There are stages of laundry shock that most people go through: becoming a full-time professional, having a baby, having multiple children, and so on. Once you make it to stage two or three (baby, children), the laundry shock turns into full-on terror, and the piles threaten to overtake you.
You find yourself waking in a cold sweat from a nightmare of a yeti-style monster covered in dirty clothes coming for you, spurred on by children asking for clean underwear and socks. But, fear not, your sleep – and Sunday afternoon – need suffer no longer. Here are 5fiveways to take control of the laundry demands in your life.
1. Minimize the amount of laundry you do every week.
This does NOT mean wearing dirty clothes or tossing clothes in the trash after a wear or two. Rather, it means making sure you are only washing what’s needed. For example, do your kids take a bath, put on pajamas, sleep, and then wake up and immediately get dressed? It is easy, but completely unnecessary, for those pjs to get thrown in the hamper and then processed through. For two kids, that alone could be 10 unnecessary articles of clothing a week.
Plus, do your kids pull out clothes when deciding what to wear, leaving a few (clean clothes) on the floor? Was a certain shirt necessary for a quick costume change, but worn less than an hour? Were there extra clothes on your closet floor – or your partners – that just got tossed in a hamper without a second glance?
In a laundry or cleaning frenzy, it is often easier to throw any out-of-place clothes into the hamper and move on. Resist that temptation. The first step to taking control of your laundry is making sure that you are only washing what you must.
Have systems for kids’ pajamas, for getting clean clothes back where they belong, and for ensuring that only dirty clothes make it into the hamper so you are not consistently washing more clothes than necessary.
2. Increase the number of hampers that you have.
An important way to implement step one is to make sure that dirty clothes never find their way to the floor. Further, by immediately getting clothes to a hamper, you will help lower overall clutter and laundry-related anxiety.
Kids have an amazing ability to get the laundry all over the house – pulling dirty clothes out of a school bag, changing clothes in the playroom, using a sibling’s dress in the production of their most recent drama, etc., etc. To combat this and avoid having clothes all over your house, have hampers in all key locations: every bedroom, every bathroom where family members bathe, laundry room, mud room, and maybe even in a discreet location in a playroom or family room.
Task all family members with ensuring that dirty clothes – and dirty clothes only, see step 1 – immediately go in the hamper. Once this becomes a habit, you will have no wasted laundry time collecting articles of clothing and no extra clutter around the house between loads.
3. Eliminate laundry day.
Nothing sounds better than having a good, old-fashioned laundry day. The day starts with all hampers at full capacity and ends with empty hampers, clean sheets for everyone, and drawers and closets full of freshly washed and folded laundry. This is a fantasy; do not buy into it!
Unless you have the better part of a day to devote to laundry, the laundry-day fiction will lead to failure – perhaps piles of unwashed clothes sitting in the laundry room, maybe heaps of clean clothes sitting in various locations needing to be folded and put away, or, worst of all, the laundry ultimate fail: leaving a washed load in the washer overnight.
The first step towards effectively eliminating the laundry-day fantasy is changing your view of laundry success. It can feel like winning at laundry means that there is a moment in time when every article of clothing in the house is clean and every hamper is empty. It is time to redefine laundry success as having all necessary clean clothes and linens for everyone, having no laundry on the floor, and having no piles of laundry waiting in various locations to be washed or folded. With that newly-framed goal in mind, forever let go of laundry day.
4. Empty one hamper per day.*
Once you’ve got five to seven hampers throughout the house, see step 2, no hamper should be too overwhelming. Every day, pick one and knock it out completely – wash, dry, put away. (The only exception here: clothes that need to be ironed; see step 5 for more details). Depending on your schedule, you might want to grab the laundry and toss it in the washer first thing in the morning, even if you aren’t able to run it until later in the day.
Also, think ahead for any special needs you might have – i.e., is there a dress that you must have tomorrow? Do kids need clean bathing suits? Did someone spill milk on their sheets? – and either pick the hamper based on that need or pull the necessary articles and toss them in.
Doing this should avoid the inefficient and stressful “emergency” or late-night load. Admittedly, doing one load of laundry a day seems somewhat ominous, but if it is a manageable-sized, non-emergent load, it should become just another part of the routine, not feeling overly burdensome or adding extra stress to the day.
*Important note: at some point, you will fall behind a hamper/day or two. When this happens, do not revert to a laundry day. Rather, simply do an extra load on the following day, and as many days as needed, to get caught up.
5. Have an allotted time for ironing or other time-consuming laundry tasks.
It is hard to feel like you are controlling laundry if there is an ever-growing pile of clean but wrinkled clothes stacked somewhere in your house. Similarly, it is terribly inefficient and often stressful to do one-off ironing.
Instead, have a place that you can hang (not stack) all clothes that are clean and waiting to be ironed. Have a specified time each week – maybe during a favorite tv program – to knock this stack out and get it put away. You can have a similar system for any other out-of-the-ordinary tasks (hand washing, extra stain removal, etc.)
Having a specific location for storing these items and a plan for taking care of them will help with overall laundry efficiency and will ensure that you don’t get overwhelmed by any time-consuming tasks that, for most, affect a small percentage of the overall laundry burden.
Following the above steps will not make your laundry magically disappear; however, it should cause your laundry-related stress and anxiety to noticeably decrease by maximizing your efficiency and giving you systems to effectively take control of your laundry demands. It might take a little adjusting for all involved, but after a couple of weeks these steps will be a normal part of the routine and you will only vaguely remember the trials and tribulations of horrific laundry days of past.
Also, if you’d like to save money on laundry detergent, check out our Original Mom’s Super Laundry Sauce recipe!