Get That Load Off Your Back

Of all the chores in my house; laundry has always been my weakness. Only when I couldn’t do it, did I finally master it.

Nothing to Wear

When I was young, I had to call in sick to work twice because I had no clean clothes. More than once I woke up in the morning with literally nothing clean to wear. Unless you counted my prom dress or my swimsuit. I owned a month worth of underwear, so when everything was dirty, it was serious.

A few years later, when I moved in with my husband, it didn’t get any better, the pile just got bigger. He was as bad as I was. One year my mother came for a visit and took pity on us; it took her a week to dig out our laundry room.

Embarrassing! But she wasn’t really surprised.

Then I had a baby and potty trained while on crutches. Our laundry room was downstairs and a disaster! I had to up my game.

In the next 5 years we went through multiple nannies, housekeepers and house cleaners, and I had become a master of efficiency.

Define Your Laundry Style

There are many laundry “styles”, knowing yours, and working within yours will make life a lot easier.

How do you tackle your laundry? What does your schedule dictate? Or do you just have a personal preference?

Laundry Room Queen

You prefer to collect all of your laundry and work on it from breakfast until done once a week? This can be great if you are working on other household chores or if you want to marathon watch the latest Netflix series. Really, the only disadvantage to this method is dedicating a whole day to the washer and dryer. If you are going to work this method, there are a few tips than can help.

Tips

  • Make sure you have all of your supplies stocked up the day before. There is nothing worse that getting partly through your laundry and needing to run to the store in your laundry outfit.
  • Make sure you have a plan for the day. This is 17% of your week; you don’t want it to go to waste. Whether it is a book you’ve been dying to read, a manicure or cleaning the bathrooms, it is always good to know what you need to do and be ready.
  • Make sure everybody knows it’s laundry day. Everyone knows the feeling of finishing the last load only to have someone show up with their favorite sweater that they need for tomorrow.
  • Ask your family to be ready to pitch in, and let them know ahead of time. Unfortunately, reminders will be necessary; even if  it takes a task in their calendars to do it. We have a rule that it has to be sorted in the laundry room by Friday night, so I remind mine at breakfast, dinner, and before bed.

Daily Duchess

You like to peck away at your laundry. A load here, a load there. You do it when you think of it. The nice thing about this method is that you do it when it is most convenient. The major pitfall is forgetting that you have a load in and ending up with damp, smelly clothes that have to be washed again. Or you leave a load in the dryer to wrinkle beyond repair for 3 days.

Tips

  • Have a decent sorting space for your dirty laundry if this is your preferred style. You want to be able to grab a load anytime you have a minute. I recommend baskets or bags in a closet for each type of load, so that it is convenient.
  • Make sure laundry baskets around the house get brought down and sorted once or twice a week. One of the weaknesses of this style can be that your family perceives that you are always able to wash whatever they need right away. You know you have a strategy, but they may not. Communicate it with them so that they have reasonable expectations.
  • Use your cell phone, tablet or watch to set reminders for yourself. This should prevent you from forgetting that you have a load in the dryer that needs to be handled. If you are like me, you don’t always hear the bell.
  • Make sure you leave the washer door open in between loads when you are running it this often. A washer that is run every couple of days can start to smell bad and get moldy if it doesn’t get a chance to dry out.
  • A clean wet dish towel added to a load of cold clothes in the dryer and re-run for 20 minutes will get rid of most wrinkles that have set-in.

Princess of Panic

You just let it pile up, hoping it will go away, or be cleaned by magic while you sleep? So now it’s Thursday and you’re wearing granny panties, and your children’s dance leotards and soccer uniforms are in the laundry and practice is on Saturday?

Make friends with your local laundromat. While it is not my first choice, when you are behind the 8-ball and up a creek, this still works. Whether you realize it or not, there is probably one not far from your home. Many of them are open 24 hours, so you can go at your convenience. Just think, in 3 hours everything you own could be clean!

But there are a few things you should know:

Tips

  • Not all laundromats are the safest places to be alone at night. Check out the laundromat and the area before you show up with your arms full at midnight. Is it supervised? or monitored? Is there good visibility from the street? Is the equipment in good working order? If you are concerned, this can be a good opportunity to organize a laundry night with a friend, where you grab coffees and have a gab session. Trust me, once you admit that you have a problem with laundry, your sisters will come out of the woodwork to agree with you.
  • You need to transport dirty clothes there and clean clothes home. You can use laundry baskets, garbage bags hung over hangers or suitcases. I have four stacking laundry baskets that can hold 6 loads between them; I just put towels and bedding in clean garbage bags. Whatever you decide, plan ahead. The real downfall to this plan is when four loads come out of the dryer at once and you want to get it all folded quickly. If wrinkling isn’t critical, shove it in a bag and do it when you get home.
  • Bring your own soap, quarters, snacks and drinks. Even if all the vending machines work and are fully stocked, they are highway robbery. I think laundromats are like airports and make most of their money selling you stuff. Some won’t even give you 4 quarters for a dollar. Outsmart them and bring your own.
  • Be ready to run the dryers twice. I have found that most laundromat dryers need 1.5 to 2 cycles to actually dry my clothes.
  • There is a laundromat etiquette and you should be aware of it. 1) Never use all the units at once, if there are 8 washers; try to stick to 1/2 or 3/4. You will get some serious stink-eye if you tie up the entire building for hours. 2) When the cycles finishes, handle it immediately. More than one person has come back from a coffee break to find their cold, wrinkled clothes in a heap, because at the laundromat “you snooze, you lose”. This is considered acceptable if someone doesn’t deal with their load within 5-10 minutes.

Hitting the laundromat is still one of my favorite solutions to vacation and seasonal laundry. Instead of taking weeks to wash all the seasonal linens and clothes, or dealing with three weeks of road trip laundry, I head off to the laundromat and deal with it in one night.

Delegating Diva

You have mastered divvying this chore up among you and your family. Everyone does their own and you do yours. You are our hero and we all salute you. I would prefer this, but must master a few necessities first. If you can expand on them for us, please do.

Tips

  • You need a laundry room schedule or there will be constant arguing when the washer and dryer are unavailable (see laundromat).
  • Make sure that beds and towels still get done. I am always amazed at how long some teens can use a towel before they think it needs washing.
  • You need to be clear on who has responsibility for the shared laundry. If you haven’t assigned it, it will probably be you.

Outsourcing Empress

You have ‘people’ for that, you outsource your laundry and do some or none of it yourself. You are the envy of women everywhere. This is my favorite method. It still takes a lot of work to build a system and get organized. Either you have a full-time housekeeper or nanny who does everything throughout the week or you have someone who can do a couple of loads a week. We will focus on the latter, as that is the one that requires more organization.

If you have a good house cleaner, they can knock 3 or 4 loads of laundry off your list on a good day.

Tips

  • Sort your laundry yourself before anybody helps you with it. Label your loads clearly. Have a basket labeled “do not touch” or “special instructions”. You do not want someone shrinking your cashmere sweater or ruining your favorite silk blouse. If they are not a full-time housekeeper, they do not have time to master your delicates or read all the labels.
  • Do up a few loads ahead of time. Always have a load in the washer and one in the dryer when they arrive. This means they will have time for two extra loads while they are at your home. If they are at your home for 3 hours, this means they should be able to finish the 2 loads you started plus one more. Make sure you leave a note with drying instructions so they don’t wonder about the loads they haven’t started themselves.
  • When they change the beds, get them to do it first, so they can toss the bedding in the washing machine before they leave. They can also start on the towels. If they come every week, consider having them wash bedding one week and towels the next, depending on your change schedule.
  • Make time for laundry and folding in your schedule. Make sure that you add extra time to your house cleaners schedule if they agree to help with the laundry. Running up and down, stopping every hour to switch things, and folding all take time, so make sure you build that in. But if they are already at your home every week or two, adding an hour to get 4 loads of laundry done and folded is worth every penny.
  • Put the laundry away yourself. Again, unless they live in your home full-time, they will not get it right, so don’t set yourself up for disappointment.
  • Use the Laundry Instruction Sheet template to leave thorough instructions. And check out this sample one for how to fill it out.

What Style Are You?

So what style are you? Or are you many of them? Did you pick up anything new? Or do you have a suggestion to add? Please share.

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