There are many schools of thought on what the best laundry routine looks like. I’ve listened to podcast episodes, watched youtube videos, and read blog posts with titles that imply that their way is the only way, or that somehow I’m doing laundry wrong.
This is not that kind of blog post.
This blog post is here to help you figure out what the best laundry routine is for your family. Particularly, what the simplest laundry routine is. Because if it’s overly complicated, you won’t stick to it. Keep it simple and it can change your life! (Can laundry change your life? Maybe. It’s debatable.)
Step 1: Choose a daily(ish) or weekly laundry routine
When it comes to laundry there seem to be two kinds of people: people who think you should do laundry one day a week, all day long, and people who think you should do a load every day. I think you should do whatever works best for you. Let’s explore both options.
Those that do laundry weekly set aside one day a week where they stay home and put a load in the washer, switch it to the dryer, and put another load in while they fold and put away the first load. Then they switch the second load to the dryer and the cycle continues all day long until the laundry is all clean.
The great thing about this method is just that – pretty much all the laundry is clean at the same time, and you only have to think about laundry once a week. I know a lot of people that this works well for. They love getting it done in one shebang.
On the other hand, daily laundry is just what it sounds like. You do a load of laundry daily. You put one batch in, switch it to the dryer, fold it, and put it away. Every single day.
Now both of these methods probably sound awful. I know all things laundry sound awful to me, even as I type this. I’ve found the method that works for me, and I still hate thinking bout laundry. But bear with me. I promise this will be worth it.
How to choose
The easiest way to choose your method is to try them both. Chances are you think you should be doing it one way and so that’s the way you’ve been trying to do it, and it’s just not working. In that case, start with trying it the other way. My mom had a weekly laundry day and I was convinced that was the only way to do it. But guess what? I’m a daily laundry doer now (well, more like 3-4 days a week, but we’ll get to that in a bit).
In choosing your method, you should also consider your lifestyle. Is there at least one day a week that you’re home all day? If so, try the weekly. If not, start with the daily.
I gave weekly laundry day one last serious try before I ditched it altogether. I found that I didn’t have a consistent day of the week where I would be home most of the day. One week it would be Monday, but then the next week it would be Thursday and we’d be out of underwear before I had a chance to do laundry again. I also frequently forgot to switch the laundry, which just pushed my finishing time back farther and farther. By the end of the day, I hated laundry. Obviously, that wasn’t going to work.
So I tried the daily method, and that was so much more successful for me. I put in a load of laundry each morning after breakfast and then switch it before we leave the house. Then it’s ready to fold and put away during nap time (because the only thing I dislike more than folding and putting away laundry is folding and putting away laundry with children underfoot). And I’m done with laundry before I’m even halfway through the day.
But maybe the idea of having to think about laundry daily gives you a headache. Try them both! See which makes the most sense for you!
Step 2: Figure out your batches
Until I listened to The Lazy Genius’s podcast episode on laundry, the idea that I could do any batch system besides whites, lights, and darks had never crossed my mind. My mom did whites, lights, and darks, so I figured that’s just how it was done. After listening to The Lazy Genious, though, my wheels started turning. I’d tried a daily laundry routine in the past, but having to get laundry from every room of the house every day just made it a tedious process.
So when I finally decided that a daily laundry routine was for me, I switched up my batch routine. One batch is Nate and my clothes, one batch is the girl’s clothes, and one batch is towels. Every 2-3 weeks I do a 4th batch of bedding. Each day I’m going into one or two rooms, gathering the laundry for the day, and putting it in the wash. Then I also only have to return it to one or two rooms. No more running up and down the stairs and all around the house. So much simpler.
The key to making this work is water temperature. If you wash everything in hot water, your colors will bleed into each other, which is a problem if you have whites in with darks. Hot water is great for killing germs, but generally, I don’t feel like our clothes need more germ-fighting power than the soap can give them. I wash everything on cold with no color-bleeding problems at all. Plus, washing with cold water is more energy-efficient, meaning it’s better on your wallet and the environment.
If you’re doing weekly laundry, what your batches consist of may not matter quite as much. But it still might streamline the process a bit.
There are other batch options! Jordan of Fun, Cheap, or Free batches her clothes by fabric thickness (and she’ll tell you that’s the only way to do it). Dawn of The Minimal Mom has her family take their clothes to the washer after they take them off, eliminating the need for laundry baskets and running around the house. All she has to do is add the soap and turn it on. Dana of A Slob Comes Clean batches her laundry by type, so all the t-shirts are together, for example. She says it makes folding easy because everything is folded the same way. So many options. Do what works best for your family.
Step 3: Decide what laundry containers will work best
There are so many ideas on this as well. Should each family member have a laundry basket in their room? Should there be a communal laundry basket in the bathroom or laundry room? Think about your batch system when deciding this.
For our batch system, it works best for each person to have a basket. We have dollar store laundry baskets for everyone, plus one under our kitchen sink for dirty rags and towels. I like these for several reasons. One, they fit in our closets so I don’t care how fancy they look. Two, they’re small enough for my 3-year-old to carry so she can take her laundry back to her room and put it away. Four, they’re a dollar.
Next, decide if you want to have additional laundry baskets in the laundry room in which to put the clean clothes. I’m sure you’ve seen the fancy shelves on Pinterest where each member of the family has a shelf with a basket on it for their clean clothes. There’s one idea.
I don’t have a fancy system, I just put the clothes back in the laundry basket they came out of. I know some are concerned about the cleanliness of putting clean clothes into a laundry basket that just held dirty clothes. I’ve never been concerned about this. But if you are, keep a rag and some cleaning spray or a package of Clorox wipes nearby and wipe it down. Or have an extra set of baskets for clean clothes. This is all about what works for you.
Step 4: Eliminate unnecessary steps
I was folding my 3-year-old’s clothes and then having her put them away in her bins by herself. Can you imagine what happened to those nicely folded clothes as soon as she got them to her room? She unfolded them to see what the were so she could put them in the correct bin. So I stopped folding her clothes. Now we just sort the girl’s clothes into the correct laundry basket and put them away. No folding. Next, I stopped folding her socks because she would unfold all of them when she went to put socks on so she could find her favorite pair. I don’t fold or match, I just throw them in her sock bin. Actually, she just throws them in her sock bin.
I still fold my husband’s and my clothes, but I stopped folding and matching our socks. We both only have one brand of socks, so we just grab two and go. I don’t fold our towels or sheets anymore because I know I’ll just go hang the towels back up and put the sheets back on the beds. I do still fold our kitchen washcloths.
The benefit of a simple laundry routine
I’ve greatly simplified our laundry process and cut back on the time I spend just by cutting out unnecessary steps. And while I’m still not convinced that a simple laundry routine can completely change your life, I can say that it improves it greatly. Not having a giant pile of laundry looming over your head is a relief. Knowing that you have a plan for tackling laundry is a relief.
So I hope you experiment! Tweek, adjust, and cut out steps you thought were necessary until you find your simple routine.