Organizing Utility Rooms (laundry, linen, mud, broom closet)
Organizing the Laundry Room
Whether your laundry room is a tiny closet or a spacious basement, organization is key. These 10 tips will help you make the most of the space you have.
1. Arrange products and supplies according to how you use them. Anything you regularly need should be within easy reach; place extras and incidentals on a high shelf or another out-of-the-way spot.
2. Decant detergents from large boxes and jugs into smaller containers or soap boxes; refill as needed.
3. Store small supplies in boxes or bins: Place stain-removal products in one, sewing materials in another, and sponges in a third. Have rags on hand for spills.
4. Sort whites, colors, delicates, and heavily soiled items in bins or rolling carts.
5. If you don't have room for a folding table, affix a fold-down shelf to the wall.
6. Keep a drying rack handy for drip-dry items.
7. Attach an ironing-board hanger to the wall so the board and iron are secure and out of the way but easily accessible.
8. Install a rod in the laundry room on which to hang clothes as you iron; or install a hook over the top of a door to serve the same purpose.
9. Keep clothes hangers and mesh bags for delicates with your cleaning supplies or in a nearby cabinet.
10. Use free space in the laundry room to store gift wrap, ribbon, basic tools, and pet supplies.
Do You Know?
Adjustable, plastic-coated wire shelving is a great surface for drying clothes. When not in use as a drying rack, the shelving can serve as extra store space for detergent, starch, and your iron.
Laundry Room Drying Bar
Cotton button-down shirts, which have a tendency to shrink, are best removed from the dryer while slightly damp, then air-dried. Unlike a drying rack, which holds a few shirts at most, a bath-towel holder mounted on the underside of a laundry room shelf makes a good spot for a row of shirts on hangers. The bar can also be helpful when you're ironing; hang pressed shirts as you work.
Organizing a Linen Closet
Wherever you choose to keep your linens, the organizing principles are the same: Shelves and drawers should be clean and freshly painted or lined (unfinished wood can stain the fabric over time). You can fold linens to fit wide or narrow spaces. If the shelves are adjustable, set them at the various heights indicated below. If the setup in your closet or cupboard is inflexible, use baskets, plastic bins, dividers, or plastic-covered wire shelving to create customized surfaces and spaces.
Sheets and Towels
A shelf height of about 10 inches is good for sheets. Keep sheets of the same kind (queen fitted, for example) in stacks together, or sort sheets into sets (flat, fitted, and pillowcases) for each bed. Allow about 12 to 16 inches of shelf height for towels; organize them by size or by the bathroom they'll be used in.
Comforters and Blankets
Bulky comforters, wool blankets, and extra pillows may need 18 inches of shelf space. Stack these linens at the top of the closet, since you probably only reach for them a few times a year. Store blankets and comforters in zippered bags to keep them from getting dusty. A trunk, a chest, or a box that slides under the bed is also a good storage solution.
Sets of napkins should always be kept together; wrap each set loosely in a sleeve of clear cellophane to keep them organized and easily identifiable. Tablecloths can be folded flat or hung on sturdy good-quality hangers (but not on flimsy wire ones).
Antique linens should be professionally cleaned and packaged in acid-free tissue paper, which helps keep fabric from yellowing. Depending on their shape and size, they may be stored folded, hung, or rolled on cardboard tubes.
You should never have to unfold something to find out what it is (and when they're properly folded, fitted sheets are impossible to distinguish from flat). Take a few minutes to tag shelf edges, using adhesive labels or card holders.
Cedar blocks help deter moths when tucked into drawers or placed on shelves where linens are stored. You may also want to use sachets to add a subtle fragrance to linens.
Do You Know?
Using sachets to add fragrance to linens is a custom that dates back hundreds of years to when brides were given a trousseau of fine linens meant to last a lifetime. The young women were also often given a chest or armoire to keep them in.
Tidy Up a Linen Closet
Bed linens shelved by type -- fitted sheets stacked next to pillowcases -- quickly become disordered when you try to retrieve them to put together matching sets. Try this method instead: Slip each set into one of its pillowcases, and store the sets by size -- twin, full, and so on -- with colors, trim, or other defining details clearly visible.
Fold a Towel
A properly folded towel has a neat, fluffy appearance and hidden edges.
Fold towel in thirds lengthwise. (If towel will be hung, transfer to rod; the monogram, if any, will be centered and visible.)
Fold towel into a rectangle, as shown. Keep sets of guest towels together, bound with twill tape or ribbon. When visitors arrive, just transfer a stack from linen closet to guest bedroom.
Keep laundry supplies tidy and out of sight with built-in shelves and a curtain that can be pulled across them when the laundry is done. Mothballs and cedar chips are stored in canning jars, and little bars of soap are kept in airtight containers. Towels for drying hand-washables are stacked on one shelf. Special stain remedies are kept together in a galvanized metal box; detergent is in a large plastic container with a scoop for easy measuring.
Metal baskets once used for milk bottles and other groceries make perfect storage units for the kitchen or office. For maximum impact, choose similar containers, but vary their sizes and shapes (the metal ones, at left, feature punched holes and wire grids). Line baskets with canvas, and group them together to organize an entire roomful of odds and ends
Organizing the Mudroom
If you don't have an entire room to set aside as a mudroom, you can adapt these ideas to work in a corner of a vestibule or hall, on a back porch, or on a landing at the top of the basement steps.
Mats and Benches
Place one inside and one outside the mudroom door to keep dirt at bay. You may also want to place a boot scraper at the mats' sides. For all the changing of footwear that occurs in a mudroom, some form of seating is essential. Outfit your mudroom with a bench that has cubbyholes for storing useful items -- towels to dry toes and mop up puddles, socks and slippers to change into -- as well as sports gear and gardening tools that need to live close to the outdoors.
Even a narrow closet can pack a lot in. The L-shaped shelves in this closet (above, right) leave room for long items like vacuums and broom handles.
Wall Pegs and Boot Drain
Screw a line of pegs into chair rails (and upper rails, if you have them) to hold the family's gear: umbrellas, leashes, gloves, jackets, scarves, hats, and bags. Cake pans and cooling racks from a bakery-supply house make perfect portable drying racks for wet shoes and boots. Boots may also be hung upside down to dry -- just slip the heels between pairs of pegs installed close together.
An accordion-style wine rack can double as a compact dryer for wet woolens.
A sink in a mudroom can handle jobs too messy or inconvenient for the kitchen sink: washing the dog, storing houseplants while you're on vacation, soaking linens. A stainless-steel sink and counter will be easy to keep clean. A high shelf provides storage for seldom-used or seasonal objects; a ball of string and a chalkboard marked with frequently called numbers hang from pegs.
Under the sink, place metal bins for storing recyclables and vegetables that don't require refrigeration, such as potatoes and onions; curtains of cotton shirting material will help hide them from view. If the area stays cool, this is also a good place for a wine cellar.
Simple triangular brackets and horizontal boards can support shelves that organize a jumble of boxes, books, pots, and favorite postcards.
A drop-leaf shelf is just the spot for unloading arms laden with groceries and mail. The shelf can be folded down when not in use.
The best defense against stains is information -- knowing how to attack a particular spot before it sets permanently into the fabric. Since there are so many kinds of stains, each with its own best cleaning method, it's difficult to memorize them all. That's where this convenient "first aid" chart comes in: It's a comprehensive listing of stains, from grease to ink, along with advice on how to handle them for both washable and nonwashable items. Martha laminated her chart and hung it on the wall in her laundry room, where she refers to it whenever she needs to. You can download the chart and print it out. Your local copy shop will be able to laminate the chart for you.
Vintage letters are a clever way to designate hooks on a coat rack. Try to match the style of the letter to the personality of the owner. These flea market finds are easy to install -- secure an initial above each hook with adhesive mounting squares, which can hold up to two pounds, or use a heavy-duty two-part epoxy intended for most surfaces.
Squeeze More Room Out of Small Quarters
In the compact laundry workstation and storage area of a small bathroom, the stacked European-style washer-dryer set economizes space. A shelf between units pulls out for folding items fresh from the dryer, then slides out of sight. A matchstick shade lowers all the way to the floor, gracefully hiding the utility area when guests are expected.
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