in the back recesses of cabinets for years. Instead, use them immediately or toss them. Fair warning: often, by the time I come across them while organizing my clients’ closets, these samples are dried out and too old to use.

Cleaning Tools

Cleaning tools like vacuums, brooms, mops, buckets, sponges and scrub brushes are often stored in a closet in the laundry room. In some of my clients’ homes I find a multitude of cleaning tools that perform roughly the same function. Consider getting rid of tools you no longer use or those that are worn or no longer functional. Also eliminate any duplicates you may have acquired over the years.

Bath Tissue and Paper Products

I frequently find paper towels, bathroom tissue and facial tissue stored in laundry rooms or linen closets. People in my area tend to buy these items in bulk at large warehouse stores, which can be a convenient choice, as it reduces the need to replace these products as quickly. If you are downsizing, you may want to rethink purchases of bulk items. Of course, if you have plenty of storage space, this practice is fine.

RELATED: A Paper Towel Holder for Every Room

Shopping Bags

In my area, grocery stores no longer provide plastic bags and charge for paper bags. As a result, people tend to own many reusable bags. They are frequently given as promotional items (we got several when touring colleges last spring), and we even purchase new bags at the grocery store when we forget ours at home.

All this can add up to a lot of bags, which tend to get stashed in laundry rooms or other out-of-the-way places. I figure that a trip to the grocery store typically requires three to five bags. Consider picking out your favorites and storing them in your car. Perhaps you can use the leftover bags to collect your unneeded towels and sheets to donate to a local charity. Especially good for this purpose are those beautiful, sturdy bags from high-end stores. Include them in your charitable donation to give them a second life.