The Linen Closet Minus The Linens

One of my best general organizing tips is to think outside the box and use objects and spaces in ways that aren’t immediately obvious.

For example: Here is our linen closet, a tiny closet located between the guest (kids) bedrooms. Normally you would use it to store extra sheets, blankets, towels and kitchen linens. We use it for everything but.

Here’s a closer look at the shelves. I use them to store cleaning products, a few bathroom extras and a few other miscellaneous items. The bathroom extras consist of spare bathroom/cosmetic bags (we all know how I like to keep those on hand), extra soaps and shampoos (things I buy in bulk) and items that don’t get daily use like tanning lotions and sunscreen. There are only a few cleaning items here because all my bathroom and kitchen cleaners are kept under the sinks in their respective areas. The larger shelves on bottom hold my steam cleaner, a small tool kit, water softener salt and extra toilet paper. I save the very top shelf for seldom used specialized cleaners and extra paper towels (we go through those much slower than toilet paper)

On the back of the door I hung a clear pocket shoe holder. In reality it has four pockets across but because of the size of the closet I couldn’t fit the whole thing on the door so I folded it in half. It’s all about making what you have work where you need it too. I use these pockets to store all kinds of small toiletries like travel size bottles, extra toothbrushes, disposable razors and even my various gel inserts for my dress shoes.

It’s always important to me to use every bit of available space and this closet is no different. The shelves are an inch or so shorter than the depth of the closet leaving a small gap. I’ve used a combination of small nails and wire hook command hangers to hang up my feather duster, swifter duster and my small swifter sweeper.

For those of you that are curious about where we hide all our linens, I’ll tell you. We only have one set of sheets for our bed, and our guest sheets are stored in space bags in our storage room. I keep all of our towels in their respective bathrooms and honestly I don’t own dining room linens of any kind. Someday when I grow up I’ll clear out a spot in my dining room hutch or a shelf here for them.

So tell me, if you have a linen closet, are you making the best possible use of it?

A Teeny Tidy Bathroom Space

One of the questions I get asked most frequently is how to make the most of a small bathroom. In my current master bathroom the toilet and shower area is separated by a pocket door, not counting the small stall shower the room is only 4 feet by 5 feet. Considering the small size I’ve managed to make use of a lot of storage in the small space. To take this picture I actually stood as far back in the shower as I could.

1. First, I keep a large wicker basket tucked in the corner to hold all of our extra towels.  Just in front of the basket is a small trash can and a scale. On the other side of the toilet is where I keep the toilet brush and a small toilet paper rack. There is a smaller wicker basket on the back of the toilet that holds extra hand towels.

2. On the side wall I have a basic wall mount hook rack, like you would use as a coat rack, mine was about $25 at Target. Nothing revolutionary here, we just use it to hang our current towels and my robe.

3. My biggest source of storage is my wall mounted medicine cabinet. We got ours at Lowe’s for about $70, it was a little tricky to hang but totally worth it.

Inside we keep all of our pharmacy type items. To help keep things neat and organized I purchased small baskets from wal-mart for the shelves. I actually found the baskets in the kitchen aisle with the drawer organizers. I keep all our medicines sorted by type in the baskets, cold/flu, allergy, tummy fixers, etc. As you can see I rip, or cut, one end of the boxes off just to keep it neat.

The cabinet only had two existing shelves so to add a little more space I rigged up a hanging basket. I used a wire drawer organizer and hung it with tiny command hooks. You can find the command hooks in the hardware section of any wal-mart or target, just make sure to get ones with slim wire hooks.

There you have it, some ideas on making the most of your limited bathroom space.

Storing Your Linens

The linen closet can be a scary place. Things get shoved in, messed around, shelves get full. It can become a nightmare-ish place in a hurry. One of the biggest offenders are bed linens. Here are a few options for storing your linens both in and out of the closet.

1. Pillow cases

If you have complete sheet sets you can store each set inside one of the accompanying pillow cases. Sheets and extra pillow cases can be folded or rolled and then placed inside. To keep sheets smelling fresh put a scented dryer sheet in the pillow case as well.

2. Bins or baskets

If you prefer keeping your linens on a shelf they can be folded and placed into baskets or bins. Lidded baskets, like the one shown below can also be kept in open areas as a compliment to your decor to free up space in the closet.

Collapsible storage baskets from KangaRoom for $21.99

Lidded Multi-Purpose Bin from walmart for $12.00

lidded multi-purpose bin

3. Storage bags

I personally use storage bags for all of my extra linens. I keep everything from extra pillows, quilts and sheets in space bags stored in a cedar chest. To freshen things up when taking them out of the bags I throw the linens in the dryer with a damp towel and a scented dryer sheet.

Space Bags Bedding Storage Bags from walmart for $17.00

space bag bedding storage bags

Jumbo Underbed Storage Bag from Target for $14.99

jumbo underbed storage bag

A Closet Redo

One of the handful of strikes against our current house is the lack of walk-in closets. Admittedly it is a tiny strike, but I have always dreamed of walk-in closets. My need for space was pacified by my husband keeping all of his clothes in the guest bedroom, meaning I had the two closets in our room, one dresser AND under the bed to store all my stuff. Then we decided to have baby number two. There is no more guest room. My husband’s clothes are moving in and there is nothing (short of moving him to the basement) that I can do about it. Here’s how I managed.

This is how my closets looked before.

Casual Organizer

I knew that moving everything into one closet would be a chore. I started by going through ALL of my clothes and sorting out what didn’t need to be there. My tips for that can be found here. Next I decided it was time to get myself an actual closet organizer. Usually this involves a trip to the local home improvement store for an adjustable kit, but this time I chose a different route. I wanted something a little more durable with more options for customization. Through the power of twitter I was hooked up with The Stow Company, and through them with Melanie from Easy Track.

I can’t tell you how simple the process was! I simply took a few measurements and a few of my storage needs to Melanie and within two days I had three custom designed options drafted out to look at. Admittedly the upfront cost of a closet system like this is a little high, but here is the secret that Melanie shared with me. Start with a basic kit and then add on every few months until you reach your dream closet! I had no idea that the parts were so interchangeable and easy to add.

Here is the starter kit I chose. You can find it on the Easy Track site here. It was so simple to install. My husband was able to get it completely put together with little to no assistance from me in less than two hours.

The Casual Organizer

This is what my ONE closet looks like now. Here is another secret I will share with you…it took me a full week to get everything in a place that I liked and felt worked. Since I’m not wearing a lot of these clothes right now (hello maternity wardrobe) I’m positive that this won’t be the final arrangement either. For now though, all my clothes that used to reside in two closets are now neatly organized into one.

The Casual Organizer

Remember this clothes hamper from the beginning shot? It wouldn’t fit back in the closet in it’s original form (3 wide) but I decided that I couldn’t live without it so I took it apart and cut down the PVC tubes and converted it into a two-wide. It now fits almost perfectly sideways and I have my clothes hamper back! It’s always a cost saver to re-purpose pieces that you already have and a lot can be done with a little imagination and some hand tools.

The Casual Organizer

This is a shot of the top of my closet, as you can see the shelf is really high and not all that accessible. Instead of letting that space go unused I put all my less frequently wore shoes up there. By placing my high heels with the heels facing out I can still see them all but they are up and out of the way. Moving them also made room on my shoe rack for some of my husbands shoes. Double win!

The Casual Organizer

Moving my clothes into one closet is merely step one in the long process that will be making room for baby number two. I hope you’ll follow along for the rest of the journey.

Disclosure: This post was not sponsored by The Stow Company or Easy Track. I purchased the closet organizer myself, although the friendly folks at Easy Track did give me a small discount. The decision to post about this product was solely my own as are the opinions I’ve given. For more great organizing tips check out The Stow Company blog and follow them on twitter.

Trim the Overflowing Wardrobe

Organizing for myself definitely makes me a happy person but it’s nothing like the high I get from helping someone else conquer a problem area in their own lives. I’m very excited to answer my first reader question! Here’s her problem:

I have too much clothing! I have a closet in my room, a closet in my brothers room (he’s no longer living at home), i even bought a rolling clothes rack at Wal-Mart, and i have three dresser drawers. They are all full of clothes….shirts, slacks, dresses, pants, anything and everything under the sun.

I want to get my shit together, but just feel overwhelmed. And i’m not one to have a garage sale and try to make a whole $30 in an afternoon, so i’m very comfortable with donating clothes to our local shelter. What’s the rule when it comes to getting rid of clothes???!!….OH! and i just remembered, i have a long thin tupperware type bin under the bed with sweaters CHEESE-N-RICE!!

Where do i start??


An overstuffed wardrobe is a problem that has been plaguing women since the beginning of time, or at least since there have been clothes to be worn. Here are a few simple steps to cutting down on the amount of clothes in your collection.

1. Step 1 – Cull the Clutter

The first and most obvious thing to do is to remove anything that is torn, broken or in poor condition. The exception of course is those comfy sweatpants you’ve had for years and refuse to give up even if they are a little thread-bare.

Remove all of your ill fitting clothes. If you have a hard time parting with a piece that is still in good condition put it to the side for storage. If you can leave it packed for 6 months to a year then you didn’t really miss it and it can go. I know a lot of people who have varying sizes in their closets, take out the stuff that doesn’t fit right now, you don’t have to get rid of it completely it just doesn’t need to be front and center.

2. Step 2 – Store the Extras

Storing out of season clothes is a popular recommendation by the experts but some climates simply aren’t conducive to that method. Instead try storing the clothes that are only worn occassionally. Since I’m a stay at home mom and rarely wear my dress clothes I keep them in a portable wardrobe in the basement, likewise for my husbands dress clothes. Whatever it is that you rarely wear can be stored elsewhere.

3. Step 3 – Keeping it That Way

Keep all of your like items together to avoid purchasing doubles, for example, I have three stacks of sweatpants, one for working out/public wear, long sleeping pants and cropped sleeping pants. Whether your clothes are hanging or folded, keep stuff together.

Follow a one in, one out rule. Every few months evaluate your wardrobe and cull out a few pieces to make room for any new purchases.

These may seem overly simple and you may feel like I haven’t revealed any secrets but I have just recently cut my wardrobe in half using these exact tips.

So Selina, good luck and happy culling.

Organizing the Make-Up Drawer

A few months ago my best friend allowed me a rare peek at her personal bathroom. I was horrified at the state of her make-up drawer. I would show you a picture of it but I’m pretty sure after the verbal lashing I gave her, that I’m never allowed in there again, let alone would I be allowed to get photographic evidence of the drawer of horrors. I guess I could be exaggerating it just a little bit but amongst her make-up was hair ties, little girl hair bows, brushes, and random medicine cabinet type stuff. I can totally understand how it takes her over an hour to get ready each morning.

Here are a few of my best tips for keeping your make-up organized:

1. Don’t live out of a bag. I know this isn’t an option for some but I know a lot of girls who choose this route and for the life of me I can’t understand why. To me drawers just make it so much easier to grab just what you are looking for. If you don’t have an actual drawer I would suggest investing in a cheap rubbermaid type set of drawers to sit on the counter or under the sink.

2. Keep a simple collection of make-up for everyday use. I am NOT telling you to get rid of all your fancy make-up (Heather), but do you really need access to ALL your make-up every day? Keep the special occasion or rarely used stuff packed away in a closet or under the sink.

3. Use drawer dividers. You don’t have to spend $50 on fancy make-up dividers from a high end store, I use plastic trays from wal-mart. The cost anywhere from $1-$3 a piece depending on the size and sturdy-ness.

4. Have a travel set. If you travel a lot like I do then I highly suggest having a duplicate set used only for travel. My best advice for starting this travel set is to not wait until you are out something to replace it but buying the replacement when your current item is half used and putting the half used item in the travel set. For items with an expiration date, such as mascara, I wait to buy my “fancy” make-up until the counter is having a free-gift sale and I use the travel sizes for the travel set.

5. Speaking of expiration dates, I keep a mini sharpie in my bathroom drawer to label any make-up that might go bad before I use it all. Whenever I buy a new tube of mascara or get a new compact I jot the month/year I purchased it on the bottom.

Fun Finds:

1. Countertop drawer from sterilite available at walmart (I love that you can store brushes in the open section on top! If you get drawers without an open top, then I suggest a pencil cup for brushes)
2. Pencil Bag from sewaudrey Etsy shop (use these in your travel kits to hold your brushes, mascara and lipsticks)
3. Plastic drawer organizers from Container Store

Yes you CAN have organized closets.

Let say that there is an emergency and I need my husband to pack a bag for me. Yes, it’s a BIG emergency, clearly. I can honestly say that I could direct him to nearly every article of clothing that I own. For those of you who have husbands you know exactly how big of a deal this is. Most of the time they can’t find the remote under a throw pillow or the ketchup behind the milk.

Suffice it to say I have my closet organized. I’m pretty sure it is only slightly below military standards. I’m going to share some pictures with as long as you promise not to judge me on the lack of grown up clothes I own.

Here is closet #1. (did I forget to mention that I have two closets, more on that later)

Here is closet #2 (The previous owners took out the bathtub and put in a closet, LOVE them for that)

So now that you’ve seen my closets, here is my list of pointers for organizing YOURS.

1. Hang as much as possible.
I know that it takes up more space but it makes staying organized considerably easier. The exception to this rule is sweatshirts and heavy sweaters, pajamas and if you please, jeans. I hang most of my lightweight sweaters but it is important to use the right kind of hanger, padded lingerie hangers work great. *Ahem* Yes those are my bras hanging up in the second picture. Look it works better for me than keeping them in a drawer.

2. Separate clothes by type.
This will make it easier to find exactly what you are looking for without searching. In closet #1 I have my clothes separated into 4 categories; dressy shirts, cardigans, casual shirts and pants/skirts. I hang things so that everything faces towards the center. If you want to be really particular like me I keep the dressy shirts and pants by color, the cardigans by weight and the casual shirts by sleeve length and weight. Closet #2 holds my massive collection of camisoles and tank tops, sweatshirts, t-shirts and pajamas.

3. Use all available space.
This includes floors, back walls and doors. The only thing I really don’t like about my closets is that I can’t utilize the back of the doors. I make up for it by using the back of my bedroom door. I also have hooks hanging on the back wall of one closet. I use these hooks for belts, scarves and yes my good bras.

Other tips:
1. If you have room, I highly suggest a laundry sorter. I tend to do a load of laundry every now and then as opposed to all at once so it really saves time to have it all presorted.
2. Hanging canvas shelves are great for pajamas. The shelves can be sort of small and everyday clothes can get wrinkled, use them for pajamas and presto no worrying about wrinkles.
3. You don’t need an expensive closet organizer that is hard to install. In my last apartment I bought a closet rod, two lengths of chain and some s-hooks and made my own double rod system. All told it cost about $10.
4. My BEST piece of advice. Make your husband keep his junk in the guest room. As you can see I’ve done my best to employ my organizing methods in his area, it is obviously less effective with him in control but I’m pretty proud of him for making an effort.

I realize that everyone’s space is different and everyone has different needs and styles so go ahead and ask me your toughest organizing questions. I would love to see pictures of your spaces and give you my advice. Shoot me an email jenbshaw(at)gmail(dot)com.