Why is laundry so difficult?
Especially in this modern age, laundry is supposed to be simple, right?
We no longer have to scrub each outfit since we have amazing machines that do the majority of the work for us.
Yet even with the modern conveniences so many of us have, laundry tends to get out of control.
And when we get behind and are drowning in a sea of clothing, dirty or clean, it feels like there is no way we can catch up and still do everything else that is required of us.
Nothing else in our cleaning schedule works this way!
But these never-ending jobs keep building up even when we have just completed them.
Before I had a system down for laundry, it could easily be an all morning task just to fold the week’s laundry.
It felt like such a waste of time!
The Reason Laundry is Difficult
The reason that laundry is so difficult to figure out is that it isn’t a simple task. Simple tasks are easy to complete because you generally stick with the job until it is done.
Cleaning the bathroom would be a simple task. You don’t clean the mirror then wait an hour before you can clean the sink. Everything gets done sequentially.
Laundry is a task with several steps and pauses in the routine. Those breaks (the time it takes for the machine to wash or dry the clothes) make our life easier in some ways, but more difficult in others.
While we no longer have to bend over a washboard and scrub for hours (thank you, James King!), we now have to remember to go back to switch the laundry and fold it.
Our modern conveniences also give us a false sense of accomplishment. After we rotate a load into the dryer we think, “Wow, look at the progress I’m making, one load washed already, I’ll just pop in another.”
Before long we find ourselves standing over a mountain of clean clothes picking out the one thing we were looking for and leaving the rest to wrinkle for the week.
In this post I’m going to show you The Most Important Step for Never Getting Behind on Laundry Again, My Minimalist Laundry Routine, 12 Tips to Save Time and Energy Doing Laundry, and 5 tips for Saving Money with Laundry.
And if you prefer to watch instead of read, check out this video:
The Key to Never Getting Behind Again
Do ONE Load Every Day, but Only One
I used to try to do all of my laundry on one day. When I did this, I found that I would put off having a laundry day as long as possible because I knew it would be a huge task.
Once I finally convinced myself that we were running out of clothing and if I didn’t act fast we would have nothing to wear, I would tell myself that this time would be different. This time I was going to fold ALL THE LAUNDRY!
By the time the laundry was all sitting there in a pile of clean clothes, it felt too overwhelming to fold and I usually ended up leaving it there.
We would end up going into the laundry room through the week, picking out whatever we needed or wanted to wear, then leaving the rest there to wrinkle.
When I switched to doing the laundry on multiple days, it was a much more manageable amount of clothing to fold and put away at the end of each cycle.
You’ll want to decide on the number of times each week that you need to do laundry.
If you have a small family, you might be able to get away with only doing one or two loads a week. If you have a large family, you might need to do an extra load on the weekends.
I have found that we do about one load per person per week once everyone is potty trained.
(If you are doing cloth diapers like we did, you might need to do an extra load or two of diapers per week. I never folded the cloth diapers, I just laid them in a pile on top of each other so it didn’t add much to my laundry routine. And with the second child, I didn’t bother washing them separately from clothing so I didn’t end up doing any extra loads.)
The most important thing to remember with doing one load of laundry per day, is to do it from start to finish!
And by finish, I don’t mean stuck in the dryer until the next load needs to go into the dryer. And by finish, I don’t mean in a pile on the floor. By finish, I mean folded and put away.
Since our laundry machine is upstairs, I start the laundry before we go downstairs for breakfast.
After we get home from swimming lessons or the park in the morning, I switch the laundry to the dryer. Then, depending on what we are doing that afternoon, I will either fold the laundry after my younger daughter wakes up from her nap, or I will fold in the evening as my husband gets the girls ready for bed.
Completing one load of laundry every day has been a huge cure for the laundry problem I was facing.
If you work outside the home, try starting the laundry as soon as you walk in the door at the end of the day, then switch it over before you sit down to dinner. Then you can either fold it while your spouse puts the kids to bed, or you can have him fold it while you do the snuggles.
My Minimalist Laundry Routine
As with all of my routines in My Weekly Cleaning Schedule, my goal was to make my Laundry Routine as simple as possible.
Here is my Weekly Laundry Routine:
Sunday: Possible Load of Laundry, Start to Finish
When we were doing cloth diapers and/or potty training, I needed this extra day of doing laundry.
Now that both girls are potty trained, I don’t generally do laundry on Sunday. But if we have an outdoor weekend of hiking, camping, or yard work, I can do a quick load of our dirty weekend clothes.
Monday: One Load of Laundry, Start to Finish
Tuesday: One Load of Laundry, Start to Finish
Wednesday: Sheets and Towels, start to finish
Thursday: One Load of Laundry, Start to Finish
Friday: One Load of Laundry, Start to Finish
Saturday: Day Off!
(Here’s my full Simple Weekly Cleaning Schedule; the Routine that Took Me From Overwhelmed to In Control, if you’d like to see it.)
12 Tricks for Never Getting Behind on Laundry Again!
1) Do One Load of Laundry Every Day
As I mentioned above, this is the number one key to keeping your laundry under control.
Do one load of laundry (and only one!) start to finish every day.
And the big key here is to finish the process: wash, dry, fold, and put away.
If this is the only tip you start using, you will immediately stop feeling overwhelmed by laundry.
If you currently feel like you are drowning in laundry, don’t try to catch up before implementing this system.
Doing one load a day will automatically catch you up as long as your washer and dryer hold more that a day’s worth of clothing.
Just start today doing one load, and only one, start to finish and see how long it takes before you are back in control of your laundry routine.
If all of your laundry for one day doesn’t fit into your machine, you may want to invest in high-capacity machines, or you may need to do two loads of laundry per day. But if that is the case for you, you likely have a lot of people in your family and you should have one of the children help you with this task… more on that later!
2) Don’t Wash Clean Clothes
This was something I learned after discovering more about minimalism and low waste living. I grew up wearing something once then throwing it in the laundry.
While I still think this practice is great for undergarments, it doesn’t necessarily apply to other articles of clothing.
Most everyday clothing for adults can be worn 2-3 times before it is in need of a wash. I will often wear one pair of jeans or shorts 3-5 days in a row before I wash it.
It cuts down on laundry which saves me time folding and putting things away.
It cuts down on water usage because I can set the water level for smaller loads and that saves me money.
And it makes my clothes last longer because they aren’t getting washed as often, which also saves me money.
The girls’ clothing typically needs to be washed every day at this point, but I can usually get 2-3 nights out of a pair of pajamas.
Even if I couldn’t use any of their clothes more than once, just reducing my laundry cuts down on the size of the load I’m washing and folding.
3) Don’t Own Too Many Clothes
If you own more clothes then you can wear in a week or two, it is tempting to let your laundry hamper become a mountain before the clothes go into the wash.
Before I minimized my clothing and my girls’ clothing, this may or may not have happened all the time.
Once I downsized the amount of clothes we owned, I was much more motivated to keep the laundry rotation in order… otherwise, I might run out of things to wear!
I keep our wardrobes to approximately a week-and-a-half’s worth of everyday clothing per season.
*Full Disclosure: I didn’t get rid of their clothing that didn’t make the cut. I simply put it in bins in the garage. Until I’m sure I’m done having babies, I’m not going to get rid of any clothes because that stuff is expensive!*
If you think you might need to declutter your clothes, check out my post How to Start Decluttering When You’re Overwhelmed and Stressed: 10 Steps to Getting Started Today.
4) Avoid White Clothing
A slightly ironic aspect of our minimalist wardrobe is that we own very little white clothing. (It almost feels wrong to say it’s a minimalist wardrobe with very little black or white.)
Not only is this because white isn’t the most flattering color on me, but I’m also about as graceful as a rhinoceros in a china shop. If there is something to spill, I make it happen. And it seems that my girls have inherited this adorable little habit.
In addition to not wanting all of my clothes stained with a variety of colors, I also found it challenging to keep my whites… well, white.
I do have a couple of white towels because I wanted to be able to bleach them periodically. I’ve done all the things and tried all the tricks, but somehow they still end up looking dingy.
Ross has requested that we don’t buy anything white again after these towels wear out and I think that’s a great plan.
No matter what I do, I find myself washing clothes or towels more when they are white to try to maintain the brightness.
I have found it saves me a lot of time doing laundry to buy any other color and not worry about it!
5) Don’t Sort Your Laundry
On a related note, not owning white clothing enables me to throw all my light clothing and dark clothing into one load.
So far, I’ve never had anything bleed.
You know the Friends episode where Rachel dyes all of her white clothes with one rogue red sock? Well, it’s a lie, you guys!
If one of the girls has a new shirt that is especially bright and looks like the color might bleed, I will wash it by itself first, but after that, I never worry about sorting the laundry.
The only exception to this rule is that I do wash my towels and sheets separately from the other clothes, for the most part.
That’s mainly because they are bulky and they can fill up the machine by themselves.
It’s also because I wanted to wash my white towels alone to keep them white…but we already know how that worked out for me.
6) Work Laundry into Your Daily Schedule
After I get my younger daughter up in the morning, I send the girls to get the hamper. They load the clothes into the washer and we start the washing machine before we go down to breakfast.
After we eat breakfast, we transfer the clothes from the washer to the dryer.
Then, depending on the day, my oldest daughter and I will fold the clothes after lunch, or if we are crunched for time, we will fold them after the girls wake up from their naps.
If you work outside the home, try starting the laundry as soon as you get home each evening. Rotate everything to the washer before you sit down to dinner, then have one person fold while the other puts the kids to bed.
If you are a single parent, fold while you watch your favorite show in the evening!
If you want more information about how to set up your daily schedule, check out this post!
7) Set a Timer
If you have a hard time remembering to switch the laundry to the dryer or remembering when it’s time to fold, set a reminder on your phone.
If your schedule is usually the same day after day, have a recurring alarm on your phone for loading the washing machine, transferring to the dryer, and folding clothes.
8) Don’t Leave the Laundry Room to Fold
I used to take all of the laundry downstairs in the evening to hang out with my husband while I folded. But it took FOREVER.
First, I had to move it all downstairs (usually more than I could carry in one load). Then I had to fold it, before hauling it all back upstairs. I find if I just do it in the laundry room it takes much less time.
The only exception to this rule is if you work outside the home and you fold laundry in the evenings as you are relaxing and watching a show.
Folding while you watch is better than not folding at all, even if it takes you a little longer.
9) Stand Up to Fold
I find if I sit down with the laundry piled around me it feels overwhelming and takes longer.
If I stand while I fold, I get it done quickly.
There is something about standing that encourages your body to move faster.
It is also more efficient to fold standing up because I can easily see where all the larger items are in the pile and get those done before I move on to the smaller items.
10) Fold As You Empty the Dryer
Before I began using this laundry system, I would take the clothes out of the dryer to find one thing or another.
Then I would leave the laundry room with the best intentions of coming back later and folding the rest.
I soon discovered that “later” never came. The next day I would find myself pulling the laundry out of the dryer onto the pile of laundry from the day before.
Now, I force myself to get everything folded immediately.
11) Put Everything Away, Right Away
Once you’re done folding, don’t delay in getting everything into the proper drawers.
This is a great task for small children to help with. If I want to, I can keep my girls busy the whole time I’m folding by having them run one item at a time from the laundry room to the proper drawer.
It’s a great way for them to burn off energy and it gives me one less step that I need to complete.
If you fold after your kids are in bed, take the piles and place them outside their doors. Then in the morning, have them put their own clothes away.
12) Don’t Do it By Yourself
If you have multiple people in your house, there is no reason that mom should do everyone’s laundry. Ok, maybe there are some reasons like if your children can’t walk yet… but other than that, no reason!
If both you and your significant other work, divide up the laundry chore. You can do this a number of ways, one way is to give each person in the family a hamper and have them be responsible for their own laundry.
It may take a couple of weeks if your spouse isn’t used to doing their own laundry, but once they run out of clothes once or twice, they will start remembering.
When we both worked outside the home, laundry was my husband’s job. He would spend Sundays watching football and getting all the laundry done. Maybe your husband would enjoy this chore as well if he could do something similar. You’ll never know unless you ask!
Since I run the house now and my husband brings in the income, I am happy to do his laundry for him. However, I still enlist the help of the girls. ( Check out How to Teach Your Children to Enjoy Doing Chores and A Beginner’s Guide to Toddler Chores for more ideas on how to get your children to help out around the house.)
When my oldest daughter was about 18 months old, I started teaching her how to fold washcloths. Every time I folded laundry, I would separate out all of the washcloths. She would fold them as I would fold everything else. It took a lot more time at first as I would need to help her and remind her to stay focused, but it paid off in the long run.
As she became proficient at the washcloths, she started asking what else she could fold. Between the ages of three and three and a half, she was able to fold every piece of clothing. Now, at the age of four, she folds all her clothes and all her sister’s clothes while I am folding Ross’s and mine.
When my younger daughter was just over one, she started helping me put the clean clothes into the dryer and pulling them out of the dryer when they were done. No, this doesn’t make my life any easier at that moment, but I want her to know she is an important part of doing chores in our house.
When your children are seven or eight years old and older, they can start doing their own laundry. My goal for my girls is that when they are seven, they will be doing their own laundry.
Especially if you have teenagers, this is a great responsibility for them to have. It is teaching them an important life skill that they will need when they move out, all while making your life easier at the same time.
Here’s are the 12 tips you can use today to get your laundry under control for good!
- Do One Load Every Day. And only one!
- Don’t Wash Clean Clothes. Re-wear your clothes to save time and money!
- Don’t Own Too Many Clothes. Decluttering will save you time.
- Avoid White Clothing
- Don’t Sort Your Laundry
- Work Laundry Into Your Daily Schedule. Then you won’t forget a load.
- Set a Timer
- Don’t Leave the Laundry Room to Fold
- Stand Up to Fold Your Laundry
- Fold As You Empty the Dryer
- Put Everything Away, Right Away
- Don’t Do All the Laundry By Yourself
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You Should Also Check Out…
If you want to see my entire minimalist cleaning routine, check out My Simple Weekly Cleaning Schedule, or create your own with 5 Steps to Create a Simple Weekly Cleaning Routine.
And if you want to figure out the most efficient way to keep your kitchen clean, hop over to The Busy Mom’s Guide to Cleaning Your Kitchen the Easy Way.
And if you want to get started Decluttering, check out How to Begin Decluttering When You’re Overwhelmed and Stress: 10 Steps for Getting Started Today.
Ready to Start Easily Managing Your Home?
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- A Daily Block Schedule
- A Laundry Routine
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- An Evening Routine for Each Kid
- An Evening Routine for Mom
- A Weekly Cleaning Routine
- A Chore Routine for Each Kid
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(Or if you are more of a do-it-yourself kind of gal, you can check out my DIY Resources for Creating Your Routines.)