I’m going to go ahead and admit it. Laundry was my greatest homemaking challenge for many years. I was always behind! Then I sort of accidentally stumbled upon a laundry system that works for me and life has been better ever since.
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Setting Up a Laundry System
The Early Days
I started doing my own laundry in high school, not because my mom required it but because I wanted to make sure the specific outfit I wanted to wear would be clean.
We were a family of five and both of my brothers played sports (lots of uniforms to wash!). We had five bedrooms and five bathrooms, all sheets were changed at least once a week and we all used a fresh towel for every shower. Some of us (me) used a second towel to dry hair.
I would guess that my mom did between 20-30 loads a week. We had a big laundry room with five custom-built laundry hampers on wheels that rolled under a long, tiled counter. They were always full so it was easier for me to keep my own laundry in my closet and wash clothes as needed. As I recall, I still put my sheets and towels in the laundry room for Mom to wash.
Mom was pretty fussy about how laundry was done so I learned all about sorting, temperatures, etc. from her. I even taught a few of my fellow freshmen in the college dorm how to use a washing machine.
We lived in a tiny, one-bedroom apartment when we first married. There was a small laundry room on the landing that four apartments used. I think there were two washers and two dryers. This was when my laundry issues began. In order to do laundry you had to find a time when the machines were available and you had to be sure you would be there to promptly move a load to the dryer and then remove it as soon as it was dry since others would need to use the machines. I was in college full time and I somehow had trouble finding good times to do laundry. It tended to pile up.
Worse yet, for the first time in my life I found out what happens to damp laundry in a humid climate. I grew up in the high desert of Southern California and had never seen mold or mildew before. But it was a whole different story in Oklahoma.
After we had been married about 9 months we bought our first house. It was a small, older house that needed some work. But it was cheap and in a very nice neighborhood. Aside from the original bathroom with no shower and the tiny kitchen with separate hot and cold water faucets, the biggest downside to the house was the lack of laundry facilities. There was an enclosed porch off the kitchen that we eventually turned into a laundry room but that wasn’t until several months after our first baby was born.
I did laundry in a laundromat for a few years. I don’t recall that being a terrible issue until the baby was born. Fortunately by that time my parents had bought the house across the street. It was a beautiful, older house with detached maid’s quarters. That was where the laundry facilities were which wasn’t convenient for my mom but worked out well for me because she let me do my laundry there. I could do it whenever it suited me. It was the middle of winter and I had a newborn but it was still better than going to a laundromat.
When Chris was about 5 months old, a co-worker of David’s sold us an older washer and dryer set for $150. David and my dad installed the water and electric hookups in the room off the kitchen and I finally had a washer and dryer! To this day I remember how excited I was. It was springtime and I washed, starched and ironed every curtain in the house.
Two Children and LOTS of Laundry
I hear tales of people who only do a few loads of laundry a week. I’m sure they aren’t lying but the concept is out of my realm of experience. Following in my mom’s footsteps, I always seemed to have between 12 and 20 loads a week after our second child was born. No, we didn’t use cloth diapers. I can’t really explain it other than to use my grandmother’s saying, “We are either the dirtiest or the cleanest people”. She did a lot of laundry, too.
I piled dirty laundry in overflowing hampers and baskets behind closed laundry area doors and despite doing so many loads a week I was always behind. On more than one occasion, despite having my own washer and dryer, I loaded up my car with laundry and did numerous loads at once at a laundromat just to catch up.
And then, almost accidentally, I got a handle on the laundry issue. We moved to a wonderful, 1930s-era house after I graduated from nursing school and the house itself gave me the solution.
We had a huge kitchen that was original to the house, complete with metal cabinets and a vintage stove (which we still have).
There was a basement which could be reached from a landing just off the kitchen, as well as an exterior door to the backyard. There were laundry hookups down there but at some point the previous owners had moved the washer and dryer into one end of the kitchen. The woman who had lived there was elderly so going up and down the stairs was likely an issue.
We originally planned to move them back down to the basement but it wasn’t long before I realized how convenient it was to have them in the kitchen. And that was part of what solved the laundry problem. The kitchen was absolutely adorable and I certainly didn’t want to mess it up with laundry. There was a huge, cedar-lined closet in the hall just off the kitchen and that is where I decided to put the laundry until it was washed.
I bought a three compartment laundry hamper and for the first time, I began pre-sorting my laundry. We also had a closed hamper in the bathroom for towels. Suddenly it all made sense. As soon as one of the divided laundry sections had enough for a load I could throw it in the washer and it was already sorted.
As soon as a load was dry I folded it on top of the dryer. I didn’t want the kitchen to look messy so those folded stacks of laundry were immediately put away.
And just like that, laundry was no longer a problem. I still did a lot of it but I never got seriously behind again.
Why this worked
1. By pre-sorting into separate hampers I could easily see when I had enough for a load.
2. I’m a “hider” but with the washer and dryer out in the open there was no place to hide and ignore the laundry. Even though the divided hamper was in a closet, it was a limited amount of space so as soon as a section was full I had to do a load.
3. I began doing at least one load a day. This was easy to do because I didn’t have the extra step of sorting.
My Current System
Now that it’s just the two of us I don’t do quite as much laundry. I would estimate that I do 6-9 loads a week. I keep a wicker laundry basket in my closet which opens into our bathroom upstairs and that’s where David and I put our dirty clothes when we shower.
I no longer have a three compartment divided laundry hamper for pre-sorting but somehow that is no longer an issue. For one thing, we both wear mostly dark clothing so the majority of our clothes can be washed together.
I keep a galvanized bucket on the back of the dryer for dish cloths, dish towels, cleaning rags and white wash cloths. Once a week I do a load of these with bleach. I’ll also throw in the white shower curtain liner with this load.
Every Monday I strip the sheets from our bed, wash, dry and remake the bed. And iron the pillow cases, of course. Once every week or two I do a load of red items. We don’t have a lot of these.
Light colored clothing goes in the single hamper in the laundry room and I usually do one load a week of these.
Most of our laundry consists of dark clothing and I usually do a load a day of these. Towels are washed with the sheets on a long, hot cycle.
I’d love to hang at least some of my laundry on a clothesline but I don’t have one at this time. It’s on my wish list, though. I have hooks in the laundry room for certain delicates I don’t put in the dryer. And I also have a wooden drying rack, although I rarely use it these days.
Folding and Putting Away
This is my least favorite part of the laundry process and it would be fairly easy for me to let things get away from me at this part of the cycle. I solve that by putting the clothes from the dryer into David’s chair in the family room.
As you have probably figured out, I don’t like visual messes. I can ignore things behind closed doors but I have to have living areas tidy. By putting the clean laundry in David’s chair I’m assured that it’s going to be taken care of, usually before he comes home from work and certainly before bedtime.
And there you have it, my friends. That is my rather long-winded saga of how I finally tamed the laundry monster. We don’t all have the same circumstances or preferences but if laundry is a challenge in your household I hope something in my story will help you get it sorted out. If you have several children and are simply drowning in laundry, take heart, my friend. It does get easier. And there’s no shame in an occasional mass catch-up day at a laundromat. I won’t tell.
My current favorite laundry detergent
I used Amway detergent for close to 30 years then switched to soap nuts for several years. They are inexpensive and eco-friendly. You can read more about them here:
And then one day, for whatever reason, I ordered a bottle of Caldrea laundry detergent in Pear Blossom Agave scent from Grove Collaborative and I was hooked. This stuff cleans well and smells AMAZING! It’s not cheap, though. If I were still doing laundry for a whole family I probably would stick with soap nuts because of the cost. But I’ve decided to allow myself this small indulgence. I also buy dish detergent and countertop spray for the kitchen in this scent. I tell you, this fragrance is divine!
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