Feeling overwhelmed by laundry?
Where did you find your clothes this morning? If they were all clean, and in your wardrobe, then you can stop reading now. If you fished them out of the clean laundry pile, or off the chair in your bedroom, then read on. Maybe you had to dive into the dirty laundry basket to find clothes this morning? No judgement here.
Laundry can get out of hand super-fast. Much like their ridiculous insistence on eating every day, several times a day, my family seem to think it’s okay to wear clothes every day! There are lots of reasons why your laundry might be out of control for a season. Maybe you’re depressed, and everything is too hard at the moment. Sometimes your life has changed and you need a new routine that works for the new stage of life. Whatever the reason, if you’re overwhelmed by laundry, here are my suggestions for getting your laundry basket back under control again.
This post may contain affiliate links – that means that I get paid if you click through and buy something, at no extra cost to you. You can read more about this on my disclosure page.
Have a Blitz Day to Help You Catch Up.
If you’re overwhelmed by laundry, you need to take some big action to clear the backlog.
Find a day when you can hang around at home, and spend it feeding your washing machine.
If you’ve got a tumble dryer, this part might go faster, but don’t despair if you’re part of the dryerless minority. We ditched our tumble dryer about five years ago, and it’s definitely possible to have a massive laundry blitz without one. In fact, if you’re in the UK, and reading this at the time of writing, you can dry your laundry faster on the line than in the dryer.
Don’t Skip Steps.
Are you living out of a laundry basket? Running out of clean underwear? I’ll bet you’re skipping one or more of these steps, so pay attention and do the WHOLE PROCESS from start to finish.
Blitzing your laundry pile can help you stop feeling overwhelmed by laundry, but if you’re not following through, you’ll end up right back where you started.
Gather & Sort
Grab a bag or basket. I’m a big fan of the good old Ikea big blue bag. It should be a large container you can carry around easily.
Walk around the house and grab all the laundry. It’s up to you whether you want to investigate the stuff on your kids’ floors and decide if it’s clean or not. My approach when I’m blitzing is to assume it’s all dirty and gather it all up.
Your aim here is to get all the dirty laundry into one place.
Next, sort it, if sorting is your preference. I don’t sort. Instead, I almost always use a cold setting on my machine. This approach works for me, cold water cleans as well as hot, and it’s less likely to cause colour runs.
Anyway … sort it if you like, otherwise just make yourself a laundry mountain. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed by laundry for a while now, this might be a pretty big mountain. That’s okay, you’ll be surprised at how quickly it goes down.
Fill your machine, set it going. Easy.
Now for the important bit, SET A TIMER.
My washing machine tells me how long the cycle will take. I set my timer for five minutes longer than the machine says because everyone knows a watched washing machine never finishes.
If you’ve got a tumble dryer, you can transfer the washing straight over when the timer goes, just fish out any clothes that can’t go into the dryer first!
If you’re relying on a washing line or clothes airer to do your drying for you, then your blitz is going to take a bit longer. That’s okay though, it’s still totally doable.
I am loving the UK’s heatwave at the moment. My washing was out on the line at 7 this morning, and dry before 10.
When the weather’s not so kind, though, I love my heated airer. I got stupidly excited when it arrived, and it was absolute love at first sight. It holds a full load of laundry, costs pennies to run, and dries laundry so much faster than my standard airer.
If you’re using a dryer, go right ahead and put the next load in the washing machine, and keep on switching loads until you’re done. Otherwise, you’ll need to figure it out yourself, based on how much drying space you’ve got, and how long it’s going to take you to dry a load.
Fold & Put Away
Here’s where I run into trouble.
Washing the laundry is easy. Drying it is no problem. When I’m overwhelmed by laundry, it usually looks like a lot of bags and baskets of clean washing taking over my whole house.
I’ve experimented with skipping the folding stage and expecting everyone older than five to do their own. That’s a flawed plan, though, because I’m the only person here who thinks folding is important.
So, I fold.
I shake out all the clothes before I hanging them on the line, and again as I’m folding. This helps me avoid ironing. If you’re struggling to keep up with the laundry, I suggest you skip ironing too.
Once you’ve got a neat pile of clothes for each person, get it off your bed, sofa, or dining table, and at least into the right person’s room. Everyone here has a chair in their room, so I put piles of clean laundry on there, and then try not to notice what happens to it afterwards.
Focus on the prize of having an empty laundry basket (even if only for two seconds).
If you’re in the tumble-dryer camp, you’ll blast through this super-fast. The rest of us might take a few days.
The way to make sure you’re no longer overwhelmed by laundry is to wash more laundry than your family generates each day. If you have to turn your heating on and have airers everywhere for a while, that’s okay. It’s a short season of getting caught up, and then you’ll be back on track. Just do what it takes to get down to laundry zero.
I know, it’s all kind of obvious, isn’t it. I’ll bet there’s nothing here that you didn’t already know. We all need a little reminder now and again though, and it’s hard to stay on track.
I’ve made a free printable to help you turn this laundry routine into a lasting habit:
Reduce the Amount of Work
Once your laundry blitz is rolling along, it’s time to reduce the amount of work it takes to keep on top of your laundry in the future.
The best thing I’ve done in this regard is to reduce the volume of clothes floating around. I’m sure I’m not the only one to find their children’s drawers stuffed with a mixture of clothes in various sizes, or itchy trousers no-one likes to wear.
Drawers full of outgrown clothes, or ones to grow into, don’t have space for the clothes you need every day. Culling the children’s clothes has made a big difference to the ‘floordrobe’ issue in our house. The more clothes there are lurking on the floors, the more likely you are to be washing stuff that’s only dirty because your kids have been walking over it for a week. This is often a big part of why people end up overwhelmed by laundry.
Remember to extend the same treatment to your own wardrobe. Let’s talk about the sundress you haven’t worn in five years, and the once-worn evening dress with no place to go.
Culling Clothing to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed by Laundry
Time to channel your ruthless streak.
Go through all the clothes you’re responsible for, and zap as many as possible out of circulation.
Before you start, I want to introduce the Golden Rule of Decluttering.
Whatever you unpack, make sure you can put it back in less than fifteen minutes.
We’ve all been there, emptying stuff out of cupboards and drawers is such fun … putting it back again, not so much!
So, one drawer at a time. Empty all the clothes out into a pile.
Time to Get Ruthless
Get rid of everything with holes in, or stains. If your child came downstairs wearing that t-shirt, would you send him back upstairs to change? If the answer’s yes, out it goes.
Now look for stuff that doesn’t fit. It’s fine to keep clothes for growing into, but find a way to keep them out of general circulation.
Out of season clothing? Find somewhere else to put that too. My children tend to wear pretty much the same stuff regardless of season, particularly my older boys, who prefer shorts year-round. We still have hats and gloves though, and other seasonal items. I keep those in storage bags at the bottom of my wardrobe. They’re accessible if needed, but I’m not washing mittens in July.
Once you’ve done that for all the drawers, count how many t-shirts, shorts, etc. you have.
The first time I did this, I got a real insight into why I felt so overwhelmed by laundry. Does a four-year-old need 27 t-shirts? Um… no. We’re lucky to have several fabulous sources of hand-me-down clothes for my youngest, but without a system in place, it can lead to bulging drawers and the laundry equivalent of Mount Everest.
Figure out a sensible number of tops, bottoms, jumpers, underwear etc. for each person. I can’t give you a magic number, because it depends on all kinds of things. My 4-year-old needs a LOT more sets of shorts and underwear than anyone else, for example. Now put only that number back into the drawers.
Don’t panic, you don’t have to get rid of the excess yet. Store it somewhere out of the way. Now, put a note in your diary or calendar app for a month from today. When the reminder pings up, decide about the rest of the stuff.
(Just a quick side note about the calendar app – I love Cozi & they’ve got a fab offer at the moment: Create a free Cozi account and you’ll also get the 2018 Summer Planner Printables!)
If, after a month, there’s no change in the size of your laundry pile, and you still feel like you’re drowning in laundry, then go ahead and throw this blog post out of the window.
If it works, though, you can take those extra clothes straight to the charity shop.
Have a Simple System.
Your laundry routine should be getting easier already.
There are fewer clothes in circulation in your home.
You’ve caught up with the laundry backlog.
Maybe you’re even starting to see the bottom of your laundry basket a few times a week. Hopefully you’re already feeling less overwhelmed by laundry.
Now’s the time to figure out a sustainable system. The bad news is, with fewer clothes, you need to stay on top of the laundry if you want to be sure of having clean knickers every day. The good news is, with fewer clothes, it’s much easier to stay on top of the laundry.
You need to find a way to incorporate all of the stages into your daily routine:
- Gather (and maybe sort)
- Sort & fold (and iron if you must).
- Put Away.
My top tip here is to do it EVERY DAY. It’s easier to remember to carry out a habit every day than it is to remember to do it a few times a week.
Make the gathering part of the process everyone’s responsibility, not just yours. Make it easy for people to put their dirty clothes to wash. We’ve got a family laundry basket right outside the bathroom door, but some people prefer separate baskets in bedrooms. My theory is that the more different places where laundry accumulates, the more different places I have to visit to get it all in the machine, and the more likely I am to feel overwhelmed by laundry.
Does everything get put in them? No. My husband has a floordrobe pile by his side of the bed, and certain of my children seem to live out of a heap of grubby clothes on the ends of their beds. That’s not my problem.
My focus is on keeping up with the laundry that’s put in the right place. I put my own clothes in the basket, and I do a fair amount of picking up after my youngest, but everyone else is responsible for their own stuff. To stop feeling overwhelmed by laundry, you need to have some boundaries, and these are mine.
Here’s where people learn about natural consequences.
Need your games kit on Thursday? Then you’d better get it to wash right after you finish with it on Tuesday, so you can be sure it’s washed and dried in time.
Want your favourite top to wear on the weekend? If it’s still scrunched up in the corner of your room from last weekend, then you’re out of luck.
Tidied your room and decided to scoop the clothes into the laundry basket to speed the process? Then you can expect your laundry to be dealt with in stages over the next few days, rather than all at once.
Do The Whole Process, Every Day.
You want to fit all five steps into your day. Tumble dryer peeps, this is easy. Maybe you’ll stick a load on before you go to bed at night, or early in the morning. Then it’s a matter of rolling through the process once each step is finished.
Line-dryers, you might need to get a bit creative. For most of the year, I know I can dry one load of laundry outside on the washing line. It usually takes all day. If it’s raining, and I’m stuck with the heated clothes airer, then it takes longer.
My rule is to do all the steps every day, but it usually takes me two days to complete a load of laundry. This bit is harder to explain than to do.
Day 1 – I put washing in the machine right before I go to bed.
Day 2 – I’ll hang the laundry out first thing in the morning.
If it’s on the washing line, it gets brought in late in the day. I try to fold it as I bring it in, but it just gets stacked in a basket for the time being.
If it’s indoors, on airers, then the chances are it won’t be dry until tomorrow.
Next load of washing goes in the machine right before bed.
Day 3 – Here’s where we get things really rolling, the system is full of laundry, but it’s all flowing well.
- Dry: Last night’s washing comes out of the machine and gets hung on the washing line.
- Sort & Fold: If it rained yesterday, and it’s raining again today, those airers are still full with yesterday’s clothes. So, I fold and sort those clothes at this point. Then last night’s washing can go onto the airers. If yesterday’s load was line-dried, then I’ll fold it now, right after hanging out the new load.
- Put Away: I sort the laundry and put it into a neat pile in their room. Then I try not to even think about it. My job is to get the clothes clean & returned to their owners. I leave the owners to decide what happens next. At this point, I’ll take my own stack of clothes, and the four-year-old’s, and we’ll go upstairs together to put them away.
- Wash: Another load goes into the machine before bedtime.
So, each day, I’m sorting and putting away yesterday’s laundry. That does mean there’s usually a basket of clean washing lurking in my bedroom overnight, but I’m okay with that. By the end of the day, I have other priorities than folding and sorting laundry.
Keeping on Top of the Laundry.
Remember that the key to keeping on top of your laundry is to be washing at least as much as your family is generating each day. You might need to find a way to squeeze in two loads every day. Or maybe you have to factor in towels and bedding as extra loads on some days. Find a way that works for your normal level of laundry, and stick to it every day.
Sometimes life happens.
Sometimes you have three wet beds to deal with in the morning, or someone’s got a stomach bug and your bathtub is full of washing you need to do right away. In those situations, you do what you need to do, and get back on track as soon as possible. You can always fall back on the laundry blitz if you need to.
The Short Version
Did you scroll right down to the bottom to get through this a bit faster? That’s okay, I do it all the time.
Don’t worry though, here’s the micro version.
- Do whatever it takes to reach laundry zero over the next few days.
- Cull as many clothes as you can, and get them out of circulation.
- Make laundry a daily habit.
- Do all the steps. Gather | Wash | Dry | Sort & Fold | Put Away.
- If you fall off the wagon, hop back on again tomorrow.
You’re overwhelmed by laundry right now, but you can fix it.