Developing a Laundry System That Works

Remember this? We got rid of a lot of clothing. A LOT of clothing. Things that didn’t fit, were worn out, faded, stained, and out of date. Yet we still have one or two hampers of clothing that take a little extra care and as a result, have sat around for awhile waiting for that care to happen. (Can you say “wool sweaters?”)

So, in addition to actually buckling down and doing the laundry as we are able (and sorting some more!) I’ve been doing some research on systems, trying to get a feel for what will work for us. Daniel already had some great methods for sorting in place and I had a moment of brilliance (if I do say so myself) and realized the extra expandable shower curtain rod I had held onto would collapse down and fit perfectly in the dryer closet. I’ve been able to use it to have hangers at the ready to keep shirts from getting wrinkled after being removed from the dryer. Do I always use them? Full disclosure: no. I’m working on it, though! I’m also working on folding as I unload. It drives the impatient side of me crazy, but the organizational junkie in me is thrilled to have it done and ready to put in their designated homes in our bedroom.

{When we’re really on a roll, we just keep the laundry goin’ and Daniel and I sit down for a movie or two and have what we call a “folding party.” I’m sure our future children will be thrilled to participate in their weird parents’ silly housekeeping ritual.}

What I’ve found in my research so far has given me hope that we’re going in the right direction. Outside of Martha Stewart or The Gap, most expert sources I’ve come across mutually agree that you don’t have to be perfect. While I’d love a gorgeous linen closet found in a home decorating magazine, I’m currently finding my neat (and pared-down) one acceptable. While I can appreciate the crisp clean folds of the clothes for sale at a store, I am perfectly willing to put my own clothes in their spots with minimal wrinkles.

The same sources also tell me that it’s okay that I’m not a perfectionist when it comes to sorting and laundering … that in fact it can be a road block if all I am worried about is washing something in the absolutely best way and so I freeze and don’t wash it at all if I’m not certain what that way is. Let me tell you … that hit home. That’s exactly why those wool sweaters, blankets, and delicates are still waiting for their turn in the washing machine or sink. I’m petrified I’ll ruin my favorite wrap and never be able to wear it to a dinner party again. The funny thing is, when you think about, I’ll never be able to wear it again anyway if it just stays in that pile of laundry.

Here’s some of the best suggestions I’ve come across so far:

1. Hate sorting socks? (Can I hear an AMEN?!) Have each family member use a safety pin to hold them together before being thrown in a hamper. I have to admit, this one sounds great on the postlude, but not so great on the prelude to washing. I think this would be good, contingent on the ready availability of safety pins placed directly next to the hamper.

2. Use multiple baskets, hampers, or some other method of sorting, to keep the loads of wash separate from the get-go. I read this in several places, and in fact it is a method that my husband and his mother use, as well. It took me awhile to get used to, but in the end I realized it made sense. Now we’re just trying to find room for that many hampers. I’ve got my eye on a hamper/sorter/ironing board combo that would work well in our small space.

3. Do laundry loads as it makes sense for your household, and get everyone involved. Mothers … it won’t hurt your kids to do their own laundry! Don’t fret if the shirts aren’t perfectly folded or the jeans aren’t perfectly unwrinkled. My own mother taught me to do my laundry from the time I was tall enough to reach the dials on the appliances. She taught my brothers, too! They did their own washing, drying, folding, and ironing. Or at least they knew how to. The application of that knowledge was their problem, not hers. My own husband was taught well by his mother and pitches in, as well. (In fact, I’m the one who has shrunk shirts and slacks on him, not vice versa.) Basically, keep the laundry going around your life, not the other way around. We do our loads while we relax and watch tv (I call it my favorite lazy chore.) Other families schedule their wash days. Others still do small loads as they are needed and one person may put the load in, another unload it and put it in the dryer, and yet another take it out and fold it. If it takes bribery … go for it. I got paid ten cents per shirt I ironed for my mother, and trust me, if I wanted to have extra spending money … I ironed away.

4. Only keep the clothing you use, and you’ll only wash the clothing you use. This is pretty self-explanatory, but think about it: just like my old habit of not knowing what clothing was clean versus dirty in those many laundry baskets I had, it will require more effort in the long run to keep track of all the extra clothing when you really only use about 20-30% of your closet. Save time, water, and electricity! Chuck the unworn items!

5. Make a point of buying clothing that saves you time. Jersey knits are great for dresses to travel in or wash and go to a party. They rarely wrinkle, and look good even if you are forced to ball them up and shove them in a suitcase to fly cross-country for a wedding. Cotton dresses? Not so much.

6. Pin-point the part of doing your laundry that gets you stuck, and then figure out a consistent way around it. That’s what I’m doing right now by researching these things, and I think investing in a multiple-compartment hamper and taking a Saturday afternoon to Dryel those difficult-to-wash items will do the trick for me. Daniel has suggested also picking a catch-up day for laundry every week, so that we don’t have that pile build up again.

7. If all else fails, take ‘em the laundromat and dry cleaners! Yes, it costs a little extra money, but it saves time and all that stress about how to clean what. In my college town, there was even a laundromat that would accept clothes they would wash, dry, and fold for you. All you had to do was drop them off and pick them up! Well la-de-da! It’s like hiring a staff of your own! How fancy.

p.s. After writing this (title and all) I came across this video featuring Mandi from Organizing Your Way and thought I’d share it. I love the fitted sheet tip!

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5 Comments

Filed under Laundry

5 responses to “Developing a Laundry System That Works

  1. Amy M.

    One thought on your #2 suggestion …

    I certainly won’t discourage you from looking for a sorter if that’s your heart’s desire. ;-) But I’ll tell you what works well in our house, though it should come with the disclaimer that this probably works better when you have children to help.

    Eric & I have a hamper in our closet, & each girl has one in her closet. On laundry day, all three hampers come out to the living room & get dumped in one big pile on the floor. The girls then help with the sorting into piles of whites, reds/pinks (a LOT of that in my house *wink*) & darks (two piles of darks — one for the heavier garments like denim & sweaters, & one for the cotton & poly lighter fabrics). While this is occuring, Eric & I pull out any delicates that require hand-washing (I buy as few of these as possible. But I have girls, & many Sunday dresses require delicate care, along with tights.). Then, the piles go back into the biggest hamper, one on top of another, so that they can be loaded into the washer at the appropriate time.

    Let me take a moments to brag on my husband. He does the laundry nearly every week in our house. I help with the folding (mostly because he doesn’t always know what belongs to which girl), but he takes care of the washing & drying, hanging up “no dryer” clothes, etc.

    As the loads come out of the dryer, they get dumped on the sofa & folded immediately. They may not get put away immediately (though I try), but they get folded & put into neat piles for each person immediately. We wash all of the clothes on Saturday & Sunday so that everyone can help. I usually then do a load or two of towels, sheets, etc. whenever I can fit it in during the week.

    Loving your blog. Laundry is one place where I feel like I actually have a good handle on the chore! :-D But I AM going to start your suggestion about safety pins on the socks. AWESOME idea! Can’t believe I’ve never heard it/thought of it before!

  2. morgen

    so….elliott knows how to do laundry…hmmmm

  3. Thanks so much for including my video in your post — there’s a lot of really great, practical tips here!

  4. Andrea thanks for sharing the video on folding linens!

  5. Pingback: God Bless You, Julie Morgenstern | Behind Closed Drawers

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