January is typically the month retail stores put linens on sale. I kind of like the idea-new year, new sheets! However, as we all know, linens aren’t cheap to begin with, so even on sale, they can still be pretty expensive. So each year, as much as I’d like to run out and get new sheets, new towels, and refresh my home, I have to stop and really consider my needs. I have also learned, as I carry out my organizing services, that all too often it is linens that take up valuable space in a home. So, I thought I’d share a few of my linen tips and challenge you (as well as myself) to do a little January linen check-up over this next week.
As an organizer my desire is to help people uncover their spaces-get rid of the clutter, unveiling the beauty of their favorite spaces and items. All too often the things we value most, the things holding memories, the things we saved and scraped for, sit buried in a storage bin or at the bottom of the closet under piles of items of lesser value-both monetarily and sentimentally. I find that sad. I am a firm believer in using and living daily with the things we value most. Why not?! What are we waiting for, saving them for? Using my mother-in-laws vintage pink china brings fond memories and prompts wonderful conversations with my girls about the gentile lady they never had the chance to know. I’d rather risk a broken piece or two than never use it, never share in the memories, never honor her. Pulling out my Japanese tea service reminds me of my “second home”, the hospitality of a people I grew up living with, and the love my paternal family has for Japan. Again, great conversations take place as I reminisce with my daughters, sharing stories of a country and world that seems so very far off to them. And this time of year, pulling out family quilts, hand knit blankets, seeing the names of kinfolk I never met, again reminds us of our heritage, propels us to inquire, look back. Things, stuff-we can accumulate too much. We can hoard our things, never enjoying them or sharing them and their stories with others. OR, we can live with our things, let them serve their purpose and bring value to our lives.
So, what do you have hiding in the closet? What things do you have packed away for the “some day”? I bet a lot of them are in the bottom of the linen closet. That, or they are in the attic sight unseen because you have no room in any of your interior closets in which to store them. Get busy, get ready. Clean out your linen closet (wherever or whatever that looks like) and make some room for those items you love, those special items holding memories and value.
First, know that you only need two sets of sheets per bed. Seriously, that’s it! And in all reality, unless you have a different size bed in every room, you can get by with only one extra set of sheets per size of bed. (ie-if you have 4 twin beds, you only need 5 sets of twin sheets) In reality most of us strip the bed, wash and dry the sheets, and put them right back on. Genius! There go, minus a middle of the night bed accident (illness, bed wetting) you will rarely pull out the “extra” set. This means you can invest in better quality sheets, purchasing fewer sets.
Second, you only need two sets of towels per person. Again, most of us throw the towels in the wash, dry them and hang them right back up. All those decorative sets we purchase stay in the closet gathering dust.
Third, if you really want to simplify, purchase all white linens. They go with everything. They can be bleached. You don’t have to keep up with matching sets. Now, I will tell you, I lived with this rule until my girls reached school age. Now, as girls we just can’t resist the cute chevron, polka dots, vibrant sherbet colors… I gave up the all white towels (except for kitchen dishcloths), but I have NOT given up the two sets per person rule and we still have cream or white sheets for all.
Fourth, remember linens are expendable. They are meant to be used. Whether we are talking about bed linens, kitchen linens or bath linens. They are made to be hard working items. They are meant to be of service to us, to bring comfort to us, to add some “pop” to our decor. They can’t fulfill their role if we leave them in the china cabinet, back of the pantry or bottom of the linen closet.
Fifth, when it comes to bed linens please know that higher thread count DOES NOT mean better for you. The higher the thread count the tighter the weave. Now, this does make the sheets feel silky smooth, but on the negative side, it also means your skin can’t breathe. That’s not good. And if like me, you are entering menopause, that REALLY isn’t good. 400 thread count is actually the ideal count. Some added softness, but a broad enough weave your skin can breathe.
Where to begin. Start wherever you keep the majority of your linens. Pull them all out. (or go one room at a time) Throw away any thread bare or incomplete sets. Throw away anything stained (especially place-mats, napkins or kitchen towels) If you don’t want to throw them away take them to the local animal shelter. (But please, please do not take them to Goodwill.) Next, pick your favorite two sets. All the rest I hereby give you permission to take to Goodwill or your favorite organization. Do it! I don’t care if they are in perfect condition. I don’t care if the napkins and place-mats would be perfect for a beach themed pool party. If you have never used them, haven’t thought about them in a year, you don’t need them and they are robbing you of the space for something else of value. You will be amazed at the room you create in your storage space-be it drawer, cabinet or closet. If at the end of the process you are left with nothing, then go out before January 31 and purchase some fresh linens on sale. Just make sure you keep in mind the rules above!
I’m tackling my spaces tomorrow!