Successful people know the value of having systems in place in their home. They know everything works better when their personal life is streamlined.
What’s your laundry system?
Do you have a perpetual floordrobe in your bedroom, or a chairdrobe or sofadrobe somewhere in your home? Is there a place where clothes you have worn or laundered pile up relentlessly in ever-growing mounds? Perhaps the dirty clothes and clean ones even intermingle because they’ve become so disorganized?
Having clothes strewn around the home is one of the major reasons why people feel ashamed to invite visitors over. It can seriously hamper your social life, your love life, and even your professional life, because instead of supporting you, your home is muddled and out of control.
Clothes don’t look after themselves
Many people purchase elaborate storage systems to help them manage their clothes. Having a place for everything is certainly half the battle but it doesn’t keep everything where it belongs. Clothes don’t tidy or launder themselves, and if you grew up in a home where this was always done for you, it can come as a huge surprise when you have to figure out how to do it for yourself.
I had a taste of this once after living in Bali for 20 years, where Richard and I, like many other westerners, were able to employ a lovely Balinese housekeeper to take care of our home. All we had to do was put our clothes in the laundry basket at the end of each day and they magically reappeared 24 hours later, beautifully clean, neatly ironed, and ready to wear. This left us deliciously free to focus on things we’d much rather do.
Then we moved to the UK, and it came as quite a shock that nothing happened to our laundry unless we did it ourselves. Piles mounted up and then, after we washed and dried it, it needed to be ironed and put away. And this didn’t happen just once. It had to be repeated again and again, and is still going on to this day. It’s fair to say that it’s one of the things we most miss about our life in Bali. It was a total treat to be looked after in this way.
Of course, we soon got the hang of doing our own laundry again and developed a seamless system for handling it. But this is sorely missing in many homes and often lies at the heart of clothing chaos. It only takes a minute to buy a new item but then you’re responsible for looking after it for years!
Five steps to taking control
If you don’t have an effective laundry system because you’ve never been taught, there’s no school you can go to or course you can sign up for. Like tidying and cleaning, it’s one of those skills that general education doesn’t cater for. You either learn it growing up or you don’t.
An effective laundry system has five components:
- Laundry gathering
- Ironing (if necessary)
- Putting away
Here’s how you can simplify and streamline all the stages.
1. Laundry gathering
Develop the habit of tidying a little each day, putting away clothes that are wearable and putting the ones that need cleaning in your laundry bin. Early in the morning or last thing at night are the times of day that work best for most people.
Have a laundry bin near to where you undress, but preferably not in the room where you sleep for the reasons explained in this article:
It’s ideal, if space permits, to have one bin for whites and another for coloureds so that no further sorting is necessary before washing. Straight in the machine it all goes.
If there are many people in your household, you many need to have several bins around your home that can all be taken to the laundry room when full, and washed as individual loads or merged with the clothes of other family members. One husband I heard about came up with a brilliant system to help his despairing wife manage the laundry of their family of seven. His method uses open baskets and doesn’t allow for the separation of whites and coloureds, but it’s a huge improvement on no system at all and a great solution for large families who have a laundry room big enough to hold so many baskets.
If you have children, teach them to do their own laundry as soon as they are able. It’s an essential life skill for them to learn, and will be a blessed relief to you. You can begin as soon as they are old enough to walk by creating a small laundry bin especially for them and teaching them how to use it. Make it into a game rather than a chore, so they will enjoy it from the start.
Have regular wash days on set days of the week so that your laundry never piles up too much. For example, if you live alone, you could choose Saturday for clothes and Sunday for bedding. Start the process on Saturday morning and aim to have it all dried, ironed, and put away by Sunday night. Then you can start the week fresh.
If several people share one washer and dryer in your home, create a schedule for clothes and bedding so that each person knows when their wash day is.
If individual laundry loads are sometimes merged, a good tip is to use mesh garment bags to keep each person’s socks and underwear together, so that it’s clear what belongs to who when it emerges at the other end. No more orphan socks or head scratching required. Mesh bags are also good for protecting delicate items such as bras, which last much longer that way.
To radically cut the cost of detergents, use soap nuts instead. They are a chemical-free, bio-degradable, and compostable natural alternative that has been used in India and Indonesia for centuries. They cost way less than commercial products, are kind to the environment and your skin, and do the job just as well.
Using soap nuts usually eliminates the need for fabric softeners, but if you live in a hard water area, or want your clothes to feel extra soft, add half a cup of baking soda to each wash. Commercial fabric softeners are such a toxic cocktail that I’m amazed they are even allowed to be sold.
Using dryer balls is another chemical-free way to keep your fabrics soft. The best type are wool dryer balls, which are way better, and far quieter, than plastic dryer balls. They are odourless, last for years, and are biodegradable at the end of their life too. And either type is preferable to the dryer sheets sold in supermarkets, which contain a long list of toxic chemicals.
Best of all, when the weather is warm, hang your clothing out to dry instead of using a dryer at all. It makes them a bit crunchier to iron but will save you a heap of money.
This is where many laundry systems seem to stall. Ironing is not high on most people’s favourite list of pastimes, and piles of it can hang around for weeks until you get round to doing it.
A book I once read made a lasting impression on me that changed my relationship to ironing. It was a description in Alice Bailey’s Unfinished Biography, published in 1951, of how she managed to pursue her passion for self-improvement by teaching herself to read and do other things at the same time, such as ironing:
There was so much I wanted to know and I had to find the time for all these things and yet not neglect my children. I never neglected the children, but it took some planning, some scheming and some disciplining.
I learnt to iron with a book in front of me and to this day I can read and iron simultaneously without scorching the clothes. I learnt to peel potatoes whilst reading without cutting my fingers, and I can shell peas and string beans with a book in front of me. I always read when sewing and mending.
This is just because I wanted to and many women could learn to do the same if they cared enough for knowledge. The trouble is many of us don’t care enough. I also read with great rapidity, grasping whole paragraphs and pages as quickly as other people read a sentence. I forget what is the technical name for this visual capacity. Lots of people do it and more could if they tried.
I immediately taught myself the same skills, and still practice them to this day. In fact, I find that what I’m learning seems to go in even deeper if I read while ironing because it gives me time to ponder each sentence before the next. If reading’s not your thing, even easier these days is ironing while watching TV. Pick something absorbing you want to watch, and the ironing flies by in no time.
If you just skipped reading most of this paragraph because you only wear synthetic fabrics that never need ironing, think again. Synthetics don’t allow your skin to breathe and dull your etheric vitality. Natural fabrics such as cotton, wool, hemp and silk need more care, it’s true, but they are a much healthier option. And don’t be conned into using non-iron bedsheets. The reason they don’t need ironing is because they’re impregnated with formaldehyde which, little by little, gets absorbed through your skin as you sleep.
5. Putting away
This is where investing in the right storage solutions really pays off, so that everything has a place and you can keep it where it belongs. Use drawer organizers to keep things neat and make the finished results of your laundry labours pleasing to behold. It’s also wonderful to invest in the same type of hangers for all your clothes, rather than a mish-mash of whatever you’ve acquired over the years, which is what so many people seem to settle for.
If you have children who are not yet at the age where they can do laundry entirely for themselves, this is certainly a part they can help with, learning where things live and helping you to put them away. It will take up some of your precious time when you first start teaching them, but saving 10 minutes a week adds up to 5,200 minutes per child over 10 years, so it soon becomes worthwhile.
So that’s my laundry system in a nutshell. If you have other suggestions to add, feel free to leave comments below.
Declutter Your Clothes online course: How to declutter and organize your wardrobe from top to bottom
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Copyright © Karen Kingston 2017