52 Week Challenge Week 6: Laundry room and system 3

Have you been following the challenges? I have received some e-mails about them from readers, but am always looking for your feedback. Is there some challenge you’d like to read more about?

Laundry is the bane of many people’s existence. I see posts on mountains of laundry everywhere, even from people who have it together in so many other ways. And I’ve been there, too.

You see, way back when I was expecting my 4th baby, my laundry pile started growing and taking on a life of its own. I had been doing a load a day for the most part, but then it would get stuck. Maybe in a clean heap from the dryer. Maybe folded and put into piles around the house. Maybe in people’s rooms, where it was languishing until I needed the laundry basket again. And going up and down all the stairs in our split level with a pregnant belly and laundry wasn’t working well.

I decided I needed to find a system that worked for me. And I did! I’ll share it in later in this post, but first, here are my thinking points to get you started tackling your own laundry issues. (Note: I divide laundry into several steps, like getting it to the machines, sorting–although I don’t!, washing, drying, folding, and delivery. You can use those steps as you’re thinking through this.)

  • What is NOT working? Where are you having a big pileup? What part do you dread doing? These are the things to change.
  • What is working? What parts are easy? Keep these!
  • What ideas do you have about making it work? Just write or think through a bunch – don’t worry about feasibility yet.
  • Who can help? Even younger kids can do something, like pairing and sorting socks. Other adults can help out more, too.
  • Simplify! If it’s tricky to navigate, or has lots of moving parts, it isn’t something likely to stick. Can you make it more simple?

Now on to my system. I love my laundry system! Even when I spent a few days in the hospital last week, it didn’t take long to get back up to speed because I was caught up when I got sick and because it’s relatively easy to do.

Laundry makes it to my laundry area via a laundry chute. That makes that part easy, although I still to have to remind some small people to actually take their clothes there. But it all arrives in the laundry room without a lot of effort.

OK, now for a potentially crazy pointer: I don’t sort. Sorry, laundry sticklers! If I have a lot of one thing, I might do a dark load or a white load, and every now and then I round up the plethora of tzitzit and white t-shirts, towels, and socks that live in my house for a hot white load. But I found it better to do a load of laundry a day without waiting for a category to fill up. So I wash everything together, usually in cold water. I haven’t seen a real dulling of clothes, although white undershirts do sometimes need a shot of bleach. It’s so worth it to me!

Next, I do at least one load of laundry a day – usually thrown in in the morning. On some days I do more. For example, on Fridays, I usually wash sheets and towels because I love getting into a clean bed, and it’s one way I honor Shabbat. That usually means more than one load, which can be hard for some of these short Fridays. I might do them on Thursday instead. But at least one load each day.

Then, I dry each load in my machine, and fold right there. That’s right, I rearranged my laundry room to get it to work for me! I bought a 6 foot tall wire shelving unit (like this) at Target on clearance, and 6 laundry baskets (one for each person). I made a cute little name plaque (turned around in the photo, sorry) for each person’s basket and laminated it, then attached it to the basket. Then I set them up like the photo shows: the racks are parallel to my machines and about three feet away from them (you can see the washer’s door in the photo). It cuts my laundry room/utility room in half, but I found space where I didn’t think I had any to make it work.

I try to get to the clothes while they are hot from the dryer, but if not, I shake out the shirts. Whatever still looks wrinkly gets saved for the next load of drying so it can be hung up or folded hot–and then it won’t look wrinkly. Adult button down shirts get hung on hangers off the rack, and socks and kid underwear goes into a bin for sorting. Then the clean, folded clothes sit in their baskets until my wonderful dh delivers them twice a week.

And the kids help out, too. My 7 year old is responsible for pairing and sorting the socks and my 5 year old does the underwear. Then they each put away their laundry when it arrives in their room. My 2 year old “helps”put his away, too.

This works for us because it requires just a little time each day. I spend about 15 minutes a day on laundry, and get it all done for 2 adults and 4 small, mess-loving kids. I attacked my problem areas, which were folding and delivery, by breaking them up and making them easy to do (folding: a little each day) and delegating (delivery: dh delivers the heavy baskets). I made my laundry system work for me! And it really is a blessing to have it done with so much less effort and mess, even when I miss a day or a few days.

One other option that I have seen in a few places is a family closet. This is just a big closet or room for everyone, usually in the laundry room. All of each person’s clothing is stored in the room, either hung up or in dressers or bins. Each person is responsible for choosing their outfit for the next day and bringing it to their room to change, and the person doing laundry doesn’t have to go far to deliver it. You can see a more thorough outline of one family’s closet here.

I hope this blesses someone else who is struggling with taming the laundry monster. Please comment and let us know what works (or doesn’t) for you!

About Amital

A die-hard listmaker and observant Jewish mommy of 5, managing the challenges of life bit by bit with the help of a Shalom Bayit book and lists. And chocolate, of course. Lots of chocolate.

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3 thoughts on “52 Week Challenge Week 6: Laundry room and system

  • Sahra

    My dh and I have 5 children, ranging from 2-10. Laundry used to really stress me out. It was unbearable, even though we have been blessed enough with a huge laundry room and a chute. I do not have a front loader (which is definitely on my list of things to have), but do have an extra large washer. With that said, I finally found something that works for me. I brought my children’s dressers into the washroom, so their bedrooms have hanging clothes only in their closets. I have a sorting hamper where my children’s clothes go straight into when they take them off. My 4 and 6 yo are responsible for sorting the clothes that come down the chute once a day. My washroom is lined with the boards with holes (the previous owner used this room as their tool room), so I put two rows of shelves up above their dressers. I am a sucker for ironed clothes, so I can’t live with a “shake and hang”, so any clothing that needs to be ironed goes here in neat piles according to each child. The bottom row of shelving for casual clothes, like jeans, and the top row for button down shirts and khakis or slacks. Four children are along one wall, so they each have 2 piles of pants (or skirts) and 2 for tops, for both casuals and dressies. These shelves are not for them, so height doesn’t matter. They are each assigned three drawers (except my dd, b/c she’s the girl 🙂 ) The top drawer for underwear, undershirts, and socks, the middle for printed t shirts or shirts to wear around the house, and the bottom drawers for sweat/lounging pants. They each have a drawer for pjs only. Ideally, I’ll do about 3 loads a day. At the end of the day, they are all responsible for putting their clothes in the appropriate drawers. Any clothes that actually make it on a hanger, like sweatshirts, turtlenecks, hang to drys, etc. are given to each child to take to their rooms to hang in their closets. It works for us. I suppose I could have a better system, but I’m not swimming in a mixture of dirty AND clean clothes (after a while, it’s hard to tell which is which). It sounds a bit complicated, but it simplifies laundry tremendously for us.

    • Amital Post author

      Wow! It sounds kind of like a modified family closet. We’re doing something like that lately, too. I just haven’t sorted it out enough for me to post yet. Soon, I hope. 😉

      Sounds like a good system, and especially a good use of chores with the kids!


  • Katie

    I do one load a day too, and it really helps. I am so intrigued by the idea of a family closet. I’ve moved my kids clothes into the laundry room, but how awesomely efficient would it be if everyone’s clothes were there and i didn’t need to carry them upstairs!? Alas, our laundry room is big enough. But, if we ever strike it rich and build our dream home, I’m going to design a family closet.