Quick: Make a rough estimate of how many pillowcases you own. Just enough to match your sheet sets? Or perhaps a few extras? Or perhaps you’re like many of us and are harboring a dozen spare pillowcases — or more — even if you don’t actually even have a guest room.
Guilty as charged? If not, we’re fairly willing to guess that you might be guilty of some other kind of linen-closet clutter, whether that’s old bath towels, torn pillowcases, stained dishcloths or kids’ bedding for the kids who are now out of the house. Whatever the source of the clutter, this list of items to purge will help you eliminate what you don’t need, so you can make space for the linens you actually use.
1. Old bath towels
Sure, most of us like to keep a tattered old bath towel on hand for messy cleaning tasks or for when the dog walks in with muddy paws, but you probably don’t need 10. Keep a couple, then call your local animal shelter (or other animal rescue groups) to see if they might want the rest.
2. Outgrown bedding
Maybe you’re still hanging onto crib sheets even after your child has graduated to a “big kid bed,” or maybe you’re keeping those full-size sheets “just in case” after upgrading to a king-size mattress. It’s time to let them go. If they’re still in good condition, give the sheets a wash and check with a local shelter or nonprofit organization to see if they are interested in the donation.
3. Holiday linens you never use
That tablecloth you got for Christmas five years ago and have yet to use? Donate it to Goodwill, or list it for free on Craigslist.
4. Mismatched bed sheets
It’s a mystery how it happens, but when you dig through the linen closet stash, you may find a spare blue top sheet without a matching set or one lone Euro sham pillowcase that doesn’t fit a single pillow you own. Add those to the donation pile.
5. Expired toiletries
In addition to bedding and bath towels, many households use their linen closet to store extra bathroom essentials. Now’s the time to check those expiration dates and toss out any old bottles of body lotion or sunscreen.
6. Moth-eaten blankets
When well cared for, blankets, especially those that are handcrafted, become family heirlooms that can last for decades. But if moths have made a meal of your spare blankets, it may be time to toss them.
To help protect the rest of your linens, invest in a set of cedar and lavender balls and oil to refresh them, which certainly smell better than moth balls.
7. Unnecessary cleaning products
If your linen closet is also your utility closet, don’t forget to take stock of your cleaning supplies. Keep in mind that disinfecting products typically have an expiration date, after which they aren’t as effective. Follow the disposal directions on the label.
(Real Simple magazine provides smart, realistic solutions to everyday challenges. Online at www.realsimple.com.)