Before and after: linen cupboards

Pip has several linen cupboards scattered through her house, and they were all stuffed to bursting. Plus she was storing extra bedding in every bedroom, and in the garage. She confessed she hadn’t cleared out the linen cupboard before they left their previous house last year. Or since they’d moved into this one. Or ever.

On top of that, Pip was providing for way more people than her family of four. There were children’s friends, visiting family, and Australian visitors from her husband’s hobby club. I calculated that she was catering for a staggering 24 people. Every guest seemed to have their own requirements. It was exhausting.

Pip’s top priority was to have well-ordered, clearly designated storage for sheets and towels, so that the entire household knew where everything belonged. Cutting down was a scary idea; if she could have fitted everything back in without discarding anything, I’m sure she’d have opted for that.

Everything in one place.

Everything in one place. How did this all fit in one house’s cupboards?

After discussing the problems, and what Pip wanted to achieve, we hauled everything out onto the landing. To be honest, I’d underestimated the volume, and we were swamped. It was worth it though, to show Pip everything in one place.

Immediately overwhelmed, she froze until I encouraged her to pick out five things that she knew she didn’t want. She picked up five cushion covers she didn’t like any more, hurled them down the stairs to the front hall, and she was away. Being able to physically throw items away is very satisfying. Tossing non-breakables down a stairwell, or junk into a skip, gives you a really strong feeling of action and power.

Pip’s husband’s hobby involved camping, and it put a big strain on storage. She was storing bedding and towels for him, plus up to seven visitors. Pip didn’t feel able to put her foot down, so I did it for her. I set a hard limit of bedding for four people, including hubby. There were plenty of other enthusiasts who would happily keep bedding for dozens; nobody would go without. She also set a limit on how many changes of bedding she would keep per bed size, rather than worrying about each individual who might visit, or dreaming up situations when every sheet in the house would be called upon.

The biggest hurdle was the family’s obsession with blankets, and nobody’s attachment was stronger than Pip’s. To ward off the night chill in bed, for warmth when watching TV, as a soft spot to lure the cats onto, for decoration, as groundsheets for camping, and just for plain old comfort, there were blankets for every possible use in almost every room. They tended to pile on lots of thin synthetic layers, like cheap rugs or dacron duvets, rather than to use a couple of really warm wool, cotton, or down layers. Pip has resolved to try more durable natural bedding in future; for now, all the lumpy, stained dacron duvets have gone.

We repurposed the nicest wool blankets for the guest room, and the older ones for camp bedding. Pip bravely accepted that, in their newly insulated and double-glazed house, they had plenty of furry blankets without keeping spares. We did a “what-if” scenario: What would they do if the power went out in mid-winter, leaving them with no heating? By the time we counted up all the available blankets in the living room, camping supplies, and on the four spare beds, plus sleeping bags, she had got the picture. In fact, when her 10-year-old daughter started campaigning to keep a particular extra blanket, Pip could even calmly tell her that they already had enough, and they couldn’t keep them all. Out it went (to dramatic music, and some theatrical flourishes from the daughter. Hey, whatever it takes).

The problem had never been lack of space, or storage containers; it was simply that there was too much stuff for one home to store. With two full carloads of linen removed, the remainder fitted nicely in the cupboards. Pip had already designated one cupboard for towels and another for sheets and bedding; she plans to put labels on each shelf, and, as time and budget permit, will add baskets or more shelves to keep each category contained. She already writes the sheet size on the care label, which is really helpful in such a welter of sizes.

Left cupboard before

Left cupboard before. Not so bad, actually!

Left cupboard after

And after. No more toppling piles of towels they didn’t even use.

Right cupboard before

Right cupboard before…

Right cupboard after

…and after. Now every sheet size has its own spot.

The spare room’s wardrobe was a dumping ground, but now only contains extra bedding for guests, and lots of clear space and empty hangers for them to use. We freed up space in the children’s wardrobes by removing all the guest bedding. And the camping gear fitted neatly into three manageable-sized rolling boxes in the garage.

Guest wardrobe before

The guest wardrobe was overflowing with anything that didn’t fit elsewhere.

Guest wardrobe after

Only guest bedding, and a few items belonging to frequent family visitors, remain.

Pip says she now sometimes opens her linen cupboards, just to have a look and sigh happily at the order. Weeks later, everything is still in its place, her husband hasn’t missed anything she threw out, and nobody’s short of a furry blanket.