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!