This column first appeared in the Albany Times Union on September 20, 2019. The original column can be viewed here.
I hate doing laundry, and this contributes to the lack of organization in my home, especially during the morning rush getting my kids out the door. Do you have any advice to make my mountain of laundry more manageable and maybe even enjoyable?
-Buried in Ballston Spa
My informal surveying reveals that the hardest part of doing laundry is folding it and putting it away. Let’s tackle that part first since an old expression tells us, “laundry isn’t done until it is put away.”
Easy laundry starts with adequate storage.
Start by examining your clothing storage. It will always feel difficult to put laundry away if you are trying to squeeze too much into one space. Your wardrobe should be a perfectly curated collection of your favorite clothing. When your amount of clothing exceeds your closet and dresser space, start by curating your wardrobe.
Your storage space is your personal parameter for how much clothing you can own at any given time. Determine how much space you will dedicate to each subcategory of clothing, such as socks, t-shirts, work pants, shorts, etc. Commit to keeping only what comfortably fits in this space. Putting laundry away is a lot easier when you don’t need to work up a sweat forcing it into place. A perfectly curated, smaller collection of clothing also means that you will naturally want to take better care of the clothing you own.
Commit to a schedule.
The next barrier to doing laundry is finding time to get it done. There are two schools of thought regarding family laundry schedules: tackling a little bit daily or doing it weekly, all at once. Pick one, keeping in mind that it is more important to commit to a schedule then wait for the perfect timing to come along.
A chore to cherish.
Laundry is one of those tasks that will always be there. Changing your mindset around this lifelong chore can make it easier to get it done.
If you choose to do your laundry weekly, build a ritual around it by pairing the task with a guilt-free indulgence. Perhaps, after washing and drying all the laundry, you turn on your favorite TV show while you fold. Maybe this is a good time for a weekly FaceTime call with a close friend or family member (who is also folding laundry). Feel like you never have time to read books? Download a book on tape from your local library and listen while you fold clothing. Or, turn this chore into family time with your kids. Pick a game you can play or turn on a documentary to watch while you fold clothing together.
Perhaps doing laundry every day is a better fit for your life. A daily chore feels less laborious when viewed as a habit. Form a new habit easily pairing it with an existing habit. Brushing your teeth and coming home from work are two daily habits that can be paired with a regular laundry routine. Before you brush your teeth in the morning, put in a load of laundry. As soon as you get home, switch the laundry to the dryer. Fold and put laundry away before brushing your teeth at night. Leave yourself a friendly reminder note on your toothpaste, and before you know it, this chore will be as routine as brushing your teeth.
Get Your Kids Involved
Research informs us that having children help with household chores contributes to the positive emotional health of the family. Additionally, children who help at home feel a stronger connection to their parents and their family community. This connection helps kids weather stress in life and be happier.
Laundry is an ideal chore for children to help with, and take ownership over, as soon as they can reach the washer or open the dryer. Young kids can help fold laundry and put it away. Older kids and teens can take on increasing responsibility for this task until they are fully capable of doing their own laundry, generally around 10-12 years of age. Set your children up for success by ensuring that their clothing comfortably fits into their drawers and closets. Show them how to create a ritual or routine around this chore, so it feels less like work. Remember, no matter where we find ourselves in life, we always need clean clothes.