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Laundry: Do you drown in it?

Laundry_2If only doing laundry were child's play, but unfortunately it's my least favorite chore.  No matter how hard I try, the laundry situation can spiral quickly out of control especially with dirty little boys who rarely will make it through the day with nary a stain on their clothes.  On top of this, there's the extra laundry created by the adults who sweat especially in the summer because of the daily bike commute or exercise. Let's also not forget the nighttime accidents that occur on top of towels for baths, showers and swimming. Yes, not everything worn once needs to be be thrown in the wash, but few items pass the "smell" test which leaves little that can be worn more than once without being offensive.

Alright, it's time to air your dirty laundry.  We want to know how you stay on top of laundry.  How do you avoid moving piles of clean clothes from the bed, back to the laundry basket, and then to the floor several times before they get folded?  How do you avoid having piles of clean clothes dispersed all over the house that never make it to drawers or closets? Do you have any strategies for not having laundry take over your lives? Have you found any way to make it less of a chore to do laundry? Photo credit: cafemama.com

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I actually like the laundry (sorry buzz kill). What I hate is cleaning the bathrooms. And although I dont hate doing it I will say I only mop the floors once every 3 months?

Fav laundry tip: Trader Joes has lavender dryer packs. They make your sheets & towels smell great! When I am done with them I tuck them into the undies drawer.

Laundry chute...necessary for us and our 2 story house. Dirties go into the basement...wet things don't get thrown down there before being at least air dried first...cloth diapers washed every 3 days...folding time is a family affair, I dump it right into the place where everyone hangs out in the family room...everyone finds their clothes in the pile and folds them, yes...even the almost 2 year old.

Qualifiers: Only two of us in my household, but I work fulltime (and then some) outside the home. I am landscaping my yard in my "spare time" (lots of dirty clothes) and my daughter swims 5+ days per week (lots of towels). I also have a good size area in my basement for all things laundry-related.

Okay....on to the management of Mt. Laundry.

Over the years, I have acquired a number of baskets/bins that, when full of dirty laundry, are just the right size for a full load. As we bring laundry down to the basement, we sort everything into these baskets (and treat stains as we go). Then we know that when a basket is full, it's a pre-sorted, right-sized load ready to go into the laundry. I don't let it pile up throughout the week; when a basket is full, it's time to wash what's in it.

I frequently will start a load when I go to bed, then I'll throw it in the dryer (or hang the items, depends on what they are) when I get up in the morning.

We also have 3 "clean" baskets--one for my things, one for my daughter's and one for things like towels. Dry laundry gets folded immediately and put in the appropriate basket. When the basket is full, it's time to put things away. I never, never pile it--I just end up with wrinkled stuff that the cats view as a prime napping spot.

I generally do the sheets on the weekends; we wash and dry, then put them back on the beds immediately--no folding!

My almost 11 y/old daughter has helped with the laundry since she was small--starting with matching socks and the like. Now she'll start a load when she see's its time, helps with folding, etc.

I know this sounds rigid and a bit freakish, but bottom line: I just stay on top of it. This amounts to doing laundry very frequently, but never very many loads in a single day.

When we do do it, we do it at night in the bedroom and turn on the tv. This way we get a little lost in the tv instead of how much we hate folding. And we still get a little time to decompress before bed.
So funny tho, the bed-floor-basket-bed-floor-basket cycle in the original post is EXACTLY us! Drive my husband particularly crazy. After about he week I will usually hear him yell from the bedroom: "Are all these clean or dirty!?!"
Glad to know we are not alone in this one.

elizabeth, i'm with you. laundry is somehow satisfying to me. all housework is dramatically increased since having a child, and this is the ONLY task that doesn't bug me.

we practice the laundry as a family affair thing, too. my 2.5 year old is tickled when i tell her it's time to do wash (she loves to bring her hamper into the hall and unload it into the machine, knows which buttons to push, etc.), and her daddy and i always enjoy the requirement to sit still together for a few minutes when there's a load to fold. if i could trade anyone doing their laundry in exchange for vacuuming or kithcen clean up, i'd have it made!

We use the divide and conquer approach. I have a 13 year old stepson and between him and my husband they keep the laundry basket FULL. So I leave hubby in charge of their stuff and I do my own and my toddler's. Needless to say I'm doing laundry a lot less than he does!

I've been blessed with 2 things: A husband who will put away all of the folded laundry (otherwise I'd be fighting the bed-ottoman-basket battle too!) and upstairs laundry facilities (otherwise maybe I'd have a basement full of clean and dirty laundry too!) Those two factors definitely ease the laundry burden around here...

I tend to do 2 loads of clothing (one light, one dark) twice a week (usually Sunday or Monday, and again Wednesday or Thursday). I also do one load per week of things like cloth napkins, towels, washcloths, spill cloths, diaper table covers, etc. and one load per week of sheets. (I usually alternate our sheets one week, and the kid's the next--is it gross that I only wash my sheets every other week?...see my previous comment on how often I shower, I guess! :)

If it works out right, I'll put a load in first thing in the morning, and then fold while the boys play in their room (which happens to be right next to the dryer so it's very convenient). My husband will then put all of the clothes away that night after he puts our older son to bed. Sometimes the kitchen towels and napkins take a few days to make it back downstairs, but they usually make it there eventually!

Toilets are another story!

In our family we all do our own laundry. My 5 year old has started doing hers this last month.Husband does his. I do mine and the babys.It works for us and DD loves to wash-dry-fold-put away and i am just not picky about where in her closet it goes as long as it looks nice once she puts it on.

I have a solution to that nightmarish waste of precious life hours that is handling laundry and that awful bed/floor/basket/washer/dryer/top-of-dryer/bed/floor/basket etc cycle.

Basically, what you need to do is put the clothes storage NEXT TO the laundry machines. So, our washer and dryer is in the basement, not the nicest room exactly, but very modifiable. I spent about $500 and made a really inviting and pleasant walk-in-closet type thing directly adjacent to the washer and dryer... raised cork floor, track lights, mirror, and a really really long clothes hanging bar (curved to fit the room -- i used electrical conduit). This is the walk-in closet for our entire family. We go down there for most of our major dressing and undressing. Dirty laundry goes into a few baskets right next to the machine, and (THIS IS THE KEY POINT) clean laundry comes out of the dryer and is immediately hung up. No folding, no transferring upstairs, etc. We have a few small wire dresser-units from Storables to keep our non-hangable clothes in (socks, underwear etc).

I can't claim my domestic life is perfect but I can tell you that this has saved a ton of labor and mess and frustration in my house. If you can make your closet and your laundry exactly the same room, I'd say do it.


I'm embarassed to admit that I've bought lots and lots and lots of the things that get the dirtiest the quickest -- undies, exercise clothes, socks, "gently used" clothes for the kid that she can get dirty in w/ impunity - precisely so that we DON'T have to launder as often. We do wind up w/ 2 hampers full before we get around to laundering, but having more clean clothing to wear means it's ok not to launder as often as we used to be able to...

Like Dana, we try to schedule laundry around a tv show we like or a movie we don't need to pay all that much attention to. It's easy to fold while viewing. It also gives us the incentive to actually GET TO folding things up.

(Remembering that clean, dry things are in the dryer TO BE DRIED in the first place is, um, quite a different story)

Regarding the clean piles that never quite make it into the bedroom or the linen closet, I have to say it was easy for us to learn to live w/ that. Just one less thing to get stressed about.

whoops, substitute "to be FOLDED" for "TO BE DRIED." sometimes we'll leave clothes in the dryer for days. Wrinkled hott!

I am fine with laundry. It is all other housework that stumps me. (When do people dust? Or are other people's houses not as dusty?)

What helps me: I often work from home, so can throw in laundry while I am muted on a conference call. Also, our washer/dryer are in our second floor bathroom. Not quite the closet/laundry set up martin described, but much better than having to shlep stuff up and down the stairs.

although I dont mind doing laundry what I HATE is that my laundry machines are in the basement of my 1924 unfinished basement. Yuck! Dont drop anything! I do covet the new houses with clean laundry rooms that are- amazing! upstairs & close to the bedrooms.

My secret, and it isn't always followed but when it is things are so much simpler, is one load every day. No matter what. I don't get behind, and I don't get overwhelmed. 2 adults/2 kids. Sometimes I'll start it in the morning and then finish at night, but it gets done.

I think I have a crush on Martin, maker of family-size walk-in closets.

Yes, how!? I love this post... because I have reduced myself to just making sure there's no laundry basket in the background when I'm taking pictures in the house, because for the last 9 years of having children, there is literally a basket or pile o' laundry IN. EVERY. PICTURE. Makes me want to cry. :)

When we remodeled a few years ago we added a laundry room to the main floor of our house which I think makes it more convinient. I too hated going into the basement - of course the extra room in the basement is now a pleasant playroom so it would not be as bad.

I do laundry every five days or so. Everyone has a hamper in their room and there is one by the laundry. All dirty clothes go in the hampers and everyone takes care of their own.

Usually I am the one that sorts and gathers - anywhere between three and five loads plus sheets the next day. Our laundry is right off the deck where we have the clothesline. Especially this time of year everything is line dried. It may seem like more work but since we fold as we take it down it really is not much more. I often dry overnight when I would not run a dryer (fire hazard issues).

Each bedroom has a basket that clothes are put into. Everyone is responsible for putting away their own laundry expect for our 2 year old who is learning. If I have done all the laundry then my partner takes over the putting away of both or ours. My 6 year old puts it away and I too have let go of how orderly her closets and drawers are. She is able to find everything and looks fine.

I don't sort loads into "lights" and "darks" anymore. We don't tend to buy a lot of new clothes, etc so our things have been through the wash a lot of times - I figure they won't bleed color anymore. I've been doing this for a number of months and it's been great!

Like others I fold laundry while watching TV. When I put the folded clothes back in the basket to go upstairs I stack items by what room they go in. I put the downstairs laundry (kitchen/bath towels, napkins, etc.) away during the ads.

I also use one set of sheets per bed. I take them off on Sat mornings and throw them in the wash. They are put right back on the bed when they come out of the dryer (no folding - yahoo!)

2 main tricks we use are: pre-sorting by storing at the site of use and cutting back on the amount of clothing we have. If it all gets washed together it stays together and gets folded and put away more quickly--seems more manageable in smaller lots.

Since we've eliminated paper towels and paper napkins, we go through a lot of cloth napkins and kitchen towels. So we have a small bin (old plastic trash can) in the kitchen for all these things. When it's full--time for a load. This way, we're not separating out all the napkins, etc. from our clothes and trekking up and down stairs (kitchen and bedrooms and laundry all on different floors).

Same principle for clothing. Child has one small hamper in her room and when it's full, it all gets treated and washed together (unless an item is new we've never had a problem with color bleeding...and most of her clothes are 2nd hand so it's not an issue). Adult room has a divided hamper...we still separate whites, mediums, and darks even though nothing seems to bleed much. It works out since most of our whites are undershirts and socks and washcloths, most of our mediums are shirts, PJs, towels, and most of our darks are pants and shirts, so folding becomes easier.

I take the swimming items directly to the laundry when we come home and wash them together and when they're dry put them right back in the swim bag for next time.

We also put washed sheets immediately back on the beds.

I've tried keeping hangers near the laundry to immediately hang up things as they come out of the drier, but as they are 2 floors apart, this never lasts long.

I switched from hard plastic laundry baskets to soft-sided crunchable laundry bags with handles (for the adults) or a mesh bag (for child) that I found on sale...I keep them right next to the hamper (or in the hamper) and I like that since they're compact, they clutter our space less.

I try to go through our clothes every few months and if an item no longer fits or is wearable, remove it from the closet/drawers. I find it is then easier for us to wear our favorite items over and over and that actually compels us to do laundry more frequently so our favorites will be clean.

When I was a kid - my parents owned a dry cleaners/launderette where folks dropped off their laundry and we did it for them. I had to work in the launderette since the age of six. Believe me when I say that doing some people's flea-infested (I kid you not!) laundry as a kid makes doing your own super clean laundry as a grown up an absolute pleasure! After a childhood of this, you'd think I'd grow up absolutely hate laundering clothes but it's the exact opposite - I LOVE doing laundry. It's a zen thing I think - and it's so satisfying. The secret is never to let things pile up but stay on top of it always.

By the way - most clothes that say dry-clean only can actually be washed in a gentle cycle or hand-washed. It's the pressing/ironing of dry-cleanable clothes that is the real challenge. If you can easily iron something dry cleanable it's worth doing at home - saves lots of $$ and the environment too.

I let myself watch TV while I fold laundry so it is kind of a treat. I find it works best for me if I do laundry in the afternoon and then fold it that evening after the kiddos are asleep. I make myself or my hubby put the laundry away right away or else the laundry inevitably gets unfolded.

I don't mind laundry.

After three years of scrubbing my clothes on a washboard in the Peace Corps I thought I was in heaven back in the U.S. using the laundromat as a renter.

After all those years as a renter using the laundromat, I feel like I've ascended to some kind of super-duper heaven as a homeowner with a washing machine *in my own basement* It's been ten years now and I am still awed and thrilled to be able to walk downstairs to my very own washing machine. Hanging the clothes out on the line only makes the experience better.

I'm with anon above - it really is kind of a zen thing. So satisfying.

We,like Martin,have all of our laundry right next to the washer and dryer,however we use a sofa and clothsline instead of a walk in closet and run naked from the shower to our family room and get dressed there.My sister stayed with us for a while and got used to my wild streaks to the laundry area.I am definately going to look into a "changing area"-Thanks for the good idea.

I have 4 kids 5 and under and a DH, so we make LOTS of laundry. I don't sort. I don't buy anything that needs special attention in the wash. I definitely don't buy anything that needs dry cleaning. Starting Saturday night I just wash load after load after load. Sunday after everyone is in bed I put in a movie and have a folding fest. Except I never fold the baby's or the toddlers' clothes. I just line up a laundry basket for each child, one for upstairs laundry (including myself and DH) and one for downstairs laundry (tablecloths, napkins, towels, etc.). It's not too bad to blow one night a week on it. Getting it put away sometimes takes a while, but oh well!

I like the idea of a big basement walk-in closet for the whole family... Hmmmm.... I'll tuck that away in the idea file for our next house. :)

I have been staying on top of the laundry really well since I started stocking the basement freezer with ice cream bars. I keep a magazine and a comfy chair down there, and when I need a breather, I tell my kids I'm going to the basement to do laundry. It's very enjoyable!

I try each day to take the dirties down to sort into bins, take the clean load out of the dryer, put the wet load in the dryer, and start a new load from the fullest bin. I dump the clean laundry on the bed in my daughters' room to fold while they play, and sometimes they help fold it, so that's pretty effortless.

Maybe it's gross, but we just wash the wet diapers in with everything else each day (we are at 4-6 most days). The rare poopy one gets hand rinsed first. We treat stained clothes in the bathroom before putting them in the hamper.

A laundry chute is on my wish list!

We use cloth diapers and those need to be washed every other day. What works best for me, then, is to do a load of laundry every day. On the weekends, there is a bit more with towels and sheets, but if I leave everything until the weekend, we would drown in laundry.

Also, our washer and dryer are in our kitchen, so it's easy to keep up with it when it is right in our living space. I would hate to have the laundry in the basement.

Two Loads a Day! That's the Minimum.

I make sure that I do two loads a day to keep up.
Each bedroom has a hamper.
Each bathroom has a hamper.
I fold clothes into separate piles for each person at the kitchen table. Having the clean piles in the way of eating a meal seems to inspire everyone to put theirs away.
The most important trick I learned from my mother in law, who learned it from her mother: All major household items (comforters, tablecloths, blankets, throw rugs etc.) should be sent out to the wash-and-fold/cleaners.This significantly helps avoid the laundry log jams.
It seems to work for our family of six!

We only have one floor so no up and down the stairs for me. I wash diapers every 3 days, do husband's work clothes at the end of the week (he's in construction so you can imagine the amount of soil and debris), mine and little one's clothes together. Everything is washed in Charlie's Soap. If something is super stained (blueberries,salsa, dirt) it is pre-treated before going in the basket. I line dry when it is sunny and/or not raining to save on the electric bill. When it is raining or too cold I dry in the dryer. When the buzzer goes off, I take the clothes dump them on the couch and sort. Then I go and hang up all the clothes in each person's closet. I do this in the evening while I watch my Mexican telenovelas (my induldgence).

Laundry is actually my favorite chore because it feels like I've gotten so much done with very little effort. It's the bathrooms that I avoid. I throw in one load every night after dinner while my husband gives my son a bath. By the time my son's lights are out, the load goes into the dryer. Then my husband and I fold together while we watch t.v. or a movie. I lay my husband's clothes on the bed and he puts them away. Then I put the rest of the clothes away first thing in the morning. I have a large hamper in our bedroom that is sectioned into lights, darks, mediums. So clothes are automatically sorted into loads. I do not sort my son's clothes, just wash them on cold or warm and have never had any bleeding. Dishtowels, rags, etc. go directly on top of the dryer which is near the kitchen. Then they get washed with the next dark load. I do my rugs when we clean the floors, which is maybe twice a month. When my son was in cloth trainers, those would go directly into the washer every day and get washed with his clothes each night. I just did a prewash (no rinse) with vinegar then a regular wash. There was almost always time for a second load if needed. Oh, and we don't wash our sheets that often. Maybe once a month. It's something I've just had to let go of in trying to keep up with life. When we do, it's on a weekend when we can strip the beds, wash, clean the rest of the house and put the sheets right back on.

When I was single and working (outside the home), laundry was a pain because I had a social life. I managed it by trying to have a load going on a regular basis. I'd leave for work with a load in the washer. I'd get home, throw those in the dryer (sorting out what needed to be aired) & throw another into the washer. Bedtime, I'd take the dried clothes out of the dryer and dry the clothes in the washer. I sorted darks & lights and used my washer as a hamper for one and a laundry basket for the other. I used to hang everything so folding wasn't an issue.

Now that I'm married am a SAHM and have little to no social life, I also have twice as much laundry and seem to have less time to do it (probably because of the toddler crawling on top of me).

I try to do something similar to what I used to with my laundry.

I sort more now and have 2 of those rolling carts in my basement -- towels, denim or heavier materials, rags, whites, darks & one for colors. I try to do one load a day if necessary and it's not so bad. We have tons of underwear and socks (it took my husband a while to get used to having so much underwear but I sotck up when it goes on sale; I get to do laundry less and we don't run low when it's not on sale).

To the poster above with the icky basement floor --my solution isn't glamorous but it works. Take a couple of old but clean bath mats and lay them on the floor around the washer / dryer.

Once things come out of the dryer, that's where I fall down. I dump the basket onto the guest bed and that's where the laundry sits. And sits. And sits. I do sort out the socks into a bin (I keep all the lonely socks there too because sometimes the partner shows up). When I need a certain item, I grab all of that type from the pile and fold them and put them away. Unfortunately, my folding strategy rarely puts me ahead of the pile. The one thing that really seems to light a fire under me for folding is when guests come.

I am in awe of all you laundry goddesses. We're certainly a household that does let the laundry pile up especially when schedules get busy. Being able to do a single load from washing/drying/folding/putting away in a day makes it more manageable and less of a chore for us. Otherwise dealing with folding a mountain of laundry can be very daunting, which leads to the moving piles of clothes from the bed to basket to bed to basket to floor routine.

I don't mind washing and folding. I (oddly) love emptying the dryer lint filter. But I HATE putting clothes away. For the kids (5 and 8), I made little signs with words and pictures (shirts, undies, pants, etc) and taped them to their drawers, so they've started bringing up their piles and putting them away. I usually put my husband's clothes away. Mine most often remain folded in a pile on the spare bed in the basement laundry room, and I just go down their to find my clothes and get dressed.

I just remembered my other trick. I toss my toddler's little socks into one of those mesh "lingerie" laundry bags. Then they don't get lost in other clothing and they are easy to match up. When they are dirty I set them next to the hamper and then scoop them into the lingerie bags when it's time to do laundry.

I am a disaster with laundry. when I was single, I would regularly do the pile thing -- wash, dry, throw it in a pile, dress from the pile. when I got married and started having kids, I thought I was lucky! so lucky! to have a husband willing to do all the laundry.

not so. it turns out that his deal is that I have to put everything away -- my least strong suit of all possible suits -- so we went through several years of him getting extremely hurt feelings b/c I wasn't putting the clothes he'd painstakingly washed, dried and folded away. then there was the laundry strikes (I won, I have lots of underwear and socks), the basic training (amazingly, I made it through six months without my husband -- but there was only one child back then), the additional children.

now I'm ms. organized, I have little baskets for each child's clothes (short sleeve / long sleeve / pants / socks / pajamas), my husband's over his laundry strike phase, but I still struggle to get stuff put away.

I think the biggest frustration is that (with three little, fast-growing boys and the open possibility of more children in the future) I never am quite sure where a garment should go (is it time to hand this down?), when I should give it up as too small for the baby and put into storage, when it's time for another purge.

and btw, I've been to Martin's laundry palace. quite impressive! also, done the streaking thing.

I have 4 little boys and a husband in construction. Nothing gets worn more than once in our home. I have to do at least two loads of laundry a day. Then on Mondays, I have a laundry day where I concentrate on getting it all done. Other household chores take the back burner that day. It avoids frustration the rest of the week by having closets and drawers full of clean clothes.

About the clothing storage, I have clear plastic containers labeled for each age group sizing (ex: newborn, 3-6 months, 2T, 5, etc) and one large box for shoes that are too large or too small to be worn yet. We have fun when one child grows out of their current size and go "shopping" in the next size up box. I also keep a clear bin in their closets to toss in clothes as they get too small then transfer to the labeled bins all at one time.

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