Simplify Your Life Month: Laundry Organization

 



Photo by H.A.M. Photography

It’s Simplify your Life month here on To Love, Honor and Vacuum, and in my introductory post I talked about how we’d be doing three things this month: figuring out your purpose, learning to organize better, and then paring down. We spent last week on the big picture “purpose” issues, and this week I want to spend on organizing.

Here’s the warning I issued about organizing, though: I don’t think we should become tied down to any one particular system, because sometimes the system itself that we use becomes overwhelming and stops us from feeling organized. Or sometimes a system will work for a time, but you’ll lose interest, and then it’s time to find something else to recapture your interest and keep you motivated to go again!

When I asked last month what’s the one thing that you all want to organize better, the single greatest response I received was, “laundry!” So to kick off organization week, let’s tackle laundry!

Later this week we’ll also tackle scheduling kids’ chores, organizing your kitchen, and keeping communication going between you and your spouse over what needs to get done.

But let’s do laundry first!

Let me share how I do it, and then I’m going to link to other systems on the internet for your interest. Then I’d encourage the rest of you to leave your ideas in the comments! Remember, there is no one RIGHT way: when it comes to organizing, you need to find a system that works for your family, and even then you may need to keep renewing that system every few months. But no matter which system you use, one thing that is not negotiable is routine. When it’s routine, it gets done with a minimum of fuss. When it’s not routine, it doesn’t.

So here, without further adieu, are my thoughts:

Washing Routine

1. Keep laundry separated according to how you wash it. I don’t separate according to whose clothes they are, because by the time Rebecca got enough whites to do a load, she would have worn the same bra two weeks’ straight. I also find that by doing laundry everyday, we don’t need as many clothes. Since the girls are on a clothing allowance, they’ve each decided to only own two pairs of jeans. Because we do our loads together, they can make do with only two pairs more easily. If they had to wait a week between loads, it wouldn’t be as easy. So we just pile everyone’s clothes in together. Some families with teens have kids do their own loads all at once (and when I was in university I didn’t separate whites and colours; I threw them all in using cold water, and nothing really ran and the sky did not fall), but right now I just find it easier to wash everyone’s together.

I have four bins: colour, white, delicate, and hand wash. My hand wash is for lingerie and hand knit items (I knit a lot!), and delicate is for almost all sweaters and nice T-shirts. It’s probably overkill, but they rarely get really dirty, and if you wash them on delicate they last a lot longer.

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Then, every single morning, after I have my shower, I put a load on. Just before I make lunch I put that load in the dryer and I put another load on. Just before I make dinner I put the second load in the dryer, and that’s it for me in the day. Two loads of laundry usually does us sufficiently and I don’t wash on weekends. That way it’s part of my natural weekday habit. If you work outside the home, you can do the same thing. Put a load on first thing in the morning, and then another as soon as you step in the door after work.

The Folding Dilemma

Folding is far more haphazard; I fold while I take up schoolwork with the girls, or we all fold together while we talk about whatever novels they’re reading for history and get into debates. I believe in multitasking! The big thing with laundry is that you MUST fold it, or it wrinkles horribly and it sits all over your bed and your floor.

Get in the habit of washing at set times and folding at set times, and it’s much easier!

I highly envy those who live in climates where you can dry clothes outside year round. I do not live in such a place, but in the summer I’d hang the clothes out right after breakfast and right after lunch, and it always worked fine.

Getting the Laundry to the Laundry Room

As difficult as it may be to figure out how and when to wash, getting the clothes to the machine is just as much an issue. My girls each have a hamper in their closet that they are responsible for emptying. It’s part of their daily chores, and everyday, after they make their beds, they’re to empty their hamper. They’ve done it since they were four, and it works fine.

But I have a secret to admit. I don’t have a hamper. In the mornings, my husband and I throw our dirty clothes by the door to our bedroom, and then when I leave the bedroom, I scoop them up and take them to the laundry room. Isn’t that horrible? I know, one should never put clothes on the floor, but honestly, they’re never there long! I don’t mind my husband leaving his stuff there because I do, too, and it’s no more work to add his socks to the bundle of clothing I’m already carrying of my own.

Of course, there are much more elaborate systems for laundry, and if you’re looking for one, or if you’re overwhelmed because you need to do more than two loads a day, here are a few more thoughts:

1. Often the reason laundry becomes overwhelming is because we are washing things that are not really dirty. Children, especially, have a habit of throwing things in the hamper because it is easier than putting them away.

Have a conference with your family to decide your own rules on how often pants should be worn before they’re washed; how often towels can be used before they’re washed; how often sheets should be changed; how often pajamas should be changed. Personally, I wear jeans a good four times before I wash them, unless I spill something on them or I’m in a smoky place. They really don’t get dirty. Sheets we change every week, and pajamas once a week. Towels are more haphazard.

But many children change clothes several times a day, just for fun, and when they do change they throw their clothes in the hamper. By the time you discover that clean clothes are in the hamper, they’ve already mixed with wet towels, so you have no choice but to wash them. Often the reason we have so much laundry, then, is because we’re washing things that aren’t actually dirty.

So talk to your kids about how often they need to wash certain items, and if they keep putting clean clothes in the washing machine, then I’d start making it their job to wash and fold all the laundry, or making them pay $1 out of their allowance for that load of unnecessary laundry!

2. Keeping track of which clothes are whose can also be a challenge. Buy one child all green underwear and another all white. Buy one boy all grey socks and another all black socks. Try to keep the basics that we get mixed up to single colours, so that you know whose is whose. And take a permanent marker and write a child’s initials on the tag so you know whose it is. If the item is then passed down, use a different colour permanent marker.

Now, here are some other great laundry links:

Laura from Organizing Junkie just has her kids do their own loads–and loves it! No more sorting. Read her thoughts here.

If you want pictures, here’s a great post with different hampers, small and large laundry rooms, and more to give you inspiration.

One last problem: I still haven’t come up with a solution to the single sock phenomenon. But I cannot bring myself to throw out single socks. So I have a box under my bed. Here it is. Did any of you steal the mates?

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Now, what are your thoughts? How do you do laundry? Did you find a system worked better for you at a different stage in your life? Let me know in the comments, and let’s help each other!

Comments

  1. >I love this. Like most people, I don't really despise the washing and drying of clothes, but the putting them away. My husband I recently downsized against our will (lack of employment/money) and moved back into his parents vacant trailer behind their current house. It's over 30 years old, and very small, and our daughter has her own room, but we share ours with our 2 year-old son, and it's crowded and hard to get to the closets, and sometimes dressers. So I really despise putting away the clean clothes, because I fear breaking my neck tripping over everything we have put in our bedroom because our living room/dining room is pretty cramped already. For example, My son's bed and my boxed up christmas tree is currently blocking my closet.

    That being said, I started a new laundry routine to deal with putting my laundry away. Though I may mix things sometimes that shouldn't be mixed, and that's nothing new because no one ever really taught me how to sort laundry, I just began doing my loads according to where they would go when they came out of the dryer. That way, when it was time to take them out and put them away, they all went to the same place. So far, it's been much more efficient than any method I have ever tried before.

  2. >When I had my fourth child, my laundry became overwhelming for me. This is what works for us. I have a central location for laundry and containers for sorting. (A laundry cart with only 3 bags and 2 hampers.) Everyone is responsible for sorting their own laundry every day. Every morning first thing I take a load out of the dryer from the previous day. (I know some people don't leave their clothes in for any length of time, but this is what works for me.) I take what is in the washer and put in the dryer and then put a new load in the washer. I do laundry every day except Sunday. Sometimes I do 2-3 loads a day. (Changing sheets day, etc.)

  3. >Not sorting my colors and whites and having my kids do their laundry separately literally changed my life. It's so funny how we've been told to do things a certain way all of our lives that it never occurred to me to do laundry without sorting until someone suggested it to me. The freedom I have gained is amazing!

    Thanks for linking to my post. Great series girl!

    Laura

  4. Thou Art Jules says:

    >I can't stand to throw out single socks either! I'm glad I'm not the only one.

    Laundry gets the best of me quite easily. We have 6 people in the house right now and all it takes is one day or one weekend and it's a nightmare.

    I love some of these ideas!

  5. >And make sure that your kids understand what you mean when you say, "bring your clothes to the laundry room"! A friend of mine several years ago, who has 4 boys, suddenly realized that her laundry had increased dramatically. One of the boys was going upstairs and getting ALL of his clothes when she told him to bring stuff down for laundry! LOLOL

    One great system I read for hand-me-downs in a larger family is to use dots: Oldest child gets one dot marked in the collar or waistband, then when it gets handed down to #2, you add one dot, when that gets handed down to #3, you add another dot, and so on. No trying to squeeze in names or mark out old names, just make dots. I only have one boy and one girl, so very little has been handed down, but I thought it was a great idea, and very simple

  6. >I wear those mismatched socks, and so do my toddlers! We're just going to be throwing shoes over them anyway, and if we're just staying home who cares? I won't wear an ankle sock with a "regular" sock, or a fleecy sock with a cotton, but other than that, we love our mismatched socks! My eight-year old niece loves to see which socks I am wearing when we go there!

  7. >I currently have a laundry hamper that had a divider in it in each bedroom. That way my lights and darks get separated as soon as they're in the hamper. Then when I do laundry I just need to bring the hampers together and grab the lights from both or the darks from both and put them in. It's great not having to sort it all!
    We also have farm clothes and town clothes. Today was a house day and so my son and I are wearing farm/dirty clothes all day (he's actually been in jammy pants all day) while we do a heavy housekeeping day. Tomorrow morning we will wear farm clothes for a couple hours and change into our town clothes before we head to the library. He even knows that he needs to change into his farm clothes when we come back before he plays in his sandbox. That way we always have some clean clothes for when we go out. Plus he's going to get them dirty anyway so it's not a big deal if they're dirty to begin with. That cuts down on laundry by a ton!
    Also, my husband does his own laundry. He has a basket of dirty farm clothes and when it's full he'll wash them.
    I fold while my son is napping and I get to sit down and catch up on a TV show or watch a movie. Folding laundry is actually part of my "break" from a housekeeping day. The putting away…. well let's just say that I have stacks of adorable little toddler clothes all over my coffee table right now. But I promise I'll bring them to his room later!!! As soon as he wakes up from his nap and starts to knock them over while playing nearby :)

  8. Herding Grasshoppers says:

    >Oh! Somebody already mentioned the dots… LOVE that idea, and works great for handing things down :D

    I have three boys, who love to be outside, so we definitely have about a load a day.

    Not everyone has the chance to make drastic changes, but when we remodeled our home we moved the laundry room upstairs, where the bedrooms are and that has been a huge help. HUGE. So much more efficient to have the laundry close to the bedrooms!

    I sometimes throw in a load right before bed, and then have one of the boys get it into the dryer in the morning (or out on the line, in warm weather). Or I'll throw in a load right after my shower – like you do.

    We usually have about two dark loads for each light load, and hardly any delicates (with three boys!) And really, we usually wash with cold water so I often don't separate the lights and darks. It really doesn't matter much.

    (If something bleeds onto an article of clothing that can't be bleached, try washing it with a large scoop of baking soda. That will usually work.)

    Since we homeschool, I often duck around the corner and fold while the boys are working independently. They can call me if they need help – I'm nearby – and I can hear if they're getting distracted and off track.

    Every day, after dinner, they check for clean laundry and put it away.

    It keeps Mt. Laundry at bay :o)

    Julie

  9. >yeah…we live in the tropics with 3 kids 5 and under so they go through about 3 outfits a day, unless I just keep the younger two in diapers/underwear, LOL! I don't mind the washing, drying, folding so much but I'm really bad about leaving the stacks of laundry out for days. But I discovered recently that my 5 and 3 year old can put their laundry up if I hand it to them sorted by drawer (this goes in your top drawer, etc) and that really helps me a lot!

  10. >Hi Sheila, you are so right about having a routine for washing. My comment would have been too long but here is a link to how I do my laundry.

    http://chocvegetables.blogspot.com/2010/10/lots-of-laundry.html

    Best wishes
    Jen in Oz

  11. >I'm chiming in a little late (catching up on blogs after 3 busy weeks), but here's what I do about mismatched socks: I tend to buy 3-4 pairs of socks at a time, so I end up with 6-8 socks that all match each other. Whenever I end up with a stray left over after a load of laundry, I save it. I often can match it with one left from a previous load. Also, when I have to throw a sock away because of a hole, I don't have to throw away the non-holey match–I just pull out one of the leftovers. I usually have no more than 2 or 3 leftovers at any given time.

  12. Almost thirty years ago I sat on my laundry room floor sorting laundry and thought to myself, I am not getting up until I have a solution to sorting laundry! I worked weekly rotating shifts and desperately needed to be organized. Then I got an idea, drove to a nearby store and bought three different colored Rubbermaid laundry baskets. Blue for dark, pink for medium and white for whites. I put all three in our bathroom closet and showed my children and explained that when they get undressed for their bath or shower, to put their clothes into the right basket. It took about 2 weeks for them to catch on, they were only 5 and 6 years old at the time. Whenever one of the baskets were full then it was time to do that load. I just tilted the basket over the washer and double checked through the clothes while I emptied the basket. Fourteen years later my son called me from across the states and was laughing telling me that none of his friends knew how to sort their laundry!

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