Thursday, March 29, 2012


There's nothing more Sisyphean than laundry for a family. Dirty laundry regenerates like...what? Can you think of anything that regenerates faster, more relentlessly than laundry?

I'm lucky to have a pretty functional laundry room space--thanks largely to Mark and his Dad. Skip installed the shallow shelf above the washer and dryer. Mark added the big counter top that gives me work space and--more important--prevents stuff from falling down into the abyss between machines. Mark also installed the hanging rod across the room so I can hang his work shirts straight out of the dryer (and use that as an excuse to never iron them).

Here's how I run our laundry system:

- Marathon style. Laundry for a largish family is a marathon, not a sprint. I do laundry every day. Even if I do only one load (and the kids do one, see below), we'll  never get too far behind.
The chalkboard ovals to label the bins seemed like such a fun idea but ended up being ridiculously hard to execute.

- Buckets. Oh, it's all about the storage containers. On one side of my little laundry room are six dirty-clothes buckets for whites, towels, jeans, colors, lights, and kitchen (this is for damp rags and cloth napkins, which we use a lot of). On the other side, above the washer and dryer are ten clean-laundry buckets, one for each kid, one for Mark and I, one for kitchen laundry, one for clothes to give away, and one for outgrown things that need to be stored in their proper container.

- Fold it. In my experience, caching dry laundry leads only to sadness. And children rooting through piles like feral pigs.  I stand in the laundry room and fold laundry straight out of the dryer and into the kids' clean buckets.

- Enlist the kids. My kids are responsible for bringing the contents of their bedroom hampers to the laundry room and sorting them into the proper dirty buckets. And then for taking the contents of their  clean buckets back up to their rooms. In addition, the kid with basement as their zone is in charge of "shuffling" the laundry once a day. That entails folding the contents of the dryer, drying what's in the washer, and starting a new load. This has been a big help in keeping up on top of the laundry situation.

(I have a friend who made a point of never putting her husband's clean laundry away for him. She'd wash, dry, and fold it, then leave the little stack on his bed for him. She felt it was important to leave that bit of the cycle in his hands. Not a bad idea, I think.)


  1. That is a brilliantly executed system. For the amount of laundry that goes in and out of that small room, it's a miracle.

    Why isn't there some common phrase about doing laundry like there is about shoveling snow when it's still snowing?

    (Am I the only one who always needs at least two tries to get these word verifications right?)o

  2. I love it! We will be moving in the next couple of weeks so what a great opportunity to start a new system. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I love reading about all of your running a household posts (clipboards, zones, laundry, etc). It gives me so many ideas, and now that I'm expecting my fourth, I feel us slowly slipping into a 'larger' family mode, where things like me doing all the laundry just don't cut it anymore (and one laundry day doesn't work anymore either - I sure did like the feeling of being all done with laundry for six days of the week). I've just started my two older girls on folding and putting away their own clothes, and although it's more work for me currently than just doing it myself would be, I can scent freedom in the future, and it keeps me going. I especially like the two different types of baskets - I'll have to pin it to remind me of this later.

  4. I meant doesn't cut it anymore- I just hate those little typos....

  5. If I left Mark's clean folded laundry on the bed, that is where it would stay and soon I would have to sleep on the couch.

  6. If I left Mark's clean folded laundry on the bed, that is where it would stay and soon I would have to sleep on the couch.

  7. This is a very beautiful and inspiring system.

    I am with Thora, I love reading your household organizational posts.