Laundry is daunting and overwhelming, and it never ends! As soon as you get the basket empty, someone comes along to fill it again. If you want to control it, first you need to make it manageable.
- Figure out your laundry style. Don’t know your style? Find out here: Get That Load Off Your Back
- Organize your space so you can work.
- Have the right amount of stuff.
- Sort your laundry more efficiently.
Organize Your Space
If you are drowning under an avalanche of laundry, dry-cleaning and repairs, you need a laundry room system.
We’ve all oohed and aahed over the pictures in magazines and on Pinterest of what the pretty ones look like, but some of them are not practical.
To get your laundry done, efficient laundry spaces are important. Not just your laundry room, your closets too.
Where you sort your laundry is important. It needs to be convenient to whoever does most of the sorting, likely you.
Alternate Spaces & Shared Laundry
If your laundry room isn’t a place you enjoy, consider putting your laundry sorter in the bottom of your closet, in your bathroom or even in your bedroom. Then you don’t have to spend any more time than necessary hanging around in the basement.
If you have shared laundry, this is especially important. Many of the solutions today are on wheels, so that you can organize everything in your bedroom and wheel it down to the laundry room and back. Otherwise consider more portable solutions. A backpack with individual pods, stain remover in a refillable travel size and dryer sheets in a baby wipes container are all good ways to keep you from wearing yourself out running back and forth with your laundry. Create a good sorting station in your room and check out the laundry supply options that can hang in right in your closet.
If you like your laundry room, great! Setup some great working space for all of your laundry, clothing and linen needs. Consider setting up areas for ironing, doing quick repairs and collecting clothing donations. Create an area for detergents, stain removers and other laundry supplies. Lastly, make sure you have enough room to sort, fold, hang to dry and lay flat. You don’t need a lot of space, but you do need to make good use of it.
- Use a sorter with hanging space and you can sort, dry and hang your laundry all in one place. I have had two of the laundry centers below for 10 years, other than tying the buttons back on a few times, they are still going strong.
- Add some hooks to the back of a door to hang bags for taking things for dry cleaning, for alterations and for stray items waiting for pairs or a permanent home.
- Use some of the hanging bar to hang some bags for storing laundry bags, clothes pins and other supplies. Store your extra hangers on the bar as well.
- Get a drying rack for drying sweaters and other “lay flat to dry” items. Make sure you can fold it up and put it away.
- Use bins that fit on the top shelf to hold laundry supplies. Ones that can double for soaking clothes and rags. The ones below can be handy for everything from storing laundry supplies to soaking sore feet or a stained shirt. I use mine for pedicures and grass stains.
- Use flexible laundry baskets, especially if you have to carry them up and downstairs. These can be carried with one hand if necessary, so that you can hold on to the stair rail if you need to. Make sure they stack as well, for space sake.
- Get some cheap disposable laundry hampers (the dollar store is a great source) for your donations. That way when it’s full you can donate it and the clothes and start on another.
Have the Right Stuff
How and how often do you do laundry? This is the first question to ask yourself when buying clothes and linens.
If you do laundry weekly, then you should have enough clothes to last two weeks. If you are very busy, and laundry occasionally gets missed, consider enough for 3 weeks. For kids, it’s easier to plan for 1 and 1/2 outfits a day, they seem to need to change more often; this includes teenagers.
A brief note here. If your kid is wearing three outfits a day, then it is time for them to do their own laundry. Nothing will curb these habits faster than facing the work it creates. It may be necessary with school, soccer and PJs, but if you think they may be overdoing it, start getting them to help deal with it. They may think twice next time before they put a shirt they wore for 15 minutes in their laundry basket. My daughter started helping with her laundry at 4-years-old, as soon as I caught her trying clothes off and dumping them in the laundry basket and not back in her drawers. It curbed the behavior almost immediately.
All regularly used household items, like bedding and towels should ideally come in threes. One in place (say, on the bed), one in the cupboard and one in the laundry. With this rule, you will always be okay. If you are really organized, one in place and one in the laundry will do, but you never get to skip laundry day.
Having too much can be overwhelming, which you know if you have ever done a load of laundry which was nothing but clothes that fell off their hangers in the closet and had to be washed because they were such a mess. But having too little can be bad too. If you can’t take a vacation without doing laundry halfway through, or run out of clothes the minute there is a family emergency and your schedule gets thrown off, then you need more.
So assess your family lifestyle and make sure that you have a reasonable amount of stuff so that you can do laundry regularly, but miss a day now and then if necessary.
Change the Way You Sort
Doing laundry the way your mother did may be costing you hours a month. The old days of sorting whites, colors and darks are over. Between the developments in detergents and in machines it isn’t nearly as necessary as sorting for efficiency.
So how do you sort laundry in the 21st century? Well, by difficulty and maintenance level of course. Here are today’s laundry loads. This list can be 3 or more loads depending on how much laundry you generate and how specific you are.
Type 1 – Easy to wash, urgent to handle
Not usually very dirty and can be done quickly, but needs to be taken care of as soon as the load finishes. Do these when you are least likely to forget about them and when you will be hanging around to take care of them immediately.
1 A) Tops Lightly dirty, delicate to average fabrics. No catches, hooks or zippers. Fold and hang directly out of the dryer. This includes most little kids clothes, tops, shirts and some pants. These items can be included with the pants if they are in washer bags to protect them from zippers. You can usually wash this load on a quick or delicate setting to save time. Note: If you have help with your laundry, this is the load you may want to do yourself. If it’s all going to go wrong, it will be on this load. For most households, this is one load or less per week, so it is still manageable.
1 B) No Dryer A lot of delicate clothes qualify for this treatment. So do lingerie, bras and bathing suits. Get a set of washing bags and put these items in them. Then you can just put them in with your tops. When you transfer everything to the dryer, just keep the washing bags out.
1 C) Whites Only separate these if they need bleach or brighteners, and you probably don’t need to do that regularly. Otherwise they can go into the tops load.
Type 2 – Easy to wash, average to handle
Medium loads and needs a little less urgency. These can often be folded or hung up after a quick fluff up, if they even need that. Great loads to do when you have other stuff going on or might get distracted.
2 A) Average Clothes Lightly dirty, resilient fabrics, zippers, snaps and fussy buttons. This includes jeans, cargos and zip ups sweaters.This load needs to be folded fairly soon after it’s finished, but is often refreshed easily with a damp towel and 10 minutes in the dryer.
2 B) Easy-Peasy Socks, sweats, pajamas and cotton underwear, this load can sit in the dryer overnight with no worries about wrinkles. You can toss this in with almost anything else if needed.
Type 3 – Long to wash, handle whenever
May take longer in the machines but are very low maintenance. You can wash and dry these and just pile them up in baskets until you have time to fold them and put them away. These are great ones to peck away at when you have time because they don’t mind being left in the dryer overnight, or even over the weekend.
3 A) Household Dish cloths, bedding, towels, anything where wrinkling is not a big deal, but frequent cleaning is. As long as you don’t leave them sitting in the washer for 3 days, you can’t go wrong.
3 B) Gross Cleaning rags, anything that gets used outside like gardening clothes. You can put these through the heavy and harsher settings, so you don’t want to mix them with anything.
Type 4 – Not laundry at all.
These are all the items that you don’t put in the wash. These include dry-cleaning, repairs, garbage and donations. It is worth having a place for these where you deal with your laundry and clothes. Make sure you have a convenient place you can drop these bags off occasionally, or they will just sit there until you give up and give it away.
These tips will cut back on the time you spend with your laundry, but the most important one is managing your own expectations. Like all housekeeping, perfectionism can be your enemy. It is probably not worth ironing your sheets or your jeans, if it takes you away from something more important. If you and your family are cleanish and healthy then the rest is gravy.