Laundry Love

my laundry set-up: one basket per child, one laundry table to fold and sort and file the clothes away

I love doing laundry. It’s very likely we don’t share that sentiment but I think we can still be friends.

The key to loving laundry is having a plan. I think about this a lot because for the life of me, I could never figure out how I liked something that seemed to drive so many of my friends to the brink of insanity. Why do I like laundry? How do I find it relaxing?

Well, I’ve given it a lot of thought and want to share my simplified approach to doing laundry and loving it. Think I’m crazy? Well, do ya punk?

I think the number one key to making laundry “doable” is to work backwards. The thing I dislike most about laundry is…putting it away. Why is that? Because often times, drawers are messy or overflowing, or I’ve waited too long to deal with putting laundry away. So here it is the First Grouping of Rachel’s Laundry Laws:

1. Have organized drawers — which means, keep your clothing collection to a realistic size. Not too big, not too small. In our home we don’t have large bedrooms. They are very “moderately” sized — which means one dresser per room, shared by two. Which means, four or five drawers per boy. Which means, you might not need ten-to-twelve pairs of soccer shorts. You might be fine with only five or six. I’m very much aware of what clothes get worn, what we have space for and (most importantly) what can neatly fit in each drawer.

2. With streamlined drawers, the children can easily put their own laundry away. Which means they need drawers that aren’t overstuffed and impossible to open and shut. I find that when the drawers are nicely organized (relative term) putting laundry away is much more realistic and “enjoyable” — keeping things streamlined means the boys are less overwhelmed.

3. Do this every other day at least. If we wait too long to put laundry away it becomes a nightmare. In the words of Nike, Just Do It.

So then, moving forward — you’ve taken the sting out of putting it all way. Let’s go back to the beginning — the laundry itself. Here are my Basic Principles of Rachel’s Laundry Laws:

1. Laundry needs to be done constantly. Now, if you are saying, no no no I do laundry once a week — that is cool. We just have a different theological approach to laundry and my method isn’t for you. No hard feelings. But to really keep things at bay, embrace this concept: your washer will be going on a semi-regular basis, and that’s good. I am in the habit of doing a load right off the bat in the morning and as often as needed throughout the day. There are plenty of times the washer isn’t running of course, but always be open to the idea of running a load.

2. Now here is where I have a bit of an advantage in that my laundry room is also my backdoor mudroom and right off the dining room. This kind of pragmatic set-up is not for everyone but because it’s right there in the middle of it all, I’m much more motivated to keep the laundry caught up. There is nowhere for it to hide! So that’s Point 2: Keep It Moving.

3. Never take your laundry to a second location. Words to live by. I don’t remove the laundry from the dryer until I’m ready to fold. And I like to fold warm clothes (what a little luxury!) so I always run it about ten minutes to de-wrinkle and heat it up. Then you take it right out of the dryer (I do this in little handfuls and then close the dryer back up to keep running while I fold the current little section and oh my gosh you are getting inside to the depths of my crazy, sorry about that). Bottom line: make it luxurious, baby.

4. But really, I know you might be rolling your eyes but see how I make it all about ME? And what I like? And how I want things to be? Piles of warm cotton in my arms is such a treat! Doing laundry can be fun! That’s the heart of my message. (also, God loves you.) Figure out how YOU like to do the laundry and then get it done. Sorry if that seems the reverse of everything I’m preaching (my way, I did it my way) — but if you prefer to fold a load while watching the Today show, then great! Just don’t leave it all piled up around the joint after that, or you run the risk of having to refold all that nice hard work you just exerted.

5. I also just try to keep in mind the laundry that’s coming in, so I can be ready. I generally wash a load of lights at the end of the day, or in the afternoon, after the school uniforms have come in to launder. I save darks for the morning because that’s when the pajamas need to be washed. Silly little details that make a big difference. Be aware of your loads. I think we could make this a larger life lesson, but we’ll stick to laundry for now.

6. Keep hampers to a minimum — again, my own personal system. The more places I have for storing dirty clothes, well the more I’m inclined to store dirty clothes. We have one hamper in the laundry room and then designated areas for “small piles” that we pick up regularly. The boys just bring the dirties down a few times a day from upstairs. I’d rather have a small pile “ready to roll” than something like a basket in each room, that seems like much more of a commitment.

7. No sock basket. Nightmare central (for me). If a sock lost its partner, au revoir. Also, don’t let random items pile up. That tablecloth getting pushed further and further to the corner of the hamper? Tackle that today!

8. And then my last little thing, I love to say a prayer for each person as I fold their particular article of clothing. It’s a small thing but it often centers me and relaxes me and reminds me of the point of all this housework and labor — for these dear souls entrusted to my care. This Nike Elite sock, this 10-12 boys boxer, this white oxford shirt — all these random pieces are for people I love so very much.

Am I missing anything? Am I crazy? Tell me what you think!


  1. There are a lot of similarities between our systems, but a few differences as well, which can be attributed to family size (I only have one child) and the fact that my laundry is in the basement. Which means that I do sometimes take it to a different location because I prefer to fold it upstairs where it’s warmer. But I am so with you on doing it constantly rather than letting it pile up, and doing a load first thing in the morning. I can’t say I love laundry, but it’s probably the easiest of all my household tasks.

    • Great point! It has to be about comfort too — thanks for the reminder (I amended that paragraph) and figuring out how to make doing laundry enjoyable!

      • Rachel, you’re too funny! I didn’t think any of your paragraphs needed to be amended! Your system sounds great, and if I had a laundry/mudroom off my kitchen (which is one of my dreams for the future), I’m sure I would fold it right then and there rather than taking it to a second location.

  2. I find that I’m capable of enjoying doing laundry if I do it in an organized fashion. I don’t mind putting clothes away (indeed, to me it’s the biggest treat of all to carry a freshly-laundered, neat stack of clothing to where it belongs). For me, the biggest (irrational?) need is to do well-sorted, very large loads. (In the interest of being efficient, I suppose.) So I have a ridiculously large laundry sorting system — shelving units for baskets containing each kind of load you can think of. When I’m keeping up with it all, dirty clothes go straight into the appropriate basket and then each morning, I choose one or two loads to wash. And when I’m keeping up with it all, I enjoy it.

    But quite frequently, I don’t keep up with it all. Instead of sorting clothes right away, I dump them in a pile in front of my laundry-sorting shelving units. The pile builds up, and I land myself in trouble. I hope you don’t mind me linking, but I once wrote a post on the topic, which reminds me of your practice of praying for your family as you fold their clothes:

    Since the revelation that inspired the post, I’ve been much more at ease with my laundry responsibilities. Sometimes I’m organized and enjoy it, sometimes I’m disorganized and don’t enjoy it, but I have far less angst over the whole thing than I used to. What a relief!

  3. I’m only washing for 4, and laundry happens twice a week. Which is manageable for me, and the girls know what days, they better have their laundry in the hamper, or they will end up doing it themselves, (they are 14 and 17). We have 2 rolling hampers, one in the parents room, and one in their room, which I just pull out to the living room for sorting, my laundry room is outside and small, so I just take out a load at a time, then I found my bed is the prefect height to fold, and hang up clothes, then I put the girls’ clothes on a desk in the hallway for them to put away, and mine and hubby’s go right away.

    Do you not hang any of the children’s clothes?

    • I do, but I find that if I fold the clothes directly out of the dryer they stay wrinkle free until the boys put their clothes away — and hang up what goes in the closet. So that seems to work…

  4. I enjoy laundry because I get a sense of “done” from it that I don’t get from other household tasks. There’s my crazy. We have laundry baskets in the kids’ closets (2) and a sorter in the laundry room. The kids are supposed to bring their laundry down regularly and put it in the sorter, but they don’t. Because they don’t, they don’t always have the clothes they want to wear. They are getting older, so I have decided this is not my problem. When I get the laundry, I wash, dry and fold, and stack laundry in a basket for each kid and they put it away. I wish I had a folding table, as I use the backs of the great room chairs to fold my laundry. I have friends who fold on their furniture and stack it on the back of the couch until someone decides to put it away, which would drive me bonkers. I couldn’t look at it all day, but I’m an out of sight, out of mind person. Have a great day!

  5. I love laundry too! I find the whole process very therapeutic. Dirty clothes become clean – a messy pile is transformed into a Gap-worthy folded display. On days when I feel like I have accomplished little else, getting the laundry done brings me great satisfaction!

  6. Katharine says

    Ooh, I really like laundry too, just hate putting it all away! Thanks for the tips on that and saying prayers for the people whose clothes you fold, that helps me in an area I’m struggling with. I have been “revenge folding”, “you didn’t do what I asked so I’m not folding your leggings right side out!” Yeah, prayer would be better!

  7. I love this! Laundry is actually one of the chores I don’t mind doing.The biggest hurdle for me is getting to the basement to do it. I prefer to just hop down there quickly without my boys (2 and 1) and throw a load in, but if I need to sort I have to take them with me. I dream of the day I have laundry on the main level. But I do have a laundry chute which is AMAZING, so I only have the carry the laundry up the stairs.
    One thing I do that I love and *think* would be helpful for other people with littles is for my boys’ socks I keep them in a delicates bag (the ones people use for bras, etc) that way they all stay together. In the 2.5 years I’ve had kids I’ve only had 2 mismatched pairs of socks and one of those got lost on vacation (now I take the bag with us on vacation).

    Also – you totally have me pegged with that table cloth just sitting there waiting to be done. I’m going to do it today. Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. I love laundry, too. Even putting it away. I don’t fold in a central location – I sort the whole pile by family member and take their (unfolded) pile to their room, where I put things away as necessary. A lot of stuff is hung up or laid in the kids’ drawers unfolded (their shirts and pants are still small enough I just lay them in the drawer). I love how much time it saves on folding!

    We do most of the other things you do, as well. At least one load a day, every day, only one hamper for the whole family, etc.

    • Wow! What a clever idea. Never thought to do things that way. Love how we can all find a system that works based on family size and house layout. So great.

  9. I have a few follow up questions… I have four kids, ages 5, 3, 18 months, and newborn. Every time we have a new baby, my laundry system seems to change! I want a system that is proactive instead of reactive, lol 🙂

    Please think back to when you had four boys under six: What did your laundry system look like then? Did it evolve as you kept adding people to your family? How did you get it all put away back then? At what age can children reliably put away their own laundry? My five year old is great about it, my three year old is a disaster!

    • I had 3 kids in diapers for a while…. lots of laundry! One thing that helped: I do towels, dark and light adult laundry, and then dump all the kid laundry in together (no sorting). Occasionally I’ll do a load of red things since I have red napkins and dishtowels. I think it also helps to just sort of keep something running through the system, especially as you go to bed and wake up.

      I am in the process of reducing the amount of clothing in my house by 50% (at least!) — the hazard of having excellent consignment sales & stores around. This helps a lot!

      Can you divide the drawers on the inside so things don’t just pile up? This seemed to help my younger ones. Good luck, mama! 🙂

    • Great point — this is definitely a system that has evolved. When the boys were little I had baskets for each room, and then would sort on the dresser to put into each boy’s drawers. And yes, they definitely did not help put away. To be honest, this has really been within the last three or four years that we’ve done this way.

  10. elisabeth h says

    I really enjoyed reading about your laundry system and your pleasure in dealing with it. Now, I just MIGHT be even more weird than you (admit it, loving laundry IS a tad weird!), because we moved into this house of our 12 years ago, and the kitchen came equipped with a dishwasher…and I have yet to use it! Yes, I have NEVER, not once, never used my dishwasher! My friends roll their eyes and call me c r a z y (and some even get slightly offended!), but I just LOVE doing the dishes. By hand. At the end of the day. As in quite late in the evening, preferable when I am the only one awake. I put on some good music (low volume), don a pair of rubber gloves and washing liquid and a good ol’fashioned brush and get started. And this “ritual” is my way of winding down for the night, of creating a tidy kitchen, of tranfsforming a pile of dirty glasses, mugs, cutlery and dishes into neat stacks of the clean and sparkling vesrion of the same. It is my time for thinking back on the day, musing over a special episode, remembering a funny quote (I am a kindergarten teacher!), thinking about certain things I will change or try to change, giving thanks all the way for everything nice and praying for help regarding everything more difficult.
    It is my “ME”-time and my spiritual time….and I also get to start the next morning with a sparkling kitchen counter and an empty sink.
    Last May, we had a water leak in our kitchen, and I was forced to do the dishes in the REALLY old-fashioned way: in a plastic bowl with boiled water, outdoors on our patio table. And as long as the sun was shining (at that time I had to do it when it was still light outside), it was truly pleasurable and it made me feel connected to the generations of women (mostly women) before me who had done their dishes the same way. However, it did feel good when the kitchen’s water supply and pipes were yet again working… 🙂
    Some get their kicks out of doing laundry. I get mine out of washing up!

    • I love this! On family vacations I generally end up hand-washing and you are right! It is do therapeutic and relaxing. That’s so awesome you figured out your “happy” place with this.

  11. Amy Pelletier says

    Rachel, how do you know which clothing belongs to which child? And if you mark them, what is your system for changing the marking when the clothing changes hands?

    I have a hamper in each boys room, and wash each person’s load individually, dumping the clean laundry back on their bed. I don’t love this system, but it does keep their clothes more-or-less separate. I’d love to hear how you handle that.

    Also, do you use those little cloth bins instead of plastic laundry baskets? I might be inspired by that…

    • I use the cloth bins for their laundry baskets and one wicker basket for our official laundry basket. And then Paul and I share a bigger cloth basket.

      For clothing, it was definitely more of a challenge when they were little. Now each boy has their own style of socks (some prefer ankle, some like no-show) but I will draw a blank sometimes or I can’t remember if it’s Elliott that’s number 7 or Ethan?? Whose jersey is this?!

      But I always labeled everything when they were young. For a while, when we had a lot of hammedowns going through, I used a dot system. One dot for Ethan, two for Elliott, etc. Then when I handed a piece of clothing down, I just added a dot!

      • Mary Ellen says

        For labeling children’s clothing I have started using a “dot” system that really helps me out. We have 8 children and often I can’t tell which pair of underwear is which teen daughter’s, etc. etc. I put a dot with a sharpie in their clothing that corresponds to their birth order- my oldest gets 1 small dot, my youngest gets 8 small dots. This way, if I pass down a piece of clothing, I can just add a dot for the child below. Eliminates guessing and arguing when someone “claims” an item that was inadvertently placed in their return basket. In my house, new clothing gets marked even before it is worn, this technique has saved me we use it all the way down to (and especially) socks.

  12. You are speaking my language! (Especially the fluffing it up when its been left in the dryer.) My husband’s Grandma had five children and she did at least one load of laundry per day, until she died days shy of her 94th birthday. I LOVE doing laundry and since my better half loves cooking dinner, we each think we got the better deal. I like the idea of saying prayers … It really is a blessing – a home full of souls to love, clean clothes, running water and heat … YOU are a blessing too! xoxo

  13. Overwhelming! I don’t know how you moms with multiple kids do it. Seriously. To have all that process figured out makes my brain hurt. :0/

  14. I think I end up doing two loads per day probably five days per week. The uniforms and sports clothes make up a load most days.

    I like to put a load in before bed and transfer it to the dryer when I get up in the morning. If anyone’s missing a uniform item, a fresh one is usually coming right out of the dryer.

    For school uniforms, three sets seems to be the magic number for me. One year one child had two pairs of school pants and we find ourselves in a bind repeatedly. Sometimes younger boys have ended up with five sets (we get lots of hand-me-downs for the little folks), and that was overkill. Three sets works.

    Your point about starting with organized drawers is a good one and applies to all areas of household management. The messy parts of my house can be tied straight to the fact that times have no place to go (or not enough space to fit).

  15. Wonderful to see Laundry Love! Great organizational tips Rachel. And, yes we agree about the table cloth.

  16. Admittedly, I am single (grew up in a large, laundry-chaotic family though). First I think our laundry rooms are the same color and I think making your laundry room a pleasant place to be is key in this discussion. At my old house, the basement laundry was dingy, wood paneled, U-G-L-Y! I eventually painted the walls, added some lighting and some old shower curtains to cover some of the piping and I was amazed at how much better I got at keeping up on my laundry when I didn’t hate the space. In my new house, the laundry room is right off the kitchen- I painted it that lovely aqua color and it is a happy and soothing place to be. My biggest hang up is putting away the laundry- I am terrible at it!! I thoroughly enjoy the rest of the process though.

    • Thanks for noticing the paint — and great tip. I didn’t even think to include that but I totally agree. Make it beautiful so you enjoy being there!

  17. Excellent list. Second the organized drawers/frequent put away system.

    I also love having a folding table…definitely a worthy investment.

    I’ve thought a lot about laundry, and I just love blog posts about various systems, so, thanks!!
    I recently switched systems, and it’s been great! (No more hampers in every kids’ room–one central one, where the clothes are dropped into a slot by color. Life altering!

    • The hamper free living seems so helpful. I know it might look counter-intuitive but as you discovered, it’s actually very helpful. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Great post.. I have to say ..our washing machine broke over the summer so we upgraded and got a top loader by Samsung I t is massive the biggest washer on the market and this has been a huge lifesaver for me. I now can do three loads in one washing . that means much less laundry days at my house I do like your system for drying laundry . I agree it is much nicer to fold warm soft clothes not to mention much less wrinkling !!

  19. Love these tips…I need some inspiration in the laundry area! Just one question…I have 4 children 6,4,2 and 1. Laundry is difficult to get too…fold and especially PUT away! Were you always this efficient at laundry or did it happen over time. Are there any tips you have that you did when your children were little..or am
    I just in survival mode and it will (hopefully) get better? Thanks!

    • LOl, Kari – I’m in the same boat! I think part of my problem is that my laundry “room” is in the unfinished basement. It’s not safe for the little kids to be down there (and I only have little kids – four kids, ages 5 through newborn), and it’s cold and there’s nowhere to fold it down there anyway. So I fold it at the dining room table, but then we can’t eat until it’s put away…but I can’t put it all away unless I pretty much take two of the three youngest kids 3, 1, and 1 month olds with me upstairs, because I can’t really leave them all alone together yet. I can get it all folded when they’re sleeping, but I can’t put it away when they’re sleeping…and if it’s sitting there folded at the table, I hate to cook, because then my fresh clean clothing is going to smell like tacos, or chicken noodle soup, or whatever else we’re having for dinner. And no one can color or do a puzzle at the table…so I guess I need a designated laundry table? Where am I going to put this thing though?

      I just read this little paragraph and the whole thing is just ridiculous! I’m getting overwhelmed just trying to think the whole system through, let alone actually do the darned laundry! I’m hoping that once I have 2 or 3 “older” kids in my bunch, this will just get easier 😉 Or maybe I’ll be slightly less tired and can put some thought into making a real laundry room!

    • Yes, ladies — survival mode is an important season to recognize. My youngest is almost four and I have a lot of “big kids” so this method works well. Until a few years ago, I handled all of it. Which is why I was even more motivated to keep drawers streamlined and organized.

      Having said that, in certain seasons (after having a baby) we might live out of our laundry baskets for weeks at a time. Really, just pulling what we need straight from there. And because it was all boys here for so long, people would basically come out of the shower and get dressed in the laundry room. Do what works and keeps you sane!

  20. StorkWatcher says

    Wow – You have blown me away with praying for each clothing-wearer. That’s a SUPER idea, and I am going to being TODAY. Instead of internal whingeing “why the HECK can a grown man not turn socks inside out! Who can’t clean tissues out of pockets??!!” I will be PRAYING for the offender, which will keep my attitude one of love and not one of annoyed….

    My laundry is main entrance/backdoor/off kitchen & mudroom – Yep, have to keep it uncluttered. Now I just have to figure out how to get the neatly folded piles in baskets put away in less than 3-4 days after they arrive!

  21. Great post! I don’t mind laundry, either. I have 3 boys, and another boy due in May. You’re right; if you run at least a load a day, it is not such an overwhelming task. Am I crazy because I don’t sort by colors? That takes too much effort and space. My 3 and 5 year olds have a storage shelf in their closet. Each boy has 3 storage tubs without lids. One is for undies, socks, and Jammies, one is for shirts, and one is for pants. Not fancy, but it works!

  22. Great system! I have a smaller family but this is generally what I do.
    Lonely socks who have lost their mates are moved from the sock drawer to the PJ drawer and renamed “night time socks” at our house…

  23. best thing I ever did was develop a one-stop shop for all kids clothes, literally in the laundry room. After the dryer, the kids’ clothes go right into the set of drawers. All getting dressed takes place in the laundry room….this works for now as my kids are young and our laundry is on the main floor, so no scary basement 😉 Missing socks become dust rags.

  24. Best tip: praying through the pieces of clothing. That is simply lovely. :0) Thank you, I am going to do it!

  25. I love a good system! A similar idea to your praying for each member as you fold – I learned to say a prayer for each person at the table that night as I set it for dinner.

    But I am most curious about which detergent you use. 🙂 I am attached to Gain because of the smell.

    • Gain smells so good — I love it in all my cleaning supplies! Right now I’m on a Ecos kick — that giant bottle you can buy at Costco? I also add a scoop of oxyclean to just about every load. Helps a bunch.

  26. I love the idea of praying for my family as I fold their laundry!

    My solution to the missing sock equation is each kid only has one color/style of sock! My son wears black socks, my daughter pink, etc… They only have one type of sock. I have no idea if we have lost any, and their socks always match.

    • Great idea! We have a similar system — each boy has his official “school sock” and his “athletic sock” and they are unique to each boy. When they were little it was all basically the same socks for everyone! Def makes it easy!

  27. Thank you. This was inspiring. I’m not really going to change anything, but I am going to try to fold the kids laundry from now on. I would just send it in a jumble in a basket to their room and then yell at them for days to put it away. Well, who would want to deal with a jumble like that? Thank you for the inspiration.

  28. The Happy Mother says

    Where did you get the baskets?

  29. Love the dot idea – with three boys, I’ll be using!

  30. #8 made me tear up a bit. Bear in mind, I am 8 months pregnant, but still- such a beautiful, easily implementable idea. Love it!