Final Thoughts on Laundry

Before we move into another challenge that needs creative problem solving, I want to share with you how the art of sorting works in our house. In my tiny laundry room, there are five bins, as follows:
1. Anything that needs hand washing (because I don't want someone else in the family accidentally tossing these in with a regular load)
2. My husband's permanent press dress shirts (because they have to be hung up immediately, I never wash these unless I know I'll be free to do the hanging as soon as they're dry.)
3. My husband's t-shirts. (He doesn't want me to dry his t-shirts, so I only wash these when I know I'll remember not to toss them straight from the washer to the dryer—and if there's room on the dryer rack to hang them up.)
4. Dirty washcloths. (I use washcloths in the kitchen rather than sponges—just my personal preference—but I hate the thought of tossing them in with the regular laundry, especially if they have food particles or bleach on them!)
5. Everything else.

See how we have used the art of sorting? I still follow the light-medium-dark rules to an extent. But by dividing the laundry into more useful categories, I save a lot of time and trouble—and headaches.

I'll respond to your comments about laundry next time, so be sure to come back!

The Art of Sorting

My third suggestion for tackling the laundry monster requires moving back a few steps, to the point when the clothes are still dirty. I call this the art of sorting.

How do you sort your dirty laundry? If you go with the standard light-medium-dark divisions and that works for you, stick with it. However, if you'd love to know a better way, consider perfecting the art of sorting in your home.

Here's how it works. Take a look at your laundry with fresh eyes, and think about it in terms of how you live your life. What thoughts run through your mind when you bring dirty clothes into the laundry room?
"I'll need to get this clean as soon as possible."
"These things might have stuff in the pockets—don't forget to check."
"This stuff is damp, I need to wash it before it starts to stink."
"I'll have to remember to hang up these shirts as soon as they're dry."
"I'll need to hand wash these."
"I won't be wearing this again any time soon."
And so on. If that's how your mind works, then why not sort your laundry this way? Instead of three bins, get four or six or eight or whatever you need, and label each one with the type of dirty laundry it should hold:
Check pockets
permanent press
no rush
This way, when you start a load of laundry, you know exactly how it needs to be processed. Let's say it's Sunday evening and you've got a busy week ahead. Better to throw in the damp stuff or the ASAP stuff now, because you might not get around to doing laundry again until Friday.

Or maybe you're working on a project near the laundry room and you'll be ready for a break in an hour or two. That would be the perfect time to start the permanent press, because you know for a fact you'll be available to hang it up the moment it's dry.

Can you see where I'm going? By looking at the way YOU do laundry and then sorting accordingly, you're lessening the load, shortening the time, and solving one more type of mess in your home.


The Laundry Problem, Continued

The second suggestion I have is that you should take a good look at the various tasks your folding sessions include, then make changes to the laundry itself so that less of your time is required to process it. For example:

• I highly suggest ONE KIND OF SOCK, not 20 different pairs. Socks that all match don't need to be sorted; they can just get dumped into the drawer and pulled at random, and they'll always match.

• Unless it's important to you, stop folding underwear; the wrinkles will smooth out as soon as you pull it on anyway.

• Give every member of the family their own color for sheets and towels and make them responsible for folding their own. (This is especially helpful with teens who tend to use a towel once and then toss.)

• Watch any tendencies you may have toward perfectionism. I know people who never get around to folding because they know they're going to obsess about doing it perfectly, so they'd rather not do it at all. Give yourself a break! If you tend toward perfectionism in this area, then do a "folding pre-sort" where you divide the clean laundry into several piles, such as "must be perfect" (dress clothes, slacks, etc.), "can be okay" (such as jeans and t-shirts), and "just get it done" such as baby clothes and kids' play clothes). Start with the sloppiest pile first, and by the time you get to that "must be perfect" pile, chances are you'll be so tired of folding that you'll move through it more quickly than ever before.

Check back next time for my third and final laundry solution.


The Laundry Problem

Last time, we talked about relocating your laundry room upstairs. But if that's not an option, consider these suggestions.

First, you might try setting a "container limit", which means you're allowed to accumulate something up to the point where your designated container is full. Once you exceed the container, you have no choice but to take action. Applied to clean laundry, this would mean getting a big bin or basket (if necessary, a REALLY BIG bin or basket) and putting it in the corner of the living room. Clean laundry gets dumped into it straight out of the dryer. A regular folding time is designated—perhaps while watching your favorite TV show or right after school while chatting with the kids about their day. You try to form the habit of folding at that designated time, but if you fall behind at least the laundry is in one spot, contained, rather than spread all over the couch. Just make sure that there's never more laundry than there is room in the container, or you'll need to put in some extra folding time so as not to exceed your container limit.

More on laundry next time!

Here We Go Again

WHERE: Living room

WHAT: Clean folded and unfolded laundry

WHY: Because I hate to carry the laundry up stairs I also hate to fold. Apparently I am not the only one!! LOL!!!

You may be surprised at my answer to this question. In a true House That Cleans Itself, the washer and dryer are taken out of the basement or downstairs and reinstalled upstairs, near the bedrooms.

I mean, really, why do we lug the dirty clothes all the way down just to wash and fold and lug all the way up? I'll tell you why: because traditionally men designed houses and women did the laundry! Now that there is more equal representation in the work force—not to mention more men doing their share at home—you'd think this would change with every new house that's built. But it isn't. Why? I'm not sure, but I guess it's because we are all creatures of habit, and if it was good enough for mom this way, it should be okay for us too. I say, let's start a revolution. Washers and dryers should be as close to the place where the people in your house dress and undress as possible! End of story.

On the other hand, let's say you're in a rental or for some other reason can't make that change. What are lesser changes that could solve this problem at least somewhat? I'll address that question next time.