How to Stop the Overflowing Baskets of Laundry Taking Over Your House

Are piles of clean laundry taking over your home? A lot of people have no trouble *doing* the laundry – it’s the folding and putting it away where we get stuck. Stacks of laundry baskets overflowing with clean clothes, mismatched socks spread out among all those baskets (and hiding god knows wherever else socks go), and months worth of dry cleaning hanging on exercise machines. I’ve seen it all. If you’re struggling with getting laundry put away, rest assured you’re not alone.

Pare Down

I’ve never been the type of organizer that believes that you have to get rid of things to get organized. But a good place to start is to have a magic number. A magic number is like a capsule wardrobe. But it’s a little simpler.

First: Create Categories of your clothing. Every single item of clothing fits into a category.

Then: decide how many of that category or item you need in a 2 week time period (because I do laundry during the week that accounts for clothes hanging in the closet to wear and clothes in the laundry waiting to be washed or at the dry cleaner). That number is MY magic number. Yours could be vastly different from mine, your spouse, or your kid. That’s ok. You know your habits and your needs better than anyone.

Here’s an example of some of my husband’s magic numbers:

  • Dress Pants 4×2 = 8
  • Dress Shirts 4×2 = 8
  • Polo Shirts 3×2 = 6
  • Running Shorts 7×2 = 14

You get the idea. This makes it not only easier to do laundry, but easier to shop. If a few of his shirts are worn out, we know exactly how many to replace.

Some clothing items don’t fit into the magic number system, and that’s where a capsule wardrobe can take over. For instance, I don’t wear dresses on a routine basis. I wrote down the occasions throughout the year where I’d probably wear a dress, and I have something for each (wedding, fancy party, funeral, etc). I also have a small collection of Disney dresses, and I try to keep those to specific seasons and reasons – like one fall/halloween dress and one summer/Tiki dress.

The most important factor in the magic number AND capsule wardrobe is that everything you own, when washed, needs to fit in the space you have. If you have drawers fit to bursting, you can’t put anything away. Once you’ve pared down to what you need, make sure everything has a place where it fits. Each individual system will look different, but knowing what you have, what you need, and what fits (in your closet and your life), is a major step in getting the piles of laundry under control.

Pre-Sorting

The trick to sorting laundry is to sort it while you’re putting it in the hamper. We have a three sort hamper and a hanging hamper; one for lights, one for darks, one for exercise clothing, and the hanging hamper is for delicates. We also have a hamper in the bathroom for towels. When any hamper is full – or once a week, whichever comes first, I can run a load of laundry.

We’ve also eliminated the pesky sock pairing issue by using The SockDock. It’s a lanyard with clips to lock 9 pairs of socks together, and you can run it through the washer and dryer (I hang dry ours, but I live in a very dry climate). You can get the same result using individual sock clips, or using mesh laundry bags for each person’s socks, but The SockDock was the thing that worked for us the best and most consistently. Our sockdock lives right next to the hampers.

This is not the picture perfect setup I would like for it to be, but we are going to remodel the bathroom/closet within the next few years and this solution works fine for the time being.

To pre-sort with more members in a household, you can have a few mesh laundry bag for each member. The mesh laundry bags can go from washer to dryer and serves the same purpose of eliminating the need to sort clothing at the end. Each family member could have their own color to make things even easier.

Fluff & Fold

I touch on some of my favorite laundry hacks here, so I’m going to skip over those and head to my most important tips.

My first tip is to only do one load of laundry at a time. I know it sounds crazy, when I heard about this method around the same time that pinterest was invented (yes, I’m that old), I thought it was crazy too. But hear me out; instead of looking at the laundry as each step, I look at the whole. Do I have time to wash, dry, fold, and then put away? Instead of constantly feeding the washing machine, I make sure that each load is completed before I start a new one. And knowing that we have two weeks of clean clothes helps a lot.

My next tip is for the person who does it all; unless you live by yourself, you do not need to be doing all of the folding and putting away. My husband folds his own laundry. Sometimes, I have time (or lots of coffee) and I just fold everything and put it away – but if I don’t have time, I know I can put his stuff neatly in his laundry basket and place it by the laundry room and he will take care of it within a day or two at the most. Each family member can be responsible for folding and putting away their own clothes (age permitting) to help get the laundry put away.

It might take a day or two to get your current laundry conundrum under control – but if you follow these steps – it should be more manageable from now on.

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