Laundry Tips: How to Save Time and Lighten the Load

Sort darks from delicates in a snap and put an end to the vanishing sock conundrum once and for all: Erin Rooney Doland, author of Unclutter Your Life In One Week, shares the secret to streamlining laundry time.

Out of all the advice I’m about to give on how to do laundry efficiently, there is one principle that stands out among the others: The less you own, the less you have to clean. If you don’t have many clothes, then your laundry baskets can’t overflow with items. This principle is true for everything in your home (fewer objects to dust, fewer papers to file) and makes a significant impact when you apply it to your wardrobe.

Tips for keeping laundry under control:

For the person who doesn’t mind laundry too much:

  • Decrease the size of your hamper. It’s easy to resist doing laundry until your hamper is full, so use a smaller hamper to keep from getting overwhelmed. Alternatively, most residential washing machines only hold between twelve and eighteen pounds per load (check with your manufacturer for your model’s exact weight limit). Get out your scale, put your hamper on the scale, and note the weight. Then fill the hamper with clothes until your scale reads twelve pounds (or whatever your machine’s limit) above the weight of the hamper. Mark that clothing line on the inside of your hamper so that you know when you’ve reached your one-load limit. (Note: Most washing machines will hold more clothing than their weight limit. Just because they can, it doesn’t mean they should. Your machine will last longer if you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.)
  • Organize immediately. If you sort your laundry by color and separate out the delicates and dry cleaning, do this when you take off your clothes.
  • Make it desirable. The nicer your laundry room, the more time you’ll want to spend there. Replace lightbulbs, clear the spiderwebs, and set up a table to fold clothes on. If you don’t have a washing machine in your home, keep a piggy bank for quarter collection and carry your detergent in water bottles instead of the hefty container it came in. The easier it is to get to the Laundromat, the more likely you’ll be to make a habit of going there.
  • Stay on a routine. I’ll talk about this more in detail in chapter 3.For the person who hates laundry, see everything listed in the “doesn’t mind it too much” section, plus:
  • Get ready for bed at least an hour before you go to bed. If you’re someone who leaves your clothes on the floor instead of in the hamper, it’s probably because you’re exhausted and climbing into bed in the dark. Get ready for bed when you’re still alert and the lights are on to keep you from using your floor as a hamper.
  • Wash-and-wear is the way to go. Any clothing that requires special attention can clog up your laundry system. If you pay a few extra dollars in the store for wrinkle-free fabrics and wash-and-wear items, you end up saving yourself considerable time (no ironing) and money (no dry cleaning bills) over the long term.For the person who loathes laundry with the burning passion of a thousand suns, see everything listed in the “doesn’t mind it too much” and “hates it” sections, plus:
  • Avoid colors that bleed. If you don’t have darks that bleed onto lights, then you can throw everything into the same load. Reds, oranges, blacks, purples, and navy blues are often bleeders, so avoid them for convenience.
  • Buy in bulk. Stop wasting time matching socks. Buy multiple pairs of the same kind of sports and dress socks. I buy six pairs of identical white sports socks and five pairs of identical dark dress socks. When they start to wear out, I turn all of them into rags and replace them at the same time. In my house, we call it the Sock Purge, and it takes place about every six to eight months.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Erin Rooney Doland, author of Unclutter Your Life in One Week: A 7-Day Plan to Organize Your Home, Your Office, and Your Life! (Copyright © 2009 by Erin Doland), is an organization consultant and the Editor-in-Chief of Unclutterer.com, a popular website that has been featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Slate, House Beautiful, Lifehacker.com, and on the BBC and HGTV. She is a weekly columnist for Real Simple online, and has written for Ready Made, Women’s Day, and CNN.com, among others. She lives in the Washington, D.C., area with her husband.
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