Katharine has raised a family of three active children and enjoys writing about parenting and home management topics.
Your home feels like one big mountain of laundry. There are baskets in the living room full of laundry that needs to be folded and put away. There are piles of laundry to be washed, draped over the backs of chairs and heaped on the floor. You can never find the clothing item you are looking for. If you do find it, it is wrinkled up in a basket or toppled over onto the floor in a clean laundry pile and needs to be washed again. Your laundry is never caught up, and you feel as though you're on a laundry treadmill that never ends. Does any of this sound like you?
Laundry issues are among the most challenging of household tasks for many people. But laundry doesn't have to take over your life! You can learn to manage laundry so that you are caught up most of the time, your clothing is easy to find, and you are saving money on your energy bill and laundry supplies.
Doing laundry for a family can be an overwhelming prospect, but even single people and childless couples can get behind in their washing with the time constraints of a busy life. Laundry can go from being a daily, onerous chore to a quick and easy once-a-week task if you stop to ask yourself the following questions. Get ready for a pile-free life!
Five Steps to Taming the Laundry Beast
1) How much clothing do you have in your washing rotation? Chances are good that you are simply trying to deal with too much clothing. Obviously, the more you have to wash, the more difficult it will be to keep up, so take a moment to consider this issue. Do you have too many clothing items? People tend to impulse buy when it comes to clothing, especially if you are someone who simply can't pass up a good sale. But this can lead to an overabundance of clothes, many of which you seldom wear and don't need.
Take a quick inventory. How many pairs of blue jeans do you have, for example? Three or four should be the maximum that you have at any one time. If you have nine, stop and think for a moment. Do you actually wear all nine pairs of jeans? Probably not. You most likely tend to wear the same 2 or 3 pairs of jeans on a day-to-day basis, and perhaps another more "dressy" pair for going out. Go through your nine pairs and put aside those that you don't wear as much for donation or consignment. Do the same for tops, pajamas, sporting wear and work clothes. Look for things that you have in duplicate or triplicate. Do you really need three navy blue blouses for work?
Discard things that don't have anything that goes with it. You're never going to wear that apricot skirt if you don't have anything to wear with it! Anything that you've not worn in the past six months can go, except perhaps for ultra-dressy items that you may wear for a formal occasion (but how many of those do you need?... really!) Even your socks and undies drawer should be scrutinized. Purge the socks you don't wear because they're an ugly color, and the panties that are a tad too tight. Then do the same for your kids. Paring down the sheer volume of clothing that can get dirty is the first step toward gaining control of your laundry problem.
2) Are you washing clothes that are out of season? If you live in a variable climate, you may be trying to deal with closets and drawers that are stuffed with piles of shorts and tank tops in the winter, or bulky sweatshirts in summer. This doesn't make any sense! Unless you are blessed with a large walk-in closet that has room for all seasons of your wardrobe, you'll need to pack away seasonal items and get them out of your way.
Transitioning your wardrobe twice a year and storing away those items that you won't be wearing will clear up space that you can use to better organize the clothing that you are currently wearing. This cuts down on the tendency to pile clean laundry on table tops or leaving it stacked in a basket because there is no room to put it away. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to go to your neatly organized closets and drawers and find there only the items that you can wear right now?
3) Do you throw everything you take off into the laundry? Or do you wear items more than once? Most people wash their clothing items way too much. Undies and socks, of course, automatically go in the laundry bin, but anything else is eligible to be worn more than one time before it is washed. This not only saves on water, energy and detergent, it cuts down on wear and tear to your clothes, making them last longer and look better for longer. And, of course, it makes for less work for you!
Instead of impulsively dropping everything you take off your body into the laundry, take a moment to check the item. Put your shirt up to your nose and sniff! Then check it for stains or spots. If it passes the sniff test and doesn't have any visible soil on it, hang it up in the closet for a second wearing. Unless you tend to perspire a lot, shirts can often be worn at least twice. Pants can be worn even more, often three or four times, before they require washing. "If it ain't dirty, don't wash it!" should be the general rule.
The same goes for sheets and towels. Beds can be limited to a weekly change, unless you have a bed-wetter, and bath towels can be used 2 or 3 times to dry a clean body. Have each family member pick a color and buy each a set of towels in his or her color to use. Teach children to hang towels to dry after a bath (you can put a hook on the back of a bedroom door if you don't have enough rods in the bathroom).
4) Do you have a "system" for doing your laundry? By this I mean, do you have a particular day of the week when laundry is done, and a step-by-step process that you can complete in a timely manner so that you're not leaving clothes in the washer, dryer, or laundry baskets for days on end? Unless you have a very large family, you should be able to do your laundry on one day, or at least over the 2 weekend days (more on this later!). Designate your day, or choose to do laundry on weekends, and ONLY do laundry at that time.
You deserve to have a break from the constant stream of dirty clothing coming your way. If you do not work, or are planning to do your washing on the weekend, make it a priority for that day. People tend to put the laundry in the washer and forget about it for a day or two, and then end up having to re-wash it because it smells mildewy. Or maybe you get it to the dryer, but then forget about it and need to wash and/or dry it some more because everything is hopelessly wrinkled. So, either have your laundry day when you are going to be home all day to complete the job, or have a solid routine that you use to get it done on a work day.
For example, throw a load in when you get up in the morning, put it in the dryer as soon as you get home from work, and fold and put it away after the supper dishes have been done. It may take some trial and error to come up with a laundry schedule that works for you, but pick one and then stick to it.
Here is a video that provides reminders of laundry dos and don'ts.
5) How can you possibly get your family's laundry done on one day? Or even over the weekend? This may seem an impossible task, but here's your answer: because you have help.You and your spouse or partner can each do your own personal laundry, leaving the bed sheets, towels and the youngest children's clothing for another load on laundry day.
A child can learn to do his or her own laundry, starting at age 10. Some will be able to do it properly at 8, a few may need help until age 12, but get your children doing their own laundry!! It is a fairly simple thing to explain how to sort for colors, how to use a stain stick on a spot, and how to turn the washing machine and dryer on. Your child can even learn to fold well with practice, though this step can be tricky for the younger ones. Certainly by 12, your child should be able to handle the whole job by himself.
Don't think your child will do it? Once they have to go to school wearing a dirty shirt because they haven't done their laundry, they will understand that no one else is going to do it for them. Help them organize by having each child pick a day for their laundry. This will also prevent bickering over use of the washer and dryer. Encourage them to collaborate where necessary. Does one child have a favorite shirt she wants for tomorrow, but it's not her laundry day? Kindly asking a sibling to include it in their load is an option, as well as combining one child's small white load with his sister's to make a full load. Use laundry routines as an opportunity to teach cooperation and consideration to your kids.
Making use of these laundry management strategies will get you on your way to saying goodbye to your laundry nightmare. Like anything else, it takes some planning and determined follow through to create new routines and habits. Use these suggestions, and you'll soon be free of the endless laundry treadmill for good.
© 2011 Katharine L Sparrow
lucille12 on April 09, 2015:
It will be helpful for you to provide organizer to hold the dirty clothes perfectly and neatly.
MopHolder on February 08, 2015:
This is a helpful routine that lets other members of the household know there is a deadline for bringing their dirty clothes to the laundry room.
Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on September 24, 2011:
You've listed great tips here to conquer the laundry monster!
Funniest thing, a load of laundry finished spinning in the washer an hour ago, but I can't tear myself away from HP to put it in the dryer until I take a break for a Nature call. lol!
That said, I know several people who have wayyyy too many clothes - much of it bought because they were too lazy to launder the clothes they already had. (One seamstress cousin takes that one to new levels of laziness - it's easier for her to make a new outfit than wash one she already has...)
When they DO do launder some of it, it's left to mildew in the washer or all wrinkled in the dryer or - the one that drives me nuts when I visit - it'll be all jumbled in baskets on the sofa, the dining room table (with or without the basket), and even a kitchen counter where they'll prepare food as if it the basket weren't there! People, get a grip!!
When my kids were little and I worked full time, they progressed by age through household chores. The oldest did a load of laundry when she got home from school (including drying, folding and putting away), the next youngest washed the dinner dishes, and the third (the only boy) took out the trash. After the oldest left home and it was my son's turn on dishes, he hated doing them so much that I had to be right there while he did them.
But he LOVED doing laundry - go figure - and even today, he's pickier about how it's done than I ever was (or his wife will ever be). But then I'm a strong believer that boys shouldn't get a pass on housework just because they're boys. Girls didn't come out of the womb already knowing how to cook or run a vacuum either. We had to learn, and boys can too. ;D
Barbara Bethard from Tucson, Az on September 20, 2011:
way to go Sparrowlet!
our kids were 9 and 7 when I said OK that's it! if its on the floor when you leave for school tomorrow, I am throwing it away!
my son and I fought forever...he probably still thinks his floor is the laundry basket ouch! but oh well...I also stopped doing their wash! great article!