Welcome to month two of the Room-By-Room Organizing Challenge! The goal of this series is to provide a breakdown of the organizing process required to tackle a single room in the house, one month and one room at a time. Our hope is that it will give our readers the inspiration to get started, plus an estimated budget for the time needed, and clear steps for accomplishing your organizing goals in each room of your home by the end of the year.
For month one, the kickoff to this challenge, we began in the bathroom. That’s because the bathroom is a relatively emotion-free zone, making it easier to get started. Once you have achieved success in one area, other zones in the home often begin to look less daunting.
For month two, we are going to stay on the same wavelength and move our efforts to…the Linen Closet! This is another easier area to organize as most of us feel pretty okay about letting go of old towels dating from before the existence of the internet.
Why is my linen closet such a mess?
If you’ve met Organizer’s Northwest’s founder and CEO Missy Gerber, you’ve heard her cite Barbra Hemphill‘s quote that “clutter equals postponed decisions”. We’ve seen just about everything shoved into the dark corners of a linen closet – old sheets that don’t match, towels that have been replaced but not discarded and swaddle blankets left over from a “baby” who is now 13 (going on 30). Since the linen closet is often closed off, it’s easy to ignore what is inside…until you need something and the entire contents fall on your head. #AtLeastIt’sSoft.
We are big on helping our clients plan and budget time required for organizing projects, to help them mitigate some of the frustration that comes with getting started with organizing and not having time to finish. For this project, we recommend about two hours and fifteen minutes to complete, though it might take longer if you decide to wash linens as well.
Step 1: Empty the Closet
Estimated Time: 30 Mins
This is going to be a reoccurring theme in this series! The best way to TRULY organize a space is to first empty it completely. An entire room like the kitchen doesn’t allow you do really do this, but you sure can if you are focusing on a single cabinet, closet or drawer. In the case of the linen closet, this is very doable. Grab some laundry baskets or cardboard boxes to sort items as you remove them from the closet. If you can sort them into general piles like “to donate”, “to keep” and “to decide”, that helps with the process later on.
Step 2: Make Decisions
Estimated Time: 30 Mins
Now it’s time to make decisions about what to keep and what to eliminate. Return to your piles and separate items into what we will call the 5D’s: donate, discard, defer, decide and detain. The items to decide on can be set aside for now. If you get stuck deciding on something that has some sentimental value, ask yourself questions that need an answer in order to make a decision. Do you need someone else to weigh in? Should it go into a memorabilia area instead of the linen closet? When is the next time you would use it? How easily can it be replaced? Be sure to ask yourself how many bedding sets and towels you truly use.
Keep in mind that Goodwill has a textiles recycling program, so even if the item is stained or torn, it should go there instead of a landfill! It just can’t be wet, mildewed or have hazardous materials on it.
Step 3: Clean and Fold
Estimated Time: 30 Mins + Laundry Time
Now that you have separated out donations and discarded items, it’s time to prep them to put back. If needed, take the time to wash items that need laundering and fold “detained” items that are going back into the closet. Before putting things back, give the closet a nice wipe down and dusting. Seeing the closet empty, you will start to notice how much space you really have to work with. Return to your piles and pare down again if you think it’s necessary.
As an aside, have you ever done a YouTube search on how to fold a fitted sheet? There are SO MANY of them to choose from! Here’s a good one. And if you can master it, please call us immediately for a job interview.
Step 4: Commit to a System
Estimated Time: 30 Mins
Before putting anything back, consider which items you reach for most often. If you keep towels in the linen closet, place these close to the center as they are used frequently. If you have small children who might want to grab a towel or blanket, place these items toward the bottom so that they can reach them. Organize pillows and large comforters on top. Strategically choose where to place items so that they are most easily accessible. We love the idea of storing each bedding set inside of the matching pillowcase and then using a key tag and safety pin to mark what is inside. Whatever system you use, make a commitment to it!
Step 5: Sustain Your Work
Estimated Time: 15 Mins
This last and final step is so important! If you declutter thoroughly, and keep the system simple, this should be easy to maintain. We recommend labeling the shelves so that other users know how to put things back correctly. Once the closet is completely organized, share your work with the family and take the time to teach them how to put things away properly. This should be done in every room as you go through this challenge. Letting your family take the time to learn how to maintain one newly organized area a month should give them plenty of time to adjust!