A Simple Laundry System

simple laundry system

Laundry is one of those things that I’ve always thought would be too basic even to talk about. I mean, no one I know talks about laundry unless it’s to say there’s too much of it. However, over the years I did notice friends always seemed to have laundry piled on the dining room table or in baskets on the couch in a state of perpetual unfoldedness (um, not a word? What do you say for things that never get folded? Maybe unfoldedness should be a word).

And then I discovered numerous articles on the web about “systems” and even a blog devoted to all things laundry, Mamas Laundry Talk (very cool, by the way), so I realized there must be people struggling with mounds of laundry. And since it is something we all have to take care of which is very basic (you know, food, clothing, & shelter…) I thought I’d tell you about my laundry “system” – fully acknowledging that I’ve never thought of it as a system at all, just the way I do laundry.

Which, like most things in my life, stems from my desire to make all things simple (that, or I’m just plain lazy). That and the fact that I wanted to use my dining table for other things…like dining.

From my experience, I can tell you that if you follow these steps, there will not be piles of laundry looking at you for days and it will be relatively painless. OK, unless you are The Pioneer Woman and deal with amounts of mud and manure I’ve never imagined on clothes. Then you’re on your own.

This is where the “system” (sorry, I keep putting it in quotes, ’cause it kinda cracks me up that I’m calling how I do laundry that…) starts: in each family member’s bedroom. This is key- do not, and I repeat, do not have a single hamper for the whole family, and not even for just the kids. Mixing everyone’s clothes, socks and underwear will result in lengthy separating and folding sessions.


I know this goes against how we imagine laundry, especially the cute-hamper-in-the-bathroom idea. But just imagine how easy a load of laundry would be if you knew it all belonged to one person. OK, just imagine the socks, then.

Ahh, now you’re with me.

By the way, did you notice how full the baskets were in my kid’s rooms? Keeping it real here, folks, I didn’t even clean these out before I took the pictures. They are in charge of their own laundry now, and it looks like they’ve been putting it off. In full disclosure, though, I have to admit to removing the piles of clothes in front of the baskets, though. What can I say, they’re teenagers.

Brian and I have a bigger basket because it’s for two people (you didn’t think I was going to have separate his-and-hers baskets, did you?). Since our clothes (and socks) are so different, it’s not too much trouble to separate them.

So, how often do I wash these loads? Basically when the basket gets full, which comes out to once a week. And since that hardly ever happens on the same day, it means I’m never inundated with an entire household of laundry on one day, which works for me as I’ve found I prefer doing a couple loads every few days. However, it would be easy to do all the loads on one day if you prefer to have a designated laundry day.

In order to last a week (until the basket fills) plus laundering time, each family member needs more than 7 pairs of underwear and socks. I like everyone to have 10 to 12. There is usually not a problem with pants and shirts, especially because I’m a believer in not washing jeans every time they are worn (unless there’s dirt and manure to deal with…).

What about towels, rags, and napkins (remember…we try not to waste our money on paper products we throw away)? They have a separate basket as well, located on top of the dryer. But bath towels and such get put directly in the washing machine each week during our family cleaning nights, and so are dried, folded and put away within a few days so a hamper isn’t needed for these items.

In order to eliminate the piles of clothes waiting to be folded (or not…), I fold the clothes right as I’m taking them out of the dryer and put them in a basket. Yes, it takes more time than just tossing them in the basket, but the benefits are twofold:

  • they are folded and only need to be taken to the one room (because we’re doing only one or two family members clothes at once) and put away
  • there aren’t as many wrinkles because the clothes are folded right away.

One note to this whole system: I don’t fold underwear. I think it’s silly. I just make sure everyone has a box or some type of holder that fits in their drawer that they can throw their underwear into. And voila! One less thing to fold.

Okay, another note: I don’t match the socks when I’m folding into the basket, either. I save that for when I’m putting them away. But again…we’re talking about a lot less socks since it’s only one person’s laundry. And once the kids where old enough, they could match their own socks.

Whew. This is getting lengthy. Who know there was so much to my “system?” Let’s wrap this up, then.

Here are the steps to simplify your laundry:

  1. Each bedroom has it’s own laundry basket.
  2. When it’s full, a load (or two) is washed. Wait. Did I mention that I don’t always separate colors and whites? If there is not enough for two full loads, I will just mix them. *gasp* As long as there is not new red things or jeans, I haven’t had a problem.
  3. Make sure each family member has enough clothes to last a week and a half (week + washing time).
  4. Fold the clothes into a basket right out of the dryer. Take the basket to the room the clothes belong in and either put them away (for young kids), OR put the separate piles of tops, pants, etc. on the bed for older kids to put away. My favorite part, though, comes when they’re teens and they’re responsible for their own laundry!
  5. Rags, kitchen towels, napkins, etc. have their own basket that gets washed when it’s full.
  6. The bathroom towels are put directly in the washing machine on Family Cleaning Night (Don’t have one yet? Get one soon, you won’t be sorry!). When they are done, fold into a basket and put away in a linen closet.

There you have it, my Laundry Basics. Am I off my rocker? Out of touch with reality? Is laundry a problem for anyone? What systems do you use?

How many questions can one person ask?

Five, apparently.


This is linked to Strut Your Stuff Thursday.


  1. says

    i think your post about laundry was wonderful. i too recommend taking items right out of the dryer and folding them. it’s so simple! i always wondered why anyone would want piles of clean laundry all over their house. my mom taught me this and i am SO glad she did. 😉

    my kiddos are in their early twenties and they were taught at a very young age to clean, sort laundry, etc.-whatever was age-appropriate. i did not want them growing up thinking that “someone” else would do their cleaning or that they weren’t responsible for their own messes.

    also, i love the idea of family cleaning night. the idea of everyone pitching in during the same time frame is great…and so is the ice cream reward!!

    judi 😉

  2. says

    Jami – I am so honored that you linked to my little laundry blog! Thank you so much!

    And if you knew me well at all, you would know that your laundry routine just makes me all kinds of happy! Once you can get a laundry routine on auto-pilot, it makes life so simple.

    Again, thanks so much and great job on such a good system!


  3. Jeralee says

    always interested to hear what works for other people. I like your system for the rags and towels. I am going to put them in a separate basket as well.

    I have to do laundry more often. My husband works out every day and is a super sweater. The clothes smell bad and I have a separate laundry bag ( in the garage) for his stinky work out clothes. I have to wash them within a day. I also have a daughter that is a competetive swimmer and is in the pool 6 days a week, and my other daughter that just started swim team. We go through towels like you wouldn’t believe! They get put on a drying rack, but I do do a wash of swim towels about every 5 days. We don’t usually reuse them as she has skin problems and it is better to have a clean towel each time.

    My washer and dryer are in the garage – big dislike! I usually wash clothes and then when I have about 5 loads waiting to be folded, I sit down, watch t.v. and fold laundry, and put everyone’s clothes in separate baskets, so it is easier to put away – or rather I make THEM put it away.

    Anyway, sorry for the novel!

  4. says

    I hate laundry. I am not lazy but a big dislike. I imagine my used clothes right now, it’s like mmmm gross!lol but thanks to this notes. You give me a good tips:)

  5. says

    Unfoldedness is a word in our house! :) Most times, I fold but my husband and kids do help, especially when they want to sit down on the couch.(We do need to get them to do more work for sure!) My laundry area is so small that it’s impractical for me to fold as I take out of the dryer. Love the summer time around here if only for the fact that it gets hot, and the clothes can dry outside. Folding ends up being easier then.

  6. says

    I needed to read this post. I’ve known for a while that I needed to put at least one more hamper upstairs, now that has moved up on the priority list. Thanks!

    Mary – off to do another load.

  7. Jami @ An Oregon Cottage says

    Amen to that, Ellen! I forgot to mention that I hang what I can in the summer- especially sheets and things. Love the smell and super easy to fold and I love how the wind “irons” things for me. Too bad summer is so short where I live…

  8. Gina says

    I love reading how others do laundry! I’ve tried several ways and for now, with a family of littles, I prefer to have two days a week that I do ALL the laundry, then I can just forget it until the next laundry day.

    But, some day, when the children are older, I can see going to a individual person system.

    Thanks for making your feed show up completely. It sure makes reading on a feed reader easier!


  9. says

    I love the idea of doing a single person’s whole hamper at a time. Now we are down to 3 people at home I still get overwhelmed with the laundry. Not my favorite thing and I’ll forget there is a load in the washer, you guessed it, I have to wash it again. This will be much easier for a working mom. So glad I taught my older two to do their own laundry years ago. Now they are off at college & living on their own and I know they are doing their laundry and not bringing it home to mom each weekend! Thanks Jamie for the tips, its going to make my life easier!

  10. says

    In my early days I truly had no issues with actually “doing” the laundry (putting it in the washer, then into the dryer and then removing it). I had SEVERE unfoldedness – all over the place. I detested folding!! One early solution was to buy more laundry baskets – NOT a good idea, don’t ask me how I know this. I needed resolution: I either #1) had to buy a bigger house or #2) reduce the number of baskets; moving not being an option. I became determined to conquer that battle once and for all. The 3 baskets that remained were for pre-sorted (whites, darks, delicates) soiled items ONLY. My steely resolve meant that I had to fold the laundry the second(!) the buzzer went off AND it had to be put away. Period. I really had to work(!) at that concept to “finish a task in its entirety” before moving on. There were times I really grumbled (and sometimes I still grumble) but, it worked. That was decades ago and the concept still works today.

  11. Nancy says

    Great tips for anyone struggling with volume or those who simply find laundry overwhelming! I personally love laundry and find it to be relaxing at times, (assuming nothing gets in the way of getting it done regularly!). I love hanging my clothes outside on the line and generally fold everything as I take it down so it is ready to be put away as soon as I bring it in. I also keep separate laundry baskets for each person but take everything into the laundry room at the same time and sort it by color there. Once it is sorted I put it into separate laundry baskets so once the washer is emptied, I can just pull the next sorted load out and it’s ready to go. I prefer to not have sorted loads laying on the floor unless I am doing a “full laundry day” and never have laundry on the table or couch unfolded unless there is some unexpected emergency!! I also prefer to air dry my clothes which means I have a drying rack inside during the winter or rainy days in spring/summer/fall in this neck of the woods since it’s too cold to hang outside in the winter. I like to think of the inside drying rack as a way of adding moisture to the dry air we have inside during the winter heating season as well as using less energy as I’m always very conscious of how my actions are impacting the environment.

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