The Dirty on Doing Laundry or the Five Rules that Cured My Laundry Problems

I am always trying to hunt down perfect systems to get my life, my house and my household organized.  One area that I had zero control over was our laundry.  I am a huge fan of the Flylady and she has always insisted that the best way to tackle laundry is to do at least one load a day.  Despite desperately wanting to comply, I failed to get on board with her laundry rules for the last six years that I have avidly followed her.

I know that having a family of five (including a potty training princess), necessitates at least a load a day, but man did I struggle.  We have a first floor laundry that I can’t hide from people.  Our half bath is directly across from the laundry room, so if laundry isn’t put away, people will see the loads and loads stacked up and over flowing.  Despite all of these important reasons, I just couldn’t get my laundry life together.

What would typically happen is that I would remember to wash and dry the clothes but would end up with baskets and baskets of wrinkled clothes waiting to be folded all around the house.  I could only manage to get motivated to fold them like one day a week.  This exhaustive and exhausting marathon folding session would put me off laundry for the next five days and the old inefficient cycle would continue.

We would have that log jam in the morning where I was searching through piles of rumpled clean clothes for this one’s school shirt or that one’s special “comfty” pants.  This usually happened in total panic mode right before the bus was supposed to arrive.  Then my husband would do his own laundry, sick of waiting for me and inevitably in his impatience he would take out a still damp load from the dryer and cause catastrophic upsets to my hack of a system.  (Damp versus warm, who knew this took a level of discernment above his pay grade?)

So like any organizing fanatic, I was sure that the solution must have been on Pinterest.  I started following and pining as many laundry posts as I could find, to figure out a system that would work for us.  I pinned pretty laundry rooms with ten–foot–long folding tables and $80, 000 washing machines that wash, fold, burp, wipe and make lunches.  I found video tutorials on folding clothes complete with tools and gadgets to make my kid’s drawers look like displays at the Gap.

Then I fixed myself a glass of wine, watched some awful TV with my husband and got a grip.  I will never have a laundry room that looks like this:

If this is for real- it can be found on Zillow here:
If this is for real- it can be found on Zillow here.


Since that is not my reality, let me tell you about the system that I settled on that has worked for us without fail for the last three months.  I should add the disclaimer that my laundry goals and expectations are very modest.  I don’t have the time or inclination to learn, let alone use the konmari method of folding.  If you are looking for the that kind of perfectionism, you’ll need to search elsewhere.   (Why would I spend five minutes folding each shirt in the drawer when I know that my son is going to dump the entire drawer on the floor when he is searching for the perfect costume for his new alter ego Clumsy Ninja?  I seriously don’t have time for the kind of stuff.)

My very modest goals and expectations:

  1. Clothes are washed and put away.
  2. No laundry traffic jams in the laundry room.
  3. Kids take responsibility for their own clothes.
  4. No scrambling for clothes in the morning.

To meet these goals and expectations I follow the following five rules:

 Rule #1

I only have to do laundry on Monday and Thursday.

Since I couldn’t figure out how to consistently do the laundry everyday, I told myself that I only have to do laundry two days a week.  One day was overwhelming but two days doesn’t seem so bad.  I probably am doing a load every day, but telling myself that I only have to do it twice a week seems to make the task less daunting.  Each extra load on an added day is a bonus not a chore.

Scheduling the laundry on these two days also means that all week and all weekend we have clean clothes.  I also don’t mind doing a few loads on these two scheduled days.  Mondays and Thursdays are my catch up days or catch all days.  Without fail on one of those two days I will take care of the miscellaneous annoying loads of things like towels, linens, bath rugs, rags, whatever else used to pile up.  I don’t have that massive mountain of dirty laundry waiting anymore.

Rule #2

I don’t fold the laundry.

Yep, that is right.  Everybody has their own laundry basket and when the clothes are dry, I sort laundry immediately into each person’s basket.  Each person is then responsible for putting their own laundry away.  Honestly folding clothes in my house was a pointless time suck.  The first time someone goes searching through their drawer for that one item, all of that effort was wasted.  I also found my boys would throw their baskets all around on the way up to their room anyway, and I just resented the time I had spent making neat little folded piles.

We are most definitely in a wash and wear phase of our lives.  With the exception of my husband’s dress shirts, our clothes are good to go if they are some how shoved into their drawers.  Besides they were only really getting wrinkled when they sat in laundry baskets for weeks, right?  I don’t fuss at anyone about how they put their clothes away, as long as they put them away.  Everybody has labeled drawers or has memorized which drawer is for which items.  I may be particular about how I want my clothes folded before I put them away, but that is on me.  Nobody else gave a damn, so as long as the clothes are in the drawers and the drawers close properly, I let it go.

 Rule #3

Laundry baskets come back downstairs right away.

Since nothing is folded, I like it to be a fast process.  I want them to bring back those empty laundry baskets right away.  Nothing sits in the laundry room or in the baskets.

 Rule #4

Everyone lays out their clothes the night before.

This simple rule makes mornings so much easier.  I am not panicked and neither are the kids.  This has not stopped my preschooler from changing 800 times in one day but at least I have the first outfit covered.  It also ensures that I am on top of the laundry when I need to be.  No one is missing clean pants in the morning.  What is the magic number of pairs of pants for school–aged boys?  I can’t keep them in clean, non-wholly pants of adequate length.  My boys destroy pants like it is their job.  Hand me downs?  What a joke.  Boy #1’s pants are destroyed before #2 gets them.

Rule #5

Every Saturday morning the kids sort the odd socks.

Before our “system” I had a huge basket full of socks.  It took up space in the laundry room and taunted me.   Once I started sorting right into individual laundry baskets right out of the dryer, it seems the socks find their mates without a long protracted singlehood.  The gigantic and scandalous laundry basket/singles club is now just a small basket that can sit on the shelf behind the dryer.  Each Saturday morning while the kids watch TV, they sort the socks.  It gives the kids a job I loathed, and also a sense of responsibility.

So there it is, I have aired all my unfolded laundry.  But I can testify that it is clean.  It is also getting done consistently every week.  I don’t have mountains in the laundry room and I don’t have over flowing hampers in everyone’s closets.  I have kept my sanity.  Oh, and for fun I let the boys personalize their laundry baskets.  I also added a little message at the bottom of everyone’s basket so even if I nag them to empty it right away, they still know how much I love them.

laundry baskets

basket2I hope this helps.  If you have any awesome rules or schedules to share- please share!

Maybe I should also add the addendum that it still takes quite a bit of effort to get some people to empty their baskets.  One child that will remain anonymous threw his entire basket under the bed and went through great lengths to hid this fact, rather than just put the clothes in his drawer.  So there is that. . . .

The lengths one bright child will go to to avoid putting his clothes in the drawer defies logic.
The lengths one bright child will go to to avoid putting his clothes in the drawer defies logic.

Oh and I also sell planner stickers that help you keep track of your laundry, ironing and dry cleaning.  Check ’em out at my shop here.

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