Lean Laundry

Hello! While our family has gotten a little bit larger, I feel like my world has gotten a little bit smaller. We stay in more, do a little less, go to bed earlier and sometimes just focus on getting through the day. (Now, we do have grand adventures ahead: first flight, first beach and next month at this time, we’ll be in Japan!) On good days, naps happen, I get some work and chores done and I might even get dinner started. On not-so-good-days, I try not to cry and just focus on feeding and getting some rest. For both of us! With this new life, it’s become even more important to have simple systems in place to help the household run a little smoother.

As I said about pregnancy amplifying your values, I feel like having a newborn amplifies your lifestyle choices. I can imagine our laundry would be out of control right now without Essentialism and simplifying. Thank goodness we practice Lean Laundry!

While working with clients to help them declutter their lives, I have seen a range of laundry situations. Most of us have something in common though: a laundry bottleneck. Start by noticing your bottleneck. Is it sorting the clothes, actually starting the load (is your washer out-of-house or in a creepy basement?), folding, or putting everything away? Simplify that step and remove the obstacles if possible. (Mine was ironing and hand-washing items. Ugh.) Try a few of these tips if you’d like to make your laundry a little more manageable.


1. Have fewer clothing items overall. Even try a Lean Closet! I’ve found that the fewer items I own, the better I take care of them. If, come laundry day, you still have a wardrobe full of clothes... perhaps you have way more than you need or could possibly use. I’ve said this before... when you have a smaller wardrobe, there are no longer clothes on the floor, left in the dryer, unfolded in a basket. You can spend less time sorting, cleaning, folding and maintaining everything. Plus there’s more space to put clothes away!

Figure out how many pieces you need for a typical laundry cycle and use that as a limit. In our home, we each have one bath towel that gets washed weekly with a few extras for guests or crazy weeks. Limiting baby clothes has also been super helpful in keeping laundry manageable. Right now, Islo can fit in an item only for a month or two so it doesn't make sense to have a ton of them going unused. I'm doing my best to have him wear out the few great garbs he has. Lean Baby Closet! <3

2. Buy clothes that are easy to care for. The more difficult an item is to wash, the more likely it will end up on the floor of the closet. I tend to avoid dry-clean-only items like the plague and machine wash and even dry almost everything we own. (Line-drying is a future goal!) If a difficult item does need more special treatment, that's what the drycleaner is for. ;)

To reduce wearing out items too quickly, wash items only when they are actually dirty, especially jeans. Also consider having lounge clothes to wear around the home after work.

3. Do laundry around the same time, once a week. It’s beneficial to have a regular laundry day… doing so removes the indecision and procrastination around doing it. Plus your household will know when to expect clean clothes! Doing fewer loads slightly more often makes the chore less daunting and time-consuming. If you have closets full of clothes that let you go a month without doing laundry, imagine how much work said laundry day will be!

Pre-baby, we did a couple of loads of laundry once a week... one dark and one light, adding towels, rags and pillowcases, plus another load for sheets every other week. (Now we do the same, just slightly more frequently!) The benefit of having only one set of sheets per bed is that I’m rarely folding sheets! I just strip the sheets, wash, dry and remake the beds.

4. Have one place to store all laundry and laundry-related items. It helps to have one central place for all dirty clothes to end up so there’s no uncertainty about where things belong. I’d recommend near the washer but another option is a hamper in each dressing room (making sure it gets emptied at least every week!). This way, there are only two places to put clothes: in the washer/hamper or back in the closet. Not the chair, not the floor...

Our place for all of this is our pantry/laundry room. Throughout the week, we just put all lights in the washer (leaving the door open) and darks in the hamper next to it. There’s no running around hunting for dirty clothes before washing. Come laundry day, all I need to do is add detergent and press start, no sorting necessary.

Now, I enjoy folding laundry... something about the order and neat piles. Yet we still hang most of our clothing. This way Greg puts his clothes away every once in awhile ;) So if you don't like folding and that is your bottleneck, hang most things.

5. Use one product for almost everything. I use to work with P&G so I know a little bit about the marketing machine behind all of those specialized cleaning products! Maybe all you need is laundry detergent?! It’s one of the few cleaning supplies I buy premade. We choose one brand that's gentle yet effective. It gets everything out of baby clothes, but is also gentle enough for basic lingerie on a delicate cycle. We don’t need fabric softener, bleach or stain treatments... just use a little bit of detergent or dish soap if pretreatment is necessary.

+ Also consider how much detergent you use. “Filling to the line” in my machine was using twice what the product recommended so now I use far less and save!

Does this make you want to go fold something? Hah. These days, it seems even with Lean Laundry, clean clothes take a few hours longer to get folded and folded clothes take a day longer to get put away. That said, it really helps me feel on top of clothing clutter and avoid those situations of needing an item that’s still dirty. I can’t imagine what our home would look like without it.