Overwhelmed by laundry? Besieged by a pile of dirty clothes that expands right in front of your eyes? Are you afraid to leave the hamper unguarded for 2 seconds on laundry day, for fear of a dirty sock sneak attack?
Especially for the free spirits among us (read: scatterbrained moms), staying on top of the laundry game can seem impossible.
If you’re overwhelmed by laundry and its never-ending drudgery, I think I can help.
Enemies That Keep Us Overwhelmed by Laundry
If you feel like you’re at war with mountains of laundry, you’re not wrong. It’s a crafty opponent, fighting us on several fronts at once.
General Skidmark knows if he can wear us down by keep us in a perpetual state of being overwhelmed by laundry, he’s got us whipped.
So let’s examine the other side’s war strategies, shall we? Because the only way to beat our enemy is to understand him.
Follow me to the
Laundry War Room…
- Enemy Strategy #1: Too Much Laundry
- Enemy Laundry Overwhelm Strategy #2: Crippling Us With Perfectionism
- Enemy Strategy #3: Doing Laundry the Wrong Way
- Enemy Strategy #4: Making the Last Step So Freaking Hard
- Recap of How To Not Be Overwhelmed by Laundry
- Enemy Vanquished – Overwhelmed by Laundry No More!
- More Laundry Help
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Enemy Strategy #1: Too Much Laundry
The opponent’s first strategy is to keep us drowning in excessive amounts of laundry.
If you’re like me, you sometimes miss the bigger picture. I tend to forget that small steps (good or bad) add up.
Building with baby steps is a positive thing when it comes to learning little ways to keep the house clean or stay on top of chores.
But the General knows this same trick and uses it against us. He builds up that overflowing hamper in tiny increments by sneaking extra work in here and there until bam – we’re completely and utterly overwhelmed by laundry again.
So the first line of defense we have is to keep the clothes (and linens) out of the hamper or the “special wash pile” to begin with.
Try these tips to prevent the washing from building up and getting out of control:
Don’t Buy High Maintenance Clothing
- Avoid anything labeled “wash separately” or clothes that require babying through the cycle.
- You do not have time for persnickety clothing: like white-and-navy striped tops and “hand wash only.”
- And for God’s sake, don’t buy anything that needs to be reshaped to dry.
If it can’t go in the dryer or be hung on a hanger to dry, leave it at the store.
- Stay away from white clothes for kids and messy adults (me) and black shirts and pants if you have furry pets.
Those add up to a lot of unnecessary de-staining and de-linting.
- Dark-colored underwear and socks are your friends.
Stop Creating Extra Laundry
- Stop getting socks dirty for no reason. Teach your kids (and yourself) not to go outside in sock feet
- Use bibs.
- If you have fashionista children who make changing clothes a hobby, don’t keep clothes in their rooms. Or hang them high enough so it’s a pain for them to pull them down.
Thankfully, this was never a problem in my house, but I have a friend whose daughters require thrice-daily costume changes.
Find them a new hobby. For real.
Stop Washing Clothes That Aren’t Dirty
- Unless it’s 100 degrees and you’re a sweaty person, you can re-wear a top you had on for a quick errand or short meeting. Office clothes, especially, can be Febrezed and hung up.
Not only does this quick laundry “cheat” keep you from being overwhelmed by laundry, it’s much better for the clothes. They’ll last a lot longer.
- And unless your kids are bedwetters or generally stinky when they sleep, teach them to hang their PJs on a hook instead of tossing them in the hamper (or, let’s be real, onto the floor).
In my house, we also hang our “lounge” clothes – those pants and hoodies we knock around the house in.
If I washed my comfy Santa pants every time I wore them, they’d be nothing but fuzzy nubbin’s by now.
- Put easy-to-reach hooks where kids take off their Scout uniforms or club shirts, so they can hang them up after a 1-hour meeting.
BONUS: This also makes them so much easier to find later!
- And speaking of hooks, use hooks for towels.
Put lots of hooks in the bathrooms or in the bedrooms, assign each kid a towel color, and have them hang their towels to dry.
If they don’t like to dry off on a damp towel, they’ll learn to hang them pretty fast.
And if they do like to dry off on a damp towel, they’re just weird.
BONUS: With assigned colors, you’ll know instantly whose towels are left on the floor.
- And the final, most insulting way we get overrun with clothes-that-are-in-the-hamper-but-shouldn’t-be – clean clothes nobody put away so they ended back up in the laundry basket.
That’s just wrong – so very wrong…and yet so very common.
You gotta put a stop to that for sure! I’m writing a post about getting laundry put away. It’ll be linked here when it’s live.
So do yourself a favor and take advantage of any dirty laundry tricks you can to minimize dirty clothes to begin with.
Enemy Laundry Overwhelm Strategy #2: Crippling Us With Perfectionism
Another tactic the other side uses against us is our need to do things “right.”
Ahh, the old laundry enemy – perfectionism. Cause of the dreaded Laundry Standstill.
I’m guessing folding’s got you procrastinating on finishing up that load you just pulled out of the dryer, right? Folding’s usually the culprit when it comes to being overwhelmed by laundry perfectionism.
Perfectionism is like guerilla warfare. An ambush.
You’re marching along – gathering, sorting, washing, drying, even putting laundry in a basket and moving it close to where it needs to go.
Then you get to the couch or the bed or the dining room table and – BAM! – out of the bushes comes perfectionism, brandishing muskets and screaming its battle cry:
And instead of responding to it by fighting back, you just keep marching along in your cute little red (dry-clean only) coat, following the rules.
Following the imaginary “Laundry Code of Honor.”
And that’s how you lose the war.
Yes, I did just recently re-watch The Patriot.
How could you tell?
Stop following the rules.
You don’t have to fold things perfectly. Or some things, not at all.
There is no Laundry Code of Honor.
You have not been knighted into the Order of the Ironing Board.
Sir Starch? I crack myself up.
Towels don’t need to be folded perfectly to fit beautifully on the shelf.
I know, I know in your mind you envision a Pinterest-perfect linen closet.
But if that translates to crouching furtively over a basket of clean-but-jumbled towels, dripping water on the living room rug because you had to scurry down from the shower to the basket of unfolded stuff on the couch…well, maybe a messy-looking towel closet isn’t such a bad thing?
Honestly, I think perfectionism is probably one of the most effective tools our enemy throws at us. Not just when we’re overwhelmed with laundry, but in lots of other ways.
But I noticed that it really rears its ugly head when it comes to laundry – specifically to folding clothing and towels.
If folding is your bottleneck and you’re ending up with baskets of wrinkled clothes (so then you also have to add ironing into the mix!), try folding more quickly and less carefully.
You do not need to smooth each garment between every fold.
But if you just can’t get over that hump and are not willing to forego a perfect fold-job on your shirts, maybe hang them?
I suck at folding so bad. I just don’t have the patience for it. If I had to fold each item of clothing perfectly, my laundry would never get done.
But because I’ve made peace with that and have chosen quick-and-done over perfectly undone, I actually do not mind doing laundry.
And now that I’ve conquered the “putting away” part, I almost never get behind on it.
Yeah, I’m bragging.
Hey, I don’t have all that much to brag about. If I want to brag about embracing my half-ass folding abilities, just let me have it – okay?
My haphazard laundry folding sthle only seems to matter when it comes to shirts. So I just hang them up.
If perfectionism is your thing, I totally get it. I’m still mired up in it in many other ways that I’m working on.
I just hate to see all these moms beaten down and overwhelmed by laundry because they can’t bear to put way imperfectly-folded clothing.
Enough already – we’re at war!
Enemy Strategy #3: Doing Laundry the Wrong Way
Old Skid loves when we are perpetually overwhelmed by laundry. Because we stay too tired to find a better way than the way our moms did it or even the way we’ve always done it…just because….
There’s more than one method to tackle the mountains of laundry piled up in your house. If you’re doing it one of these ways and it’s not working for you, try a different way.
With the weekly laundry method, you finish all the laundry for the week at one time.
You pick one day per week (or do clothes one day and sheets/towels on another day if you don’t have a whole day to devote to laundry)
This is my preferred method for getting laundry done.
However, the weekly laundry method only works if you’re willing to tackle your dirty laundry like a project with a definite beginning and end.
In other words, once you do a last call for dirty clothes, you have to ignore anything new until the next week.
Benefits of Weekly Laundry:
Weekly laundry works great for people with a project brain who like to get their teeth into a bigger project instead of smaller, daily, more nitpicky routine tasks.
It allows you to batch tasks like sorting pocket-checking
And it keeps you from rebelling against daily, never-ending sameness.
Drawbacks of Weekly Laundry:
Weekly laundry sucks down an entire day each week. You’re not actually working on it constantly all day, but you do need to be present and committed to that day.
And it requires buckling down to get it done.
If you’re not a big project person you can easily get overwhelmed by Laundry Day each week.
If you choose the daily laundry method, you never have clear hampers but you also never have a gigantic mountain of laundry to tackle at one time.
Doing laundry every day to avoid laundry build-up can be helpful if you’re easily overwhelmed by laundry piles.
Benefits of Daily Laundry:
Following the daily laundry method means you can bite off laundry in small chunks.
Drawbacks of Daily Laundry:
If you’re not good at multi-step tasks that need to be completed consistently, daily laundry might send you right back to being overwhelmed by laundry tasks that must be monotonously done over and over in the same order.
Personally, I found it really hard to follow through on daily laundry. You can read about why I don’t think doing laundry every single day is great for the scattered brain here
The Delegate Laundry Method
If you want to share the love, you can also assign laundry to your family.
However, laundry has never been something I’m willing to delegate.
I’d maybe delegate the folding of towels or putting away their own laundry to your kids. But anything giving them carte blanch to the laundry room IMHO is asking for nonstop headaches.
I feel like my laundry room would look like the basement laundry of a frat house.
That said, this is the way we did laundry in our house when I was a young adult still at home. There were four of us in our teens/early 20’s, and we each had an assigned day.
As a teenager, I paid absolutely no attention to what my mom did around the house, but I assume she did house laundry the other days.
Benefits of the Delegate Method:
Not doing all the laundry yourself.
If your delegation method is assigning this irksome chore to someone else and they actually do it well, then hats off to you. You have achieved mastery level.
Drawbacks of the Delegate Method:
It sounds to me like I’m agreeing to re-wash and FINISH everyone else’s laundry when they inevitably leave it in the washer for days.
It’s possible the problem here is actually my parenting and not the laundry.
The Dorm Method
I’m kind of joking by bringing up this method, but I suspect it’s a popular one among moms who hate laundry so much they avoid it.
However, avoiding laundry probably isn’t keeping you from being overwhelmed by laundry.
The Dorm Method is when you just let laundry pile up until you have absolutely nothing clean to wear.
Then you sniff through the groaning hamper, find and don your least smelly, least stained pair of baggy sweatpants and wear a jacket with no shirt on underneath and binge your laundry. Either at home or at a laundromat.
Afterward, you either live out of laundry baskets or possibly fold it and put it away.
Of course, you’re so exhausted by this overwhelmingly huge catchup laundry session that you go back to pretending washing machines don’t exist. Until you realize your son’s been commando for 3 days.
Time to start digging and sniffing again…
Benefits of the Dorm Method
I mean, I guess the benefit here is that you get to pretend there’s no such thing as laundry? For a couple of weeks maybe?
Drawbacks of the Dorm Method
Every day is a gamble:
- Will we be drying off with beach towels or the guest hand towel today?
- Do we need to get a rag from the garage to wash dishes?
- Will I need to call in sick to work because I have no clothes other than my Santa pants?
So yeah, probably don’t choose the Dorm Method.
Enemy Strategy #4: Making the Last Step So Freaking Hard
And the final strategy employed by the enemy of efficient laundry is to make putting away laundry a total grind.
Even if you manage to get all of your clean clothes folded… then you have to cart little piles all over the house, opening and closing drawers and closets, and trying to stuff clothes in already-overflowing drawers.
Well I’m happy to say I’ve fought back on that front bigtime.
But the most important battle tactics in my arsenal to avoid getting overwhelmed by laundry that’s just sitting on the bed, waiting to be put away, are these:
I changed the way I sort before I wash.
When you sort laundry by location, each dresser-load of clothes goes through the washing, drying, and folding process together. So when they’re ready to be put away, they all go to the same place at the same time.
And I hang just about every shirt.
Pulling shirts directly from the dryer onto a hanger is so fast. Then I toss the hanger on a hanging pole near the dryer.
And since they stay grouped by person, it’s practically nothing to grab a handful of hung shirts and move them quickly to their closet.
Recap of How To Not Be Overwhelmed by Laundry
If you’re feeling put out, disgruntled, and/or overwhelmed by laundry, stop letting it win.
- Keep dirty laundry to a minimum. Pay attention to the little bits of extra laundry and “special care” stuff that will drag the whole process out. Chances are, you have way too much laundry in the first place.
- Keep the laundry troop train moving by releasing perfectionism. But if you get ambushed:
- Stop the train
- Let the troops out
- Throw the perfectionist rules out the window, and
- Get in there and get bloody.
It’s usually when one part of the system breaks down, like folding, that we give up and once again get overwhelmed by laundry.
- Make a plan to fight back. Pick a laundry method and commit to it.
Probably not the Dorm Method though.
Enemy Vanquished – Overwhelmed by Laundry No More!
Are you ready to fight the Laundry Wars and conquer laundry overwhelm, Sir Starch? (Or maybe the female version of Sir Starch? Would that be Dame Starch? No, that sounds lame. Let’s go with “Ser” like Brienne of Tarth. I bet she’d have been a real laundry badass if anyone on that show ever bothered to wash their clothes!)
Or if you’re already a battle-scarred veteran, do you have any tips for new recruits to make laundry a little less overwhelming?
I know, I’m mixing up so many battle terms and eras of war. But you’re fighting a battle against dirty underwear, not the Nazis or King Joffrey, so I think we can be a little less technical, okay?
Other Posts That Will Help If You’re Overwhelmed by Laundry
Laundry’s such a sucky chore for most moms, even the ones who seem to have it pretty together otherwise, that I’ve compiled as much as I can about it.
Check out these related posts: