What Happened When I Tamed The Laundry Monster

Inside: How to do laundry in 10 minutes a day. Simplify the way you wash clothes with this simple process and avoid “laundry day” for ever!

One day while I was folding 84 mismatched socks, I remembered my grandma. I never saw her fold laundry. Instead, she spent her time building a thriving financial planning business, traveling to exotic places like Fiji, and sewing her heart out in her fabulous sewing room.

Sure, she washed laundry.

But my grandma never had “laundry day”.

No hamper.

One laundry basket.

No stress.

Imagine having more time doing the things we love rather than washing clothes all day long on “laundry day”.

Laundry basket overflowing with clothes with words "say goodbye to laundry day forever!"

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Inspired by my grandma, I started tweaking my clothes washing process.

After years of trial and error, I finally figured out how a simple way to stay on top of the washing and never have another “laundry day” again. 

My super simple way to wash clothes

Instead of doing laundry once a week, I do laundry four to five days a week for about 10 minutes per day.

While that might sound like a lot, hear me out.

Getting started with this super simple laundry system

To start this system you need one laundry basket. That's it.

No hampers in the bathrooms or bedrooms.

No stacks of laundry baskets.

laundry room with one clothes basket

See that laundry basket up on the shelf? That's the only one I own. And our bedrooms and bathrooms are hamper-free.

Here's how it works:

Step 1: Separate laundry

  • Every time we change our clothes or take a shower, we sort or separate our clothes.
  • Everyone in the family is responsible for their own clothes.

Sometimes I have to remind the kids to pick up their clothes from the bathroom floor and sort them. But for the most part, everyone has to make sure their clothes make it into my system to get washed.

Speaking of bathrooms, you'll love this easy way to organize your bathroom when you have multiple kids!

How to separate laundry

Separating laundry can be really complicated but I keep it super simple.

We separate the dirty clothes into two categories:

  • clothes that get bleached
  • clothes that don't get bleached

One category of clothes goes into the washer. The other category goes into the clothes basket.

sorting laundry into machine and laundry basket

Step 2: How to Wash and Dry Clothes

Once the washer is full, I start the load.

How to wash colored clothes:

  1. Add Clorox 2 and detergent to the washer to make the clothes smell fresh
  2. Set the water temperature to cold

How to wash white clothes:

  1. Add bleach and detergent to the washer
  2. Set the water temperature to hot

I wash clothes in the washing machine at night or early in the morning when the electricity costs are lowest here in California. On the mornings that I go to the gym, I'll start a load when I leave for the gym. Then I put the clothes in the dryer when I get back from the gym. 

I only run a load of clothes once the washer is full. The washer isn't full every day; I typically wash clothes 4-5 days a week.

Step 3: Fold Clothes

After the dryer is done, I fold and hang the clothes directly from the dryer to avoid ironing.

Here's how I fold laundry:

  • In the laundry room, straight from the dryer:
    • I fold everyone's underwear and socks if its a bleach load
    • I fold my pajamas and other folded clothes if it's a non-bleach load
    • I sort everyone else's clothes into piles and put their clothes on their beds for them to fold, hang, and put away themselves
  • I carry my hanging clothes into my closet. In the closet, I hang my own clothes and put them away
  • I call everyone into the laundry room to put away their folded clothes. 

If no one is home when I finish folding, I leave their folded clothes on the counter in the laundry room. They know to check the counter for their clothes when they get home.

Step 4: Rotate and Repeat this Laundry Process

Once the load is finished in the washer, I move the dirty clothes from the basket to the washer.

I then fill the basket with the category of dirty clothes that was previously in the washer.

  • If bleach dirty clothes are in the washer, non-bleach dirty clothes are in the basket
  • If non-bleach dirty clothes are in the washer, bleach dirty clothes are in the basket

Once the washer fills again, I repeat the washing, drying, and folding process. We tend to generate more non-bleach dirty clothes so my wash cycle might look something like this in a typical week:

  • MONDAY: Wash non-bleach clothes
  • TUESDAY: No wash needed
  • WEDNESDAY: Wash bleach clothes
  • THURSDAY: Wash non-bleach clothes
  • FRIDAY: No wash needed
  • SATURDAY: Wash non-bleach clothes
  • SUNDAY: No wash needed

I wash clothes about four or five days a week and that's it. There is no “laundry day”.

What about everything else?

You might be wondering what we do with the clothes that don't fit into the bleach/no-bleach categories?

  • Rugs, curtains, shoes: I wash these as needed when I see they are dirty.
  • Sheets and bedding: 
    • We have two sets of sheets for each bed – one set on the bed and a spare set in our cedar chest.
    • We clean the house on Saturday mornings so we'll strip the beds and wash those linens during the housecleaning time.
    • We put the linens from the cedar chest onto the bed.
    • When the linens are done washing , we fold them to put into my cedar chest for the next rotation.
    • It takes about 2 hours to clean the house so we can usually get the linens washed, dried, and folded during that time.
    • if you don't have a set time to clean the house, use one of the non-washing days to wash linens.
  • Dry cleaning: I put dry clean only items into a mesh bag on the laundry room door. My husband takes these clothes to the cleaners once a month.
  • Hand wash: I'll put these to the side to wash on delicate. But I usually try to avoid buying anything that is hand-wash so, problem solved.

What happens if you go on a trip?

If I can't do laundry for several days in a row, then we still keep to the system, just doing more than one load in a day to catch up.

  1. We sort all of the clothes into piles on my bathroom floor for a few days until we can work through the backlog.
  2. We add any newly dirty clothes to these sorted piles and wash them with the dirty clothes from the trip. 
  3. We wash the clothes on a similar cycle as a usual week.

Here's how I would tackle a week's worth of laundry after a trip out of town:

  • MONDAY: Wash 2 loads of non-bleach clothes
  • TUESDAY: Wash 1 load of bleach clothes
  • WEDNESDAY: Wash 2 loads of non-bleach clothes
  • THURSDAY: All caught up, no wash needed

If we've been away from home, there usually aren't many towels to wash so the bleach load stays pretty small. I run the bleach loads on a hot water sanitize cycle for 1:45 minutes so I can usually only run one of bleach load per day.

What about lost socks?

If you collect single socks in your laundry basket while you wait to find the match, I bet you're wondering what to do if your laundry basket now has dirty clothes in it.

I collect lost socks in a small wire basket on my laundry room counter:

socks stacked vertically in wire basket

I place the socks in the basket vertically so I can see them all at a glance. When I find a solo sock while folding, I look in this basket to see if there is a match.

If we haven't found the matching sock in a month, I ask one of the kids to check under the beds and couch to see if the sock might be there.

Once a month, I empty the basket of all the lost socks and make them into dog or cat toys

Should your kids wash laundry?

You may believe your kids should do their own laundry once they reach a certain age. You can certainly have your kids implement this washing system without your involvement.

While my kids are old enough to do their own laundry, I still wash their clothes because:

  • I need their clothes to make my loads full, faster (confession: I don't have many clothes personally)
  • I don't want them leaving wet clothes in the washer, getting in the way of me washing my own clothes
  • I can inspect their clothes each time I wash to see if things need to be replaced or repaired
  • I can stick to just one clothes basket and no hamper if I wash everything together

You don't have to do your kids' laundry. But if you want them to wash their own laundry, you'll need a plan for where their clothes will accumulate between washes. 

My Favorite Hacks to Reduce the Laundry Pile

Fewer clothes to wash means fewer clothes to fold. And by washing clothes less frequently, they'll last longer!

Follow these hacks to wash clothes even less frequently:

Wear your clothes more than once

If I'm leaving the house for a few hours, I put on a nice top and pants. When I get home, I hang them back up so they stay fresh and wrinkle free

  • Change into knit lounging clothes when you get home
  • Your “nice” clothes will last longer because they are being washed less often
  • Wear each item 3-4 times before adding it to the dirty clothes pile

If you go to work every day:

  • Wear tops 1-2 times before washing
  • Try to wear your pants or skirts  3-4 times
  • If you get sweaty at work, you might not be able to re-wear outfits from day to day

Denim is not meant to be washed frequently. Sometimes we'll go a month without washing jeans, as long as they still smell fresh.

  • Hang jeans on the line in the sun to keep them smelling fresh
  • Put jeans in a bag in the freezer to kill any bacteria

Wear lounge clothes at home

  • Instead of wearing “nice clothes” at home, wear yoga pants, t-shirts, and sweats
  • Wear your loungewear 2-3 times each before washing again
  • Loungewear is more comfortable to wear and less expensive to replace than work clothes or nice clothes when they wear out
  • If you need to leave for the store or to go out, change your clothes
  • Keep the lounge wear on top of your dresser to change back into when you get home

Wear pajamas more than one day

Try to wear your pajamas more than once so you generate only 3-4 sets of pajamas to wash per week instead of 7 sets. Your pajamas will also last longer by being washed less and you'll need to buy fewer sets each year.

Use the same towel for multiple showers

I love a fresh fluffy white towel for each shower. But I cut my laundry loads by half by using my towels 2-3 times rather than grabbing a fresh towel for each shower.

Here are some more benefits to reusing your towels from shower to shower:

  • Fewer towels. When I was using a new towel each shower, I needed 30 towels to get my family through the week. Now we own a total of 8 towels between the entire family.
  • Need less storage. It's easier to find and put items away in my linen closet with fewer towels. I had towels in 4 places in my house before this system. Now I can store them all of my towels in one place.
  • Better for the environment. Conserve power and water and use less detergent when you wash less. Towels are one of the bulkiest items we wash, causing us to use more water every time we wash them.
  • Save money on buying fewer towels, using less detergent, and using less power and water to wash towels.

To keep your towel smelling fresh, hang it somewhere it can dry completely between showers, like on a towel bar or clothes line. When you do wash towels, wash them in hot water with bleach to sanitize them so they stay fresh longer between showers.

Are You Ready to Ditch Laundry Day?

Changing your laundry routine won't stick if you're not ready.

Something probably happened in your life that led you to read this far into this post. It might be similar to what made me change how I wash clothes.

Five things happened that made me change how I do laundry:

  1. We had just remodeled our laundry room to include a place to fold laundry.
  2. I had read Marie Kondo's book and wanted less clutter in my home. All of these clothes baskets, hampers, and piles of clothes did not “spark joy”, in the words of Marie Kondo.
  3. My doctor told me to make my bedroom as peaceful as possible to alleviate my sleep challenges. The clutter from multiple hampers spilling over with dirty clothes in my master bathroom was giving me anxiety, affecting my sleep.
  4. Our three clothes baskets crammed with wrinkled clean clothes caused arguments between my family members and I.
  5. My cat started eating socks from the smorgasbord in the laundry basket, leading to tears as “favorite socks” were now holier than Swiss cheese.

I was ready for a change.

Getting your family on board with this laundry system

While you may be ready for change, your family might not be.

How my family resisted the change:

My husband insisted that he “likes” doing laundry. His idea of doing laundry is washing clothes from dusk to dawn one entire day, “laundry day”. Then he sits in front of the TV for 8 hours leisurely folding a pile of laundry that nearly touches the 9 foot ceilings.  

The kids wanted to keep their hampers. As did my husband. The first few months, new hampers kept showing up in my bathroom. After I made a stand about the hampers, a lilac plastic tub from the dollar store showed up and was filled with my husband's dirty clothes. I was furiously frustrated! The Goodwill enjoyed many donations of hampers, laundry baskets, and plastic tubs from us during this time.

I called a family meeting to get everyone on board with why mom needs this.

I explained my thought process to my family:

  • I needed peace in my bedroom. That meant no more piles of dirty laundry in the bathroom or clean laundry piled on my bed.
  • I wanted to use our time together, better. I explained that a whole day each weekend folding clothes was interfering with doing fun family activities together. Even if we all just retreated to our rooms to read books or do crafts, I wanted us to have that free time.
  • I wanted simplicity. Letting the laundry pile up to the end of the week created a complicated problem that I wanted to be rid of, permanently.
  • I wanted everyone to be responsible. We share in the laundry. The task is not 100% on me or 100% on my husband any more.

How to get your family to understand and embrace a new way to do laundry

Be open with your family about the change. Meet with them and discuss how to make the process and transition easier for each person in the family.

  1. Figure out why you need to make this change and what the benefits will be for you and the family
  2. Talk to your family about the change you want to make and why
  3. Walk everyone through how it will work
  4. Get their feedback on the process
  5. Do a test period to see where the kinks are and to get everyone used to the new system

Your laundry process will be unique to your family. Work with them to find a solution what works best for everyone in the fam.

The benefits of washing clothes every day

Once my family understood where I was coming from, they started to embrace this new way to do laundry.

It took a few weeks of sticking to my plan for the system to finally work like clockwork. I still have to remind the kids and my husband to sort their clothes but for the most part, everyone knows what to do and they do it.

Here are the results:

  • The bathroom floors are no longer littered with wet towels and dirty underwear
  • The clothes basket is always in the laundry room (or empty) and never in my bedroom
  • There are fewer mismatched or lost socks because we fold socks from every load and they don't fall under my bed anymore (because we don't fold laundry in the bedroom!)
  • We no longer argue about laundry
  • The laundry room is always clean and clutter-free
  • My cat has stopped eating socks because he no longer has access to them … I bought him some new toys and cat grass to salve his appetite to chew

Now I know why my Grandma always had time for trips to the sewing shop and adventures with the grandkids … she had tamed he laundry monster!

What's your best laundry tip?

If you're ready to make a HUGE change in your laundry life, follow the steps above and talk to your fam.  I wanna see a pic of your empty laundry basket! Tag me on instagram at @smartfundiy so I can see your progress.

P.S. If you liked this post, would you share it on Facebook or Pinterest? Thank you!

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About the Author

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Jennifer Priest is a 20+ year designer in the arts & crafts industry and home DIYer with a passion for creativity. An Army veteran raised on a ranch, from her experience, she shares smart DIY projects that save money and fun craft ideas that anyone can make. Besides blogging, Jennifer is a Master Practitioner and Trainer of NLP, Hypnosis, and MER, and coaches other online entrepreneurs on money mindset, business, and living an intentional life. When not blogging, Jennifer is having adventures in the wilderness, on road trips, playing with her cats, and making paleo food.

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  1. I grew up with this system (I am 48) my mother has always done laundry every day, so that it is just done and not piling up. When I still had my own washer/dryer in London I did this too. But here in NYC I have to go to a laundry room – ugh and cue piles of laundry.. I am excited to be moving and I am ready to get back to this awesome system. Go you for getting your family on board!

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