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4 December 2007

Organising the linen cupboard

When the seasons change from cool to warm, I take the doonas (quilts/duvets) from our beds and take time out to organise our linen cupboard. I believe it's an important part of my homemaker's responsibilities to properly care for everything that is used in our home. Our hard earned money has been used to buy or make the sheets, doonas, towels, napkins and tablecloths we use and I want them to last as long as possible and to look fresh and lovely when we use them. So when the seasons call me to take the doonas from the beds, and when they are returned to the beds again, I organise the linen cupboard.

If possible, try to have a separate linen cupboard where you keep sheets, pillowslips, towels, face washers, tablecloths, napkins and any other household linens you may have. The shelves or drawers should be painted or lined as untreated wood may stain whatever is on it.

The shelves
at eye height and within easy reach should be used to store your most frequently used linens. Experiment with the folding of each item so that you use your shelves efficiently. How to fold a fitted sheet. Always put the folded side to the front so that the closet will look neat each time you use it.

Sheets and towels
keep sheets of the same size and shape together, but you could also sort your sheets into sets and keep them together. Try to keep three or four sets of sheets, wash them weekly or fortnightly after use, fold them to your requirements and store at the bottom of the sheet stack in the cupboard. Always take your clean sheets from the top of the stack. Rotating your three or four sheet sets like this will keep them looking new and fresh for years.

Sort your towels into colours and sizes and stack them on the shelf with the folded side to the front
. Take new towels from the top and put clean towels back into the stack at the bottom. Rotate them as you do with your sheets.

I have a strange habit of rolling my fitted sheets but it's much easier to lay them flat.

Wash your towels every week and hang them in the sun to dry. Before you hang them on the line, shake them to loosen the pile. Shake them again when you take them off the line and just before you fold them. This fluffs up the pile and softens the terry cloth.

I wash all our laundry, including towels and sheets, with homemade laundry powder and add a little white vinegar in the final rinse. This softens them and helps remove all traces of laundry powder. The towels will come out smelling slightly of vinegar but when they are dry the smell is completely gone.

Doonas, duvets, quilts and blankets
Depending on where you live you’ll either be using your doonas and blankets or you’ll have them stored in the cupboard. If they are to be put away for a period of time, try to find a fabric or plastic bag to store them in. The rectangle plastic zippered covers that doonas are often sold in are an ideal second use for the packaging that would otherwise be thrown away. If you don’t have one of these bags, you could make a large calico bag.

Make sure your blankets, quilts or doonas are clean
before you store them. Storing anything with a spill on it will attract silverfish and cockroaches. Check the care instructions on the blanket or doona and, if possible, wash it gently and dry outside. If the blankets are woollen, make sure you wash them in cool to warm water and dry them in the shade. Adding a splash of eucalyptus oil or washing in wool wash will protect the wool from moths.

Herb Bags
Small calico, cotton or linen bags containing herbs or leaves you like the smell of can be easily made and are very useful in a linen cupboard. Any herb with a strong aroma is suitable. I use bay leaves, lavender, mint, rose petals, rosemary and lemon myrtle leaves. You can either sew small bags containing the herbs or just use an old handkerchief and tie the herbs in with a small piece of ribbon.

Packing the shelves
Towels and sheets, tablecloths and napkins should be at eye level because you use them frequently. Use your top and bottom shelves for items like doonas and blankets that you don’t use often. Take some time to organise your linen cupboard and learn how to fold your linens correctly. It will make the cupboard easier to look after, it will look organised and functional each time you go to it and it will be a pleasure to use.

When you take the time to organise your cupboard, check your linens for wear and tear. There will be times when you'll need to remove a
towel or sheet because it will be too damaged to use. If the item is pure cotton or linen, cut it up for cleaning cloths instead of throwing it away. If it's a poly/cotton blend, you may be able to patch it together to make fabric storage bags for your quilts or blankets. Always try to reuse these things in some way instead of throwing them out.

for your linens is a small part of caring for your family and your home. It is a simple and ordinary task that can be an a silent and private expression of love for you family, the respect you have for your role of homemaker and the importance you place on caring for what you own.


  1. Is there anyway of cleaning/washing a down filled duvet at home, or must is be drycleaned? I reuse the plastic zippered packages that sheets and bedding come in for all of my seasonal tablecloths, fine linens and infrequently used items, they work great! Some of my antique lacework and doilies (I inherited from hubs mother)I will wrap in plastic wrap first(after pressing) and then put them in the plastic zip bags.Thanks for the great post Rhonda!

  2. Hi Rhonda, i put my doonas into pillowcases. Jacky

  3. I am glad I am not the only one to do this twice a year!! Here in New Mexico we have to be careful of all the desert dust that can seep in any time of the year, as well as the bugs. It is a constant fight to keep the linens and clothes from getting dusty, not to mention the furniture!!

  4. I put my duvet covers, sheets into sets inside a pillowcase. It's all together then for when I change the bed, no hunting for matching items.
    Thanks for the link on how to fold a fitted sheet by the way!

  5. Thank you so much for the how-to on folding fitted sheets! I get so frustrated trying to fold them that I end up wadding them up and stuffing them in the linen closet! I am going to overhaul my linen closet tomorrow, purge what I don't need, and organize it!! Thanks for the inspiration!!!

  6. Oh my gosh! The photo at the top of this post is a Carl Larson! I love his work! Your blog is fun. I have to confess. I wash my smaller size down filled items in my front loading washer. It's a huge machine, does a nice job...without all the agitation business. My linen closet is a mess. I don't use anything in it. Time to purge. I learned to fold fitted sheets in the 7th grade. Don't they teach useful home techniques in school any longer? Plastic storage of fine cloth items? Never tried that. Not sure Martha would approve. Glad to learn that NM is dusty, I'm allergic. Like the pillowcase storage idea. Have to admit, I don't fuss with household things so much anymore. DH and I are empty nester's on the verge of retirement. Time to downsize! Now that I can use some help with. :)

  7. A while back, a friend of mine gave me a sheet set. It's too large for my bed and she doesn't want it back.
    I'm making dish towels, napkins, placemats and a tablecloth from this set. The pillows will be the towels, the fitted sheet will be the napkins and placemats and the large sheet will be the table cloth. (It's a brightly patterned set!)
    I already know that she likes this color. lol This will be her Christmas present, along with a couple of nice knitted dish cloths.

  8. I love the idea of this! I have a linen cupboard and currently it has no door so i have to make sure everything in it looks tidy!

  9. We have a linen cupboard and I simply *love* how it smells after everything has been washed and dried in the sun. So clean and homey. My organization system is similar to yours.

  10. Hi Rhonda,
    I was hoping you would be able to help me with some new towels that are not absorbent.
    I have tried borax and bicarb and epsom salts on these towels and nothing has worked. I have soaked them in a bucket of whatever then the next day put it in the washer with a dash of vinegar in the rinse. To no avail.
    Would you kindly be able to suggest something else perhaps?



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