What I Gained by Decluttering My Linen Closet

So, this goal of mine to systematically declutter my home… It’s taking a while. Definitely longer than I had hoped.

Unlike getting out of debt, which was totally gazelle intense for us, decluttering is proving to be one-step-forward-three-steps-around-in-a-maddening-circle.ย Sigh.

Focusing on the positive, I have decided to work on “foundational” projects. For me, that means closets, dressers, cupboards, pantries… and, one day, the basement store room (dum, dum, dum, dum).

I’ve been emboldened by the success of my kitchen decluttering project. Stuff still gets left out. Dishes still pile up. But when I set my mind to cleaning up the kitchen, it’s pretty straight-forward. I may not have “everything in its place” at all times. But knowing that “everything has a place” takes the anxiety out of a messy kitchen.

(This has actually been a major revelation for me.)

Two weeks ago, I turned my attention to my linen closet. I had 30 minutes, tops, before my daughter woke from her nap and was determined to get ‘er done.

Therefore, I didn’t even take the 2 minutes to snap a before shot. Imagine a narrow closet, with deep shelves, stuffed with a jumbled mess of sheets, towels, medicines, flip flops for the pool, and a ton of other unidentifiable stuff.

I’m a big believer in the empty-it-all-out method of decluttering. The upside is you can see everything you’ve got and deal with your clutter in one fell swoop. The downside is that you often have an even bigger mess on your hands while you are “cleaning”.

By dumping it all out, I managed to identify two big bags worth of mismatched sheets (like for beds we no longer have), some reeeally old towels, and several other linen closet odds and ends (like a set of curtains we never even used!)

Then I gathered up everything that was left and sorted it into piles:

  • Sheets were divided by beds – and the ones for our bedroom were put upstairs in our bedroom. Why should I have to go downstairs to change the sheets upstairs?
  • Towels were divided into guest bath towels and hand towels. I moved the kids’ towels into an empty drawer in their bathroom – using the same rationale as I did for moving our bed linens.
  • Summer “stuff” — beach towels, pool toys, sunscreen — was corralled into a big beach bag, which will reside on the top shelf of the closet until summer comes. Then it will probably clutter up my living room floor for three months. (Note to self: Come up with a system for pool toys and towels before it gets hot out.)
  • Extra blankets were folded neatly and stacked.
  • Rags were folded and corralled in a plastic basket, which lives on the bottom of the closet.

Then came the fun part: Putting it back in the closet and LABELING the shelves.

Yes, I probably could just label the shelves with a piece of masking tape and a Sharpie. Or I could not label the shelves at all. I mean, clearly that stack on the left is double bed sheets and the one on the right, with the Spiderman and Toy Story sheets, is for my boys’ room.

But I have learned that labeled shelves, drawers and containers tend to stay a lot neater than non-labeled ones. For example, my daughter has these plastic drawers in her closet. They are labeled – Onesies, Tights & Socks, Winter Play Clothes, Jeans, etc. I’ll tell you what: Even my boys can find her stuff – and put it away – when asked. Labels are a good thing in my house.

And as for the fancy labeler, what can I say? I like the uniformity of it. And it’s a rather small price to have paid for making me smile during my decluttering projects. (I have the Brother Family Labeler, but this price from Amazon is no great shakes. I got it for $10 less on sale last year.)

Plus, it turns out that this little decluttering project actually saved me a decent chunk of change.

You see, for the longest time, I have wanted to get all white bath towels. I figure they’d be great because we can bleach them if/when they get stained. But really, I was attracted to the idea of the spa-like uniformity of white fluffy towels.

Plus, being surrounded by a sea of clutter and disorganization makes me anxious; and when I’m feeling anxious about clutter, I tend to fixate on how I “just need to buy X” to fix all my anxiety-producing woes. For our linen closet, that “X” was white bath towels.

(I’m so hoping someone out there can related to what I’m saying and that you don’t all think I’m a total weirdo for obsessing about white towels.)

Anyway, once I had reshelved the linen closet and affixed my neat little white labels, guess what I realized? Even mis-matched towels can approximate that spa tranquility (sorta)… provided that they have a place – and are in that place.

I’d still love some fluffy white towels, all lined up neatly in a row. But they just aren’t in the budget right now. There are too many other things we actually need. Especially with Pesach coming.

So with that realization, I closed the door on my organized linen closet – and on my white towel obsession.

In thirty minutes, I not only gained a tidy and pared-down linen closet, but also a good deal of introspection into my consumption-will-solve-the-clutter problem.

Just think, if I can finish decluttering the “foundations” of my house, I may be able to talk myself out of ever needing to buy another thing again!


  1. Amen. I keep pushing off, but will really do this soon, decluttering our kitchen and bedroom, linen closet, and possibly a few other places. It’s amazing for all the reasons you said, and definitely leads to savings – food is more organized and easy to see, so you’re more likely to use up what you have before going out to get more, and you don’t buy things you already have.

    • At least with Pesach coming, you’ve got a good excuse to declutter that kitchen! Good luck with it – I know you’ll be glad when it’s done.

  2. When we moved into our new place we went from a tiny old fashined bathroom to 1.5 baths and the full bath was HUGE! Anyhow, the linen closet is actually serving as my pantry right now, so i decided to invest in some cabinets from target. I waited until they were on sale and bought three of them. two in our bedroom and one in the HUGE bathroom. The towels all fit beautifully in the bathroom closet and the one in our room serves as sheet/blanket closet. I also invested in under bed rolling bins and store the kids linens in there. I love having places for things. now if only our home office was as neat…actually that would be a great post! Keeping a home office neat ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • No kidding, Tzippy. Have you noticed how I’m avoiding the whole topic of paper clutter. That is a major – perhaps THE major – issue in our home. I think about it and complain about it, but don’t have the slightest clue about how to *truly* solve it.

  3. Your linen closet looks beautiful.

    I can relate to your โ€œneed to buy Xโ€ to fix my problems mentality. For me it is cleaning supplies. If I buy this cool new item, I will want to clean more, etc. Sometimes it works but most of the time it doesn’t, so I have almost every single swiffer product but still have a dirty house.

    • Thanks, Frayda. And I’m totally LOL at your Swiffers – but only because I, too, have a collection of cleaning supplies, sprays, and yes – Swiffers.

  4. This is inspiring to me! We have a deep linen closet, but the shelves are only 8″ deep, which is pretty inadequate for folded sheets. I’ve got that on my husband’s list…

    My other problem is that my kids are in charge of folding and putting away sheets and towels. They just stuff everything in. Myabe labels will help!

    • I really, really believe in the labels. (And let me say that it helps EVERYONE in my family – ehem, my husband, ehem – not just the boys.) If you do it, let me know if it helps you guys, too!

  5. Are you SURE the spiderman sheets are just for your boys….?

  6. I relate to the label maker…I even have my pantry labeled. My family of all guys think that I am nuts…
    I am a fan of the white towel too. A good way for you to get towels is to find a store (like Bed, Bath and Beyond etc.) that has an online ‘wish list’, then when you have a birthday etc., it can be purchased from the wish list. I use the ‘Flylady’ system she has a website that will help with ‘decluttering’. I do not completely do everything on her site, I adapt it to fit my family.

    • I’ve tried Flylady a few times. I wanted it to work. And I think it would have. If I had actually WORKED the system.

      I love your wish list idea, thanks!

      What is it about guys and labelers?!

  7. I’m TOTALLY giddy to see that you use your label maker like I do! I’ve made labels for my pantry and my linen closet. ๐Ÿ™‚ Love it!

  8. I love this post. I desperately need to declutter MY linen closet, this might just be the inspiration that I need…thanks! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. “Iโ€™m so hoping someone out there can related to what Iโ€™m saying and that you donโ€™t all think Iโ€™m a total weirdo for obsessing about white towels.”
    TOTALLY RELATE! Those who know me best would think I wrote that!!!

    And way to go on your decluttering project. Good for you!

    I did a decluttering “challenge” in the month of January – wow so amazing!! I know I am gonna have to start Pesach cleaning soon and it will end up being another decluttering but considering the small size of my home its important to always be decluttering
    I am with you on the label maker !! I use it on everything I possibly can I love that everything has an allotted place!


  10. *sighs* if only my linen closet was so organized.
    I saw something in martha stewart living: Put the sets of sheet into their pillow cases, then they are all together. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. Orthonomics says

    You are like my twin. I just reorganized the linen closet. I should get my labeler out of its package and finish the job! I only paid sales tax for my labeler through Office Depot rewards program. I had to front the money, but it wasn’t hard to re-spend the refunds.

  12. I loooove decluttering, and your post made me SO HAPPY! You’ve given me an incentive to tackle my linen “closet” (random shelves in my closet) and pack up whatever isn’t in regular usage. I really like the labeler idea, and I bet N will go for it if I buy it with gift cards from swagbucks.

  13. nice job. here is what I do when I really want something but cant afford it al l at once. whenever I do a shopping at Target, I would buy ONE white towel. It would blend right into the cart, so barely noticeable in the total scheme of things. then go home and throw out the worst towel you own. Do this for several weeks. Before you know it your dream has come true and it didnt even cost anything! sort of! I did this when I wanted to re do my hallway floor. every time a had a couple of dollars I went to HOme Depot and bought a tile or two. Eventually I had almost enough, got some birthday money or something that allowed me to buy the rest. I was really excited when I finally got to put down that floor!

    Hey, something is missing from your linen closet. Where I come from it is crucial to put eyelet lace on the edge of every shelf. also if you want the homemaker award you tie a pretty ribbon around each set of linen.

    If you ever have an afternoon when you are in the mood of a short project, I would take out those shelves and repaint them a lighter, more cheerful color.

  14. I too have a white towel obsession. I can’t rationalize buying all new towels in one fell swoop though.

    • So glad to know it’s not just me! I also can’t rationalize it… but that doesn’t stop me from wanting them. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  15. I don’t have a white towel obsession, but I do have a all matching sheets obsessions…as in, boys get this color and girls get this color. It is utterly ridiculous. What an encouragement to see you let go. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Not ridiculous at all – just think how much easier it makes your laundry duties! {I’ve read your blog many times and am so HONORED that you left a comment on mine! You are a beautiful and talented writer.}

  16. Oh that looks great. I really need to declutter more. I seem to go in phases of cleaning..surface and deep. I need to plunge in again.

    I hear the matching sheets and towels. amazing how we feel we NEED more when we aren’t being responsible for what we have.

    • As I read that, I thought — Gosh, it’s so ironic, b/c I’m always saying that to my kids…. that they obviously have “too many toys” since they don’t them up…

  17. I too like the idea of uniform, white fluffy towels, but alas! It’s a dream not to be realized, at least for a few more years! ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. I get it…I have all white towels, and for the same reason ๐Ÿ™‚

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