Laundry often feels never-ending. The second you get a handle on your clothes and get everything washed and put away, the cycle begins again. Before you know it, you have a laundry monster: a mountain of laundry that eats away at your desire to ever do laundry again.
Can you tell I’m speaking from experience? My laundry monster used to make me dream about throwing away all the dirty clothes and just starting over. But I held out hope that with a few changes to my routine, I could get through our family’s laundry without the crisis.
Once I focused on getting our laundry routine under control, a few small changes made a huge difference. If you’re in the same boat, here are five tips to keep your laundry responsibilities manageable all week long.
Tip #1: Do some laundry every day.
Laundry becomes especially overwhelming when you know your dirty clothes will take all day to get through. Instead of churning through load after load, do a little laundry every day. While the laundry runs, you can keep going about your day, so you may not even notice the interruption.
My rule of thumb is one load, which only takes about 15–20 minutes of my time. If you only have to gather, transfer, fold, and put away a single load every day, it feels manageable. Plus, one load a day adds up to seven loads a week, which covers (or mostly covers) laundry duty for most families. It’s much easier when you spread it out!
Tip #2: Stock clean baskets and dirty baskets.
For as long as I can remember, I was pulling clothes out of one basket, washing the dirty items inside, and then dumping them back into the same basket. This was inefficient (I couldn’t put away clean clothes unless all the dirty clothes were done) and ineffective (the clean clothes went straight back into a dirty basket).
Unless you are really diligent about cleaning out your laundry baskets, this is not a great plan. Now, we have dirty baskets and another set of clean baskets to eliminate both problems at the source. I can fold and put away clean clothes while there’s still a dirty pile to work through, and my clean baskets are actually clean. Win, win!
Tip #3: A clean basket for every person.
Speaking of clean baskets, in my new laundry routine, each family member has their own clean basket. Before, when we had clean laundry, I would dump everything into one basket and then sort it. The problem? I was always working with a giant pile of clothes, and my single basket wasn’t actually usable until all the laundry was folded.
Now, as I pull each item out, I sort each person’s clothes into their own basket. That way, the baskets are nice and organized until we’re ready to put the clothes away. I’m lucky to have shelves that fit each basket in my laundry room (a true luxury!), but if you don’t have a similar setup, you can also lay items flat in the baskets and then stack them until they’re ready to put away.
Tip #4: Simplify your sorting.
This tip starts before your laundry load ever starts. I have small children (ages six and under), so I needed a clear system to make it easier for everyone to sort and put away their own clothes. Here’s what I came up with.
First, I always purchase clothes as an outfit—I try to pick neutral bottoms that can go with a variety of tops. Then, I fold the coordinating pants/shorts/skirts inside of the top. This helps cut down on clothes storage space and time picking out clothes in the morning. All my kids have to do is pull out a pre-planned, matching outfit and put it on.
Also, if you have kids in similar sizes and same gender, buy undergarments and socks in sets they can separate by theme. For example, instead of checking every tag for sizes, I might buy only Minnie Mouse undergarments and socks for my six-year-old and My Little Pony for my 4-year-old. This makes it possible for my kids to recognize and sort their own items, saving me time when I’m the one sorting.
Tip #5: Enlist the kids to help.
This step also requires a little preparation, but when it’s time to put clothes away, every family member has a job. I made this step easier by giving each child assigned bins to help separate items like socks, undergarments, school clothes, and play clothes. No one is just dumping clothes into a drawer because each item has a place.
Since my youngest isn’t quite ready for this responsibility, I put away most of her items. My 4-year-old knows how to hang clothes and fold socks into each other. She handles that and puts away her socks, pajamas, and undergarments, but I still help put away outfits. My 6-year-old is expected to hang her dresses, fold and put away socks and undergarments, and stack her folded outfits in the school clothes and play clothes drawers.
Assigning everyone their own clothes basket means we can get everything put away in record time.
My Weekly Laundry Schedule
With those tips firmly in place in my new laundry routine, here’s what my weekly washing schedule looks like now. (If you’ve identified the best day of the week to do laundry in your family, modify accordingly to make that day the heaviest in your schedule!)
- Day 1: Start the week off right by washing and drying one load. I start with darks because they seem to be my largest loads. Just make sure your sorting system is set up to take you through the rest of the week.
- Day 2: Wash and dry one load of your choice.
- Day 3: Wash and dry one load of your choice.
- Day 4: Wash and dry one load of your choice. Sort clothes into family members’ baskets.
- Day 5: Folding and hanging day. If I have any unfinished sorting, I’ll start with that, then lay hanging items on the side of the basket and put the baskets in my children’s room.
- Day 6: Adult clothes, towels, and linens. I take this day to hang all my shirts and put them away. Then, I run loads of linens and put them away after each load. Today is also a day for ironing, stain treating for the upcoming week, or anything left over.
- Day 7: Break day!
This is my most laundry-heavy day, but it’s still manageable because of how the rest of the week is set up! I also have a break day every week, so you could make Day 6 even more manageable if you want to do some laundry on Day 7, too.
Helpful Laundry Routine Printable
If you have more than one person helping with the washing and sorting, that’s even better. With this free laundry sorting chart, you can divide the duties to ensure you and your helpers stay on task.
You can print it in whatever size you choose. I have mine in a frame, but it would also work on a clipboard or inside a sheet protector. You can check off tasks and write in days with a dry-erase marker and use it over and over. It’s great for kids to reference as they get used to the routine!
It might seem overwhelming to make so many laundry changes at once, but I promise it’s worth the effort! It took me some time, planning, and troubleshooting to get my family on board, but my laundry monster is officially gone. Thanks to my new routine, I’m hoping he never comes back!
Editor’s Note: Originally published on December 16th, 2016, and was revised on July 19th, 2023 with more information.