The Laundry Process

There are a few key areas in your home that absolutely must have a system in place just to maintain sanity in your home. One of these areas is the laundry room. Some laundry rooms are more like a phone booth with not even enough room for you to squeeze in once you put in a stacking washer and dryer unit. A little bit more spacious ‘laundry area’ would be a small closet with bi-fold doors which only gives you one shelf above the washer and dryer units. Then some people have the luxury of having an actual room dedicated to the wonderful machinery that does so much work for us.

But even those with actual rooms have varying sizes, shapes, and storage solutions. But really having a system for your laundry is not entirely about space, but rather about the system. Sure having lots of space is great, but not required. And so often I find that space in a laundry room is not used as efficiently as it could be.

As you begin to think about your situation, think through what is your purpose of the laundry room. That sounds kind of silly to even say since its purpose is its name but really…is your laundry room large enough to have more purposes than just dealing with the laundry? If so, that’s great, but let’s put those ideas aside for the moment. We can store light bulbs or garbage bags or batteries in many other parts of the house, but it doesn’t’ make sense to keep laundry detergent anywhere other than the laundry room. So putting aside all of the other ideas you want to implement in your laundry room, let’s focus on the purpose and system of getting the laundry accomplished.

In our house I break all of the normal laundry rules. I don’t pre-sort. I do mix colors. I run every load on the same setting… just about. I seldom take the laundry out of the dryer right away. I don’t fold my kids laundry once they turn about 5 yrs old. And, I don’t iron. Ok I do for weddings, job interviews, and speech and debate tournaments, but very little else merits me getting out the iron and ironing board. I buy clothing that doesn’t need ironing, which is helpful. I also teach my kids to iron by the time they are age 12 or so. Another good option is to hang the wrinkled item in the bathroom while people take hot showers. The steam will work wonders.

So what do I do? My process is fairly simple. Each bedroom has it’s own laundry hamper to be used by those who live in that room. Once the child reaches about age 6, they are responsible (with help from mom until they master the routine) to bring their hamper to the laundry room when it is about ¾ or more full. Once in the laundry room, we do a very casual sort based on what is in the basket. Heavier clothes like jeans and sweatshirts go together and then everything else lighter weight goes together. Towels go together. Sheets go together. I only worry about colors if there is something brand new that hasn’t been washed yet. Once every couple of months I will bleach all of the whites separately. Otherwise most of the normal weight clothes just go in together. Therefore, a load of clothes from that hamper goes into the washer, then into the dryer, and then into a clean basket and onto their shelf in the laundry room.

The beauty of this system is:

  1. I don’t have to sort all of the laundry coming out of the dryer because it all goes belongs to the same child(ren) whose room it came out of.

  2. I wash same weight items together, which allows for efficient dryer time.

  3. More socks tend to stay together.

  4. If someone leaves a piece of gum or a ballpoint pen in their pocket it doesn’t ruin someone else’s clothing (not that that has ever happened before at my house).

I have tried before to have a certain day of the week that each person (or group of people if they shared a room) did his or her laundry. That ended up to be more trouble than it was worth. Even with 9 people living in the house it seemed to work out.

Giving the older children ownership of the process has also provided a great opportunity to discuss personal choices and consequences:

Example #1 - Child 1 puts their laundry in the washer and even remembers to switch it to the dryer. Now child 1 is gone to a friend’s house and child 2 needs to switch their laundry into the dryer. Child 1’s clothes are still damp. Child 2 puts the damp clothes in a basket and puts her own clothes in the dryer, retrieves them, folds them and puts them away. Child 1 is pretty miffed the next morning when she finds her clothes slightly damp and has to wear them to work in 10 min.

It also provided a great opportunity to discuss graciousness and supporting one another in our family and showing gratitude when others support you:

Example #2 - Insert above example only this time child 2 finishes drying child 1’s clothes before drying her own.

No process is perfect and we revamp every couple of years as the kids get older. Even if your process looks very different than mine…just make sure you have a process. This event happens far to often to let it be sorted out (pun intended) by chance.

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