Taming the linen closet beast

The problem with linen closets — at least with mine — is that linens themselves seem to comprise about 20 percent of the crap in there. The rest is first aid, medicine, soap, shampoo, sunscreen, eight million toothbrushes, some toilet bowl cleaner, a few candles, and a couple fake flowers. Small things. Lots of them.

In this very narrow, very deep, and very tall closet, I am storing many, many, many small things. This, of course, is a recipe for disaster.  This kind of disaster:

before collageIt has been this way for the 11 years we have lived in this house. I have finally tamed the linen closet organizing beast, thanks to the inexpensive design brilliance of IKEA (seriously, what would we do without IKEA?) and a handy husband.

After taking everything out (bottom right, above), tossing expired stuff (an entire kitchen garbage bag full), and sorting into categories, I went to IKEA with my measurements. I got lots of these things:

Materials collage copy

The Pluggis organizers were found in the home office section. They mount on a rail, so each piece can be taken down and carried around. I liked this idea for manicure stuff, or first aid supplies.

I originally thought I’d put toilet paper in the Rationell trash bin, but it was too small for that. It does fit Kleenex boxes perfectly.

I removed the lowest shelf in the closet and put the Algot frame its place. It just barely clears the door frame but the drawers do open. This is the first time we’ve actually been able to use the space in the way back of the closet. To keep the unit sturdy, my husband bolted it to the floor boards in the back of the closet. I put toilet paper rolls in the large one, hand towels and wash cloths in the middle drawer, and extra shower supplies in the top drawer.

Samla boxes come in all kids of sizes. I got three larger ones and eight small ones, all with lids. These now hold all those little things, by category:

  • Nail polish
  • Prescription medications
  • Other medications
  • Sunscreen and bug spray
  • Soap and candles
  • Tooth care
  • Travel size stuff

I have a few empty right now, tucked way in back. I hate when you spend time and money on an organizing system and a few years later you can’t add to it or find the same item to replace something lost or broken. So, just in case, I bought some extra.

I was so pleased with the success of the back-of-the-door system in my office closet, I wanted to use the door as much as possible. So, the Pluggis organizers went on the door, as did the Rationell trash bin. The Samla boxes went on the shelves.

And now, it looks like this!

full closet 1Not particularly pretty, but highly functional. You can actually see what’s in here, even if it is in the way back. My family will be much more likely to put things away properly, and I won’t be embarrassed next time someone asks for an Advil and they have to get it for themselves.

This being an IKEA project, it was fairly inexpensive; all my materials cost about $80. It also only took one day. Well, eleven years and one day.

For those who really love organizing, a few closeups:

bins and labelsI could not resist labels and washi tape to try to add some color to this dark space. And while you do have to move a box to get to the back, it is still much better than before. The things we use most are on top or in front.

door bin and drawersHere’s that trash bin mounted to the door, and the frame and drawers at the base of the closet.

door caddiesA Pluggis wall bin. If you are mounting on a hollow-core door, as we were, you will need special anchors. I love that these door bins put often-used items, like first aid and painkillers, right at eye level, and not bouncing around in a big box or basket. Small things = small container.

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  1. I looooove that your pics are “authentic” – I’m in spring cleaning mode and have been rummaging through the internet for organization ideas and it’s so annoying when I see pictures of drawers, closets, and other storage spaces with almost nothing in it!! Thank you for not trying to trick us with a half-empty linen closet! You did a great job considering how little time and money it took you, and you really took advantage of IKEA’s products, it looks great!

    • Thanks for reading Liz and I agree – it is easy to make things look tidy if they are half-empty! 🙂 My closets are definitely full, full, full!


  2. Milagros says:

    Hello, I agree with Liz. When I search for information on organization I usually find very martha-stewart-like organization and most of us dont have the money or space that she shows. I really like your closet. Have a great day!

    • Thanks for reading and for your nice comment! I’m glad you found the post helpful. It has been three months and my closet is just as clean as these photos, so that is a great sign!


  3. Can you tell me what type of anchors for a hollow door? I have one and am interested in doing something similar to mine.

    • Hi Tina,

      I asked my husband about this because he did that part for me. He doesn’t remember what the name/type is, but all he did was ask at the hardware store what anchors to use for a hollow door. 🙂

      Good luck and I hope it works!