Excess sometimes finds us in unexpected places.
We often think of minimalism as an escape from an overabundance of clutter deep in our storage closets or shoved away in “the drawer” in our kitchen. We think it’s that little reminder that out of sight… often does not mean out of mind. But what about the things we keep in sight? What happens when you find yourself overwhelmed with the number of things used day to day?
I’ve known for some time the laundry situation in our home was a bit out of control. I can’t even blame it on having kids. Even in my pre-baby days the laundry was chaos. Often my strategy to put the clothing away was to dump it in the master bedroom closet on the floor. I’d keep piling it up without putting it away. Load after load. One day my husband observed the disaster and asked me “what’s the plan here”? My answer matter of factly was, “My system is if it’s on the floor it’s clean. If it’s dirty it’s in a laundry basket”. He looked at me confused and simply said: “I question your system”.
Fast forward a few years and a couple of kids and I was still dealing with mountains of clean clothing on the floor in the master bedroom. Sometimes it would spill into the hallway near our washer and dryer. A turning point for me was the day I walked into our master bedroom to see Anika standing on top of the pile of clean laundry that needed to be put away. She looked at me sweetly and asked, “Am I as high as Mt. Kilimanjaro?” Not quite Anika, not quite. This was the final vision I needed to bring awareness that perhaps the laundry situation had gotten a little out of hand. My “system” wasn’t really working.
At this point, I started trying to figure out where things were going wrong. I was getting the laundry washed and dried. First thing in the morning before going downstairs to make breakfast I would start a load. By the time we were done eating I would swap that load over. It was at this point I had the issue. The load in the dryer never got folded and put away.
I experimented, asked friends for tips, listened to podcasts for suggestions. I tried some ideas that didn’t work for me until I finally figured out something that did. I’m currently 4 months into no more laundry Mt. Kilimanjaro. Here’s what I came up with that works for me.
1. If you don’t need it or love it, get rid of it
Hands down if I only made one change in my laundry system to get results it would be this. One day I came to the realization that the only way to have less clothing to wash is to have less clothing. I got rid of a major chunk of my closet.
My life has changed drastically in the last five years. I’ve had two babies and become a stay at home mom. The clothing I once wore no longer fit, both my body or my lifestyle. I’ve gone through stages of cleaning out my closet before, but this time I really went for it.
After this massive clothing clean out, my mom, as a birthday gift, took me shopping. I created a list that I shared with her and she helped me intentionally pick out some new clothing. I got a fresh start and a chance to own minimal clothing, but it was clothing that I love and actually wear. This was game-changing in my laundry system. Owning less forces me to be deliberate with the things I wear.
This not only goes for me, but also the kids. I drastically overestimated the amount of clothing that our kids needed. After reducing what they own they couldn’t be happier. They did not care or notice. They would both wear their favorite shirts every day if they were clean.
2. Take one step at a time
I realized that so much of my hesitation to put the clothing away was feeling overwhelmed. The idea of having to sort through each item and travel around the house to different rooms to put them away seemed daunting. Especially since while I’m doing it my two-year-old is most likely tearing the house apart somewhere else. I decided to try categorizing my laundry loads to help. My current loads are kids’ clothing, my clothing, Jamie’s clothing, towels, whites and bedding.
For the most part, I do one load of laundry a day, cycling through the different load categories. By doing one category of clothing at a time I can easily scoop everything into a laundry basket and head to the appropriate location. If it’s my clothing, I go right to my closet, the kids right to their closets. This reduces the time spent walking around the house putting clothing away in different spots. It’s much more efficient and makes the task less daunting too. There is a significant improvement in the amount of time it takes to put the laundry away.
3. Finish one task before starting another one
The loads are smaller now and I don’t have to sort through as much and bring it to multiple rooms or multiple areas of the house. It doesn’t take as long to put it all away. I force myself to do this, even if it means going to bed five minutes later.
I use to take forever to put away the clothing because I wanted everything folded and put away perfectly. I had to get over this. Now when time is limited and clothing needs to be put away, I do whatever I can to get it done quickly. I stopped worrying about it being perfect because it’s just laundry. There have been some grumbles from Anika when (gasp!) her PJs might be inside out or not folded in a matched pair. But the PJs are in the drawer where she needs them, not on the floor in our bedroom. Our socks aren’t folded pretty anymore but we don’t have huge mountains of laundry so I think that’s a win.
About the Author: Nikki Cox is a mommy of two striving to clear away the clutter both physical and emotional so she can live life with intention and clarity. Find her at Lovelylucidlife.com.