Organizer, Organize Thyself: Upstairs Linen Closet.
So I announced on Facebook last week that I was "diving headfirst" into cleaning out our upstairs hallway linen closet. Several things have been determined since then:
1. If I had known how quickly this was going to proceed, I would have done it months ago.
2. If I had really known how crappy that linen closet looked, I probably wouldn't have announced that I was redoing it to the world, thereby forcing my hand to actually post pictures of what I started with.
3. If Pinterest had not been invented, how on Earth would I have been able to peek into hundreds of other people's linen closets, thereby making my own finished project much more functional and way cuter?
I was so inspired by my previous bathroom linen closet makeover and the tingly, excited rush it gives me every morning when I open the door and the whole thing just SMILES at me that I had had had had had to do another. The hallway linen closet seemed like the logical next step for two reasons:
1. It is a disaster.
2. It is not functional. At all. Most every other person in our family pretends it is simply not there.
I started poking around the vast internet and studying other linen closets while really thinking about what would make ours better. What did we need in that space? What would be convenient? What would look nice?
I determined that my goals were twofold: remove old linens/ towels and provide a good organized space for the towels and linens we needed; and create some storage space for cleaning supplies and health needs that we usually just keep in the downstairs bathroom.
First step: cleaning out the old. You would never know that behind this perfectly reasonable looking door lurks a horrendous disaster.
Now, before y'all lose all faith in my organizing skills and call me a complete fraud, I have several explanations for why this looks like this.
We have redone the two upstairs bathrooms in the last year (minor cosmetic updates) but both spurred me to replace the towels that Dan and I and the kids all use. And left me with the linen closet as a "holding tank" in which to shove said old towels until the time came for me to make a decision about what to do with them.
I also have a soon to be middle school age-daughter who is emotionally attached to her old Disney Princess sheets but really has outgrown them.
I also have a slight preoccupation with all things linen-y, so sometimes parting with my decorative shams and old pillowcases is harder than I realize.
We also have now lived in our house (which I still refer to as our "new house") for almost 6 years, so what started out neatly stacked and organized and reasonable is now... not.
So that's what all my excuses look like.
And after taking every single thing out of the closet and arranging it in my hallway, this is what it looked like.
And this is what the closet looked like.
The keyword for this cleanup was RUTHLESS. I was ruthless in looking at old towels, old sheets, old stuff that was thrown in that closet. I kept thinking of what I wanted it to look like in the end, and asking whether keeping this item was going towards achieving that goal or away from it. I had three big black garbage bags full of stuff when I was done.
Let me also make a comment on a realization I had about towels and sheets. We generally use towels and sheets waaaaaaaay past their "oh, these are still nice!" phase. We hang onto them, thinking that new sheets are kind of expensive and that new towels are a luxury. Guess what? Target sells really, really nice queen sheet sets for $50. And great towels for $7 each. That's less than a dinner out and a quick lunch. You can get four new towels (two for you, two for your spouse) for about $30. That is a small investment for something you use at least once a day for God knows how many years. And the psychological returns you get from smelling fresh towels every time you dry off is incredible.
One wonderful benefit of the cleanup was finding these antique pillowcases of my great grandmother's. They are hand embroidered with the family initial and are made of an amazing, soft cotton that is almost like linen but about 500 times softer than any other linen I've ever touched. I honestly had forgotten I had them and finding them was like reuniting with an old friend. Hooray for cleaning out closets!
After my first 90 minute session of sorting, examining, and purging, this is what I was left with. Better, but not very pretty.
Now, back to stage two of the project. I hit up my local grocery store to stock up on some items that I thought would add some functionality to the closet. I also consulted with my thoughtful 14 year old daughter, who loves organization projects and I am grooming to be my assistant while imparting some good old fashioned home making skills upon at the same time. She agreed with my thoughts.
We both thought that adding a small drawer set to hold Bandaids, Neosporin, Advil, kids' pain relief medicine, allergy medicine, NyQuil, and an itch relief pen would generally cover most things we would need. We also thought adding another station for dusting and cleaning supplies would be helpful in spurring my kids on to clean their rooms if the things they needed were right there instead of having to go down to the laundry room to retrieve them.
So after a quick morning shopping trip to a few stores to get the same baskets I used in my bathroom linen closet that I love, the plastic drawer organizer, the actual medicines/ cleaning/ dusting supplies, new towels, and a new brown natural basket, I was ready to set it all up.
And when I was done with the labelling and arranging, here's my final result:
Ahhhhh- MAZE- ZING.
I am in love.
Let me break it down for you, shelf by shelf:
Top shelf: travel bags for toiletries, paper towels, extra tissues
Next shelf: twin size sheet sets, extra pillowcases, hand towels, and washcloths
Middle shelf: extra towels, full sized sheets sets;
Next middle shelf: cleaning supplies, medicines/first aid/ cleaning (sponges, dust cloths, magic erasers), dusting supplies, windex, pledge, swiffer dusters
Bottom space: picnic blanket and large tote bags
And I am happy to say we have already used the cleaning supplies. Victory!!
My total cost for the project was $72 for the baskets, $8 for the plastic drawer unit, about $60 for the medicines/ cleaning supplies, and about $25 in new towels. So about $165 in total. Not too bad for an entirely new, functional space.
Here's a few before/after collages I made to show the difference.
I'm not going to lie... sometimes I walk down the hall and open the door just to swoon over it. It's love, I tell you.
1. Sometimes small (in terms of time and investment) projects pack a huge punch.
2. Function, function, function. Function is key. How do you use the space? What would be helpful to have here? How can I keep like items together? How I can label it so everyone knows how to find it (husbands and kids included)?
3. Follow my newly-developed 5/0 Rule for sheets and towels... assuming you got sheets and towels for your wedding, if you are in an anniversary year that ends in a 5 or a 0, buy yourself new towels and sheets. Spread it out over a few months if needed. Always think of buying white if possible. It just looks nicer and is timeless.
4. Don't just look at pictures on Pinterest, really study them... break a picture you like down into the details: what makes this work? Would it look good in my space? Read people's blogs to see the rationale of what they put into a space. Would that work for your family? Of course meeting with an organizer can also help you flesh out those details and be a sounding board for both style and function.
And just dive in!!