Order in the Linen Closet

We are blessed with many closets in this house. Really, the closets are one of the best features, so I'm super lucky when it comes to having a place to keep all of those supplies modern life requires.

Remember the principles of organization that I wrote about in my last post, well those apply to every area of the house. It's especially important to organize and label communal areas. If a bath towel can't be found by every member of the household who might shower, voices will be raised. If no one knows there is extra toilet paper, somebody is getting yelled at.

The first thing I do is buy extras. Even when I lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment I bought extras of stuff we used all the time--like Kleenexes. This kind of behavior is called over-buying by Gretchen Rubin, of The Happiness Project. I'm an over-buyer because having to run out at the last minute for toilet paper or tooth paste causes me and everyone else stress. (I don't clip coupons for this stuff--too much stress.) I've got enough stress in my life, so I prepare--I stock up--for future moments of scarcity. That said, I really hate shopping for household necessities, so I've simplified that process as well. I have my toilet paper shipped to the house via Amazon every few months and we buy eight-packs of Kleenex at Cost-Co a few times a year. (I also have other hard-to-find items shipped to the house via Amazon on a schedule, like the water filters for the refrigerator.)

Before I had indoor closets, I stored this stuff under the bed and then in the garage. Now that I have closets, this is what the paper goods look like. A few rolls of toilet paper go next to each toilet under the sink and the rest are here. This closet is about two feet deep.

Now on to the medicine cabinet. Most people I know have more "medicines" than will fit in a traditional medicine cabinet. The medicines have been a source of stress at my house and so it was important that they at least be manageable. I didn't want to be too exact and minute in my organization, so I settled on broad categories. (Mr. Smarty Pantalons can dig around for the waterproof band aids after he gets to the first aid drawer.) Organization should always fit the use and user. Here is what I came up with and it is working well for us. (Also, please excuse the crappy photos--there is no natural light in the hallway.)

These are Iris drawers we ordered from Amazon because I couldn't find six of this size locally. There are six drawers labeled, from top left to bottom right: Misc., First Aid, Hair & Teeth, Allergy & Cold, Pain & Stomach and Cherri. As you can see just from looking at them, all of them are relatively orderly except the Cherri bin. I tend to be a bit messier than Mr. Smarty Pantalons and that's why I made a bin just for me and my mess of random stuff. (I know Hair & Teeth seems like a gross category, but tubes of tooth paste and extra tooth brushes fit nicely alongside the extra combs and bobby pins.)

Notice too, we don't have the meds under lock-and-key because we don't have little ones in the house anymore. The meds are on the upper shelves, so a wandering toddler isn't going to come in contact with them, but a child safety latch on the closet would be appropriate if you have young ones about.

I don't have fancy towels and matching sheet sets. (I would love to do this with my sheets had I beautiful linens.) And, I have a funky odor in one of my closets that my towels just love to absorb, so that complicates things. However, here is what we've done with the linens. There are two reasons this works.

1. Everything has its own place and is labeled! I didn't make fancy labels or line the shelves with gorgeous wicker baskets. This is a working closet and not a show piece. I printed the labels off my computer and taped them to the shelves. I also have a Dymo Label maker, but I like to use a large font when I'm labeling for the whole family.

2. There is room to breathe. I got rid of some things and I stored some random stuff--like extra pillows--under the bed. When the linen closet is overflowing, there is no way to put stuff where it goes. (I should have done a before and after. Each shelf was crammed full and stuff was falling everywhere; we couldn't find a dust cloth to save our life.)

Having room to breathe and space between each item creates visual organization and helps maintain the sorted sections necessary to a good system.

Another way to create space and allow items breathing room is to use section dividers. The two possibilities I came up with for this closet included acrylic sheets you can buy at the hardware store or foam core cut to size. Here is an example of what I mean.

I ultimately decided that I didn't need dividers, even though I really wanted to use them, as there was plenty of white space. The acrylic sheets pictured were $4 each at Home Depot.

Finally, here is photo of the entire closet, neatly organized.

Notice the blankets--things we're not using as often as dust cloths and hand towels, are up high. The stuff that gets used the most gets center attention. On the edges of the closet set back from the doors are also things not used very often, like table cloths and blankets for the dogs. On the top shelf are the toiletry bags and travel sized items. All of the baskets in the closets we've had for years. I didn't buy anything else for the project.

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