Laundry is a necessary part of running any home, and as a young bride oh-so-many years ago, I was overwhelmed by the task. My husband and I built up what we disdainfully referred to as “the pile” each week in our tiny apartment’s single bedroom. Many domiciles and children later, I’ve learned a thing or two, and would love to share our approach with you. Mock it or emulate it as you please. Some people can be inspired to do laundry because they love their family so much, they consider it a joy to wash their unmentionables no matter their condition. That doesn’t work for me. I love my family, but I do not love their underwear. I need something different to inspire me to wash it.
Dirty laundry is filthy and ugly by virtue of its name and its condition. So why not pretty it up? Who says you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear? For many years now I have used a sorting cart that was flimsy but functional. Recently I asked my dad to build me a sturdy wooden frame for it in place of the plastic bars on which it was precariously perched. He came through beyond my expectations, thinking to keep a portion of the back open in order to allow for some ventilation, and kept it on wheels to preserve its necessary mobility. I’ve now painted it with semi-gloss white (Pale Bloom, to be specific… it’s used throughout our home) and got to work with my Sharpie collection, decorating it in keeping with the inspiration piece I’ve used for years. (My girly, flowery dishes inspire me. But that’s a story for another day.) The semi-gloss keeps it easy to wipe up, and the flowers… well, they’re homespun, but they make me not dread the daunting laundry task quite as much. Our laundry area is a part of our kitchen, so keeping a hamper there demands that it not be an eyesore.
The functionality of the sorting cart is equally crucial. Many years ago I noticed one my very organized sister-in-law had, and when I saw the benefits, it beat “the pile” for sure. I like the three-compartment type, which is what she used. It holds the right volume in each section for a good full load, and allows us to sort the clothes into darks, lights, and then a section for towels, underwear, socks, and gross stuff that needs bleach and hot water. Keeping the darks and lights separate keeps red things and jeans from ruining other clothing, and keeps my daughter’s pretty pastels looking spiffy. And keeping the gross stuff separate has obvious benefits. Goodbye, E. coli!
The kids are expected to sort their dirty clothes each time they change. My husband and I have a hamper in our bathroom, and when it’s full I sort it into the cart. When every section of the cart is full, it’s a laundry day. The kids all help me move the loads through the system, washing and drying the contents of each section of our cart, all the while dumping the dry contents on my sofa. Yes, it’s a pile, but it’s a clean one. Nothing gets folded until everything is clean. This saves unnecessary steps. Trust me. Then the kids come along, and we sort the clean pile into mini-piles for each bedroom and one for towels and sheets. The owner/owners of each bedroom then take their pile, fold it, and put it away. I handle the Mom and Dad pile as well as the towels, which go to so many different locations that it’s just easier to fold them and put them away myself, rather than involving the kids in that domain.
I’ve tried other approaches – a load or two a day, which resulted in washing loads that were too small, which is wasteful for us… once a week, which was insane… twice a week on designated days, which led to me serving the routine, not the other way around as it should be. We’ve tried it all, and this is what works. So, about every other day or so, when the flowery sorting cart is full in all three sections, the sofa spends its day drowning in Wilbur clothes until the process is complete. But isn’t that what sofas are for?