This is a guest post from Lea Schneider.
Family laundry reminds me of a perpetual game of lost and found, but without the fun aspect.
Someone is always losing something — soccer uniform shorts, school polo shirt, one sock, the sash to the bathrobe — or searching for something, anything, that is clean. It’s either in the piles of dirty clothes, the wet stuff in the washer that needs to be rewashed because it sat there too long, the stuff in the dryer that sat there too long and needs to be ironed, or the pile on the dining room table you hope will fold itself.
What families really need are practical suggestions they can use. As a professional organizer who has helped families with family routines, I know destressing the laundry chore is part changing the physical space and partly creating a new habit.
Since laundry is here to stay, making some permanent changes, even small ones, at your house can really make a big difference.
1. Go Big
Swap your existing washer and dryer for larger-capacity ones. I recently did that when I moved to a different home and am amazed at the difference. I do half the number of loads per week compared to my old washer. I wish I’d done it a lot sooner.
2. Make a Routine
Too often, families have a laundry plan that’s either to wash when there aren’t any clean clothes left or when they get around to it. This creates a system where laundry piles up and then there is just too much to get done in a given time. You will feel you are always washing and will never finish.
Create a routine with set day(s) for different portions of your laundry. This way, you never feel you have to do it all at the same time. The routine will keep you on track. For example, make Monday for sheets, Tuesday for towels, Wednesday for whites, and so on. Or, assign each family member a day.
3. Get Color-Coded
A ton of time is wasted with trying to gather and do all the family wash at one time. You go to each child’s room, the bathroom, and your room to pick up here and there. You wash, dry, and fold. Then you have to separate the laundry into stacks for each person and bathroom. Then you make multiple trips to rooms, visiting a slew of dressers and every closet in the house, and then you repeat.
Get different colored laundry baskets for each family member. You can use them in different ways. Wash only one person’s clothing and return it all to their basket. No more sorting and it all returns to one room. Or, leave the baskets in the laundry room and have each family member collect their own basket.
While you are color coding, get different colored bath towels for each family member. This worked wonders for my teenagers. I always knew who had towels everywhere instead of hearing a chorus of “not mine.”
4. Treat Stains Faster
Extra work is made when stains don’t get treated. As you hang up garments, you notice stains that were missed and back into the wash they go. There are stain treatment products designed to be applied right away, even if you don’t wash for a week. Keeping some of those handy near hampers and applying them whenever you notice a stain is a great solution. Do note that not every stain remover can be applied and left on the garment. Many require you to apply and wash immediately, so be sure to thoroughly read labels and follow directions.
5. Hang Up Clothes Immediately
More laundry piles up when clothes get wrinkled sitting in the dryer. Run the dryer only when you are there to hear the buzzer so you can pull clothes out promptly. If you think you won’t hear it, set your phone alarm. Have hangers and a bar or hooks available to hang clothes up immediately as you pull them from the dryer.
6. Double Up
Certain items are worth getting doubles of so you don’t have to wait on the laundry to wash and dry. Having an extra set of bedding for each bed and an extra bathmat means you can make the bed or shower while things are washing. Likewise, if you are constantly waiting for something to wash, like your child’s jacket, then that is an item that should be doubled.
7. Teach the Kids
This tip might have made you chuckle, but keep in mind if your child is old enough to operate a computer or your phone, he or she is old enough to help with laundry. The youngest child can learn to put their laundry in the hamper and hang up their towel if you provide a low hook. Children as young as preschoolers can use a basket to help deliver their laundry to the laundry room and put their clean things away in drawers. As a next step, teach your school-age child how to sort the laundry into darks and lights. They can load it in the washer for you or pull it out of the dryer and help fold. The key is to teach them one small step at a time and move on to another step as they are ready.
8. Banish Stairs
This is a larger project, but certainly worth considering if you are planning to remodel. Move your laundry to the same floor as your bedrooms. Look for a closet to repurpose or extra space that could be remodeled into a laundry room. Getting the laundry out of the basement, garage, or kitchen and up to the level of the bedrooms means no more trekking baskets up and down the stairs, making it easier to get laundry done and put away.
One final thing to consider is whether you just have too many clothes. If you can go for weeks without washing, it might be that you’ve acquired so many clothes it has dumped you into a stressful laundry situation. When you can go so long without washing, you end up with weeks of laundry at one time — an impossible situation. Decluttering clothing so you reduce your load to a more manageable level can also help you return to laundry sanity.
Lea Schneider is an organizational expert who has consulted with many homeowners on how they can better manage their lifestyles. Lea writes her planning and stress-reducing ideas for The Home Depot. A selection of laundry equipment to research online can be found on homedepot.com.