Unstuffing the linen closet

March 17, 2012 § 3 Comments

How many towels and bed linens does a household need?

We certainly don’t need as many towels as we have. When I lived in a poorly air-conditioned Houston apartment in which a damp towel might mildew overnight, and certainly wouldn’t completely dry out, I sometimes used a fresh towel every time I showered. During the middle of summer, I washed a large load of towels every week, just for myself. Now, Paul and I hang our damp towels over the radiator outside our bathroom; the next morning finds the towels dry and, in winter, toasty warm. We don’t wash towels as often as I did in Houston, so we don’t need as many for each of us.

We also don’t need as many sheets and other bed linens as we – OK, I – have accumulated. I have a thing for pretty linens, and I’ve acquired several sets of bedding to change the style and color scheme of my/our bedroom. And, though we haven’t slept on a double bed in years, we have multiple sets of full sheets… for our seldom-used guest bed. (Many I already had when I moved west from Houston in 1996.) A few years ago, I fell in love with a particularly beautiful set of bed linens, to which I have since been completely faithful. A couple of years ago, I gave away some bedding that clashed with those linens… and promptly bought a couple more sets of sheets that look lovely with them.

Back to the original question: how many linens are enough? Or, to look at it a little differently, how many are too much?  I struggled with these questions, but my answer, for now, is that everything we keep must fit easily in our linen closet (actually the cabinet right below our medicine cabinet). With three deep shelves, it’s possible to pack in a lot of linens, but looking at the cabinet stuffed with linens we rarely use makes me unhappy. So I pulled everything out, checked all the linens for wear, and put back what I think is (probably more than) enough.

Here’s what we’re keeping: two sets of flannel sheets and three sets of percale sheets for our queen bed, plus one set of each for the full guest bed. A down comforter plus comforter cover for each bed, plus a lighter weight quilt or blanket for each. Two bath towels for each of us, plus two for the guest bedroom. (Well, and four more, because they come in handy for drying hand-washable sweaters. Mea culpa.) Four hand towels. Half a dozen washcloths. (And, at the left of the top shelf, the stash of Ballard Organics soaps that we bought when they went out of business last year.)

Here’s what we’re donating:

  • 2 sets queen sheets (flat, fitted and 2 pillowcases each)
  • 2 sets full sheets (flat, fitted and 2 pillowcases each)
  • 1 full-queen down comforter
  • 2 full-queen comforter covers
  • 1 queen quilt/bedspread
  • 2 full blankets
  • 2 mattress covers
  • 6 pillow cases/shams
  • 3 bath towels
  • 2 hand towels

We also have 6 sheets that aren’t fit to donate. (While we love having the cats sleep with us, their sharp little claws are hard on fabric.) I hate to throw away that much cotton, but we have plenty of cleaning rags, and I don’t know what else to do with them.

For those who are counting along, that’s a total of 35 items leaving our house via donation.

How many sets of bed and bath linens are enough for your household? And what do you do with old sheets and towels, if they’re still usable or if they’re not?

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§ 3 Responses to Unstuffing the linen closet

  • TraceyS says:

    We keep a handy supply of old towels in the basement for emergency use with wiping up minor floods and cleaning up messy pets and kids. Our house has far more of those incidents than yours though, I suspect (old plumbing + 3 cats + 2 kids = neverending mess). The old sheets sometimes make it into the garage for dropcloths, sometimes get cut up and used as ghost costumes, and sometimes just get thrown away. I have also found freecycle to be an excellent way to see if things like that hold value for anyone else.

  • eM says:

    Go ahead and donate – people often use them for craft projects. Or check the wallyhood blog. They had a recent post regarding where to recycle practically anything

  • sandrat212 says:

    I hear you on the linens! I have a love affair with linens and now that we live in a tiny 1930’s era cottage, I have had to pare down significantly. Two sets of sheets for our king size bed and our daughter’s double bed. One set for the double pull out couch and/or the aero bed. And that’s it.

    But pull open the drawer in the kitchen with tea towels and dish cloths? More than I even will use – some from IKEA a few years back, some from Williams Sonoma*, and some from Crate and Barrel.

    And for towels – too many still… Three bath sheets each plus a number of hand towels and surprisingly not enough facecloths. Plus four beach/swim towels.

    * I had to take a number of these back because although they said “100% cotton”, their lack of absorbancy clearly gave the “polyester blend” away.

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