Linen Storage: Why I Don’t Need It

posted by Andrea | 12/16/2013

Unmade-Bed

One question I get on a very regular basis is how we store our extra linens — you know, sheets, blankest, towels, tablecloths, etc.

While I usually love to share my organizing wisdom, I often don’t have a great answer to these emails… because we honestly don’t store many linens anywhere.

We literally only have ONE set of sheets/blankets per bed — and (get ready to be shocked) we only have 2 bath towels and 1 hand towel for each of us.

This means that we never ever have to store any linens because we are either using them or washing them.

Washing-Machine

Some of you might be wondering how this works — well I can assure you, it’s extremely simple.

  1. We use our towels, sheets, napkins, etc. until it’s time to do laundry.
  2. We put them in the laundry (and yes, are without them for about an hour).
  3. We put them back on our bed, back on the hooks in the bathroom, or wherever else they go.

Done. 

This is how we’ve always done it since we’ve been married — partially out of desire for simplicity and not storing so much stuff. But also because that’s all the sheets, blankets, and towels we received as wedding gifts :)

Since I realize many of you might be picking your jaws up off the ground right now, let me go into a bit more detail about how our limited linens work for us.

Our Bed:

  • One mattress pad and one set of plain white sheets.
  • Two thin white blankets that we keep on year-round.
  • One heating blanket that we keep on from October – April and then store in the summer months.
  • One quilt and one comforter that always stay on our bed, even in the summer.

Nora’s Bed:

  • One water-proof mattress pad and one set of sheets (when she starts potty training, I’ll probably get another set just in case).
  • One thin blanket.
  • One comforter and one quilt that stay on year-round.

Guest Beds:

  • One mattress pad and one set of plain white sheets for each bed.
  • Two thin blankets for each bed.
  • One quilt or heavy blanket for each bed.
  • We also have one extra heating blanket that we store and only use if we have guests in the winter.

crib

Crib:

  • Two water-proof mattress pads and two white sheets (I layer them so all 4 items are on the crib at the same time. This way, if there is an accident, I just pull the top layer off and am ready to go again)
  • White pumper pad and white blanket that stay in the crib.

Air Mattress:

  • We have a king-size air mattress that can also break apart into 2 twin-size air mattresses. I already have twin sheets for some of our guest beds, but I also have one set of king sheets that I store specifically for the air mattress.
  • When we need to use the air mattress, we just use blankets and quilts from our queen beds so we don’t need extra king-size bedding.

bathroom towles

Our Bathroom Linens:

  • Two bath towels per person (including Nora)
  • One hand towel for each side of our bathroom vanity
  • Three washcloths for Nora
  • One “loofah” sponge each for Dave and I (we use this to wash our bodies and periodically replace them via the dollar store)

Other Bathroom Linens:

  • Two hand towels for the bathroom off the kitchen (we don’t use the shower in there so we don’t keep anything but hand towels in this bathroom).
  • Four bath towels for the guest bathroom upstairs.
  • Four hand towels and four washcloths for the guest bathroom.

Kitchen Linens:

  • Five washcloths for Nora (we use a new one every day)
  • Five small hand towels.
  • 4-6 “extra” towels for when we have lots of dishes or I’m canning, or we have extra people washing hands and everything we currently have is wet.
  • 12 cream colored cloth napkins (we usually only use 4-6 per week, but have extra for guests).
  • Four tablecloths of various sizes.

So as you can see, we still have A LOT of linens around our house — but almost NONE of them are in storage.

I have one smaller dresser in an upstairs storage closet (see photo below) that houses the 2 heating blankets (during the summer only), a few extra pillow cases, the sheets for our air mattress, and our tablecloths. Only one large drawer and one small drawer have linens in them. Everything else is always in use or in the wash.

dresser of linens

While I realize this method wouldn’t work for every family and every home, it does work extremely well for us (especially considering we have no linen closet, no coat closet, and no large closets or cabinets in any of our bathrooms.)

And if you really stop and think about it, the ONLY time my wash-and-replace method causes any sort of an issue is if someone wants to take a shower while I’m washing the load of towels. However, since I almost always do the wash mid-day, and we almost always take our showers at night, this is almost never a problem for us.

In our 7.5 years of marriage, I’ve only had to replace our sheets once after a large hole appeared in the fitted sheet, and we’re still using the same towels without any complaints — so not too bad if you ask me.

My Laundry Routine:

Some of you might think that with so few linens, I’d have to do loads of laundry every single day — well that’s not true at all.

Since almost all of our sheets, blankets, towels, washcloths, etc. are white, I simply do one load of whites in the middle of the week, and one load on the weekends. These loads include any white linens AND any of our other white shirts, socks, etc. I also usually do one load of “everything else” in the middle of the week and on the weekend (I don’t sort colors!)

And… believe it or not, we only wash our sheets once a month, so that cuts way back on laundry too (I know people who wash them EVERY day!)

Dave and I figure that since we both shower before we go to bed, and we regularly wash our PJ’s, there’s really no need to wash our sheets so often (I do wash the pillow cases every week).

I’ve never felt dirty in our bed, and I honestly think that a little less washing helps to prolong the life of the sheets — not to mention, saves a bunch of water, energy, and time!

This method works for us — and I love that I don’t need to store, organize, clean, or keep track of piles and piles of extra linens.

Do you share my love for minimalism when it comes to linens? If not…

How do you store and organize your linens?

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79 comments

  1. Michelle W

    12/16/2013

    The most mind-blowing thing about this post was that you layer the crib bedding. YOU DESERVE A NOBEL PRIZE. Seriously, that’s so smart!!! My baby was a horrific spitter-upper and that would have been life changing for me and my husband :) So doing that for #2!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — it did make mid-night sheet changes super easy. Thankfully, we only had to change the sheets in the middle of the night 2 or 3 times, but the double layers of both definitely came in handy! Plus, it eliminated our need to store extra crib bedding!

    [Reply]

  2. Candice

    12/16/2013

    My method is pretty close to yours with the exception that I don’t have white/cream of everything. I have 4 kids so my numbers are larger (our house is small!) We only have 11 towels (one died and needs replaced!) and 8 hand towels. We only have 1 and a half bathrooms and 3 bedrooms total so no need for guest anything here. Beds, queen for us we have 2 sets of sheets because one is getting old and I caught our new one on a black friday sale ;) and 8 twin sheets for the 4 twin beds. Each kid has one comforter and one blanket used all year long. We also use cloth napkins and unpaper towels.
    Now if I could only get our clothes paired down like that but unfortunately my husband won’t cooperate(he has over 40 work shirts!) and my mom acts like they have nothing to wear if they only have 10 outfits each.

    [Reply]

  3. KiwiKat

    12/16/2013

    I have several sheet sets, but mostly because I get my mother’s hand-me-downs….I was the sheets once a week (unless something has been spilled on them and they need cleaning urgently).

    I don’t own a dryer at all, so when I was sheets, it has to be a fine day so that they can try on the washing line outside. We don’t get snow in winter where I live, but we do get a lot of rain in winter, so sometimes it can be a challenge.

    I use the same duvet/comforter year round, with an extra quilt in winter (my house has no heating, so I use a gas heater in the lounge in winter and simply open the doors in summer)

    Anything else I can wash and put on my linen airer in the sunroom, where it dries overnight in winter.

    Makes life easy!

    [Reply]

  4. Lee Cockrum

    12/16/2013

    I need at least 2 sets of sheets for our bed, I am not that quick with the laundry! We have one set for the guest bed. No kids:(

    I like to have LOTS of towels! We have a dog (used to have 3!) so need them for that. We also have a hot tub, and we have a small boat , so take towels when we go out on the boat in case we get splashed. We have a large wardrobe from ikea, and we keep linens in there along with shoes and some of my husbands clothes.

    I would find it stressful to have a very limited supply of towels!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I’m guessing you have a little more space though since you don’t have kids?? If you have the space to store the extra towels and you actually need/use them — go for it! I’m the opposite of you and find it stressful to store so much stuff that I’m not using. I’d rather make-due with less so I don’t have to buy and store so much extra :)

    [Reply]

  5. Lydia @ five4FiveMeals

    12/16/2013

    I have just one question because I really do want to know- how do you prevent the towels from smelling between washes? We live in South Alabama along the gulf coast and it is extremely humid. I have to replace our towels after each use because even hanging them up they still stink by the end of the day.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Honestly, I don’t know :) Our towels are NEVER EVER stinky (and I have a super sensitive nose too). We wash them in the middle of the week and then at the end — so we usually use them at least 3 or 4 times between washes. It could seriously just be an issue with your specific towels — are they very old? I’ve found that sometimes super old towels (like e15-20 years old) just get kind of a funky smell that you can’t get out.

    You could try putting about 1 cup of vinegar in the fabric softener section of your washing machine — that might help. Otherwise, I’d try buying just one new towel and seeing if that also gets the same odor or not. If not, you know it’s your towels and not just your climate or your washing machine.

    [Reply]

    Lydia @ five4FiveMeals Reply:

    Thanks, I am going to try the vinegar approach. Our towels are only a couple years old. Vinegar is like a miracle in a bottle isn’t it?

    [Reply]

    Crystal Reply:

    I live in FL and we have the same problem. I used to live in Ohio and we only used 1-2 towels per week. One thing that helps is letting the exhaust fan run for quite awhile after a shower.

    [Reply]

    Candice Reply:

    I understand you problem, I am also in AL but not near the coast. My towels also get that musty smell when hanging up to dry between uses (we use them twice then wash). It still got that way if left in the washing machine wet after being washed for half a day or more ( 4 kids.. you get busy and forget sometimes you know?) I use vinegar for fabric softener and that does help some but we have hard water and high humidity so it can’t be helped. I also use homemade detergent so I don’t have that overpowering detergent smell covering it up like most people.

    [Reply]

    Caitlin Reply:

    I live on an island in the Caribbean and we have the same problem with towels not drying/stinking/being musty. My solution is to affix towel bars to any surface I can find (backs of bathroom doors being a favorite, we don’t have closet doors here). If I hang a towel on a single hook, they end up gross. BUT if I hang them in a single layer stretched out over the towel bar (not folded in half and draped over), we’ve got much better luck with stretching out washings. My husband has a more sensitive nose than I do, but we can usually get three or four days out of a towel now instead of washing every day. Limiting washing is key – my washer hooks to my kitchen sink and takes a whopping two hours to do a single wash load :(

    [Reply]

    Julie Reply:

    I was having trouble with my newly laundered towels still smelling not-so-fresh, even when washed with vinegar and hot water. I discovered OxyClean (a little late, I guess!), and it really works to get the musty smell out. I had been using it for stains, but now I add a scoop to the drum (along with my regular detergent in the dispenser). My towels always smell great now. Maybe that would help them stay fresher longer when you hang them up.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, we LOVE OxyClean here too :)

    [Reply]

  6. Kim

    12/16/2013

    I am thinking I have too many bath towels and this blog today has made me think I may just not replace them as they wear out……………since I wash often enough. The ONLY thing I am having trouble with is the washing sheets once per month. Other wise, some great thoughts.

    [Reply]

  7. Ann

    12/16/2013

    I just hope you never have kids with the pukes or the poops at night! Extra sheets/towels saved our sanity on many a sick night!

    [Reply]

  8. Julie

    12/16/2013

    Love this and also your beige quilted comforter cover
    Could I ask where you got that? Been looking for that kind
    For a long time thanks much!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Julie,
    The cream waffle-weave duvet cover is actually a TWIN size duvet cover from Pottery Barn Kids — however I got it from a garage sale about 5 years ago (for $5!!) We LOVE it and I get so many compliments on it. It’s just the perfect addition to our bed :)

    [Reply]

    julie Reply:

    wow thats a great buy. I believe you have better yard sales where you live :-)
    So a twin duvet really fits on your queen?
    thanks

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, the twin duvet just sits on the TOP of the bed — it doesn’t go over the sides at all. The way I have our bed set up, the twin size actually works very well — but it would probably look pretty weird if I didn’t have the solid brown blanket under it and the quilt hanging over the edges.

    [Reply]

  9. Julie

    12/16/2013

    One thought, when potty training or if you have a puking kid. We don’t have extra sheets for it (we have one set per bed too except our bed because they sent us 2 sets by accident and told me to keep them both). Have a sleeping bag nearby. When potty training, if the kid had an accident or would throw up from bring sick, I would throw the half asleep kid in a sleeping bag on the floor, then throw the sheets in the wash. If you do any camping you will have a sleeping bag anyways so nothing extra:). Just a thought.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, that’s what we’ve done too — sleeping bag or just on the couch with a blanket :)

    [Reply]

  10. Kelly

    12/16/2013

    Thank you for sharing. I always love hearing how other people organize, etc. We follow a similar plan too only we do have 2 sets of bath towels. one in use and one store. It’s just the 2 of us so not too much to store. We have a very very small house though so I’m always looking for space saving ideas.

    One thing we do different is we switched from the heating blanket to heated mattress pad a few years ago and I love it. 1st you never have to store them. I put the heated mattress pad on the bed and then the regular mattress pad over top of it so I only wash the heated mattress pad about once a year. Only washing it once a year helps it last a lot longer. when summer comes, I just unplug it but leave it on the bed. I love the way it warms the bed and so does the cat! ;)

    [Reply]

  11. Jan S

    12/16/2013

    I still use the two mattress pad system on my 10 yr old, as she has GI problems and ends up with frequent UTI’s. Its so convenient in the middle of the night to pull off the top sheet and pad and have her get back into bed when she has accidents due to infections. :) If its a really bad illness, we too use the sleeping bags. Those are so easy to wash.

    i need to purge my linens as we have quite a few sheet sets that we don’t use. I find that I use the same two sets over and over again, and I am wondering why I keep those other old ones. They don’t fit on any other bed as we have a king size bed.

    Same with the girls, we have quite a few sheets that they don’t use as they only like the fleece sheets. Also my girls HATE top sheets. They prefer to sleep only with a blanket or two. So when I need to replace the fitted sheets I think I will buy the separates and save myself the trouble of having to store top sheets for their beds.

    I hate my towels, I may just replace all of them and start fresh with a more minimal system.

    Thanks for sharing what works for your family. I appreciate seeing things from different perspectives and lifestyles!

    [Reply]

    Shana Reply:

    We don’t use the top sheet either. No body in my family likes them!! )I thought we were weird!)

    [Reply]

  12. Kara

    12/16/2013

    I love this post! Simple, economical, and practical! I have 2 sets for our bed 1 flannel, 1 regular set. Then for our 2 boys in twin beds I probably have 4 sets total. I love the idea of layering!!! I am so doing that as they are in a bunk bed and they are a pain to switch sheets on. I have probably 4 crib sheets and honestly I use 2. Time to do some purging! Thanks!!!

    [Reply]

  13. Jennifer Lynn Casazza

    12/16/2013

    I have a small home with very little storage space. We keep two sets of sheets for each bed. One for winter (flannel) and one for summer. I store them in the closet that is in that bedroom. So, my kids rooms and the master have their own sheets in their closets at the top so they are out of the way. blankets are on the bed and washed weekly. We have one hall closet and I use the top of it to store a second set of towels as well as pool towels and the bottom half has drawers I use to store extra toiletries including tissues and toilet paper. Kitchen towels are out and washed weekly. Even if I had more space I think I’d stick to the same. No need to have more than you need. When they wear out then I replace them.

    [Reply]

  14. Melissa

    12/16/2013

    My husband and I had both lived on our own for a long time before getting married so we both had towels and they were all in pretty good shape. I’ve pared back on most of our duplicate items, but towels seem so useful that I’ve kept them waiting to have some in bad shape to get rid of. We’ve been married for 4.5 years, and I think only one of them has shown signs of aging. I guess I’m using the ‘what if I need it’ excuse to keep things we may not really need. I will have to rethink our towels when we move into our new house next month!

    [Reply]

  15. Margaret

    12/17/2013

    I have also found the all-white rule for bedding and towels to be helpful. All the beds in our home are either queen size (even the sofabed) or twin size, so white sheets are fully interchangeable.

    Another benefit to the white linens that I hope you never need is that they can be bleached. If you ever have someone come down with ringworm or some other topical skin infection, washing in hot water with bleach, and drying on hot, is recommended to sanitize them.

    Also, if you use flannel sheets, like we do here in frigid New England, the bottom sheets seem to wear out twice as fast as the top sheet, so I buy them in sets of two bottom sheets, one top sheet. I wash sheets weekly, and alternate the bottom sheet. It’s been working perfectly for 15 years!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, I always bleach our sheets and towels — that’s why I love using all white!

    And I love your 2 bottom sheets idea. We don’t have a use for that, but I can see how the bottom sheets would wear out sooner.

    [Reply]

  16. Rebecca

    12/17/2013

    I love your system, but it would not work for our family. After suffering through 3 kids with stomach flu while I was pregnant, I bought several sets for each bed. I couldn’t keep up with the laundry because they would get sick while the current sheets were being washed. We went through every blanket, sheet and even tablecloth we had.

    Aside from the stomach flu, each bed has regular and flannel sheets. I keep all extra sheets and blankets in totes in the basement and only use if needed because I’m like you – strip the beds, wash and then make with the same sheets.

    [Reply]

  17. Kelekona

    12/17/2013

    I do want an emergency set of sheets for our bed, just in case I’m having a bad day and don’t get them dry in time for sleeping.

    Ideally, I’ll only have to fold inactive sheets once every six months.

    Blankets are at-whim. We sleep in the same bed, but use different blankets most of the time. If one needs washing, we can cope with it being in the hamper for a night.

    [Reply]

  18. Peggy

    12/17/2013

    I have several sheets for my son since he has a bladder problem and they are stored in his closet but when he has an accident and the blankets get wet also then I have to have some close by to replace. I store all my extra blankets between the mattresses. When they are not being used (in the summer) we all put the blankets in between the mattresses and during winter then we pull them out. Also when my son needs a whole bed change we just lift the mattress and pull the blankets out.

    [Reply]

  19. Cindy

    12/19/2013

    I keep extra bedding in the room it’s used in. Example master bedroom would have bedding in a drawer that would fit that bed.

    [Reply]

  20. Brenda

    12/19/2013

    How can I send you a private note?

    [Reply]

  21. Becky

    12/19/2013

    i LOVE your idea!!! i’ve been DYING to get white sheets but im worried about them getting stained. hubs sweats like crazy all the time. like in the middle of the night his side of the bed is SOAKED. we dont have our own washer/dryer either so it makes it a bit more difficult. I’m thinking they would probably be easier now after reading this and the other comments about white sheets. plus, they look so nice and crisp!!

    [Reply]

  22. Jenifer

    12/20/2013

    We are both similar and different. :)

    Like you, we keep pretty minimal linens, but we keep pretty minimal everything.

    For total furnishings we have: 1 gate-leg table and 6 folding wooden chairs, two dressers, two thai mats (these are our beds — one is king size ish and the other is twin size ish).

    One dresser holds our family clothing (one big drawer each plus the 4th drawer for socks/undergarments), and we each have a hook for hanging items (5 hangers each — one is the off-season coat).

    The other dresser holds kitchen supplies/linens that don’t fit in our kitchen because our kitchen is a small galley, but very functional nonetheless. So, that dresser has 6 drawers of which 3 are used.

    One has extra tools that aren’t used every day (but are used several times a week) like the spiralizer, the mandolin, and also the parts of the juicer, such as the parts for making pasta, that aren’t used every day (the juicer is used every day, and it sits on top of this dresser, which is in the eat-in kitchen space sans table). One holds art supplies.

    And the last one holds the towels, washcloths, and table cloth. We have one table cloth (which we wash weekly), and we have 12 towels and 12 wash cloths. Since we don’t use paper towels, the towels and cloths are used for all of those purposes. Washed weekly, of course, and soaked in whitening powder after use.

    Because we sleep thai style, our beds are put away every day. this leaves us with plenty of space to play and move during the day (we live in a small apartment, but it’s bigger than our last place — is it sad that I preferred our 480 sq ft place?). So, the mats are rolled up and put in a corner next to the clothing dresser. The bedding is folded up and kept in the small linen closet. Three pillows, 2 wool underlays, a flat sheet (i don’t bother with fitted because they don’t work out on these mats anyway), a blanket and a quilt each. Pillows on the top shelf; quilts on the floor/bottom (rolled up and tied to hold together easily), one shelf of linens in between, and then one empty shelf that currently holds toilet paper and the “spare” three bath towels that we have (they are those microfiber ones (we have six; all were gifted). I also keep the baby-wrap there, even though he’s no longer a baby. I just can’t get rid of the wrap. :) I’m attached to it.

    A lot of people are certain that we are nuts, but living with less is relaxing.

    [Reply]

  23. Pascale

    01/13/2014

    Hello,

    I love your blog Andrea. Thank you for sharing.

    A few quick questions :

    1) If each one of you has 2 bath towels, it means that you store the one that isn’t being used, right?

    2) Is there a reason why you keep 4 guest bath towels?

    3) You mention that you don’t sort colors when doing laundry, could you explain a bit more? I’m interested in simplifying my laundry chore. I sort by color and function and do many loads: one for black clothing, one for black cleaning rags, one for reds and similar colors, one for pastels, etc.

    Looking forward to your answers

    Thanks
    Pascale

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Pascale…. here are the answers to your questions ;)

    1. We have 2 towels because I usually only wash them once a week. So we each use one towel for 3 days and then the 2nd towel for 3 days — then I wash them both.
    2. We have 4 guest towels because sometimes we have 4 guests at a time (we have 2 different guest bedrooms and several out-of-town family and friends.
    3. Nope, I don’t sort any colors. Here the post that talks about that.

    Hope this helps!

    [Reply]

  24. Linen Storage: Why I Don’t Need It…

    01/13/2014

    […] Source […]

  25. Tracey

    03/11/2014

    We also change our sheets about once a month for the same reasons!

    We do have flannel for winter and regular for summer, for our queen and each of our two kid’s twin beds. (The flannel is sooo much warmer to get into on a chilly night!) The “off-season” sheets are folded once and put on a high shelf until their time comes around again. The “in-season” sheets are washed and put right back on.

    We also have two bath towels each, and about four hand towels that rotate.

    For washing, an awesome bleach alternative is natural Borax, sold in the laundry section. It’s safe for colors, also great to have on hand for other cleaning and for cool science experiments for the kids! Just Google it for fun ideas!

    [Reply]

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