Laundry Dilemma, Three Simple Questions to Save Your Sanity
By Paul Griffitts
Our laundry was a disaster and if answering three questions were going to help us we would have been thanking anyone for any advice. So I decided that it would be a goal of mine to be on top of the laundry so whoever showed up whenever they showed up at our house laundry would not be an obstacle on the way to the kitchen.
First I need to go back a little ways. My wife of twenty seven years and I have raised four children and held down our careers in spite of the odds against it and we are still together and in love. Our children three of which are grown, well almost, twenty-four, twenty-one and nineteen are happy well adjusted and on their way to becoming a positive contribution to society. We still have a nine year old and the third grade is tougher than we remember.
The twenty-one and nineteen year olds have moved out and have an apartment five miles away. They are girls so that took away a lot of the laundry and a lot of the laundry doers all in one move. Our son twenty-one years old and our nine year old are at home and believe me both contribute to the laundry in a big way.
Now you can imagine that with three teens and one toddler our laundry was a disaster. We could never find the time or when we could find the time we could not find the energy to get our laundry done and put away.
Now our house by no means was dirty just cluttered with laundry, no surface area uncluttered, mounds of laundry waiting to be washed and another mound waiting to be put away. I remember four or five laundry baskets lined up in the dining room and our kids having the time of their lives pulling each other around in them.
I tried every way including the military way to get everything going in one direction but to no avail. Things just seem to be out of control and no sign of returning to normal. So I was going crazy and thought to myself that whenever I go to someone’s house it looked like Better Homes and Garden, why can’t we just get the laundry done? My poor wife would be exhausted and be dragging around the house trying to get the laundry picked up before she would pass out from total exhaustion.
So finally I figured out what the problem was and it was logistics. From this I will ask you three simple questions and your answers will help you get ahead of the tornado and help you keep up on the dreaded laundry. First of all it wasn’t until I decided to not sweat it that it became easier.
Question number one, “Where are the socks?” You if you are like me and my wife you have forty five unmatched socks at any given time. I finally took those unmatched socks and threw them away. We went to a discount department store and bought twenty four pairs of the same socks in two size ranges each size range with a different design and a big wicker basket that stays near the laundry room. Everyone wears the same socks and all the socks are rolled, yeah just like in the old days, in a ball. The socks are in the wicker basket so no need to sort and put away in drawers. We did eventually have to get two baskets to keep the sizes similar as the kids grew. This alone was an incredible time saver both in doing the laundry and in the morning when every one was trying to find socks.
Question number two, “How many hangers do you own?” We were trying to fold up tees and shirts and skirts and pants and pajamas and putting them all in laundry baskets only to have someone rifle though them to get something and mess up all the folded clothes. It was frustrating and self defeating. One day I called my wife while she was at a department store and asked, “How much are those plastic hangers that don’t get tangled when they are in a pile”, she said, “Ten for a dollar, why?” I just told her to buy a hundred. Now we hang everything, drawers aren’t stuffed full; laundry baskets are a thing of the past. I even put up a bar in our laundry area where empty hangers are hung waiting for the next shirt or pair of pants to be hung on them. The closets are full and the floor is clear. Closets have doors but floors are right out in the open this makes a big difference.
Question number three, “How does the laundry get to the washing machine?” This is the logistics problem and it really takes thought. Most kids and men and the occasional women just leave the clothes where they drop off the body. This is the hardest part of the equation as I see it. Every room in my house has a hamper or a basket of sort to put dirty laundry in. Some of you lucky people have laundry shoots that deliver the dirty laundry right to the laundry room. Well we are not so lucky so we had a problem, how to get it all to the washing machine and in a way that made it easier to sort and get in the washer without creating a mountain of laundry right in the middle of the house.
Answer “Funneling”. This is usually a complicated system of getting something from one place to another without it being visibly noticeable and looking like a mess. At this point there are categories of laundry and we’re not talking about whites and darks and delicates and perm press. If you own Woolite you are not the person I am trying to help. This article is for the despaired laundry household, the one that on Saturday nine or ten loads are not uncommon. You people out there who can do laundry once a week and only need to do three loads don’t know what its like for the rest of us but maybe you will some day so keep reading.
Funneling is logistics like a giant company moving goods from one place to another then to the customer. The more you know about where the laundry is and in what stage it is at the easier it will be to do it. Why have appliance companies not come up with the washer that magically turns into a dryer when the wash is done and dries the clothes without having to switch the load. I would have paid a thousand dollars for that one. Back to the chore at hand, logistics or funneling your laundry to the machines.
I wrestled with this concept in two ways, one was even days of the week would be assigned to two people and odd to two others leaving Saturday and Sunday a free for all where it was open laundry time with the machines. I also toyed with getting two washers and dryers. Then I came up with the funneling technique.
First the categories, category one is clothes that need to be worn for work or school, they are the highest priority wash. This category of laundry is immediately upgraded to the closest staging area of the laundry funnel.
Second category is underwear and socks and towels. This category is the second highest priority. Third category is play clothes and odds and ends like dishtowels and bed sheets etc. This should cover all your laundry but feel free to change items to different categories that more suit your family’s needs. There is a fourth category that should me avoided and that is the, “I just got to have these jeans washed right away”, category.
A family using this system should not have the fourth category if you are working the system faithfully. Now stage laundry baskets at inconspicuous places leading from the bedrooms and bathrooms around the house. This may sound odd but compared with what it looks like now give it a try. The final laundry basket is at or in the laundry area. This is known as the “Current Load” basket.
To start the funneling system you need to empty your washer and dryer so install the one-hundred hanger process first and when the washer is empty push the final load through the dryer. Now you’re clear for the new process.
Backfill the laundry baskets with the categories the way set forth and take each person in the household and explain to them the process. Tell them that only towels and socks and underwear can be put into the baskets in the bathroom and that their clothes from category one need to be put into the baskets closer to the laundry. Never allow the baskets to overflow, when they are full move them to the next station. Meanwhile there is a load of category one washing and that load is pushed through the dryer and hung on hangers.
The hung clothes are hung by sorted rooms that they will need to go to and your mantra for the first month will be, “Take your clothes with you”. By the way do not take the time to turn clothes that are inside out right side out just hang them that way. This will teach your family to right side out the clothes when they take them off and speed up the chore immensely. Same with socks, be aggressive they will learn. Learning to be a polite laundry creator is what is important; you’re not a bad laundry doer if the people you are doing for are not good at giving the product to you.
After a while what you will discover is that people will bring their favorite clothes in category one to the closest basket to the laundry area. Those who don’t will miss out on the next load. If you focus on the category one clothes that incorporates the hundred hangers concept you will find that category one will be done with minimal effort.
Category two is the most time consuming because except for the underwear no one really owns these items. Remember the sock basket concept. Try to get the underwear right into the drawers and to do this try rolling the underwear. This is how they do it in the army. It takes up less space and is easier to keep the drawer neat.
So here are some tips to remember: 1. Get the hangers. 2. Select good locations for your baskets. 3. No clean clothes in baskets. 4. Hang everything that can be hung. 5. Install a bar that can both hold empty hangers and ready hung clothes in the laundry area. 6. Don’t right side out the clothes (this will eventually fix itself). 7. Don’t wash a load bigger than what will dry in 45 minutes (this may take a little practice and will save money in the long run). 8. Only use bleach on whites that don’t cost a lot to replace. 9. If your laundry area is downstairs only let category one laundry reach the laundry area basket when not doing laundry and use the washer as a basket to build a load. 10. Tell your kids that if they don’t follow the process they will not get their wash done. This is good for them and you are not a bad parent no matter what they say.
We want to hear from you so feel free to write us with your questions and comments; I would love to hear how you improved your laundry problems.