I think I’m finally ready to share the dramatic story of my laundry. If you are a person who has never struggled with the laundry, this is not for you. If the laundry is something that you are afflicted by, I hope that in my story you can find a little hope. This may turn into a very long blog post. I warned you.
Of course I’m joking about this, except not really. The laundry is something that I am not naturally good at. I mean I am fine with doing it – the part that I struggled with for years was the always doing it. Then sometimes I struggled with half doing it. Churning loads through, but somehow always having baskets of clean laundry crumpling themselves up around the house. There was a long time when one basket was always about half full of lost socks and other oddments, with loads of other clothes cycling over the top of it.
And we all know what even a moment’s pause on the laundry results in. Devastation. A school morning with nothing but a pair of your sister’s leggings. A Sunday morning that involves febreeze on the clothes. Sadness, panic, and fear. Bad smells. Crying late at night. At some point I noticed that I didn’t want to wash any clothes I didn’t like to see my children in. This is not to say that I am not doing that all the time still, but I noticed a problem, and took steps to change it.
If you hang on to every item of clothing because you might need it, you will need it because there will not be pressure to wash clothes because there will always be more clothes. Then the only clothes you think are cute get worn and promptly buried at the bottom of the hamper. Then you keep on washing load after load of clothes that you don’t like. It was around the time I noticed this that I massively streamlined and got every kid a couple pairs of jeans and a few other key pieces. It is for this reason my girls often match at church. Not so much because I am really into matching, but because if I just buy everyone a pair of brown boots for the season, then I know that we have the rest of an outfit while I am out shopping. None of this wondering who among my daughters has a pair of shoes that might match this. When I find a dress that I like, and the price is right, it is far more effective to just buy four. They are getting old enough that I am changing things up a bit, but this is mostly how I work. Also, I really dislike buying a piece without the whole outfit in mind. I have had enough of random darling skirts that never connect with the rest of their outfits to last a lifetime.
Because I am not into having tons of clothing on hand for each child, I switched to a system of no dressers. Dressers, I found, were causing us to stumble. There is a lot of room in a dresser to put things you don’t want. Also, dressers lend themselves to stuffing. They lend themselves to losing tights and cute skirts until people don’t fit them. There is a lot of room for sneaking in during nap time with a towering pile of clothes in your arms and not wanting to wake a child up, so you just put it on top. Until tomorrow when you will knock it over, and then stuff it into the wrong drawer.
Because of all of these hugely important issues, this is what my kids’ closets look like. I need to make new stickers for their bins, as these have mostly been peeled off (it’s been a long time now). The big bins on top are for PJ’s and the little pink baskets are for skivvies. I keep all of the church clothes in one closet, with all of the tights and sweaters and special clean t-shirts. School clothes are in the laundry room closet so these are just our normal play clothes. The stickers on the front are wonderful for the kids – because I have them put away their own clothes when they are clean. It is a very simple job, and clearly one they are capable of. I should mention that there are more clothes for these girls waiting to be put away – but not that many. We keep it simple.
Back to the actual washing and folding of the clothes. I don’t believe in hampers in the bedrooms. Too much room for evil. I would have this feeling that the house was together, and then discover to my horror that there was actual about 4 tons of dirty laundry stuffed around the house. I’m pretty sure that hampers were for a time when the maid came through every day and gathered your chamberpot. In our very modern home, we only use the one big hamper in the laundry room. Actually, in the morning everyone throws their clothes on the stairs, and then they make their way to the laundry room, the earlier the better. Yes. This is a huge fiber drum.
The only things that doesn’t go in here are the dishcloths and cleaning rags. Those hang over the edge of a plastic basket until they are dry. That way they never stink, and I wash them separately. You know you are in the grip of an idea when you are posting pictures on the blog of your dirty dishcloths. Yes. This is what they look like.
So. The big things that have revolutionized my relationship to the laundry were the removal of all extra baskets. It is tempting to buy extra baskets the more you feel the laundry stress. But the truth is that baskets only make you think you are getting something done. In reality you are just making messes. I kept having baskets with maybe three things to be dry cleaned, a few shirts to save for the fabric, some old stationary, and probably some batteries. There was the system of bringing a laundry basket around the house with you, telling yourself that you were about to fold it. On the dining room table, on the couch, on the kitchen counter, whatever. There was apparently also a lot of room to sin with excess laundry baskets too.
I now own two and a half laundry baskets. They fit exactly in a line in my laundry room, and I leave them there until they are full. The big rule of my system is that the entire load is folded as it comes out of the dryer. I fold it and put it in a basket. There is no sorting. I leave the socks on the dryer door while I work my way through it, and when I get to the end of the load,I toss any lone socks in the enormous bucket we keep for this purpose.
When the three baskets are full (which does not happen every day – more like every two days), I take them all upstairs and sort them into piles on my bed. I call the kids and ask them to take their piles to their rooms and put their clothes away.
I think the biggest thing that I have come to grips with is that the laundry will not ever really be done, so the system needs to reflect that. I don’t want to feel guilty that I didn’t put the clothes away yet again – so I made the system work on an every-couple-days basis. I hated having clean rumple clothes, so I quit ever letting them into the basket unfolded. Endless baskets never helped us, so we got rid of them.
I know you have all read this breathlessly. It’s a real thriller. Honestly though, it thrills me. After a lot of years of laundry restlessness, I have finally put down some roots. The next step is to make my laundry room cute.