Conquering the Laundry

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So I’ve finally figured it out– The laundry system that works!  I can proudly say that, with only a few hiccups here and there, I have actually KEPT UP with all the laundry in my home for going on 10 months now.  The start date is easy to calculate for me, since it all began the week I brought my second son home from the hospital.

I know, I know…  The addition of a new baby to the household doesn’t usually strike people as time in life where people get better at house-work.  But for me, that’s what it took to make things click.  Let me explain…

In the past, I’ve always been overwhelmed with laundry.  Overflowing dirty baskets, musty smelling clothes left in the wash too long, and starting the dryer a second (or third time) because everything in there was too wrinkly to wear.  I felt like I was on the verge of being out of clothes all the time.  It was demoralizing, depressing, and often smelly, but I thought it was normal.  You see, most people I know struggle with keeping up with laundry.  That’s just a part of life, right?

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Well, then my little Matthias man made his appearance (isn’t he cute?), and my wonderful, sweet, ever-perfect sister-in-law came to stay the week with me.  She took care of my two year old, did all the housework, and let me just put my feet up and bond with baby for the first week.  And one of the first things she did?

She emptied and washed EVERY. SINGLE. BASKET. of clothes in my entire home.

And then she folded it all.

And then she put them in nice little piles so I could put them away.  (Honestly, I don’t think my drawers closed the first time I tried to make room for them.  I was so unused to having all my clothes clean at once.)

I had the opportunity to reacquaint myself with a long-lost (or perhaps never-before-made) friend…  The empty laundry basket.  *insert hallelujah chorus*

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That was magical in and of itself, and any normal person would have stopped there, but the next day… My amazing sister-in-law gathered up the couple pieces of clothing and towels from the bottom of all my various baskets and combined them all to make another load.  And that was it.  Everything clean again. Amazing.

So at week’s end, once I was all on my own again (except with two children instead of one), I decided I was going to keep up with this empty-basket thing for as long as I possibly could. Honestly, I only expected it to last a few weeks.

Each morning, for the last nine-and-a-half months, I’ve made my way around our home and emptied every single basket.  I start the load before breakfast, switch it over around lunch time, and then fold it and put it away when the boys go down for their naps.

Does it sound simple?  It is.

The only hard thing about it?  That first day.  I’m not gonna lie.  That first day of attacking the mountain of laundry is going to be a toughie (and I had the privilege of someone else doing it, heehee).  But after that, it’s not going to be much different than what you’re doing now.  Don’t believe me?

Answer me this.  When was the last time you ran out of clothes?  And I mean totally ran out, not just out of your favorite outfits?  Probably not often.  So instead of teetering on the edge of never having enough to wear, learn to become comfortable on the OTHER side of things.  The maintaining-the-dirty clothes-you-made-yesterday side of things.  It’s a happy place to be.

Some tips:

 1) Start your laundry first thing!  Make it a part of your morning routine so you’ll have plenty of time to get to it throughout the day.

2)  If you have a lot of people in your household (or happen to just wash a bit extra like I do since we use cloth diapers, napkins, etc), you may have to do more than one load in a day.  This may also be necessary on days when you strip all the bed sheets.  No biggie.  Just don’t let it collect and pile up to haunt you.  On the flipside, if you only have half a load,  you can choose whether to do a light load or save it up until tomorrow for a full one!

3) A perk of doing yesterday’s laundry is the ability to evaluate where you’re being wasteful.  Since ten months ago, I’ve switched to only washing our bath towels once a week instead of after every shower.  What a difference that alone has made!

4) Rethink sorting everything by kind or color.  Honestly, is it really necessary?  We wash everything on cold (since we’re cheap –er, frugal– that way) so no colors mix on us.  So far, I’ve never had a problem with anything fading either.  The only thing I wash separately is a brand new article of clothing just in case.

 5) Time how long it takes you to fold an entire load (and PUT IT AWAY!), start to finish.  It’s probably not as long as you’d think.  For me, it’s about 20 minutes, which brings me directly to my next tip…

 6) Do something fun to make yourself look forward to laundry time.  For me, it’s when I grab some chocolate and turn on a twenty-minute episode of something light-hearted on Netflix.  If that’s not your thing, try an audio book, rock out to your favorite CD, or make a catch-up phone call with your phone on speaker.

7) Lastly, make it one of those non-negotiable tasks.  I have several days a week (like shopping or family days), when I don’t worry about anything but picking up behind ourselves and laundry.  It’s a twenty-minute investment with a great return and the peace of mind is priceless.

Happy washing and folding!

29 thoughts on “Conquering the Laundry

  1. Tracy :) says:

    Isn’t the best feeling to be caught up on laundry…all the time.
    Okay maybe not “the best feeling” but it is a pretty good feeling 😉
    I am fine with the laundry..but have to tackle getting my laundry room in order

  2. angelique says:

    Ok, so I’ve been reading through your posts and they are lovely! This one really spoke to me, lol, because the same thing happened to me when my mom came to visit when I had my baby in June. All the laundry was done, there was nothing in any basket anywhere. But I didn’t keep it up. Your post has inspired me to try and get it back down to zero…and to get my 2 month old into cloth diapers (baby #1 was cloth diapered, I just have to get all the stuff out again…). Love your blog, please keep posting!

  3. Vikki Hudgens says:

    Thank you for this it was very interesting.

  4. Adrienne says:

    we used to do the cold water washing too and in addition, we hung everything to dry. then i read an article that cold water doesn’t kill bacteria in clothes, like underwear. have you heard that? i’m still not sure if it’s a wives tale, so we definitely wash cloth diapers in a load of cold and then hot.

    • Hmm… I’m not sure if it’s a wives tale or not. For our diapers, I’ve always done a load of hot and then cold. I heard that hot does a better job of getting stains out, but I’m not sure. We’ve never had any bacterial signs in our other clothes, though (always washed on cold). If they don’t smell ‘off’ I don’t worry about it. 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting, Adrienne!

  5. Tricia Regar says:

    This is great! I used to do this… 🙂 But then I had 3 kids, and there was even MORE wash, and I started noticing that our whites were becoming darker. SO… now I have 4 laundry baskets… you can read more here. 🙂 http://littlehouseinthehills.blogspot.com/2013/01/four-laundry-baskets.html
    I do the laundry ALMOST every day… though sometimes it’s every other day.

  6. Coco Lucas says:

    As a mom of three soon to be four I decided to implement this starting today. Its been a long morning of laundry, but with only two loads to go, I have the rest of it all folded and put away. Just going to put a laundry basket in the hall so all the clothes can go in tonight after baths and will be ready to go in the morning. Quick question though, do you include your kitchen laundry in that or do you do towels on a separate day?

    • Woohoo! Go Coco! The hardest part is almost done. You’re going to love having the end of laundry in sight all the time. It’s an amazing feeling. As for Kitchen laundry, I’m blessed to have the laundry room directly off my kitchen, so I just toss rags in with whatever else is going in next. I don’t really separate anything (aside from formals or something) so toss my towels in with the rest. Proud of you, girl!

  7. Shay Shay says:

    Love Love your posts. Here it is 11:50pm and I am so very tired but I found your blog and just keep going to the next post. That being said, this is a great idea and I believe in it so much. I was doing it for like 2 weeks and then something happened. I think the hardest part about this is getting into the habit…. 21 days and all that. Your blog is inspiring though and honestly, I am looking forward to sleeping, waking up, and cleaning tomorrow………. *Mind Blown* I hope this finds you well and thanks again!

  8. talyq says:

    I have also figured out a way to keep up with laundry and there are 9 of us 🙂 As long as there were just a few children in our family, things worked like you described. But as the family grew, it got to be a challenge. Not the collecting and washing, but the sorting and putting away with that many people. So, somewhere I read this idea and implemented it about 10 years ago. It has worked since! 🙂 I made a schedule according to the rooms. I have a washing machine with a 3,6 and 9 hour delay. So I put in one load in the evening, set it so it would be done in the morning. Then I hang it out (or dry in drying in teh winter), put in the second load and repeat. On Sunday I put in my and my husband’s laundry, and that get then dried, folded and put away on Monday (two people, easy to sort, easy to put away – only in one room). On Monday the girls that share the pink room bring in their laundry (2 or 3 depending whether the oldest is home from college or not). I usually do fold the clothes, since the girls are in school, but they have to put them away when they come home. On Tuesday night, the 2 girls from the blue room bring their clothes. Again, I do fold the clothes, but the older girl puts away hers and her 5 year old sister’s clothes. On Wednesday night my 10 year old son brings his and I add the 2 year old girl’s clothes (she is still in our bedroom). He puts his away the next day, I put away hers. On Wednesday there usually is no laundry, on Thursday night we usually have bedding (we change our bedding on a 3 week schedule on Thursdays, which is bedroom cleaning day). On Friday I might do a load of towels and then I am done for the week 🙂

    • Wow! I can see with seven kids that things definitely gets a bit more logistically complicated! Great ideas. I’ll have to revisit those as my family grows. 😉 Thanks for reading and commenting!

  9. Marianne R. says:

    It is great to always be caught up with laundry and it’s something that I too make a priority – usually daily washing. I am also pretty obsessive about the way the laundry looks. I use a 3 compartment laundry sorter for shirts/bras (that are darks only); darks that are NOT shirts; and lights/whites. Most of the shirts that are in the wash here are dark, so I always have a full load. Shirts go in the dryer for about 5 minutes only. Then they get hung up from the dryer right there in laundry room to dry all the way. For most items, the wrinkles fall out by the time they are dry. The dark load always consists of items that can be dried all the way. The light/white load, yes, often has white T’s etc, so I have to go back in 5 minutes to pull those items out only and hang to dry.

    Towels – unless there is a full load, they go in with the darks or lights/white depending on what color of towel. This system which I actually learned from a guy! has worked well and keeps the shirts looking great. He would actually hang his polo-type shirts from the bottom so that there would be no stretch marks around the arms. I also use a steamer over the iron mostly for items that don’t quite make it out of the process wrinkle-free.

    Mainly though, the best tip I can offer is watch what you are putting in the dryer and for how long! I like the 5 minute thing because it’s just long enough to get hot and the dryer sheet has been in there long enough.

  10. Marianne R. says:

    Oh and ONE more thing! My boys NEVER turn their socks the right way when throwing them in their laundry baskets. So…I imposed a rule about a year ago. I take care of putting away all laundry except socks. I give them each their pile of inside out clean socks and they are responsible for sorting them, turning them, and putting them away! It works great!

  11. Teri says:

    Laundry is an everyday thing at our house and always has been. We have five children, although they are spread apart in age so we had all five, and now have two left at home. Both are teen boys. But they can produce a lot of laundry, especially when they seem to shower often. I also do home daycare, so I have sheets, blankets, and pajamas from my daycare kiddos. And in the summer – lots of swimsuits and towels, towels, towels. My hubby throws a load into the washer every morning before he leaves for work, so once I get the school children off to school, I run down and switch it around – so another load in. I start another load during nap time, and another load early evening. So, our machine typically runs most of the day and night to keep up. I try to make bedding a weekend job, starting on Friday night and winding down on Sunday evening. One cost saver and allergen helper I found is using plain old vinegar as my liquid fabric softener. Since I dry everything in the dryer, it leaves my laundry fresh but unscented, which I love. And it is cheaper than purchased dryer sheets or softener. I do laundry nearly every day, but I never really consider it “caught up”. We do always have clean clothes to wear, but it is a never ending job! (Oh and when the boys get into trouble, laundry is their punishment during their time being grounded – so yeah that is awesome).

  12. Loni says:

    I LOVE this. I have often thought about hauling everything to the laundry mat to get it all over with at once…. Can’t wait to read the rest of your stuff.

  13. CJ says:

    I’m a little late to the party, Kelsey, but I just wanted to thank you for this encouragement!! I had a multiple birth a while ago and ever since I have felt like I’m drowning in laundry. It’s frustrating, defeating, and (honestly) embarrassing to me!!! I read your post a while ago and felt motivated, but also overwhelmed, because I thought that first day may take a week!! 🙂 Three nights ago I decided I was going to only work on it until 9:30pm, then, if I wanted I could quit. Something about giving my self permission to go to bed not feeling guilty that I didn’t finish it made me keep working and working at it. Mount Laundry was folded and put away by 10:00! And I am now working at maintaining this system thanks to your encouragement!! So thanks again 🙂

    • I'm Kelsey! says:

      Wow, great job CJ! I know that wasn’t easy, but I’m so proud of you! It’s amazing what a smaller pile of laundry does for the atmosphere of your home. You’re going to love it. Thanks for stopping by!

  14. Melody says:

    Wow! This makes the ever so hated task of Laundry seem SO simple. I mean, laundry isn’t hard, it’s just the time consuming task that everyone hates. I will be getting married soon and the thought of doing not just my own but my husband’s (and future babies’) laundry too, is just scary! Thanks for the tip, I will definitely use it. 🙂

  15. Deborah says:

    I will give it a try. Question: when do you do the ironing? Am I the only woman with a husband who wears shirts every single day? Or do you have any tips with regards of shirts/ clothes that require ironing?

    • I'm Kelsey! says:

      Well… My best tip would be to buy clothes that don’t wrinkle, or to take them out of the dryer promptly and hang them right away so ironing isn’t needed. Ironing never seems to happen around here, I’m afraid. Just not high enough on our priority list.

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