I feel like laundry is one of those topics where one method doesn't fit all. It can't. Add kids into the mix and husbands and everyone's habits, and yep. For the first time in the six years we've been married, this year I finally found what works for us. And I've changed a few of my habits and THOSE have stuck. (cue some cheering)
Even if only a few of these tips work for you, maybe the post will get you thinking. Maybe you'll see that it's possible. Help you to figure out what works in your home and then you can get your laundry under control too. (At least for most of the time.)
Maybe you want a little bit of a background before I start.
Our home has 1200 square feet, here’s a home tour and a floor plan. We have two bedrooms, 1 bath. We have one daughter who is 5 and three sons ages 4, 2 ½, and 11 months old. Our laundry room is in the basement. We've gone through a few secondhand machines but now have LG front loaders.
And let me throw in a disclaimer that this is what works for us. I've tried a few different methods and these are the things that stuck. It might not work for you, it might not work for us in another year or five. But I’m willing to change things up and amend what we do to best fit our family! 🙂
How to Keep the Laundry from Taking Over:
- Just Do It Now
- Stop Thinking About Laundry
- At Least One a Day
- Little Bits
- One Hamper
- Minimal Sorting
- A Holding Place
- Get the Kids to Help
- Little Tips (that didn't fit)
- Have Less Clothing
Just Do It Now
Let me tell you a story. 🙂 Last March (right at the start of the 40 Bags in 40 Days), our dryer wouldn't get hot to dry clothes. After every load in the washer I would hang clothes up across the basement (it was really cold outside) with my intricate clothesline system. A few hours later take them down, put them in the dryer to fluff, take them out, and THEN fold and put away.
Looking back, it was awful. But at the time, it was what I had to do! And if I waited or slacked at all, either to wash clothes, hang stuff up, or take it down, it was all thrown off. Clothes only can dry so fast in a basement so what I could knock out in a day was spread across a week.
This went on for two months and I formed a new habit: to just do it right away. And this kinda changed my laundry life.
Stop Thinking About Laundry
A few years ago I heard that you should take note of two things: the time you spend doing a task and the time spent thinking about doing the task.
My mind was blown! I was spending more time thinking about doing laundry then, you know, actually doing it. So I tried to retrain myself by doing a bit of laundry whenever I thought about it. Use this together with the last point, and things get done, you just do. You become like an automated robot and don't even think about it because it's now not a chore, it's just part of your routine.
I try and do laundry whenever I have a spare minute and think of it. If you have a hard time finding a spare minute, start by throwing in a load in the morning, at night, or during naptime.
At Least One a Day
At least one load a day or I am backed up. I will say that I skip out and get backed up folding things. 🙂 But! Things run much smoothly when I'm on top of it.
My 2.5 year old is potty training right now and the few accidents have
been a good motivator made sure I stay on top of it...
If I do fall behind, I feel like I'd rather double up on loads than try and go nuts knocking it all out in one day. You know why? Because when I devote myself fully to a task, everything around me seems to fall to the side and get backed up.
Then what would happen is I'd do a whole bunch of laundry one day, then NOT do it for a few days because I was sigh, oh so tired from the laundry!
No more of that laundry tug of war, guys. Catch up in little bits so that you don't get overwhelmed.
One Hamper System
We have one hamper in our room and when it gets filled it goes down to the basement to be emptied. It's a big ole basket I bought at a garage sale for .25 from some husband who probably priced everything and had no idea what it was worth. I wish I had five more because, sigh, (and picture me with big heart eyes and swooning) I love it so. It's a great basket.
I went to one hamper when Lily was little and I would half throw stuff in mine and half throw stuff in theirs. Then all of a sudden they'd have no clothes and I would remember "oh crap, there are dirty clothes in there!".
This picture below catches our system in action. The basket fills up, I empty it into a laundry basket to take downstairs (shown in the hallway). I had a tendency to forget the basket downstairs so this keeps clothes from getting thrown in a pile on the floor. One spot, everyone knows where it is, put it in there.
I really like having just one when I'm washing because, other than sorting out delicates and whites, it's all together. I do a load and it's all getting done. On the flip side, I don't like it because I feel like I spend forever sorting when folding. I would like to try a laundry basket or hamper per kid, designated laundry days they can help with, and see how that goes.
Like I mentioned in the last point, I bring down all of the laundry at once and sort out our delicates (undergarments, Doug's dress shirts) , whites, and the rest of it. We don't have a whole lot of fancy clothes so I don't worry about different temps and all that. Towels we use a few times and then wash once a week. Blankets and sheets we wash together. If I do have a random towel or sheet that is dirty, in with the normal stuff it goes.
The Holding Place
This is the key to our system, so listen up. 😉
I have an old drafting table in the basement we found at Goodwill that just so happened to be laundry basket depth. I use the two baskets for whites and delicates and they always stay down here. I bring down my basket and sort those things out, then run a load of regulars. Once the baskets fill up, preferably before I hear complaints of "I'm running out of ____!!!!", I'll wash them.
This is kind of my holding place to keep the upstairs from getting crazy with dirty laundry. If I'm backed up, I'll put baskets with dirty clothes in ready to run loads in front of the table or in the spots underneath the table.
I will admit that this is where I get backed up.
I take the clothes up to my room and sort the clothes by person. I put my clothes, Doug's clothes, and my 11 month old's clothes (he shares a dresser with me) away right away. I'll then sort the kids clothes into piles and they help me put it away.
I do need to find a better solution to this. Maybe sorting baskets in the basement or hampers in closets so that it is sorted from the start? Since we have three kids in one room, it still easy to sort and put away, but once we have more rooms I will try other methods and report back.
Get the Kids to Help
Make laundry a game while they're still little and don't know the difference. Don't complain about it, because they'll pick up on it. Make laundry seem fun and your kids will want to help too. Add in buttons and scoops (with SAFE laundry detergent), and oh man, it's perfect for kids.
I start having my kids help when they are really little. Luke at 11 months will sit there and play in a pile. As they can walk around and throw stuff, have them help you load the washer and press buttons. As soon as they can grasp it, have them put their clothes in a hamper and DON'T DO IT YOURSELF. When they get to be around 3, let them help you sort. Give them clear directions and do it along side them. When they get to be older, have them do it on their own with you watching, to see if they can do it.
Come up with a system for putting the clothes away that is simple, so they know where stuff goes (more on our kids' room here)
As with our toy organization, I think it's important to model good habits for our kids while they are young. If they pick up on it now, it might help them later on to become more habit instead of chore. Sure, they'll probably still grumble, that's what teens do. But maybe it will help.
Little Tips That Didn't Fit
Here are some other things that help but didn't really fit in anywhere on their own.
- All the Same Laundry Baskets. I don't want mismatched, unstacking ones! These go on sale during back to school season so look now. I bought all of the same kind in different colors, they're the basic target Sterilite ones. We have five, and two stay downstairs at all times. The other three are either upstairs or downstairs and move all over.
- Simplify Your Detergent. I've been using Shaklee's Get Clean laundry products for 6+ years now and I love them so much I will never switch. I don't have to spend time making my own, they clean better than anything else I've used, they're concentrated so I buy once a year and that's it. But the big reason is: they're safe for all of us. Sure we're not ingesting the detergent but we're wearing these clothes all day every day, and even on delicate parts. Some of us have sensitive skin, but I also like that we're not absorbing harsh chemicals through our clothes. I could go on and on because I really love them. 🙂
- Buy Easy to Take Care of Clothing.
- No ironing. If you take your clothes out of the dryer right away, they won't be wrinkly. Other than Doug's work shirts, which get hung up right away, we all pretty much live in comfy clothes, tees, and jeans. I don't iron sheets either.
- No Half Dirty Clothes. My husband might disagree, but I think that if you can wear something again, you put it away. If you think it will dirty your other clothes by being in there then guess what... IT'S DIRTY! 😀 What do you think on this matter?
Have Less Clothing
You probably knew this was coming. 🙂
If you have less clothing, you'll wash less clothing.
If you find yourself wearing the same things or waiting for them to be clean, then get rid of the other stuff (and more stuff like the ones you like).
Look at an item. Do you like it enough to go through the motions of hand washing it, line drying it, folding it, and finding a good spot for it? If you don't want to do that, then you don't want it enough or need it any more.
Are your dressers and closets packed? Unless you have a very tiny amount of storage, you probably could stand to pare it down a bit.
Are there clothes that your kids wear but you are holding onto for sentimental reasons only?
YES, this may be hard to hear but I want you to hear it. And then maybe join in with the rest of us and do 40 BAGS IN 40 DAYS.
Declutter your home. Declutter your clothes. Declutter them on a weekly/daily basis as you are doing laundry and putting it away. You don't need as much as you think you do. And you'll feel so much better if you start now, I promise. 😉
If you liked this, here are a few posts that you might enjoy:
- questions to ask when decluttering clothes
- another on what to do with old tee shirts
- and another on how to keep the toys from taking over
- how to have a perfectly clean house
So let's talk, tell me about what works for you. One hamper or many? Give us your best laundry tips!
I probably don't count on this thread, since we don't have any kids at home. But between my husband and me, we end up doing a lot of laundry. We have a rolling hamper that has three separate sections to it, and when we take off clothes at the end of the day, they go into one of the three sections: light delicates, dark delicates, or regulars. So easy to sort when you remove your clothing; lets you skip a step. And the best part of our laundry? When he built the house, I told him to put the laundry upstairs, right outside our bedroom door. When we do laundry (and yes, he does a lot of it), we just roll the hamper from the closet to the hallway outside the door and put in whatever load we are doing at the time. Delicates get hung up on the rod above the washer and dryer when they are partially dry, saving us ironing time. When they are dry, we just have to walk them around the corner into our closet. Regulars get dried all the way, and we just have to carry them into the bedroom, where we fold them on the bed and then put them away. (Folding them on the bed is really handy because we can't go to bed until they're put away!) The only laundry we really have to carry very far at all is kitchen towels, since the bedroom is on the second floor and the kitchen is on the first floor.
All of my pants are on hangars (long-wise) in one section of the closet; my jackets and cardigans are in another, and my shirts are in another section, and they are color-coded, which makes getting dressed in the morning easier than it could be otherwise. I've done this for years. Something I've gone to just in the last few months is using the hangars for my shirts that have little hooks on the top part so that you can hang several shirts vertically. It saves room in the closet and makes my shirts less prone to getting wrinkled from being smashed together.
Ann Marie Heasley
Of course you count on this thread!!! I feel like there is always a ton of laundry, kids or no kids. Thank you for commenting, as you gave me a lot of ideas.
Do you remember where you bought your rolling laundry sorter? We moved in October and now have a larger home with a bit more closet space. I would love to use one of those to get the piles of laundry out of sight. I'd also like to hear more about your color coding system. I know I am not effectively using the space we have!! That's wonderful that your husband was able to build your house, but also that you have that amazing laundry room! Sounds like a dream come true.
I do the laundry for an 8 year old, the hubster & me. It doesn't sound bad, but my work clothes are delicate & hubby is a train mechanic (his clothes come home reflecting how hard he did or didn't have to work). Ana White has a sorter solution, but I found the Ikea kids storage bucket solutions to be wonderful! 2 frames & 2 big tubs & everything is sorted as soon as yoi take clothes off. The tub depth is perfect for 1 load. Love this system!.
Lauren @ Mom Home Guide
Good tips! The laundry has taken over in my home because we have way too much clothes, we tend to let it go for a little, we only wear things once and then wash it and everyone has their own laundry basket! I have to get it under control! Visiting from Haven Mavens. Looking forward to meeting you at Haven!
Katja | Shift Ctrl Art
I just loved this post. Probably because I love organization. I use several of the tips you write about and they really work. I also hear you on the matching laundry baskets. I love that!
Our system is very similar. I have 4 children (ages 4 1/2, 3/12, 2 and newborn) we also use cloth diapers for the youngest two. So I do a load or 2 daily-or get waaay behind! We switched to 1 hamper several months ago and it has made things much easier for me. Our laundry is on the lowest level, the hubs carries down the bag every morning. Kids know when they undress at night all clothes go into the main hamper. I sort into 2 large hampers that always remain in laundry. We have front loader machines and we unstacked them so that the kids can now help change out the loads and push buttons-they love this! I often use the "delay start" button on my washer. I load it the night before and set it to run at 5am, then I can swap it right away when I get up.
I have a fun system that works with older children. We have five kids, four now living at home. They have each been given a laundry day~based on their activities and which day works best for them. On laundry day, they do their own clothes and bedding. Towels are brought up and placed in the "family" hamper. Each child can wash in any way they see fit~mixing colors, separating colors, line dry jeans, etc. We have six laundry baskets in the laundry room that tuck into an open shelf. Each child's clean clothes are folded and carried to their room. Laundry baskets returned. Good for a week. If one of the kids finds they "need" something washed, they simply bargain with whomever is having "wash day" and work to get it in with their clothes! It's a great system. I help our six year old and wash his clothes with his dad's things. It helps me make certain that bedding is getting done for everyone and increases each child's understanding of the work it takes to run a household.
My kids are all grown now, but I had the same system the whole time that they were growing up and out. Each bedroom had one hamper. Master bedroom had two: husband's whites to be bleached and everything else. In the laundry room is a triple hamper for lights, darks, and whites. Next to it is a triple shelf. I folded as laundry came out of the dryer and placed each person's stack in the same location forever. The laundry room is at the back entrance; coming into the house after school, each child was responsible for putting away their own laundry. Those who were not yet in school took their laundry with Mommy's help to their room during the day and learned how to put it away. In their teen years they did not always put everything away, but once it was in their room it was their and their roommate's responsibility. Oh, also if zippers were not zipped up, the pants or whatever did not get washed and were not even taken out of the hamper in the bedroom.
I have 4 kids, ages 6-16. We have a laundry about, so we were all just putting our clothes down the shoot and washing at least one load per day (and if we only do 1 load per day, there is a "catch up" on the weekend). Anyway, I got very tired of the constant sorting of everyone's laundry. So our new system goes like this: everyone has their own basket in their room. When your basket gets full if dirty clothes, you need to wash them. Then, in order to have an empty basket for your dirty clothes, you will need to put you clothes away. Fold them. Don't fold them. I don't really care. Bottom line is that your clothes are your responsibility. We do require that everyone wears clean clothes each day, so if you don't do your laundry, you might find that you are left without many clothing choices by the end of the week. (The 6 year old has to get help measuring the soap, but he is capable of everything else).
I know this might seem like it would only work for families with older kids, but I would be inclined to do this with a baby/toddler too. It eliminates sorting, and issuch a big time saver. If it seems like it takes to long to fill up the basket, throw in the persons sheets or blankie, and you're all set.
The only thing that goes down the laundry shoot now is towels.
My brother has a similar method to mine. But his family is more efficient/lazy than mine (lol). Each person at his house has 2 baskes. One for dirty clothes, one fore clean. When the clothes come back from the laundry, they us usually don't get around to putting them away, so they just take their clothes from the clean basket. Seems to work out just fine for them. 🙂
I have just started a new system that "seems" to be working. I say seems because while it is working now, that doesn't mean it will work in the future. I am a teacher and currently I am at home for the summer, so we will see how this works once school starts. Each of my children (I have 3) and my husband and I have our own laundry baskets for dirty clothes. On a days that we don't have a lot of activities scheduled I have each of the kids bring their dirty laundry baskets and any empty hangers down to the laundry room. There I have 4 empty baskets set out so that the kids can sort their own dirty laundry (reds, whites, darks, etc.) I then sort my husband's and mine into the baskets. I usually have around 5 medium loads to wash. I have them leave the baskets from their rooms in the laundry room. As a load finishes, I fold what needs to be folded and hang all the shirts up on our hanging rod. The folded clothes go from the table into each of their baskets. After all the loads are done I sort the shirts and lay them over the baskets. The kids then take their baskets to their rooms and put the clothes away, leaving an empty basket to put back in their closets ready to collect dirty clothes.
Mine is a little different. I have 2 baskets. One in each of the bathrooms. I do not sort laundry. Everything is washed on cold with the same detergent. I try to wash daily. I also found as soon as it is dry, I fold and put away. Each child puts her clothes away. They all will help with filling washer. I move stuff from washer to dryer, cause I hang almost all shirts and dresses to dry. The dryer was shrinking their school uniforms. I also lay outside sheets and towels to dry. We live in TX. When it is 100+ out, stuff drys fast and with it outside, we are not heating the house more to dry it.
This tip is, perhaps, for your future. Each person in our home has 2 laundry baskets - same kind but one is white and the other is blue. Everyone is old enough to know how to sort, so clothes go into the appropriate basket ( darks and lights) as they are dirty. When the basket is full (not stuffed), they deliver that basket to the laundry room and I wash, dry, fold and stack it in the same basket and it goes back to their room for them to put the clothes away.
Why this is helpful:
1. Clothes come presorted and can pretty much be turned right into the washer.
2. Your spouse and children learn how to sort clothes - good life skill.
3. You do not waste time wondering whose socks or shirts are whose. (At one point I had four males very close in sizes ) I don't have to guess because all the clothes in the load belong to one person.
4. Something about having a neat laundry package that belongs to one person motivates me to get it done to the end of the process.
5. If one person is traveling and needs clothes to be washed and ready, you don't have to pull all the clothes out looking just for theirs.
It's myself , my husband and almost 2 year old and 4 dogs and a cat 🙂 my husband wears uniform pants and a company labeled t shirt and thick socks under his steel toe boots, he's a construction electrician and usually comes home pretty grubby more often than not, needless to say these clothes get washed seperately from anything else, for almost the past 2 years he's only had 5 shirts and about 5 pairs of pants for work he finally got 3 new shirts recently and I'm surprised that hasn't made me procrastinate at laundry more but he still has only
A few pairs of work pants so I can't get away with that. we have a 3 pile sorter one for his work clothes, one for both of our whites and one for his casual clothes in our master bathroom it's worked out well , we have another smaller 3 sorter in the laundry room one for towels, dish rags etc and one for delicates the other compartment stays empty if I need to store something until the next load or for a delicate shirt; we don't have many...I have my
Own basket in mainly in comfy
Clothes and son has his own basket- I like the pre-sorting it saves me a lot of work when I get to folding because I don't love folding as it is I don't want to prolong it anymore lol. Son is also still in cloth diapers so usually 1-2 loads a week depending on if he used any disposables through the week, I could drop it to just 1 load a week but after a few days the guest bath gets stinky if I wait too long- store the dirty diapers in a trash can with a pail liner in the guest bathroom. Son has a lot of clothes first and only child syndrome ( I'm getting better about not buying so much) so I can usually go longer than a week with his clothes if I need to. But 1 load of diapers (on average) 1 load of work clothes 1 load of my clothes, towels and sheets every other week. Hubby's casual wear isn't much so mixed with
Mine usually except for if it's a large load after a long weekend or vacation or if it's extra stinky, Whites 1 per week. So I'm LOoking at at least 5 loads a week so I try to also to bit by
Bit at least a load a day. Here lately with water park , pool and beach trips I've added an extra load per week with towels swim diapers and suits. I am using up what dreft I have left on sons stuff we also use rock n green bought for diaper use originally but love it with our clothes too 🙂
I wish I could like laundry, or just not hate it quite so much. Our system: I do my husband's clothes separately. He's in the military, so it's all work uniforms and gym clothes- gross and stinky. Everything is washed with a scented detergent and goes into the dryer. He folds his own laundry, which is a huge help. My daughter and I wash our clothes with unscented detergent and most of our stuff is hung to dry. I'm on the tall side, so I can't afford to end up with everything I own cropped! Her baby clothes look better and last longer because of it. It's a bit more time consuming, but 10 min in the dryer to fluff and get water out, and I'm sure my clothes won't shrink on me. But we're moving in 2 weeks- new house, new system. Love the tips, and hopefully will implement some.
Each of us have a laundry basket in our closet for dirty clothes. When I am doing laundry everyone is asked to bring down their basket to the laundry room. Everyone does their own sorting of their dirty clothes then takes their empty basket back to their closet. As I finish a load of laundry I immediately fold and hang the items. Each child (I have 3) has their own wire basket in the laundry room on a shelf that I place their clean folded items into. They each also have a section on a hanging rack in the laundry room. When I'm finished with the laundry each child comes down and gets their wire basket of clean clothes and their hung items and puts them away in their own room. It works for us!
I have 5 kiddos...ages 5 months to 9. Our laundry system was the same as yours...but I was always tripped up on the sorting and putting away. SO many piles. We switched it up...i still do laundry every day. ..but each person has their own hamper. This has been life changing. No more having to look at sizes on my 4 boys clothes when sorting. When I have time to do a load I go and grab someone's basket (take out the whites) and throw it in. Only one persons laundry per load. When it is dry it goes back into the same basket and back to the closet to be put away. My 9 and 7 year olds can do their laundry completely by themselves now. I have a spot in my laundry room for towels and whites...washing those when needed. Each person with their own hamper has made laundry so much more enjoyable to do. I only start what I have time to finish. Sometimes when I'm really lucky, my mom or babysitter will help me knock out everyone's laundry in one day. This system makes it so I don't have to tell them who's is who's. It isn't perfect, but it is the best system I've found for my large family!
My youngest is 5, oldest is 13, (4 total) our system is very similar to yours except now our children are older we delegate some stages. Our children have rotating chores and one is sorting the dry laundry and folding the towels. Every famlly member has a coloured flexi tub and they just post the laundry into the right tub and everyone folds and puts away their own laundry from the tub each night. We both work full time now so the wash goes on at night and gets hung out on the line in the early morn or in the dryer if its raining which is a good habit for a big working family..
I have my husbands laundry, mine, our two daughters and baby clothes for one on the way. I stopped keeping a laundry basket in the bathroom so everyone has to keep their stuff in their room. We don't sort by material ect, I wash by how dirty it is. Kid's and baby clothes first, then my own, then my husbands last because he works in a steel mill and its all filthy. If I have any kitchen towels or not so nice towels that need washing those get washed after my husbands then I follow up by wiping down the inside of the washer.