I Know What Is Wrong with Your Linen Closet
By Jacey Eckhart
I’m the Queen of 20 Moves. Yeah. In my adult married life, my husband and I have moved everything we own into a new house 20 times. Let this be a cautionary tale: Never start kissing someone in uniform because it is very hard to stop.
I’m telling you this to explain why my girlfriend Terry called me the other day and lowered her voice so much I thought she was going to ask me for the name of my crack dealer (F-R-I-T-O-L-A-Y). “Now tell me about your linen closet,” Terry whispered.
The light dawned. Moving is Terry’s Next Door Project, and I am the friend who is known for my beautiful closets. Ta da! My car might smell like a dead body because I spilled an entire latte in there last week, but my linen closets are works of remarkable beauty. (You learn this stuff on the way to becoming the Queen of 20 Moves.)
“Just tell me about the towels,” Terry hissed. “Jim says they would be good in the shop and he already has two boxes of shop towels and he never even goes out there.”
Then I knew exactly what was wrong with her linen closet: Jim. I don’t know if LGBT couples have to deal with this situation, but all the hetero husbands of my acquaintance object to throwing out towels and bed linens. Which is strange. They usually would not notice if you had them sleep on a bare mattress in a union suit like the cast of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
Husbands see “organizing the linen closet” as code for “throwing money away.” Their money. No matter how much money you have earned, they see towels, sheets, and your clothes as money they earned. Which is adorable. But sad.
I wrote these rules of a beautiful linen closet for Terry, but I’m sharing them with you because I like you and I can feel a pile of ratty towels leaning out of your linen closet right now, threatening to smother you to death.
The Queen of 20 Moves’ Rules for a Beautiful Linen Closet:
1. Don’t announce your intentions. Don’t set up any big box next to your front door that screams that you plan to bring something to Goodwill or St. Vincent DePaul. That encourages your partner to dig through the box and say, “But this is still good.”
2. You are so right. When you do make that mistake—and you will—the reply you are looking for is, “Oh, you are so right.” Then keep moving. Do you really think your significant other is about to refold that Lion King bedsheet from 1998 and put it back on a shelf?? I think not.
3. You only get two sets of sheets per bed. Unless someone likes flannel sheets and then you can have three sets. If you need me to teach you to fold a fitted sheet so it looks like it came out of the package, lemme know. My grandma taught me.
4. Throw away any pillows you refer to as “the flatties.” Your husband will protest, “We can use those as guest pillows!” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? No guest wants to sleep on pillows that smell like they have been used to absorb your latest oil change. Spend $10 and buy the guest a new pillow.
5. Donate gifts, especially throws. While you are busy Marie Kondo-ing your house (yes, that’s a verb now), don’t get so wrapped up in her “everything you touch should bring you joy” message that you forget her message about “the gift has done its work once it is given.” The electric blanket you won in a raffle and the throws your aunt gave you every Christmas for 15 years can go. Yes. Go now.
6. Know some things aren’t worth saving. Stuff that is torn or stained or carries its own odor is not a donation—it is a problem. If you would not buy it, neither would anyone else. The purpose of thrift stores is to make money for needy people, not to make workers sort through items that host traces of Eboli. My one exception is bath towels. Check with your SPCA or kennel; sometimes they can really use the towels.
7. Master the nip and tuck. Ever notice those big metal bins in parking lots that look like giant mail boxes? You can nip over and tuck things in there on your way to somewhere else. I keep a bag from an expensive store for my current nips and tucks in the back of my car. When my husband wonders what the bag is, I say, “Just a return.” Which is kind of true because I am returning that item to the retail universe. It also makes him feel better because he is saving money, and I love that about the little guy.
8. Manage your guilt. Taking on a Next Door Project like getting ready for a move gives you plenty of opportunity to disagree with your partner. Major life changes will do that for a couple. Just keep in mind that you are doing your beloved a favor. You are saving money and rescuing planet Earth by heating less. Cooling less. Washing less. Most of all, you are saving the life of the person you love most in the world by preventing your other half from being smothered to death by duvet covers gone wild.
We do all this because we love. We do all this because getting ready to charge through the Next Door often clears a space where we can make decisions big and small to move ourselves and our loved ones to the next great stage of life.