Conquer Chaos in the Laundry Room

organize laundry systems

What are your family's roadblocks to an efficient laundry system? Review the necessary tasks and decide what changes will make your own system function smoothly. Will you need to purchase additional laundry baskets or hampers? Has Mt. Washmore erupted in your laundry room, requiring a laundry marathon before you can institute your system? Your own situation will show a mix of new routines and one-time catch-up chores.

Here's an idea of our family's laundry system analysis. It has two parts--the system, organized by time period, and the list of work that will have to be completed to institute the system:

Household Clothing System:

Daily:

  • Family members place all dirty clothing in basket or hamper

Twice Weekly:

  • Collect, wash, dry, fold and replace laundered clothing 
  • Remove clean items in need of mending to mending basket

Weekly:

  • Check supply of detergent and laundry products; purchase replacements before the supply is exhausted 
  • Deliver any dry cleaning or laundered items to cleaners and collect last week's dry cleaning or laundered items

Monthly:

  • Scan family calendar for events requiring special clothing 
  • For those events, check to make sure each family member has appropriate clothing 
  • Mend contents of mending basket

Seasonally:

  • Inventory each family member's clothing supply 
  • Cull clothing storage of worn out, outgrown or out-of-season garments 
  •  List needed items for each family member 
  • Purchase needed items, on sale

To Catch Up:

  • Purchase laundry basket or hamper for each family member 
  • Cull and organize each family member's clothing storage area, removing outworn, outgrown, and out-of-season clothing. 
  • Store out-of-season clothing, children's clothing suitable for handing down 
  • Marathon laundry session, extinguishing laundry mountain 
  • Hold family meeting to discuss new responsibilities, delegate tasks

Through their analysis, this family has overcome the "day late, dollar short" orientation that characterized their old clothing and laundry systems. Now, to implement the analysis!

Last step: get cracking!

You've set your goal, listed the components of a basic system, performed your analysis and planned your system. Now it's time to get to work. Enter all tasks, recurring or catch-up, in your planner, calendar or home management software.

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If these are the bones of a basic family clothing system, remember, the musculature of that system can be shaped to fit any given family's needs.

A laundry system for a household with two pre-schoolers and an infant will be vastly more rigorous and time-consuming than one for an empty-nest professional couple.

Growing children can, and should, be given an opportunity to learn these life-skills. Pre-schoolers can be trained to place dirty clothing where it belongs, and can fold and replace socks and towels. Elementary school children can operate the washer and dryer and do basic ironing chores with supervision. Teens can do all of the above, plus mending and more advanced ironing.

Do delegate clothing selection and purchase to your teen! A clothing allowance teaches appearance-oriented teens to budget like no other learning experience. Don't rescue your teen when he blows his seasonal clothes allowance on that shoddy-but-fashionable logo jacket! As he shivers his way through the autumn, he will learn some home truths about value and durability, and do better next quarter.

In the end, establishing a household system--for laundry or any other home task--means embracing a simple but profound truth. Even if you ignore it, work does not go away.

Do any job efficiently and with forethought, and you'll be master of the task. To this end, a laundry system will serve you well, providing clean clothes on a regular basis, without those anguished vigils at the side of the humming dryer.

Ignore this reality, and the task will master you. You'll dance to the tune of your family's laundry needs, running the dryer at 5:30 a.m., or squirming as your children attend events in mismatched or outgrown clothes.

Who will be boss? Time to establish your household's clothing systems and scale the top of Mt. Washmore. Excelsior!

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