13 Things to Toss from Your Linen Closet, According to a Professional Organizer


If your linen closet is bursting at the seams, it’s probably time to let these items go.

Linen closets come in a variety of shapes and sizes. You may have a standard one with a handful of shelves, a narrow bathroom closet, or a freestanding armoire that you’ve reassigned for this storage purpose. Whatever your situation currently looks like, if the space is overstuffed, it’s time to declutter.

When you let go of things you no longer need, it’ll open up space to store items that have been otherwise crowding the bathroom. Medicine, for example, shouldn’t be kept in an area that gets steamy, so the linen closet could make a better location for it than the bathroom once you clear room on a shelf. Rolls of backstock toilet paper and paper towels can also reside in a tidy linen closet rather than crammed under the bathroom sink.

Whether you’re looking to create more storage space or just tidy your overstuffed shelves, these are the items you should remove from your linen closet, according to a professional organizer.

Related: 12 Linen Closet Organization Ideas for Easy Access to Essentials

As a rule of thumb, if you’d be embarrassed to give a towel to a house guest, that’s your sign it’s time to retire it. Old bath, hand, or face towels with rips, tears, or stains that won’t budge can be repurposed for cleaning, drying the dog after a muddy walk, or even donated to a local animal shelter. Consider replacing them with a new set of fluffy white towels that you can bleach and keep fresh for longer.

Related: 7 Signs You Should Really Replace Your Bath Towels

It’s easy to forget about these things that often get tossed into the linen closet but, remember, most have a shelf life. Take a few minutes to pull each item out and check for expiration dates. Everyone has their own comfort level when it comes to how long past a date they’re willing to continue using a product. Bear in mind, however, that some things aren’t worth the risk such as getting sunburned after slathering on old sunscreen or developing a rash from a skin serum that’s gone bad. Even first aid supplies that don’t expire should be checked as open bandage or gauze packaging can render them unsanitary.

Related: 19 Household Items You Should Probably Throw Out Now

Unless you have room to spare and nowhere else for them to live, towels used exclusively for the beach or pool don’t need to be stored in the linen closet. Ideally, you want to keep things close to where you use them. In this instance, they’re better placed near the backdoor, entryway, or mudroom so you can easily grab them and go during the summer months. In the cooler months, consider storing clean, dry pool towels in a storage container under the bed so they don’t take up valuable shelf space.

Related: The 11 Best Under-Bed Storage Solutions of 2023, According to Our Testing

Going by the same standard for towels, if you wouldn’t make up the guest bed with a particular sheet set, it’s time to declutter. While thin or ripped sheets and pillowcases aren’t optimal to donate, if you’re handy with a sewing machine, consider upcycling them. If not, consider dropping them off at a school for craft projects or find a local textile recycling program.

On the other hand, pieces from an old sheet set might have disappeared over the years. If you don’t have a use for a bedding set that’s missing a pillowcase and a top sheet, either donate what’s remaining or reuse them around the house. Sheets can protect outdoor plants from frost and a pillowcase can make cleaning a ceiling fan effortless.

Related: How Long Do Bed Sheets Last? Experts Share Tips for Extending Their Lifespan

Once the baby’s crib is longer in use or your teen has upgraded from a twin bed to a full or queen, there’s no need to hold onto mattress pads or sheet sets in the outgrown sizes. Even if you do want to keep them for visitors who come with a newborn in tow or the twin air mattress that makes an occasional appearance, they still don’t have to take up space in the linen closet. Fold them into vacuum bags and store them under a bed or in a spare bedroom closet.

Related: Our 30-Day Declutter Challenge Will Help You Tidy Your Home for Good

Use a similar solution for off-season linens, such as holiday-themed hand towels or flannel bed sheets. Since they’re most likely used only a few months out of the year, they don’t need to consume unnecessary room in the linen closet. Put those vacuum-seal bags to use and store seasonal linens elsewhere until you’re ready to swap your current things out.

Related: How to Transition Your Bedding for the Season Ahead

If possible, refrain from keeping any pillows in the linen closet if you’re short on space because of their bulky size. If you truly have nowhere else to keep extra pillows, go through the ones you have and determine if they’re past their prime. Uneven pillows will cause any sleeper some discomfort or neck pain so it’s best to try and recycle them. Or, ask a nearby animal rescue if they’ll take them. (Note that feather pillows are typically not accepted since animal paws can claw through them.)

Related: How to Store Pillows, Including Bed and Throw Pillows

While a few extra bars of soap or replacement razors are perfectly acceptable to keep in the linen closet, it’s probably too tight of a space for all of your family’s oversized Costco buys — like a jumbo pack of tissues or paper towels. Of course, the linen closet might be the most optimal storage spot for a few extra rolls of toilet paper, but try to steer clear of anything larger. Organize only what’s necessary and then pick a spot elsewhere in the house to store backstock or bulk supplies so that they’re out of the way yet accessible.

Similarly, a handful of cleaning products stored in the linen closet is a smart idea, especially if they’re used to clean adjacent rooms. But to keeping all of your cleaning supplies there isn’t the best use of space. Plus, you don’t want to store harsh chemicals next to fresh pillow cases. Instead, arrange them in a separate utility or cleaning closet that’s out of the reach of little hands.

Related: How to Safely Store Cleaning Supplies

Although not always so noticeable since they usually don’t exhibit expiration dates, makeup, polish, and hair products also have a lifespan. Simply taking a look at or sniffing questionable items should help you decide. If you know that unused or unopened beauty products are still good but you have no intention of using them anytime soon, commit to decluttering them from the linen closet. Gift them to a friend or family member who you know will appreciate the items or inquire about donating them to a local shelter.

Whether it’s a hair dryer that’s out of commission or a nightlight you swore you’d find a replacement bulb for (but never did), it’s time to let go of broken or non-functional items. First, try dropping it off at your closest electronics recycling center, or check out a free hair tool recycling program.

Related: Storage Ideas for Hair Accessories, Tools, and Products

Another item that you might spy on a high linen closet shelf is that generic gift your well-meaning coworker gave you as Secret Santa last year — or, maybe even a few years before that. If it’s still not your style and, if it consists of cosmetics or candles but it’s not expired, either donate it or regift it to someone who might enjoy it. (Just not to anyone at the office.)

Lastly, you should get rid of anything in the linen closet that doesn’t belong there. Perhaps you tossed a roll of wrapping paper into the closet in a hurry, or the kids snuck a few toys in there when they felt like cutting corners during clean-up time. The fix is to declutter the linen closet every so often so that only the items that belong there remain.

Related: 15 Storage Solutions for Your Biggest Closet Problems

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