Are you tired of doing the laundry dance or do you delight in it? Does the drudgery and repetition of this common task wear you down, or maybe you love the smell of clean clothes fresh from the dryer and thrill to the calming mood induced by sorting clothes and putting them away? If you are not happy with the laundry dance and you hate to fold or to put away (these are actually two different “issues” which call for two different solutions), then read how to simplify each process.
Hate to fold? Folding clothes can be a repetitive boring task, so any way to speed up the process can help. I find sorting socks to be a major player here—you know, the large white mound of halfway turned inside-out nuggets heaped on my bed that I have vowed to finish before I crawl into bed. Many laundry “experts” have told me the same “solution”: Train family members to pin their socks together before laundering. Ha!
There are simpler ideas: Buy a different sock brand or style for each person in the family so you can sort them quickly. When that isn’t possible, for example, all little white anklet socks look pretty much the same, what then? How can you tell if that tiny white sock is really little sister’s sock, or if it is big sister’s sock that has lingered in the dryer too long? I don’t care to stand pondering these weighty matters at 11 p.m.! If you like to sew, put a different color stitch on the toe of each sibling’s sock. Pick one color for each person and stick with it. I am lazy. I make a dot on each sock toe with a permanent marker. Markers come in many colors.
Another sock option is to keep two mesh laundry bags in each person’s sock drawer. Use one bag for clean socks and the other bag for dirty ones. Dirty sock bags are gathered weekly and washed, leaving the socks in the bags throughout the process. After being laundered, clean socks are transferred to the clean sock bag in each person’s drawer. Family members are responsible for finding matched pairs in their bags when they need them and putting dirty socks in their dirty sock bag.
General Laundry Sorting & Folding Solutions
If you have a large family, consider eliminating sorting. Some large families simply do laundry by person rather than by type of laundry. This eliminates sorting by person all together. Marking clothing, using mesh bags, and laundering by person are techniques that work for t-shirts, underwear, and other laundry too.
A way to reduce laundry-folding repetition is to do it less often. Give yourself a longer break between sessions by borrowing a trick from our mothers or grandmothers: Pick a laundry day and do laundry only once per week. Make this day known to other family members so they know when they can get things washed. If a teenager has a problem with this, just say “no,” or better yet, say, “do it yourself!”
If you have children, delegate folding! Long before I was fully comfortable with children running electrical kitchen gadgets, they folded laundry for me. Finally, some people don’t mind folding laundry at all. They find it relaxing or they catch up on a television series by watching a pre-recorded show, or they chat with a friend on the phone while they work. So, consider simply reframing how you view this task in your own mind.
What Comes After the Laundry is Folded?
Putting folded laundry away is sometimes what frustrates people. They have nice clean neat stacks of laundry waiting in laundry baskets, stacked on the table, piled on a chair, down on the floor, or waiting by the stairs to go up to the bedrooms. Of course, these piles only stay neat and clean until some poor partially clothed soul comes along to dig through them to find what they need. Does this sound like your situation? Why does this happen? Maybe it just isn’t fun to put nice neat clean clothing into jumbled up or overcrowded drawers and closets?
Weed out to conquer
Simplify putting laundry away by keeping closets and drawers clutter-free and organized. Regularly weed out clothing that isn’t being used. Strictly speaking, if you do laundry weekly, you wouldn’t need more than seven pairs of anything. The exception is the need to change clothing for activities like sports, exercise, or dress-up occasions.
Toss mismatches, extras, things that are so worn that they are never worn, and what you and others never wear because it isn’t liked. Styles don’t come back quite the same, and if you don’t like something today, you probably won’t like it tomorrow. The same thought applies to everyone in your family. Free yourself today from extraneous laundry clutter that simply crams and wrinkles the things your family really wants to wear.
Divide to conquer
Install drawer dividers to divide and conquer drawers. Drawer dividers can be as easy and simple as cardboard boxes cut to size. Dividing drawers keeps drawers from looking like they’ve been stirred up with a spoon. It provides great visual organization that is easy to maintain. Dividing space also helps quickly clue you in on when it is time to weed out a clothing category: If the sock section of the drawer is overflowing, it is time to weed out socks!
Finally, delegate to conquer
Another way to simplify putting laundry away is to assign the task to others. Make each family member responsible for putting away his or her own laundry. If the drawers look like they’ve been stirred with a spoon but you don’t have to look in them anymore, are they still stirred up?
Barbara Tako is a clutter clearing motivational speaker and author of Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life (O Books, 2010), a seasonally organized book of clutter clearing tips that readers can pick and choose from to fit their personal style and needs. Sign up for her free monthly clutter clearing tips newsletter at www.clutterclearingchoices.com.