Laundry has always been one of the hardest things for me to keep on top of. Part of it is too many kids, part is too much clothes, a lot is lack of good quality clothing storage (at lesat when it comes to putting things away), but regardless – I never seem to be able to stay on top of the laundry.
At the very least, I don’t feel like I’m drowning in laundry all the time or that we never have any clean clothes. It took some trial and error, and a lot of new habits, but I’m really happy with the progress we’ve made.
If laundry is one of those chores you also struggle with you’ve come to the right place! I’m sharing my method today that works.
Before I get started, I want to point out that I have 5 kids. They’re a bit older so I’m not dealing with baby/toddler laundry, but school-aged kids still seem to get messy pretty often. I also work full time, meaning no time to get the laundry done during the day; but I am completely self employed, so I am able to switch it over. That really does help.
Pare Down Your Closets and Declutter
Yeah, I’m going there first. It really is easier to keep on top of the laundry when you have less clothes.
First, you don’t end up with a mountain because there’s no moutain to be built. Second, it’s a lot easier to put clothes away when there’s less. Third, it’s way easier to find what you’re looking for, which means no pulling everything out to find one thing at the bottom of a drawer.
You’ll need to decide what way you want to purge. Here’s my go-to system for decluttering closets and purging clothes.
- Take everything out of your closet and dressers. If you have things in there that don’t belong, deal with that by putting them away or purging.
- Get rid of everything that doesn’t fit or is ripped/stained/unwearable. This should be pretty easy. It’s ok to keep a couple rough items if they’re used for other purposes (painting, play clothes, pjs) but be really careful saving stuff that you might wear for these reasons. Oh, and you only need one set – not multiples.
- Purge anything you don’t like or won’t wear. You can sell it if you want, or just donate; just make sure you get it out in a timely manner. Don’t pile up a big “to sell later” pile that never gets done. Don’t dwell on difficult decisions right now, just get it done.
- Now that you’ve done the obvious things, group like items together by category. For example, all the t-shirts, all the sweaters… Etc.
- Take a look at your piles. Do they seem realistic? Think about how you wear your clothes and ask yourself if you have way too many of a certain category. If you do, purge.
- Did you purge enough to make everything fit into your storage solutions? If you haven’t, you need to address this issue. Either improve the storage or pare down more.
- Once you’ve pared down, put things back nicely. Now’s your chance to change up the system! I reccomend grouping by category so you can find things easier, but do what works for you.
When You Have Nothing to Purge
Help, I can’t purge or have nothing to purge!
This is a common issue when it comes to decluttering clothes. Maybe you love having a lot of things, or maybe you truly wear everything you own. If you don’t have much to purge it might be fine to skip this step.
If you’re having a hard time making decisions, though, consider diving deeper into that process and working on your mental health with a professional or self help book. It will help in all your decluttering and cleaning tasks.
Don’t forget to declutter linen closets and towels too.
Tidy Up Your Laundry Space
This might start with you finishing up any outstanding laundry. If your laundry room or area is piled high with dirty clothes, tackle that first.
Once you’ve removed dirty laundry clutter take the time to clean and organize your laundry space. Purge anyting you don’t need, toss garbage, and wipe everything down.
If budget allows, consider sprucing it up with new wallpaper or fresh paint. A clean laundry area makes doing laundry less depressing; it also helps trick you to staying on top of it in order to keep that space clean.
Add More Laundry Hampers and Baskets
This might seem counterinituive when you just finished decluttering but trust me, it helps.
Make sure every room that collects dirty clothes on the floor has a laundry hamper (or at least nearby). That will make it easier to keep laundry from getting shoved behind doors and under beds and, therefore, piling up.
I like to have at least one basket for every family member. These are for putting clean laundry in, which then makes it easier to put away.
Tip: I use small laundry baskets for this; they’re easier to carry and feel less overwhelming than big ones to put away.
Sort and Fold Laundry As it Comes Out of the Dryer (or Off the Line)
I don’t mind washing laundry too much, it’s the folding and putting away that I detest. One thing that’s really helped me when it comes to keeping on top of laundry is folding it as soon as it comes out of the dryer.
It takes a little more time, but feels more broken up (and therefore a smaller task) than letting it pile up and doing it all at once.
This is where the extra laundry baskets come in. When I fold something, I put it in the right basket for each family member. Then it’s so much easier to put it away in their rooms. In the case of my older kids, I make them put away their own laundry.
Don’t Bother With a Laundry Schedule
Laundry schedules are cute and all but, at least in my experience, entirely useless. First, they don’t account for the variabiliy in how clothes are worn and messes happen. Some days might be muddy and constitue extra laundry, other days my kids stay in pjs all day. Having a strict schedule doesn’t work for our family.
Instead, have a laundry pattern or habit. For us, I go hunt down towels when I notice they get low. When my hamper is full, I bring it down. Then I gather up anything else that will fit to make a load. Alternatively, I will put on laundry when our single hamper next to the washer is full.
The only thing I usually do on a schedule is sheets; those happen on Fridays, which is cleaning day.
Encourage the Family to Create Less Laundry
This is hands down the number one secret to laundry success: do less laundry. How?
- Re-wear clothing multiple times (better for your clothes too!)
- Organize clothes storage so you can find things without digging
- Teach kids to respect your time and not put clean clothing in the dirty hamper
- Have older kids and your spouse put away their own laundry
- Make sure you have a place to hang towels to re-use them
- Avoid using too many bulky blankets (or letting kids play with them)
- Use duvet covers instead of washing the whole blanket
Make Laundry More Enjoyable
Since it’s a chore I usually hate it was pretty tough for me to think I could ever enjoy doing laundry, but the truth is I don’t mind it now with this one trick: listen to something.
Yes, you can’t always do that, but I find listening to audiobooks while I do chores like laundry has been a game changer. If you don’t like audiobooks, try podcasts or educational lectures. I subscribe to Audible, personally, because it has all 3.
Get the Kids Involved
I’m not big on giving kids too many chores but personal management is definitely something I do encourage. That extends to chores that involve their belongings, like laundry. Which parts of the laundry process you get the kids involved in will depend on their ages and your family’s personal preferences.
For my younger kids, I expect them to put dirty laundry away in the right places. As they get older, I’ll have them gather their laundry and bring the basket down to the laundry area. While I still tackle the washing, drying, and folding., I expect my older kids (ages 10+) to put away their own laundry.
Of course this doesn’t always go as well as I want and I do have to nag the kids sometimes, but it saves me some time and gives them important life-management skills for later.
Another thing we do is making the kids match socks. This is a great one for little kids!