The way I see it, for each person in your home, you need the towels you are using and another set that is in the wash or the linen closet. Add in one set of towels for each guest you could possibly host which probably is enough (unless you have guests who stay for a month).
If the number of towels and washcloths you own suggests that you regularly host six guests (who would have no space to stay with your family of four), you may have more towels than you need.
A few ratty towels for absorbing large spills are useful, but you don’t need a dozen ratty towels (and you might want to keep these separate from your good towels.
I remember my father buying towels at discount stores and then coming home and announcing that we wouldn’t need to use them until the towels we were using were in worse shape. I found shopping bags of perfectly good, brand new towels piled in a spare room. The linen closet was packed with gray, frayed, threadbare towels.
If you’ve bought new towels, enjoy them. Demote your old towels to clean-up duty. Pass your clean-up towels on to an animal shelter or wildlife rehabilitator.
Susan Caplan McCarthy
I'm Susan, a writer and teacher developing a second career as a Decluttering Coach.