My Laundry Stresstimony

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.

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39 thoughts on “My Laundry Stresstimony

  1. I really appreciate you sharing this with us. I have struggle with laundry for years as well. I blame it on all the clothes 7 people put out or on the laundry/craft/utility room that just doesn’t work for us or about a zillion other things. Truth is, I just don’t have an effective system. We are building a new house and in that house, there is a laundry room and I am giddy about creating a system that will work as well for us as yours works for you. I will certainly keep a number of the things you mentioned in mind!

  2. I’ve been reading your site for nearly a year, and it’s funny that this is the post to inspire my first comment, but here goes: thank you for posting this! I’ve been waiting eagerly for the laundry post ever since I first saw it promised! I’m sure I can implement some of this. I can very much relate to the laundry struggles you described. Also, I loved your first book and can’t wait till Amazon ships me your latest (already preordered!). I will be having my fourth baby any day now and look forward to reading it with her in my arms.

  3. I find it very helpful to “see” and hear how others do things logistically. I appreciate you being willing to explain what has developed for you and to give visual aids of your organization. Any other posts of this type are welcome! Thank you!

  4. I refer to that bottom layer of the (several) baskets/hampers in my house as the fossil layer. It’s mostly socks without mates and perhaps, as you mentioned, “fabric that might be useful” and also baby clothes from 3 years back that have intractable spit up stains. I notice a pair of my husband’s Levi’s (with a pocket rip that he tried to repair with duct tape) every time I try to get to the bottom of our bathroom hamper. And I ignore them.

    Anyway, your system is inspirational. A call to order!

  5. After I had my first baby and was totally shocked at the amount of laundry an infant produces, I totally got rid of laundry baskets. We have a family hamper for dirty clothes, and I literally fold and put things away as they come out of the dryer. It means I’m doing laundry every day, but never for more than 30 minutes, and I like it that way.

  6. I thoroughly enjoyed and could relate to this post! It is so helpful to see logical systems that actually WORK! I too, have 4 girls (and a boy), and love the idea of buying them the same things so I know we have complete outfits for church! I AGREE about dresser drawers, but really need to pare down the clothes we keep before we could move to a closets-only system. We get many hand-me-downs (which I am totally thankful for) but that does lead to a lot of clothes that don’t have matching pieces or that my kids find uncomfortable and never wear, thus leading to many of the problems you mentioned!

    I could always get the laundry done–then I would have 1-3 baskets of unfolded, clean laundry sitting on a couch in our ‘office’ room. If it was folded and sorted, the piles sat there in plain sight till who-knows-when. Finally over break, I got with it and went to the system my husband’s family had growing up–each child has a laundry basket on a shelf in the laundry room–laundry gets folded right away and placed in their basket–not sitting out where everyone who comes in the house can see it–yay!

  7. Excellent system. I always enjoy seeing some good outside the box (or in this case drawer) thinking! Our system has quite a few similarities, with a few differences. I am growing baby number three, so don’t know how functional my system would be with a larger family. We also don’t have uniforms to deal with.

    We keep the amount of clothing minimal and easy too. We do have several laundry baskets though – one per bedroom. These are kept in the closets. I have a rough schedule for which baskets get washed which day of the week, but this flexes based on life in general and the availability of clean stuff. We also do not have dressers. However, rather than having bins in the closets for all the clothes, most everything gets hung up, with the exception of a bin or two for socks and such. This method means no folding (except sock matching) and almost no sorting as there are at most two different people’s clothes in each load. The load comes out of the dryer, goes back in the basket it came to the laundry room in, gets taken back to the room it came from, and everything gets hung up or tossed in it’s bin. This is easy peasy and super fast for the adult clothes in the house. For my 5 year old and almost 4 year old I take the basket into their room and sort everything into a pile for each to put on hangers and put away. Also easy peasy and fairly fast.

  8. “I think the biggest thing that I have come to grips with is that the laundry will not ever really be done….”

    I think that statement is not only the key to a good laundry system, but also the key to a better attitude about laundry. When it was just my husband and I, I did laundry every Saturday. Easy. And since we typically don’t drool, spit up, or wipe our noses on our sleeves, laundry truly was done for the week. Then we started having children. And when I had the lightbulb moment that laundry would never be truly done, I was able to stop being overwhelmed by laundry. I just work on it a couple of loads a day, and know that what I don’t get done will still be there tomorrow. Keeping small wardrobes also helps, but 6 people make a lot of laundry no matter what. I have noticed among my friends that what seems to make a difference with laundry is mindset.

  9. Thank you for sharing. I just wanted to chime in for those of us living in Countries like England, this strategy can work equally well for tiny rooms. My girls’ closet looks much more crammed with baskets than Rachel’s, and I do have one dresser that doubles as a change table, but we manage to fit 3 girls, a change table and their clothes in a 2 1/2 by 2 1/2 meter room (8 by 8 ft). Their closet is a little box-like thing and my husband loving built shelves inside it in order to stack the boxes. We bought our baskets at an office supply store, as sometimes the right size is difficult to find here.

    Your post has challenged me to sort though those things the girls have outgrown and un-cram (de-cram?) my baskets and drawers. This said, I often find your blog challenging and encouraging (spiritually) and appreciate you ladies sharing your lives with us.

  10. Finally! An answer to the no-dresser puzzle! πŸ˜€ Thanks for sharing all the details of your system – I’ve never seen one like it. Good ideas!

  11. I finally realized that if I categorize my laundry duties over each day of the week, then I don’t feel behind. Things like “4 loads of clothes on Mon and Fri, Whites on Wed, Towels and jeans on Tues, baTH towels THursday” etc. When I finish with the day’s duty, I can rest easy knowing that everything will get washed by the end of the week. We only have a laundry closet, so not even baskets will fit in there! This keeps me on top of the folding/putting away. I find it is hard work to train children to put clothes away neatly.

  12. I like that you pared down their wardrobes. It seems that would help me/us to get the 3-year-old into putting away his own clothes. It had never occurred to me that this would be a great chore for him, probably because I have a very intricate organizational system in his drawers for the clothes. We’re talking sub-categories of pants and shirts and jammies, and stacks based on how well they fit and how much I like them. This also doesn’t bode well when my husband dresses him or he does it himself.

    I’m glad you made mention of your basket purge too. I have been hankering for some very attractive $30-a-pop collapsible laundry baskets, as we live in a very small apartment and even on the rare occasion I get all the laundry put away, I never know what to do with the empty baskets. It seems they’re not worth the space they take up. I like your system. I may have to do some thinking and see how we can get by (with a communal laundry room across the hall) with almost no baskets at all.

  13. Getting ready to move to a new house and add a new baby so been thinking a lot about closets, laundry and organization in general. Thanks for sharing.
    I have found some fun closet organization/storage ideas on Pinterest. Good inspiration for getting rid of dressers or using then inside the closet, putting changing tables/cribs inside of closets, etc.

  14. This is VERY similar to how we do things in our house, even down to the dish rags. But I only have two kids now. We don’t have room for a hamper in the laundry room (just a hallway), so we have 1 basket in the closet of each of our bedrooms (2 bedrooms, so only 2 baskets). I take some shortcuts–I don’t wash bedding as often as I should, and when I know it needs it but I’m in a hurry, I just change the pillow cases.

    One more tip, along the same lines as cutting down the number of clothes. We don’t own extra bedding. We have one set of sheets for each bed, and an extra flat sheet we could tuck in around the edges of the mattress in case of emergencies (sickness, etc). My mom has houseguests all the time, and she told me several years ago that she does it this way. If you’re going to wash the sheets, do it in the morning and re-make the bed before bed-time.

    One more thing: as long as the kids have soft comforters or blankets, go ahead and skip the top sheet. It’s hard for little hands to wrangle when making their beds, and in our family they never slept under it anyhow. It just got kicked to the foot of the bed every night, so it wasn’t serving its purpose of keeping the blanket clean anyway. It was only creating more bedding to launder.

  15. Love the post! We keep our lone socks in the dryer until they eventually find their matches. πŸ™‚ The hopeless ones go bye-bye!

  16. Funny how such a simple thing can be a source of anxiousness. we live in an apartment so my challenge is always having loonies on hand for laundry! good to make a system to get it done too, we do laundry at night so it can dry in the living room then we have a folding party in the morning =)

  17. Good to know that I’m not the only one who uses the “throw the clothes to the bottom of the stairs” method! It’s a little messy if someone shows up at the house before the pile makes its way down to the laundry area :), but at least things get to the laundry and I don’t have to go around collecting things out of a bunch of hampers every time.

  18. Thanks Rachel.Just the other day I was sitting watching my husband take a virtual tour of your Dad’s office on CanonWired and thought, how great this would be if only it were your Mum’s kitchen! This was as good as that! Brill. Love the dishcloths too.

  19. Awesome. Now can you come up with a solution to my arch-nemesis of the household? Namely, ironing.

  20. I think Goodwills across the nation will be stocking a surplus of donated dressers and laundry baskets in the near future… πŸ™‚
    Thanks, Rachel! Great ideas, and some much needed inspiration.

  21. Thanks for the fun and inspirational (and honest) post! I’m curious about your thoughts on the idea of a “family closet.” I’ve seen photos of it floating around and have a friend who swears by it. Just curious! πŸ™‚

  22. THANK YOU! I’ve been waiting for this post for a long time and it was all I hoped it would be. Seriously! Thanks for sharing your methods; they’re helping me work through my own.

  23. I suppose your method is more practical if less romantic than mine. πŸ™‚ I glare at the overflowing hamper and say, “When we are rich, I will hire someone whose two duties will be the laundry (the whole process) and making tea for me!” πŸ˜‰

  24. So far my only laundry “system” is to forget about laundry until my children tell me they can’t find any clean fill-in-the-blanks. Then I haul all the dirty clothes, towels, etc out of hampers and baskets and do as many loads as it takes. That evening, my husband and I will turn on the tv or put on a movie and begin to fold the massive pile that’s accumulated that day. He once said to me, elbow-deep in little shirts and undies, “You know, I kind of like spending this time together.” ha!

  25. With 11 children, my biggest laundry bummer was sorting. So once they were old enough, we started doing laundry by bedroom, and they do it themselves! So, I do laundry for my dh and me once a week. That’s it! An older child with her own bedroom handles the family hamper with tablecloths, washrags, etc. Of course, I’m still parenting the process…training them and working on no lingering baskets full of clean laundry in their bedrooms.

  26. So do the clothes from the plastic bins come out wrinkled? I know you said you put them away immediately but since the bins are pretty small I would assume they still get wrinkled.

    Great Post! Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  27. I have honestly been anxiously awaiting this laundry post! So happy to see it arrived this week. As I read I currently cannot see most of my sectional sofa due to a mountain of clean (unfolded) clothes. Meanwhile the floor in front of the couch is littered with piles of tiny clothes waiting to be put away. We’re going on day 3 of this situation. Clearly I need guidance, so thank you!

  28. Anyone considering plans for a new house? Our builder did a cool thing I would never have thought of….our laundry room is on the second floor. It opens into our master closet on one side and into the central hall/landing on the other. So I can take my/dh’s laundry out and put it away directly into our closet (we have used bins and shelves for years…at first because we were too cheap to buy nice dressers, but then because it worked well and freed up precious bedroom space). Meanwhile, my kids (now pretty much grown and long since old enough to do their own laundry) have easy access from the door on the other side, just a few steps from their bedrooms. Another benefit for a two-storied house: only kitchen and guest-bathroom towels have to be carried up and down the stairs.

  29. I was just thinking I need more baskets! I only have one laundry basket. Which basically forces me to keep up. Which I don’t like. But I can now see the advantage to it. Well played, Rach.

  30. Enjoying this post and relishing God made us all different – I LOVE LOVE LOVE doing laundry – love the smell, folding the warm clothes and putting them away in drawers – – – – other chores are my achielles heel!!

  31. Love the idea of not putting anything but folded laundry in a basket. Thanks for letting me know someone else has shared my laundry woes. = )

  32. I heard that some family somewhere has each person put their dirty socks into a mesh bag. On laundry day that bag gets washed and dried and returned to that person so there is no matching of socks to be done! But I am not sure how they make sure the person gets both socks into the bag in the first place. Hmmm.

  33. I love this, Rachel! So real & super helpful! Thank you. I love my laundry & all the washing a family of 7 can produce. But when it comes to the kitchen…my o my! I sure could do with some help. Finding flow & a bit of a pattern to keep up with it all is something I struggle with. Do you have any posts that might help when you have a bunch of small children who keep turning up ready for another meal? Especially when you feel very unprepared & super busy just doing laundry & school & nappy changes. It was a light bulb moment when I came across your dishwasher unloaded by 4pm πŸ™‚ any other kitchen tips would be deliciously licked up by this hungry for advice Mumma!

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