Nothing says “fresh” like clean linens. So why do we put up with a linen closet that’s a jumble of mismatched, nubby sheets and towels way past their prime? Most of us are just happy if we can open our linen closet without something falling on our heads and are positively euphoric when we emerge with a matching set of towels. Well, that ends now! In Part 2 of our Organize Your Life Series, we’ve got 4 steps to help you get your linen closet as clean and fresh as your just-washed laundry.

1. Empty the shelves
Ever notice how virtually every organization story begins with that edict? Well, there’s a reason. Simply moving everything around ain’t gonna fix the problems you’ve got.

2. Sort by item
You’re going to want to make a few piles and then we’ll keep subdividing. Separate things into sheets, towels, and everything else (we’ll deal with that later).

First, we’re going to address the sheet shambles by pairing them up. Ideally, you should have 2 full sets for each bed in your house one on the bed and one as a spare. To make finding them easy, put all the sheets for one bed in their matching pillow case no more searching for the right flat sheet. Any loner sheets can go straight to the recycle pile. (Yep, we’ll deal with that later too.)

Be ruthless when dealing with towels. Fraying, torn, worn-out towels don’t deserve shelf space. Keep a maximum of 3 sets for each person, plus an extra set or 2 for guests. And let’s be realistic: if your towels are looking really tired, watch for a good sale and stock up.

Now check out your “everything else” pile. You thought we were going to tell you to relocate it, didn’t you? Actually, the linen closet can be an ideal place to keep some of the excess supplies that normally clog the bathroom. With all those unnecessary towels out of there, you probably have more than enough room for a couple of bins that you can fill with toilet paper, surplus toiletries, and first aid items.

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When you organize your linen closet, you also might find you have bulkier or seasonal items like pillows, sleeping bags, and extra blankets that you’d like to store there. Just put them on the top shelf out of the way, encased in the zippered bag they came in if you still have it.

3. Repurpose the extras

Chances are good that you’ll end up with duplicates you no longer need. Some of the towels may find a new life as cleaning rags, and bedding in good condition is often welcomed by domestic shelters. Items that are really for the dogs would be ideal to donate to an animal shelter pets just want cozy bedding and won’t mind the fraying ends or bleached spots.

4. Organize and label the shelves

Now that you’ve gone to all the trouble to organize the linen closet, you want to make sure it stays that way. If you want to get fancy, you can keep piles orderly with totes, dividers, shelves, and more.

But if you do only ONE thing, the best trick is to label the shelves with sizes (“queen sheets” or “hand towels,” for example) or rooms (such as “master bathroom,” or “guest bedroom”) so when you (or your spouse or kids!) are putting away linens, you know where they go. It’s especially handy when you have last-minute guests and want to put a fresh set of sheets on that spare bed.

And if you missed it, check out Part 1 of our Organize Your Life Series, where we help you clean up your pantry once and for all.

DIY hacks | Home and garden

about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.