Organizing My Linen Collection

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It wasn’t until I wrote the title of this blog post that I realized I had a linen “collection.” Actually, I think I have a linen hoarding problem.

I realized I had a linen collection when I took all my linens from our butler’s pantry and counted over 200 cloth cocktail napkins. That is pretty ridiculous. I think that these linens were secretly multiplying behind my back. I certainly couldn’t ever have bought this many … right?

A neatly organized variety of folded linens, each bundle tied with a white ribbon, with the caption "organizing my linen collection.
Make it Pretty

Table linens are an essential element of any dining experience, adding a touch of elegance and sophistication to gatherings with family and friends. However, organizing your collection of tablecloths, napkins, and placemats can often be daunting, leading to frustration and clutter.

One of my goals this year has been to get organized. Get rid of the clutter to get rid of the stress. So I started organizing our butler’s pantry, which meant I had to remove every cloth napkin, placemat, and tablecloth first.

Don’t get me wrong. My linens were pretty organized. They were just packed in the drawers so full they barely opened. And there were so many napkins in the drawers I could never find matching ones.

Assessing Your Collection

The first step in organizing your table linens is to take stock of your collection. Gather all of your tablecloths, napkins, placemats, and table runners in one place and assess their condition and usability. Note any stained, torn, or no longer in use, and set them aside for donation or repurposing.

As you can see, I emptied all the drawers in our butler’s pantry and moved them to the dining room table.

Sorting and Categorizing

Once you’ve assessed your collection, it’s time to sort and categorize your table linens. Consider organizing them by type (e.g., tablecloths, napkins, placemats), size, color, or occasion (e.g., everyday use, formal dinners, holidays). Use bins, baskets, or dividers to keep similar items together and make it easier to find what you need when setting the table.

Creating Dedicated Storage Space

To keep your table linens organized and easily accessible, designate a dedicated storage space in your home. This could be a linen closet, a cabinet or drawer in the dining room, or a designated shelf in the kitchen pantry. Consider the size and quantity of your table linens when choosing a space that is easily accessible and large enough to accommodate your collection.

I like having all of our napkins in the drawers in our pantry. They are so easy to access.

Utilizing Storage Solutions

Once you’ve designated a storage space for your table linens, consider investing in storage solutions to keep them tidy and organized. Here are some ideas to consider:

  1. Shelving Units: Install shelving units in your linen closet or pantry to create vertical storage space for your table linens. Use baskets or bins to corral smaller items and keep them organized.
  2. Drawer Organizers: Use drawer organizers to keep napkins, placemats, and table runners neatly folded and sorted by size or color. This makes it easy to find what you need when setting the table.
  3. Hanging Storage: To prevent wrinkles and creases, hang tablecloths and runners on sturdy hangers. You can also use hanging organizers with pockets or compartments to store napkins and placemats.
  4. Rolling Carts: Consider using a rolling cart with shelves or drawers to store your table linens. This allows you to easily move the cart to different areas of the home when setting the table for meals or gatherings.

I considered using drawer organizers but opted to tie the napkins together instead.

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Sorting the Cocktail Napkins

Seriously, who has eight different sets of sage green cloth napkins? Anyone other than me, that is?

For a few years, I have been occasionally buying cocktail napkins. I always thought serving a glass of wine or a cocktail with a cloth napkin would be way cooler. Right?

It’s a good thing I now own over 200 cloth cocktail napkins.

Or maybe it’s sad!

I think these vintage rooster cocktail napkins are my favorite.

How I Organized My Linens

After I had organized everything, I sorted it by pile. First were the matching linen piles. Then there was the throwaway pile, which consisted of old napkins, torn napkins, and random single napkins.

Then, I had a pile of stained napkins. Those were soaked in hot water and Oxyclean for two days. They all look great now. If you don’t use Oxyclean for your vintage linens, you need to get some because it’s the best stuff to get rid of old stains.

Next, I ordered some 1/4″ plain white cotton seam tape from Amazon and tied all the matching napkins in bundles. This will help keep the napkins sorted and make it easy for me to select napkins when needed.

The last step involved returning all the linens to the butler’s pantry drawers.

It was necessary to lay them on their sides because some piles were tall, but I am pleased with my new organization.

I put all of my tablecloths in the second row of drawers.

Now that I can find everything, I am confident I will use these cloth napkins and tablecloths more often. They are so organized and easy to find.

In the future, I need to use cloth napkins and tablecloths for casual dinners, even when serving dinner tacos!

Gorgeous Decor for your Spring Kitchen!


You can pin the image below to your Entertaining, Collecting, or tablescape boards on Pinterest (click the Pin button in the top left corner). You can also follow along with me on Pinterest!

Folded linens arranged neatly and tied with white ribbons, with a caption reading "organizing my linen collection.

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  1. Wow! What a great collection! I love cloth napkins as well and thought I had a big collection, you win!! Haha. Thanks for the tip on cleaning.

  2. Look at you go! And inspiring the rest of us along the way 🙂
    I’ve organized my spices, my napkins/linens, gone through gallons of white paint and hours of painting and redecorating! Yesterday, hubby and I literally sat on a white slipcovered sofa in Pier One for 30 minutes, while I decided if I should buy it…I’m so scared!!! I have a 4 year old grandson, a Shih Tzu, and a “messy” husband( he owns a plumbing/ HVAC business–I would have sent him over to you if not for the 3000+ miles!). I did it! I hope it works out…

    Anyway, I wanted to say thank you! Good things have been happening around here since I discovered your IG and blog. Cabin fever hasn’t been so bad amidst all this snow because I’ve been pleasantly busy. Keep up the good work!

    PS. Maybe you could talk about real life living with a lot of white? Our housekeeper is me! So I would appreciate any tips since this style is new to me.

    –Jackie ( aka Paris Always Good Idea)

  3. I also always use cloth napkins. For every day, I have a dozen floral napkins that hubby and I reuse 🙂 I also have a few dozen “company” and holiday napkins. But I have a question, while you were organizing, did you consider “thinning” your collection. Organizing is great but when a collection grows beyond what you can reasonably use… Just asking.

  4. I will be trying out your cleaning tip. I have a couple of vintage linens with embroidery that are stained. I was planning on cutting them up and using them in a couple of small quilting projects. Now I will try your suggestion first. We use our cloth napkins everyday. Love that we are not adding to the recycling in our city. Although I do not have as many napkins as you do, I find that I am a vintage linen magnet! Vintage linens follow me home! (LOL)

  5. As always a gleam something from every post you write. (Thank you) I will be borrowing this way of organizing linens. So neat and tidy. I have a question… when you soak the linens in oxyclean do you drain and re-add hot water and oxyclean after the first day of soaking or do you put them in hot oxyclean water and let it soak as is for two days? I have some linens that were my grandmother’s that I’d like to refresh and hopefully remove the stains.

  6. love your sense of humor and your organizational skills. I am glad you are organizing your home I be that makes you feel better. I know it always does for me

  7. Thank you for sharing this idea.. This is exactly how I organize my
    sheet sets in my linen closet.. Top sheet, bottom sheet and pillow cases all tied up like a present. It’s organized and looks nice if someone opens your linen closet ????????????????????????

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  9. I also have a large collection of vintage linens that I no longer have the room for. It’s a wide variety including a lot of wilindure tablecloths; I would love to give/sell them to a good home. Please comment if anyone is interested. Thank you so much!!

  10. Just curious…..when you buy napkins, typically how many do you purchase of each kind? I too, have the love of table linens and always buy 12. (Except when I love a napkin pattern and they only have 8 or 6.) Or, when I was in Paris and could only afford 4 of a certain pattern/material!
    Thanks for the incentive to clean out and reorganize my linens!

    Nancy H.
    Plano, TX

  11. I too have a love of vintage linens and use them! My collection Has grown quite a bit through the years and I have found that storing them in Ziploc bags works best for it compresses them and allows them to stay neat and clean. Ziploc bags work perfectly as compression for my collection.

  12. I think I have you beat…. NOT hording, I just like LOTS of choices…. One WHOLE closet w/ hanging space, a dresser, over the door “shoe” organizer for the napkin rings and a 2nd drawer system. LOVE IT! LOTS of COLORS!!!

  13. Love my vintage linens! I have some of my Mom’s and Grandmother’s—several that they made. I store those in zipped bags labeled as such so my children will be able to identify easily once I’m gone. I owned a store for 10 years, carried new and vintage linens and kept too many of my favorites–they are organized in drawers and on hangers in extra drawers in the guest bedroom closet. I now volunteer at a high end thrift/consignment shop and bring home the donated soiled and wrinkled linen donations to clean up. Oxyclean is wonderful–I always rinse twice. I must admit I’m very tempted to bring some of them home again!

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