Slow + Steady Cleans the House :: Week 3

This week I tackle the dreaded laundry monster. Laundry, to me, is a mystery chore :: it's not an extremely difficult task (after all, the washing machine + dryer do most of the work) but it still doesn't get done often enough; all of us seem to wear the same clothes over and over again but the mountains of laundry seem to get larger and larger; and where do the darn single socks disappear to?!

[image from Shirt.Woot]

Everyday I am faced with some kind of you-still-haven't-finished-the-laundry reminder :: we have stacks of clean clothes in the living room that need to be folded, put away, or washed again because they've been sitting there for god knows how long; and we have way too many laundry hampers around the house full of dirty clothes and linens. And we can't forget about the washer that's full of dirty clothes and the dryer that hasn't been unloaded yet.

It's clear that we haven't found a laundry system that works for us. I'm hoping that if we have an actual plan we can conquer laundry. So, what do you do?

I'd love to read about your laundry process, so please feel free to leave comments as well.

In an absolutely perfect world, someone else would take care of my laundry for me, but that ain't ever gonna happen. So I've been thinking instead of what would be a more ideal situation. Unfortunately, that entails some major renovations to our house so I had to scrap the idea. (Honestly, I would rather have an office/craft room or a nicer bathroom but more square footage for a laundry room would make things so much easier!) So now I'm down to being realistic about our laundry solutions. Boo being realistic!

First, I think we're not using hampers well. Before we had kids we kept two hampers, one for white clothes and one for colors. I did the laundry when they got full, and the clean clothes got put away because I needed the hamper to be empty for the new dirty clothes. But then, somewhere along the way, we started accumulating more and more laundry baskets and hampers. I think that was the major mistake.

Now that we have enough baskets to leave our clean clothes in, I don't bother to fold and put the clothes away. Instead, we just pull clean clothes out of the basket to wear. And because we have the dual system of throwing dirty clothes directly into the washing machine and putting some dirty clothes into hampers, the whites and colors don't get sorted and some clothes don't get washed for a long time (i.e., the washing machine fills up more quickly than the hampers fill up so the hamper clothes get neglected).

As a solution, I'm really liking the idea of these laundry baskets by Rubbermaid :: Stack'n Sort baskets, which were mentioned on the Real Simple Home & Organizing blog. Each member of the family would get two (whether for whites + colors or for clean + dirty). Once we have the hamper situation squared away we'll stop putting clothes directly into the washing machine.

Second, I think a laundry schedule would work for me. Otherwise I go much too long between washing towels and sheets. Writing laundry into my weekly schedule might help me to be more efficient about getting it all done. My plan is to start laundry in the morning on the days I go into work late (Monday and Thursday) and do a load (or two) of linens during the weekend. If there's a lot of laundry that needs to be done, I might do a load on Wednesday (when I come home early from work) or on Friday (my day off). With this schedule I might end up doing a load everyday (!) but at least I've scheduled specific times to get it done.

Third, "doing laundry" means sorting dirty clothes, washing + drying, folding, and putting away. It's the whole package and needs to be done as a whole package. Going back to my last point about scheduling laundry, I need to make sure I have enough time during that day to complete the entire process.

And last, Rupert and I are trying to get the kids involved. We obviously can use all the help we can get! Currently, the kids put their dirty clothes in the washer and they sort the clean clothes. For the most part they do a good job, but it dawned on me that they pay very little attention to what Rupert and I wear; it's not uncommon to find Rupert's shirts in my pile and vice versa. I'm sure with some more practice they'll get it one of these days. As they get older I'll have them take on a bit more of the laundering process.

Laundry is definitely a chore for me, so I was surprised that no one chose laundry as one of their three worst chores in last week's poll. Cleaning the kitchen came in first as the worst chore, followed by dishwashing and dusting + vacuuming (a tie). As I've been thinking more and more about cleaning in order to write these blog posts, it's becoming clearer and clearer that having fewer possessions would make cleaning much easier and go by much more quickly. (I think a decluttering post will be in the works for posting in the near future.)

As for the follow-up poll about how often people spot-clean, it turns out people are kinda split on this one. One person answered "weekly" but two others answered "once every two weeks," and another two, "when it gets disgusting." I wish the two people who answered "other" specified their frequency. I am definitely not a weekly spot-cleaner -- the days just seem to fly by before I can get the cleaning supplies out -- so I'd have to say I wait until things get disgusting. When I write it out like that for all the world to read, it makes me feel pathetic. Gotta work towards spot-cleaning a bit more frequently ... or at least train the kids how to do some of it!


New Teach said...

One timesaver: standardizing socks. White for Julia, pink for Emily, black tall and white short shared by Brian and me.

Allison said...

We have been known to dump loads of clean laundry on the bed (no time to fold) so we could continue to use the basket and sit on the couch (the only other place to dump laundry in our place). Then, at the end of the day, when it's obviously too late to be folding laundry, we shove the pile over to one side and kind of curl up among the piles. I don't suggest it, because once you do that, you have lowered the bar so low that you'll continue to do that for days on end until someone falls out of bed in the middle of the night.