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Never walk on dirty clothes again! Tips for taming the laundry monster at home

by respaced on February 12, 2014

Do you struggle with managing clothing in your house? I have worked with many organizing clients, who are stressed out about the clothing situation in their home.  See if you can relate to any of the issues below:

  1. Do you have large piles of dirty clothing in your laundry room (at least 3 loads-worth) that often sit for days on end before they get washed?
  2. Do you have large piles of clean clothing laying around on couches, beds, tables or the floor for days on end?
  3. Do you have clothes strewn all over the floor, perhaps in your bedroom or in the kids’ bedroom? Are family members walking on clothing routinely?
  4. Do you or the children frequently have no clean clothes to wear?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then it sounds like you could use some help managing your clothing.

The first thing to do is to recognize a few hard facts:

The more clothing you own, the less frequently you have to do laundry. However, when you do have to do laundry, it will take all day (or longer!) to get it all done. The more clothes you own, the more time spent managing them.

The less clothing you own, the more frequently you have to do laundry (perhaps every day or every other day). But when you do have to do laundry, it can all be done in a couple of hours. The fewer clothes you own, the less time spent managing them.

For most families, I usually recommend that they reduce the amount of clothing they own and plan on doing a load of laundry a day (generally in the evening). That means one load of clothing washed, dried, folded and put away each day. However, if you work 12 hours a day, you will probably need to do your laundry on the weekend or your day off.

How do you reduce the amount of clothing in the house?

On a day when you have the whole morning or afternoon free, get the family to gather up all of their clothing, dirty or clean. Do a quick sort of the dirty clothing to get rid of anything that doesn’t fit or is torn, hopelessly stained, faded, stretched out or has a broken zipper. Toss those in the trash (Goodwill does not want that kind of clothing.)

For the dirty clothing that is left, start a load of laundry and throw it in.

For the clean clothes, have every child go through his or her clothes to pick out his or her 7 favorite pants, t-shirts, long-sleeve shirts, dresses, skirts, leggings, sweaters, sweatshirts, etc. For socks and underwear, I recommend keeping 10 pairs of each to allow for changing socks or underwear more than once a day if necessary. If the children own fewer than 7 each of those types of clothing, great! Fold all the clothing or hang it on hangers and put it away.

Take the extra clean clothing and box it up, one box per family member. Write today’s date on the box. In your smart phone, computer or on a paper calendar or planner, enter a reminder 6 months from that date to check on those boxes. Store the boxes somewhere out of the way, like in the basement or garage. When 6 months is up, check on those boxes. If you haven’t needed to get any clothing out of the box in 6 months, then you know you do not need those extra articles of clothing. Donate them!

What do you do with the dirty clothing that was in the wash? Once it is all clean, sort it. If you need some of it to round out the children’s 7 of everything, add it to their closet. If you don’t, box it up to check on in 6 months or donate it all now.

Now. Time to set up a new laundry schedule. If you are not home each day until the evening, plan to do one load of laundry to completion each evening or every other evening. You have the best chance of getting that load done if you start it as soon as you walk in the door before you eat dinner.

If your washing machine timer is not very loud, set a timer closer to you so you can transfer the wash into the dryer as soon as it is done. Set the timer again so you know when the clothes are done in the dryer.

As soon as those clothes are dry, bring them into the family room for everyone to fold. If everyone works together (children as young as 4 can be included!), you should have that whole pile folded in less than 10 minutes. If it’s just you, fold it in front of your favorite evening TV show or while listening to a podcast to make the task more enjoyable. During a commercial break, everyone puts their clothing away. Laundry for the day is DONE!

Keep up this daily or every-other-day laundry schedule so you never have that out-of-control laundry monster to deal with again! And make sure to greatly reduce the amount of new clothing you buy. If you buy something new, see if you can get rid of something old so you always have just 7 of everything. Let me know how it goes!

Image courtesy of Perfecto Insecto at Flickr.

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