Slow down and simplify

How to stop drowning in laundry

Clothes hanging out to dry to illustrate how to keep on top of laundry

Is there a more satisfactory feeing than having all the laundry done? Cleaned, folded and put away. It lasts all of three seconds, but, wow, it feels good. Unfortunately, laundry is more often associated with frustration and overwhelm.

Before kids, laundry was a weekly chore. In the weekend, I put on a load or two. Done. There was the occasional panic to iron a shirt the morning before a big meeting at work, but generally, laundry didn’t figure too much in the scheme of my life. I never thought that someday I’d find myself writing on the internet about it! Then we welcomed our son into our lives.

I packed my hospital bag with some extra baby clothes­ – I wasn’t an idiot – but I was a novice and in for a shock! The first night he vomited through several changes of clothes. And then there were my clothes – if I wasn’t being spit up on, I was being peed on, or worse. At early catch-ups with my mothers’ group we lamented our respective mountains of laundry, along with sleep deprivation and sore nipples. Nearly five years later, the conversations have changed, but, laundry is a constant!

While laundry is a bigger part of my life than it was in my child-free days, I’ve developed a simple system in our home that makes laundry a non-event that ticks over in the background. If you are feel like your drowning in a sea of laundry, I offer these tips to help you get on top of things.

  1. Don’t let it pile up

For a less-fuss laundry system, do it more often. How does doing laundry more often make things simpler? By breaking it down into manageable chunks. You have a much better chance of getting one load of laundry washed, dried and put away, without getting diverted or overwhelmed, than if you are trying to do three or four loads at a time.

When I have enough for a load, I do one. Using this approach, laundry is simply part of my daily rhythm. Laundry is something that just happens (like making breakfast and brushing my teeth), as opposed to a task that needs to be organised and scheduled, or a looming to-do to dread.

Have a think about how long it takes your household to generate a load of laundry – maybe it’s every couple of days, maybe you create two loads a day. Find a rhythm that fits with your need for clean clothes. In terms of organisation, using this system, you only need enough room to store one load of dirty laundry at a time. Laundry hampers and baskets are great for keeping things tidy, but they can also encourage stockpiling. Once you’ve found your rhythm, you might want to adjust down the number and/or size of your laundry hampers and baskets. Personally, I don’t bother sorting darks and colours from whites.

While I encourage you to wash frequently, make sure you’re only cleaning things that are dirty. There are some good guides as to how frequently you need to clean your clothing, as well as linen and bedding.

If you’ve currently got a backlog, ask for some help to get it cleared and start afresh.

  1. Buy wisely

Avoid buying items that need special care (that includes ironing). That’s a no brainer. You can also help to keep things simple with tricks, like buying socks that are all the same.

Then it’s a matter of getting your quantities right. In my experience, there’s some crazy law of the universe: the more clothing you have the more you use. It’s the same with linen, plates, bowls, cups and glasses. Less clothing and linen means less to wash. Plus, when you have less, you’ve got an incentive to wash more frequently.

How much is enough? A general rule I work to is, “one in use, one in the wash, and one in reserve”. For each bed, I have three sets of sheets. For towels, I have three per person. I also use this rule in building my ever-growing son’s wardrobe. He regularly goes through 2 – 3 changes of clothing in a day, especially bottoms. So, I aim to have 6 – 9 bottoms that fit him at any one time. For your own wardrobe, see my tips for simplifying clothing and dressing.

  1. Finish the job

It’s not just dirty laundry that can easily get out of hand, the clean stuff can be just as challenging. The same general principles apply – to avoid overwhelming yourself don’t stockpile it, deal with it straight away.

To prevent clean laundry piling up, try the following:

  • fold the clean laundry as you unpeg it from the line or unload it from the dryer, sorting it into piles as you go
  • put the piles away immediately
  • limit yourself to one washing basket, so you must unload it before you can use it again.

Laundry – love it or hate it? What’s your best tip for simplifying laundry?


  • Sharron
    April 28, 2017 at 10:38 pm

    Yes, yes, yes and yes!! I do pretty much all of this with three teens who all play sport and find laundry the easy task. It’s the dishwashing I struggle to keep up with without getting peeved lol.

  • purpleslobinrecovery
    April 29, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    I don’t bother sorting either! I thought I was the only one!
    Oh yes, the more u have, the less u wash is so true! That’s why I winnowed down my dishes, etc. Even towels, but now I’ll be living w/ my daughter and 2 babies. So, now we’ve have 90 thousand towels! Maybe I’m using hyperbole, but no by much, it feels!!

  • Julie
    June 30, 2017 at 12:09 am

    so true! i sort my laundry by colour-whites, darks and colours. i do whites on monday, darks on tuesday and colours on wednesdays and thursdays. special items that need a very hot wash or are very big like bedsheets, kitchen cloths and wash cloths get done on friday and saturday. a load for me is anything over 4 items, so i do the laundry even if there isnt that much. this keeps it all manageable. my kids wear clothes 2-3 days in a row as long as it isnt very dirty ( small stains can be washed off with some soap and water) and i try and do 2 loads per day, 1 being put on before the kids get up. my kids hwlp me sort the laundry and they put it away their own clothes themselves. i have 5 kids ? and dont feel like laundry is a problem at all anymore.

  • Rebecca@Power House Fan
    August 28, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    We are one in the same!!!!! I’m going to try your method and see if it works for me. Thanks!!!!!

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