What I’ve Learned about Laundry

Let me start this off by saying that I am not a laundry expert and what works for me may not work for you, but what works for me has been working for me for over a decade.
The main, life-saving thing I’ve figured out about laundry is that I don’t have to do as much of it as my mother.
Wait, what? I know, I know. But, I grew up with six people in my house. Three of us wore uniforms to school and played sports and had play clothes. The four of us girls were particularly good at trying on an outfit, discovering it was “wrong,” throwing it on the ground and a week later, assuming it was dirty. Meaning my mom did, at a minimum, eleven loads of laundry a week. When I first went to college I did seven to eight loads a week. In my mind, moms way was the right way so I needed to model what I had seen.
A few years later I realized that I don’t have four children. My cat doesn’t wear clothes and honestly, since I work in an office, if the weather is nice, a lot of times I’ll change right out of my work clothes and into something else and hang my work clothes right back up to be worn again before washing.
I kept some pieces of moms methods though. I’ve tried many different detergents (someday I’ll tell you my peanut butter story) and fabric softener/dryer sheet combos. I like Tide detergent and Downy fabric softener the best, which is what she uses. And I sort my clothes into piles on the floor, just like she did.
laundry floor piles
I don’t make a crazy amount of piles. Mostly I separate out whites/towels, sheets/pillowcases, everything else. If D has things here, I separate his out too because they tend to be covered in motor oil and don’t want to risk that getting on my clothes. I put the piles on the floor the night before I do the laundry so that they can’t be missed.
Because of the length of time it takes to wash vs. dry, I usually wash whites first. It takes 28 minutes to wash whites & over 40 for most other things, but the dryer is pretty much always an hour. So I knock out the shortest wash first.
Mixture of Whites
I was doing whites and towels separately for most of my life. Then one day I realized: whites and towels get washed at the same temperature and typically with the same intensity. So I started putting them together and made one less load because, unlike my mother, I don’t actually have 11 loads worth of laundry.
Sort sort sort
I do my laundry every week, regardless. My sisters can all tell you the laundry motto of the family: do smaller loads more often. The reason for that is actually because the laundry isn’t what’s annoying: the folding is. If you have less to fold at a time, you’re less likely to become overwhelmed.
As I fold, I sort into piles the way that they’ll go into my drawer: jammies, worker clothes, leggings, t-shirts. I make a separate pile for things that will be hung up.
Even Sort Hanging
I sort what will be hung up too. If I’m already in sorting mode, I figure I might as well. Having things already sorted down makes putting them away even easier.
 
A couple tips to make laundry easier:
  • Before I go to bed every night, I put my clothes in the laundry basket. This sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes I come home, do a quick change and leave again, which means clothes quickly start to pile up places. I’m also notorious for leaving a stack of cardigans on a kitchen chair because that’s where I got hot.
  • When possible, wear it again. Clothes aren’t made to be washed a bazillion times. I tend to keep a very limited closet and so I change when I get home from work and hang my work clothes to air out. If it’s hot or I walked a bunch with my puffy coat on or just generally got sweaty, I through it in the basket, but otherwise, I save myself the headache of the wash.
  • Wash the load with the shortest wash-time first. This sounds really meticulous, but I found that I wash something that took 45 minutes, then throw it in to dry for an hour while something that took 28 minutes was washing and I’d be really annoyed by the fact that my wet clothes had to sit there that long.
  • If you have kiddos, chances are your mom knows a lot about how to manage the laundry. I’m not a great resource for this. I just know that she did about two loads a day and that worked for her. If I had been a more attentive daughter, I would know when she did those loads, but I was too busy teenaging to pay attention (sorry mom!).
  • If you have a particularly small load, toss in a blanket or two. I do this all the time. I have a bunch of blankets in my family room and at the change of the season I will wash them all in one load. But between now and then, I just toss them in when I can. I don’t have small children with jammy hands and the cat is very particular about his blankets (his get washed when I wash my bedding), so the others don’t get dirty very quickly.
 
Here’s a quick summary of what I’ve figured out over the years:
  • Doing laundry once a week means I know exactly how much to budget for laundry & helps me keep my load smaller.
  • If I do the laundry every week, there’s less clutter in my house because there isn’t laundry everywhere.
  • Smaller loads means less to fold and put away.
  • My moms methods are awesome for a mom with a lot of kids. I’m not a mom with a lot of kids, so I have to adapt.
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7 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned about Laundry

  1. This is some really useful advice. The idea about hanging your clothes back up if they’re not too dirty is new to me! I tend to act like you did in high school: try something on, decide it’s “not right,” put it aside, and then sweep it into the washer later on. Does using different temperatures and cycles really matter, though? We just throw everything into the washer as we take it off and then run a load when it’s full.

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