Is there anyone out there who enjoys doing laundry? Truth be told, I don’t completely detest it: there’s something quite gratifying about stuffing a pile of clothes into a machine that magically scrubs, rinses and spins them, leaving me free for more important chores. Plus, there’s that instant sense of accomplishment once the load is in and I press the start button – an easy tick off my to-do list, right? Except it’s not–I can never strike it from my list, because the laundry is never, ever done! There is always more to do! I once saw a woman on Oprah who claimed she cleaned her house buck-naked so all the laundry would be done and her clothes hampers finally empty. In reality, though, they never are. Maybe for a few hours, sure, and then the pile begins to grow again, and the more people, especially little people, in your household, the faster it grows. Yes, laundry is like any other maintenance chore: cooking, dusting, changing the sheets; it has to be integrated into a regular routine in such a way that it takes less time and causes the least possible amount of stress.
Laundry is a many-step process: sort, wash, dry (by machine or air), fold (or iron) and put away. For my family, the first and last steps of this process seem the hardest to accomplish. Although I don’t think I’ll ever truly win the battle of laundry, after trying out a number of systems and approaches I have at least learned a few lessons that make the process simpler and more efficient. After all, I have better things to do than laundry!
- Put the laundry baskets where your family needs them, closer to where clothes are removed so that they actually end up in the basket rather than the floor (but not in the bedroom, if possible-multiple bedroom hampers can lead to an unwieldy amount of build-up). Choose hampers without lids: a lid is just a barrier or an extra step, especially for a young child, and it keeps you from seeing how full the hamper actually is.
- Pre-sort with more than one basket. One for colors, one for whites, and one for sheets and towels. Three baskets that make it easy to see when it’s time to start a load; you can always sub-sort (i.e., for darks, linens, etc.) from these three.
- Use your washing machine as an extra sorting bin; when full, start the machine.
- Use your washing machine’s timer function. Especially if you air dry your clothes, load the night before and set the timer to run just before you wake. If you hang your clean washing first thing in the morning, it will be dry by evening.
- Wash more. Try to put in one load each day, or every other day, at a time when you have to be home anyway. If you save everything up for the weekend, or your day off, you are creating a much larger task for yourself and tying yourself down. Wouldn’t you rather be doing anything other than ten loads of laundry?
- Delicate or hand-wash items? Use a mesh bag and the hand-wash/cold cycle on your machine—that’s what it’s for! Soaking in the sink is so old-school.
- If you have babies or young children in the house, consider using a natural, perfume-free detergent/washing products. That way the whole family’s laundry can be washed together.
- If you air dry, aim to dry one load at a time. Most of us who hang clothing inside to dry don’t have much space. Why clutter every available room with wet clothes? Doing one load a day helps with this.
- Load back-to-back washes that both require the dryer. Often your dryer capacity is larger than the washer and can accommodate two loads. Towels and socks, for example, can easily go together in one dry cycle. Saves time and energy.
FOLD (& IRON)
- Did you hang your wash in the morning? Then fold your dry clothes before you head to bed.
- When the end buzzer goes for the dryer don’t wait—get folding! Getting in the habit of folding immediately keeps the system running and eliminates the need for ironing. In fact, quickly removing and folding clothes from the dryer is often just as efficient as pressing them.
- Don’t start a new load before you have folded the last, or your system will get backed up.
- Having trouble remembering whose Batman t-shirt or princess socks are whose? Use the dot system: one dot on the label for the eldest child, two dots for the next and so on. As clothes get passed down, add the additional dot. Your children can now sort through and find their own clothes to fold.
- Iron only as needed, and consider air drying items that get wrinkled in the dryer—they’ll dry flat. Better yet, try to purchase clothing that does not require ironing, especially for children. Why spend the extra time?
- Do you have school-aged children? Collect the dry clothing, and as part of your bedtime routine fold the clothes and put them away together. You are teaching and helping your child to learn how to do laundry, and even adding a bit of quality chatting time to the end of your busy day! Added bonus: have them pick out their clothes for the next day, saving loads of time in the morning.
- Lost a sock in the process? Put the lone sock back in the drawer-usually its mate will turn up in another load.
- Folded and left the piles for everyone to put away? Follow-up and kindly remind them to put their clothes away before bed.
- And remember: keep the system going!