Updating my Linen Closet

Recently we had our bathroom completely updated. As part of the renovation, we took some space from a nearby linen closet. This meant the closet was demolished to the studs, and new walls installed. With a coat of fresh white paint, this storage space was getting a makeover.

It was so fun to design a closet from start to finish (yes, this is what professional organizers get excited about). I considered the shelf options, and decided again to install an Elfa system from The Container Store. I’ve written before about how I love this closet system for bedroom closets, I was now going to give it a try for my new linen closet.

The heavy wooden, immovable shelves were replaced with adjustable elfa solid shelving. In the former closet there was a lot of space between shelves. I kept lots of toiletries in plastic shoe boxes and had to stack them on top of each other to efficiently use the space, but it was a pain to have to move the top box to get what was in the bottom. With the new elfa configuration, we were able to add another shelf - no more stacking!

I could also set the height of the first shelf to be high enough over what I wanted to store on the bottom. Instead of having the heavy stuff on the top shelf in the old closet, they could sit safely on the bottom. The light linens are now on top. And if my needs change, the shelves can move up or down.

I also decided that my new closet deserved a new set of bins. These easy reach-in bins keep all our toiletry items corralled. I labelled each so my family would know what goes where. I’m sure it won’t stay this organized, but it will be a much easier closet to use.

Closet Before

Closet Before

New Walls, no shelves

New Walls, no shelves

elfa installed

elfa installed

finished closet

finished closet

Favorite Container #12: The Keyring App

For the last installment of my year-long Favorite Container series I am highlighting an app that helped me to organize and “contain” my store loyalty cards: Keyring.

In 2010 I wrote about a great card holder for store cards. I got many compliments and queries about the card holder, and for three years it was the perfect old-school solution for me.

But since I’ve got this iPhone, I thought I should explore new ways it can make my life easier. The Keyring app does just that. It’s easy to scan and load your card information on to the app, which then stores the barcode or information. When you are at the store the clerk simply scans the barcode from your phone…and you don’t have to hassle with finding the right store card or sharing your phone number. It also works for storing my library card! The app is available for the iPhone, Android and Windows 7 phones.

What apps have made your life easier this year?

Favorite Container #10: Medicine Cabinet Organizer

The medicine cabinet: a space you probably don’t think about often, but it’s one that you use several times a day.  Here’s a great product to help keep it tidy!

A few years ago when I was trying to de-clutter my medicine cabinet I found this amazing shelf organizer. We had lots of small items in our cabinet and it was a challenge to keep them all together.

Usually I like to re-purpose items but the shelf organizer was made to fit on the narrow shelves of a medicine cabinet. It worked so perfectly to corral all my small items.

Such a simple product, but it works and make finding things so much easier.

You can find many styles of medicine cabinet shelf organizers at the The Container Store or amazon.com.

Favorite Container #9: Closet with Adjustable Shelving

A closet is one of my favorite containers for organizing the home. Whether it holds food, clothes, toys, games, party supplies, or winter coats, the closet is an important tool for keeping chaos at bay.

And I don’t mean because you can stuff things in and simply shut the door! A closet can provide a ton of storage. I’ve found that one of key elements to a functional closet is having shelving, and preferably, adjustable shelving.

I like adjustable shelving because it gives you the flexibility to move the shelves based on what you are storing. While fixed shelving (often in bedrooms) is better than no shelves at all, installing shelves that can move helps the closet adjust to whatever you decide to keep inside.

For example, the closet in my family room is filled with arts and crafts, photo albums, sewing items, and gift wrapping supplies. I was able to cut and install the shelving to fit perfectly around my Rubbermaid Wrap n’ Craft storage container.  But if I end up storing games or something else in here, I can lower the shelf height and use a longer shelf piece.

One of my favorite projects was converting our barely-useful hall closet into an awesome storage space. Originally this closet had the typical clothing bar and one high shelf, with a huge open space underneath. Suitcases, bags, the vacuum and my husbands work clothes ended up there, but there was a ton of unused space.

After installing adjustable shelves, this closet not only holds clothes, but also all our travel items, the beach towels and bags, and extra bedding. We picked the shelf height based on what we were going to store inside.

As soon as the cracked walls in my bedroom closet are fixed, I can’t wait to try out elfa shelving from The Container Store. Stay tuned for more on that project.

The bottom line: If you are creating a closet from scratch or re-doing an old closet, install adjustable shelving.

Favorite Container #8: Desktop File

This month, August, I’m back to thinking about papers as the start of school approaches. I’ve been filling out school-related forms, signing my daughter up for after-school activities, and receiving lots of information from her new teams and groups.

My all-time favorite container for organizing papers and projects is a desktop file box. Here are the details:

What:  A box that is designed to hold hanging folders and files, and can sit on your desk or kitchen counter.

When to use it: Use this kind of box for your key files – files that you need to see all the time, and for current projects. My desktop file box always has these folders in it:

  • Camp Ideas (for my daughter)
  • Activities (for my daughter – things she may want to try)
  • To Buy
  • Family Meeting (any papers that my husband and I need to discuss)
  • Current Projects – Home (colors for a bedroom, estimates from the painter) Current Projects – Work

How to use it: Create hanging file folders for the key papers you tend to hold on to – not for every one, but what are the general categories of papers that end up on your counter or desk? Once you have the categories set, you can use individual manila file folders to separate papers inside the hanging folder if needed. Note: The categories may change over time as you see what kinds of papers you have, so don’t be afraid to change the folders.  No system is perfect at the beginning – you need to live with it and use it for a while to see what works.

Why to use it: A desktop file box helps move your papers from piles to vertical files, making them much easier to see! When you can see your papers, you can actually take them out and use them…and have a place to put them away.

Where to purchase: Basic desktop file boxes can be found at Staples and Office Max. Look on Amazon.com and The Container Store for file boxes in fun designs and natural materials.

See how a client set up her own Desktop File box in this blog post. For an idea on how to organize your financial papers, check out this recent Favorite Container post.

Favorite Container #6: Accordion File for Financial Papers

My favorite container for this month is the good old accordion file. It’s my go-to system for organizing our bills and financial information for the year.

At the start of each year I get a large size (20+ pockets) accordion file from the office supply store. I label each section for the key financial paperwork that we keep during the year - credit card statements, mortgage statements, investment statements, receipts for the Dependent Care Reimbursement Account, taxes, etc.

When the paper comes in it has a place to go! It’s so easy to open the file to the right section and drop in the paper. No file cabinet needed!

The accordion file is kept in a lidded basket under a desk in my front hall, right where I open mail and need to file papers. This is key to your paper management system – keep your files close by. No one even knows all our papers are stored inside!

By keeping the file by the year, it is super easy to find what we need at tax time…and to know what papers can be shredded. After 7 years, the papers come out and get destroyed, and we can re-use the accordion file again.

I’ve helped many clients get control of their papers with this simple system. If you need help, contact me today and we’ll find a system that works for you.

Favorite Container #5: Car Trash Bag

For May my favorite container is my Mod Mobile car trash bag. Trash bag? Yes, trash bag!

This isn’t any ordinary trash bag – it’s durable yet beautiful. It makes me smile when I look at it. And it’s easy to use and keeps my car clean, as I’ve written about before.

Having easy access to a trash bag – whether it is one like mine or a plastic bag – is essential if you want to keep your car tidy.

And when choosing containers, remember:

  • Sometimes a specific container designed to solve a specific issue (= car trash) is best
  • Pick containers that you like the look of because you’ll be more likely to actually use them
  • Containers should be durable and easy to clean

For more on car organization and to see the trash bag in action, check out my video from This Mom Needs Help!

Favorite Container #4: Clear Boxes for the Closet

It’s that time of year in New England when a beautiful, sunny 65 degree day is then followed by a cold, raw and rainy day. While the weather is unpredictable, warmer temps are on the horizon—and by this point I am feeling done with Winter gear no matter what! 

While getting our closets and the mudroom ready for the change of seasons, I realized how much I rely on clear boxes and canvas bins. So this month for My Favorite Container Series I’ll share how I use clear, plastic boxes for a simple, easy system.

No surprise here: I like clear, plastic boxes because they make what is inside visible, and they are durable. (I’ve written before about how The Container Store clear boxes are my favorite.) 

But the boxes also are integral to how I maintain my closet, and help my daughter with hers. 

  • My husband and I store our off-season clothes in fairly large clear, plastic bins. When it’s time to get the summer things out, I can bring down the bins from the attic. Take the warm weather clothes out, and load in the winter things. The bins are Sterilite (115 quart size) and are bigger than I’d like, but it is very easy to just have one bin to look for and deal with!
  • In our closets we also store our winter (wool, cashmere) sweaters in clear sweater boxes. When sweater season is over I add some new cedar blocks and snap the lid shut.
  • I also use a clear box without a lid to hold my handbags on the top shelf of my closet.
  • All my work and dressy shoes are stored in clear boxes.
  • My daughteris growing so fast, so I keep a clear bin on the top shelf of her closet. This is a typical old closet with one fairly high shelf at the top—it’s the perfect place for the “Clothes to Grow Into” bin.

The clear bins make it easy to 1) change out my clothes at the change of the seasons; 2) organize  and see my sweaters, shoes, and handbags; and 3) contain my daughter’s clothes that she’ll grow into.

Important Bonus Tip:  If you are doing a seasonal change of clothes in your closet, now is the time to do a quick purge of items you 1) didn’t wear at all in the last 6 months and 2) really don’t love anymore.

And if you need help with setting up a closet system that works for you, please let me know!

Favorite Container #3: Small Boxes for My Desk Drawer

This month my favorite containers are a set of small boxes (sold individually) from Martha Stewart for Staples.

These small boxes solved a big problem: a jumble of junk in my desk drawer.  (Sound familiar??) I have a beautiful home-made desk with a shallow drawer. Typical drawer organizers were too tall, but then I found these boxes and they fit perfectly.

First I bought one box to see if it would fit, and it did! Then I bought some more for the desk, then for the kitchen, then for my daughter’s desk.

I also like that these boxes are wider than cutlery-type holders and other drawer organizers. They can easily hold a certain type of item all together…but they aren’t too big that items get lost.

Watch the video of how I use these boxes at a client’s home from This Mom Needs Help! TV show. 

Favorite Container #2: Media Storage Box

Here in the Boston area we are still digging out from last weekend’s blizzard that dumped 2 to 3 feet of snow. With two snow days off from school, we ended up with a long weekend. In between shoveling and sledding we watched a lot of movies!

Watching movies is the inspiration for my Favorite Container for February: clear media storage boxes.

This great storage box comes from The Container Store. It’s clear, sturdy and stackable. It’s easy to look right through the top and find just the right movie. It also slides out of the cabinet, so I’m not shifting through lots of loose DVD boxes looking for what I want.

At first I was skeptical that I needed a box made for media, but it is the perfect size – with no wasted space. Once I had one box it worked so well, I had to get some more. We’ve now used these boxes to organize all our DVDs and games in our family TV room.

Your Turn: Can you find movies when you need them? If not, it may be time to get them organized. With all the on-demand options for watching movies now, be sure you are only keeping movies that you really watch and enjoy!  And finally, don’t even think about keeping VCR tapes unless you still have a working VCR.

Favorite Container #1: Kitchen Drawer with Flatware Organizer

My first favorite container is: this drawer in my kitchen. Yes, a drawer! Drawers are often under-utilized containers in our homes. This organized drawer is one of the things I really and truly enjoy about the new kitchen.

I love that this drawer glides effortlessly open and close – unlike our old kitchen which had only two heavy old drawers that would fall out on your foot if you pulled them open too far.

I also love that this drawer is large enough and allows me to see everything at once.  The flatware organizer is a good size, plus it expands on either side so it can fit various drawer sizes. It’s similar to this one from The Container Store.

On the left side of the drawer I added another white container that I had from my old kitchen. It holds the less-used tools, and keeps them from becoming a jumble when the drawer is opened.

If you are re-doing your kitchen, I strongly recommend that you incorporate drawers for storage. From flatware, to food storage containers, to pantry staples and cooking pots, drawers are a great container for the kitchen.

If you have old drawers that don’t work well, get them fixed! We learn to live with a lot but fixing a few of these nagging problems around the home can give you a whole new outlook on your space. And don’t overstuff the drawers with things you don’t use.

For more kitchen storage tips, purchase my 12 Months of Organizing: Kitchen Storage Solutions 2013 Desk Calendar today!