Laundry isn’t exactly the sort of topic that gets everyone all up in a lather with excitement, but it’s something that must be done … into each life a little Tide will fall.
When I’m home for a good long stretch, Sunday laundry day is one of my favorite days of the week. And, by applying my professional know how to this seemingly endless task, I’ve figured out how to take a week’s worth of laundry for four into a 30 minute task (wash and dry time not included).
Step 1: Build Laundry Mountain
On Sunday morning I start the washing machine loading up alternating batches of colors (I don’t sort jeans, towels, or laundry types just keep it simple – whites together and colors together). I alternate between white and colors so I don’t run out of hot water for other favorite Sunday tasks: bubble baths.
As each load finishes I dump it on my master bed. With loads of whites I leave the socks in the laundry basket and just pile the next load right on top of it, as the day goes on, my layer of socks gets bigger and bigger.
Then, I turn on the terrible reality television, do a little yoga, and move on with my day. Every time I pass the laundry room I status check and advance the ball. By 3:00 pm, I’m five Kardashian episodes down and the clothes for my family of four are washed and dried, and toppling over my bed.
Step 2: Quick Sort
After the laundry is ready for processing I do a quick sort based very roughly on “type” rather than by person. All jeans in a pile, all kitchen towels in a pile, shirts, items for hanging up, etc. And still, all socks remain in the hamper.
By this point, I’m two minutes in and an overwhelming project has become quite bite-sized (though I still wish I could get my boys not to automatically throw every clirty* item into the laundry.
Step 3: Muscle Memory
Next, I use the theory of muscle memory that makes repetitive task kind of pleasant, and fast. I fold all the towels at once, according to their final destination. This means display towels get folded once according to where they’re hung, closet towels together, tablecloths together, wash clothes together, etc. This enables me to get into a fast, thoughtless rhythm and gets the easiest task behind me.
Step 4: Jeans
Towels finished, I’m in a solid flip, flip fold rhythm and it’s a perfect transition to jeans. I tackle them all at once and stack them by their final destination as I go. (I know some people hang, but not for 9 year old boys).
By the time all the jeans are folded I’m only ten minutes in; you’d be amazed how quickly the first steps go!
Step 5: Shirts
Now comes the part I hate, and the reason the bad TV comes into play. Once I get to shirts I’ve moved just enough of laundry mountain that there’s a me-sized space between all the fluffy towels and crisp pillow cases and I reward myself with a little vegging time. I sit and mindlessly fold shirts, pajamas, and all the little pieces (by type, so I can use muscle memory to repeat the same motions again and again) and stack them according to where they’re going.
As I fold shirts I place anything that needs to be hung-up together. Then, with all the shirts hung up I grab hangars (which I keep stored together) and place everything on hangars at once. Even items that need to be ironed eventually get hung, then just put away in a staging location until I finally get around to them.
Step 6: Socks
With the lion’s share of the work done, and with my butt still planted on the bed, I tackle socks – again with the sort and conquer approach. I start by putting socks of a type together (black socks, white anklets, etc.) then divide piles further, and smaller until matches are obvious – rather than searching through the basket for a mate.
And, because my kids don’t particularly care, I don’t put too much effort into ensuring their socks are a perfect match. Close enough is good enough for my boys.
Typically, I’ll do one laundry session on Sunday, and a much smaller wash-and-fold of a few loads on Wednesday nights. All told, my routine consumes about an hour per week, and keeps my kids from presenting me with a no-sock fiasco on Thursday morning.
As for keeping my laundry room stocked and pretty, that one I’m still working on.