“I’ve got to go. My rocking chair tipped over,” my friend said as she begged off our phone call.
Having no idea what that meant, I had to ask. She explained that when the rocking chair in her bedroom tipped over and fell backward, it meant it was time to do laundry. So many clothes had been draped over it, the chair could no longer stay upright.
It’s kind of funny and not all at the same time.
Piles of family laundry, both dirty and clean, are a stress-inducer and certainly not an attractive accessory to your home decor. As a busy working mother of three, it was an ongoing challenge to keep up with laundry. I’d wash, dry, fold and return it neatly to their beds only to find it kicked on the floor as they climbed into bed. After a few times of that, and something had to change — and did.
Later, as a professional organizer, I came to recognize laundry issues were a big factor in household disorganization. No one can find school uniforms or soccer socks. The laundry to be folded ends up in heaps on the couch. It looks so messy that pretty soon family members leave shoes, papers, and dirty dishes behind as the clutter-bug infects everything. After a while, the clothes, which didn’t get folded, have sat in heaps so long they are wrinkled and end up needing to be washed or ironed again.
It can seem overwhelming, but actually organizing your laundry area and routine is really easy. A few simple changes can make a world of difference.
Start with the Laundry Room
One thing I’ve learned as a professional organizer is that beautiful rooms stay organized. Just as that messy couch full of laundry attracts more clutter, a pretty room tends to stay that way, as we don’t want to ruin the look.
Begin making changes to your laundry problem by tackling your laundry room.
- Get organized. Sort through everything that has accumulated in the room and discard clutter. Move things to their right spots if they should not be in the laundry room. Keep in mind the reason for the laundry room and try to limit what you store in there so you have room to fold clothing and do laundry.
- Find storage. Go vertical and add some cabinets or shelves for storage. Get things off of the floor and surfaces so it looks pretty and clutter free—but also so that it also gives you plenty of room to walk and work.
- Buy supplies. Win the war on stains by stocking up on stain treatments so they can be applied to spills immediately. Get a sewing kit for replacing buttons or small repairs.
- Make your steamer or iron and board easily accessible. Use an iron and ironing board holder to hang them on the wall or on the back of the door.
Collect Clothes Everywhere
Remotes were invented because we simply didn’t want to shuffle across the shag carpet any longer to change the channel. With that in mind, you can be pretty sure your family members are not going to walk across the house to the laundry room every time they have something dirty in their hands.
The more laundry hampers you have, the less dirty clothes will be left around the house. Tuck a laundry basket in the closet for dirty items, or consider your hamper to be part of the decor, like this elephant hamper in the baby’s room, and choose one to go with the space. Add hampers to any place that collects dirty stuff, from the mudroom to the laundry room to the bathroom.
Hide Laundry in Plain Sight
If you live in a small space and can’t figure out where to tuck a hamper, consider hiding storage for dirty clothes in plain sight. There are laundry hampers that look like a piece of furniture. Use one as a bedside nightstand or as a side table in a studio apartment. Or, look for something unconventional, such as an ottoman with a lid that lifts for hidden storage.
Plan for Wet Clothes
Not everything can go in the dryer. Hanging wet clothing all over the place—from shower rods to the backs of chairs—just creates clutter. Get a folding drying rack and tuck it out of the way when not in use. A portable one can even go outside on warm days to take advantage of the sun.
Hang Up Fast
Part of the laundry madness is rewashing clothing that is clean but terribly wrinkled. Add a rack or bar in your laundry room so freshly dried items can be hung up directly from the dryer. A great idea is to collect empty hangers when you collect dirty laundry. Having those already at hand will make it easy to hang things up.
Divide and Conquer
Having a basket assigned to each family member is a terrific organizing tool. Instead of running from room to room trying to put things away, you can fold and sort the laundry into the correct basket. You can add labels to baskets or choose a different color basket for each person. If your laundry room permits it, you can add shelves so that baskets can be stacked.
Get in a Habit
Every household will have a different laundry habit or routine that works for them. The important key is to come up with a routine, because waiting until the rocking chair falls over might be funny, but is not the best of ideas—you are already behind by then.
For a while when we had babies, my husband worked nights and I worked days. We developed a routine where he’d throw in a load before he left in the afternoon and I’d put it in the dryer when I came home at dinner and fold it after the babies were in bed. Of course, as our schedules changes, the routine changed. The important part is to find something that works now. Here are some ideas you might incorporate:
- Have a set laundry day(s). Waiting until you need to do laundry means there is too much to do.
- Try having a day per family member. Instead of collecting laundry from every room and then returning it to every room, over and over, just wash, dry and fold one person’s each day. It is a huge timesaver.
- Get kids involved. Begin by teaching toddlers to put their things in the hamper. Clap and praise them when they do. Get older children to help carry dirty clothes to the washer. They can help match socks and put things in drawers. By upper-elementary and middle school, they should be able to start helping with their laundry. After all, they can operate a computer and a microwave—why not a washing machine?
- Wait to dry. Only start the dryer when you have time to listen for the buzzer. Throwing things in and leaving them to sit forever only creates a wrinkled mess and more work. If you can’t be there in 30 minutes to catch the load, wait until you can.
- Buy fewer clothes. If you can go weeks without doing laundry and wind up with mountains of dirty clothes, you may just have too many clothes. Consider paring down so you don’t have so much to deal with. Less clothes mean less mess.
Prevent your laundry from piling up with these easy tips. Once you make a habit of organizing your laundry, you’ll find it’s much easier to manage it on the daily.
These tips on bathroom and laundry room organization are aimed at eliminating the stress that often accompanies storage issues related to clothes and bath items being readied for washing. To review a wide assortment of bath hampers and other related accessories, visit Home Decorators.
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