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This time of year can be such a busy and overwhelming season. I have these images of laid-back summer days spent playing catch in the evening, and sipping lemonade on the front porch after sunset. But in reality we are reaching a season in our life that seems to be more often dictated by our children’s social schedules than our own. We are trying to take advantage of the downtime we have, but if you are like me you often feel that the downtime is the time that should be spent catching up on laundry, picking up after children, or sweeping out the dirt/grass/chicken-feather-filled garage. (Perhaps the last one doesn’t completely apply to you, but you probably get my drift.)
One of the most valuable lessons I have learned over the past few months is the importance of having systems in place. Systems that allow me to be prepared for the uneventful, and systems that allow me to take advantage of unexpected downtime. So often the need to create a system comes from a place of overwhelm. Areas in my life that overwhelm me and make me feel out of control. The truth is that after I clear out the mess (mental or physical) if I don’t create a new system for completing the tasks the mess will return within a few days.
Allow me to show you example A: my linen closet.
I’m embarrassed to admit that my mother probably saw it looking just like this a couple of months ago when she came to visit. (Sorry Mom!) It had been out of control like this for a long time, maybe a year. But really, it has been out of control since we moved in here 7 years ago, cycling back and forth between messy and “picked-up”. Which means I finally reached a point where I needed to figure out the root of the problem. What is actually causing this closet to constantly look this way?
This is the entire linen storage space for our family of 5, and it also doubles as a place to store gift wrap and bags. And dining room linens. I realized that a big part of the problem was the off-season linens that were stored in the closet. Every few months when it was time to switch to flannel sheets or add another layer to the beds I would find myself making a mess in the closet. It always seemed to be 8 pm when kids would be in bed and then I would suddenly realize I should have switched sheets earlier in the day. So in a frantic search for warmer sheets and comforters, the closet would be turned upside down. From that point on the closet overwhelmed me. I would open it to shove clean towels or tablecloths and quickly shut the door before anyone else would see inside. And the mess would continue to grow.
So my first order of business was to figure out a better way to store the linens, a way to keep them clean and folded, but easy to spot. I made a list of the number of sheet sets and comforters and headed to my local Lowe’s store to find a good storage solution.
After looking through different options for storage I decided to pick up some space saving bags from Ziploc® at Lowe’s (I went with the Ziploc® Space Bag® 2 Cube Variety Pack), which would allow me to store the 3 comforters on my list while taking up minimal space. And I purchased two Ziploc® Flexible Totes in the XL size for storing the flannel sheets.
Once I got back home I spent time doing the dreaded: emptying out the ENTIRE closet. That was not pretty. I quickly made a pile of linens that I should give away – ones that we hadn’t used in years.
Next I got to work on the off-season linens. The flannel sheets were folded and then placed inside of a pillow case. (Putting the sheet sets inside of a pillow case is a great tip I picked up years ago, and one that has saved me from many leaning towers of linens.) Flannel sheet sets were then placed inside the Ziploc® Flexible Totes. I could fit two sets of sheets in each tote, and the see-through material means I can see just what is inside of the tote when the time comes to switch out sheets.
Then I took a few minutes to fold up the comforters and put them in the Space Bags® for storage. I have to admit I was skeptical that I could fit a comforter in the large bag, and then still have room to add anything else. But to my surprise I was able to place a folded double size comforter and a thick queen size blanket into the larger bag from the set. After zipping the bag closed, and then vacuuming out the air, the final result was a bag that was nowhere near the original size.
I added a second comforter to the second Space Bag® and was able to zip the bag closed and vacuum out the air. I’m really impressed with the before and after, it’s crazy to see the amount of space I save when I put the pictures side-by-side! These bags are going to give me 3x the storage compared to uncompressed storage volume.
You can see how 2 comforters, a heavy blanket, and 4 sets of flannel sheets now take up minimal space in my linen closet. And they are going to be easy to grab when the cold weather hits!
Now that the unnecessary items have been donated, and the big cause of the mess has been stored away properly, I can take the time to create a linen closet that is efficient and organized! I have a few more things in the works for the linen closet, which I hope to have ready to share in the beginning of July!
I cannot stress how good it feels to have this mess taken care of. Even though I didn’t spend hours staring at the inside of the closet, it is like a breath of fresh air when I open the doors to grab something quickly.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by a storage space in your home take a couple small steps today to make improvements. Start with the items you don’t need and find a place that will accept donations. And from there you can move on to storage solutions, beginning with the items that need long-term storage. I’ve put together a little list of linens that can be stored in vacuum-sealed storage bags, which is the perfect solution for protecting your linens until it is time to use them.
You can enter your email address here and I will send a pdf copy of the list to your inbox!
What do you think of the closet improvements? I’d love to hear in the comments what you would store in the Ziploc® Space Bag®.