The Linen Closet

Pinterest results for "linen closet declutter" reveal the dark side of penny-pinching- couponing and wholesale clubs turn soccer moms into Collyer brothers-level hoarders. Yushan villagers in China's Hubei province don't stock five 24-packs of Dial to reduce Costco runs, and their only connection with the outside world is a 1000-yard zipline 400 metres above the valley floor. The main problem I have with these posts is their focus on elaborate organizational solutions, which contain clutter instead of managing it. Make enough space to keep what you like without fancy organizing equipment.

Simplifying linens is a secondary step towards a minimal wardrobe. It's easier to part with ragged towels and sheets than the flannel shirt you wore when Aaron Samuels asked you what day it was. Don't get caught up with numbers, this is just what we keep for a functional household and endless parade of guests. Pardon the choppy sentences, I'm finishing Ho Chi Minh's On Revolution and it's affecting my personality:

What we have

Bathroom items

  • WashclothsSix washcloths for two people- I rinse my washcloth and use it all week, so I may pare down here.
  • Bath towelsWe have four. Two are constantly used in the bathroom, two for guests / emergencies.
  • Hand towels. Max two per bathroom.
  • Shower curtainIn Paris, we have a glass shower door instead of a curtain, but in my childhood home, the rule was (and still is) one per shower/tub. My family uses pretty linen curtains that don't need liners. Hemp shower curtains are anti-microbial, so you never have to deal with mold (2018 update: I now use a Caroline Z Hurley throw as a shower curtain).
  • Bath rugs/mats. One per tub/sink.

I'd love to make linen towels- durable and more absorbent than cotton, they dry quickly, do not lint, and can withstand strong laundering. For now, homemade hemp washcloths mildly abrade skin to remove dead skin cells, dirt, and oils. If you use cotton terry, choose un-cropped loops- not velour terry, which holds less moisture and is so JCPenney catalog in the 90s. Our secondhand mats are synthetic, but colorfast, absorbent, and slip-resistant. If you're in the market for natural fibers, bamboo, hemp, and linen resist mildew.


  • Bed sheets. 1 set per bed. The most my mom and grandma ever had- in a household of five to eight persons, plus pets- was one extra set per bed, for when the other was being washed.
  • Pillows. Max two per person.
  • Mattress pad. One per bed.
  • Duvets/comforters. One per bed. Extras waste valuable space and require periodic washing and refolding.

Don't overstock bed linens, because they age on the shelf, become susceptible to odors and dust, and develop mold, yellowing, and weakness along crease lines. Wool fill bedding and linen sheets are antimicrobial, absorb moisture and odors, and regulate temperature. They stay clean longer and require less maintenance than synthetic or down.


  • Cleaning/kitchen towels/ragsTwo dozen was enough for my family growing up, and it's  more than enough for me now. I use flour sack towels my mom and grandma used.
  • Table linens: I found 24 dish towels secondhand for use as napkins (if something happens to them, I'll make my own in linen). Tablecloths/ runners/ placemats aren't my style, but I'm not a Kinfolk subscriber. One set of table coverings is enough- my grandma used a single white set for decades, and it's snowy and stain-free.

What you won't find

  • BathrobesWe just get dressed.
  • Laundry basketsI'd never fold laundry if I could just stick it in a basket.
  • Decorative pillows/shams. Ever see Japanese people using purely decorative pillows? No, because they use both sides of their brains. We don't have anything we can't sleep on.
  • Faded, ripped, or torn towels and sheets. Everything is presentable. When I was little, we cut old towels into rags. Sometime we braided them or used them like furoshiki. Animal shelters are always looking for old towels and sheets.
  • BlanketsSince Paris apartment buildings don't have fire escapes, I'd like some good wool blankets - the flame-resistant material is useful for emergencies.

What I don't buy

  • Fancy candlesI used to lust after fancy Dior or Astier de Villatte candles, but then I realized how easy it was to make my own (which I don't do, I don't use candles- I simply had the realization). Economically, it makes no sense to waste that much on a packaged piece of wax. I went to a party with the Byredo founder once, and all he did was talk about basketball.
  • Too many toiletries. Depending on bar size, we stock 2-4 unpackaged soaps per sink/shower. Any more flakes and makes a mess of the closet. No family needs 50 tubes of toothpaste or rolls of toilet paper lying around- not even the Duggars.


Cleaning and organizing the linen closet

I wipe shelves with white vinegar and wash and air items before folding. Don't overcrowd linens- air circulation keeps items fresh. Storing cotton or linen in plastic produces yellow streaks on fabric. Place freshly laundered pieces on the bottom, like with like and all sheet sets together, including pillowcases. We didn't have a linen closet at my mom's house, so we kept folded towels in the bathroom and sheets in drawers.
Paris to Go


  1. Thank you so much for those great quality posts. I'm referring to your blog almost every day to make this zero waste transitioning! Can you please mention where do you donate stuff in Paris? Also where do you go second hand shopping? Many thanks! Marie

    1. Hi Marie! You are so sweet, thanks for reading. Congratulations on the zero waste transitioning. I'd love to hear how it's going!

      There is a donation bin by my apartment just outside of Les Crocs de l'Ogre- I don't know what organization it is, I just know they collect household textiles and clothing :) I also drop off items at recycleries.

      Emmaus accepts household goods and clothing for donation, and Le Relais takes textiles.

      Here is another good resource:

      (Sorry I couldn't find a French equivalent)

      For secondhand items, I buy off Leboncoin. I've heard Emmaus outside of Paris is good, but I haven't had success at many of the friperies, flea markets, and charity shops within the city. I find the best secondhand clothing here though!

  2. We live in a 1930s beach bungalow, and although the house has been updated, we don't have a linen closet. The bathroom is also small, which is fine, but there is no space there for towels. Right now, towels are on a basket on the dresser. We don't have any extra sets of sheets, there would be no where to put them anyway!

    And thank you for inspiring me to get rid of a few towels that have seen better days :)

  3. Ariana, have you perchance ever used this type towel? I'm curious how it compares to a typical terry cloth in feel and efficacy and of all the people I can think of, you seem the most apt to know! I do love how thin (read: space saving) they are. Appreciate any thoughts!

    1. Hi Darcy, yes, I do use a Turkish towel! It's hanging on my wall mostly but I use it for the beach. It's more absorbent than terry, dries quicker, and is space saving- they fold into the littlest, prettiest bundles in the linen closet. I love linen towels the best, and we would have gotten them if my husband hadn't already had a set of terry towels. Two of his towels are going though, so fingers crossed we get a linen one! You can make them pretty easily, too.

  4. Oh thank you!!! Yes, I've wondered if they might not double as an oversized pool towel as well. Win-win. I hadn't thought of making them... interesting idea. Thanks again for the response- excellent to know. Just repainted my bathroom (all white) and thinking it's the perfect time to retire my 15 year old colored terry towels to the rag bin. Appreciate so much that you always respond!

    1. That is awesome that you kept your towels that long. I think you'll like how fast these dry and how warm and nice they feel. I appreciate all your comments!

  5. Yes, well, honestly, they are still perfectly serviceable, and I *should* keep using them. But I really *want* fresh and new (and small.) I'll find something else to use them for in order to justify it :)