A reader sent us the following question:
Your site is uber-rad. I would really appreciate an article on how to get my LAUNDRY out of chaos mode. Thoughts on that one???
You had me at “uber-rad.”
I see laundry as the worst form of lazy clutter. I understand your pain and stress. I was once a degenerate who let laundry pile up around her until it seemed an impossible foe. The dark side, however, is behind me, and I offer you more than 20 tips to help you keep your laundry chaos to a minimum:
- First and foremost, establish a laundry routine. We do laundry every Monday and Thursday in our household. I suggest that if there are one or two people in your house that you follow in my footsteps. If you have three or four people in your home, you probably need to do laundry every other day. If there are five or more people in your house, you should do a load of laundry (or more) every day. You can’t let laundry pile up or it instantly becomes chaotic.
- Exclusively use sturdy laundry baskets (20 gal. or smaller). Keep one in the bedroom(s), and a smaller one in the bathroom, and laundry room. Don’t buy one with fabric sides because it will inevitably malfunction and turn into a mess instead of a hamper. If you have a laundry chute, only have laundry baskets in your laundry room to transport clean and folded clothes. Some people might think that having three baskets per room – one for darks, lights, and delicates – is a step saving measure because it keeps you from having to sort clothes on laundry day. I’ve found through experience, however, that three baskets per room results in more chaos because there’s more space for clothes to pile up, less floor space for things you value more than dirty laundry, and more trips carrying dirty clothes to the laundry room (at least three instead of one).
- Have fewer clothes. The fewer clothes you have, the fewer clothes you have to wash. In a series of upcoming posts, I’ll discuss specific ways to do this.
- Don’t have more clothes than you can store properly in your dresser drawers and closet. If you can’t put all of your clothes away, you’ll always have a reason to have dirty clothes.
- Only buy non-iron clothes to keep clean shirts from stacking up in a “needs ironing” pile.
- When moving, look for a place that has a laundry room on the same floor as your closet. If you’re a DIY person, consider building a closet with the washer and dryer right inside of it.
- Have a designated dry cleaner bag next to your hamper. If you keep it in your car, clothes that need to go to the dry cleaner will certainly pile up on the floor and cause clutter. Be sure to drop your dry cleaning bag off every Friday and pick it up every Monday — routines are important for dry cleaning clothes, too.
- Keep a stack of delicate bags next to your hamper. When you take off delicates, you can put them straight into a delicates bag and then just throw them into the hamper. This way your delicates won’t accidentally get lost in your dirty clothes mess.
- Change into pajamas at least an hour before bedtime so that you have enough energy to do more than throw your dirty clothes on the floor.
- Before buying anything in a color that bleeds (like red), ask yourself if you will want to take the time to sort it out every time you launder it.
- Think about wearing only one color so that you never have to sort your laundry into lights and darks. These people have done it.
- Get a job in an office that allows casual dress so that you stop wearing two sets of clothes on most days.
- Have a stick of Tide To-Go in your closet so if a shirt is stained you can spot clean it before putting it into the hamper.
- Only have two sets of bed sheets — one on your bed and one waiting on deck. The same can apply to towels, but I suggest three because the rate of replacement is higher for towels.
- By the age of 12 your children should have their own laundry routines.
- Clean out pockets when taking off clothing to avoid having to do it during sorting. I suggest having a small trash can in your closet for just this purpose.
- If something is permanently stained or riddled with holes, get rid of it.
- Keep hangers in your laundry room so that you can immediately hang up the clothes that you don’t fold.
- Replace your washer and dryer with large capacity units so that you can do two to three traditional loads at a time.
- Have a table in your laundry room so that you can have a space to immediately fold clothes as they come out of the dryer. Do NOT allow it to become a clutter table — keep it clean and only use it for folding.
- Have a designated bag or box in your laundry room to put clothes in that you want to donate to charity. When they come out of the dryer, fold them, and stick them into the bag.
This post was originally published in May 2007.