More Efficient Laundry System?
March 2, 2009 10:08 AM   Subscribe

How do you keep your laundry system running smoothly in a bi-level (or larger) house? I want to hear how others have set up hampers, etc or otherwise established a system to efficiently move clean and dirty clothes to and from the laundry room.

Growing up, we had laundry chutes (one on each floor) that we used to send all of our dirty clothes down to the basement. It was a great system - clothes never piled up anywhere; it was so easy to just throw everything down (and the laundry fairy -- okay, my mom -- did laundry almost every day ... how she kept up with it, I'll never know...).

Now that we have a small family (1 year old + 3 year old + two parents) living in a bi-level townhouse, it seems like clothes pile up in corners constantly (especially upstairs). I've tried putting a hamper on the landing to create a centralized place for the dirty clothes upstairs, but that doesn't seem to be enough (plus, when we bring the full hamper down to the laundry room, it seems to sit down there for awhile ... which means clothes upstairs start piling up on the floor again ... aggggggggggh). When we do get the clothes clean, we tend to use the laundry room as our closets -- just grabbing what we need when we need it ... no one actually wants to put away an armful of hanging clothes or a whole laundry basket. Part of it is laziness, I'm sure, and part of it is that it just seems like I always have a baby on my hip, so having two free hands and a few minutes to go upstairs and put clothes back in my drawers is rare.

This seems simple enough, but I'm sure someone out there has a hack or two. I'd like to hear how other people have set up a productive laundry system -- from how/where you set up your dirty clothes repositories to how often you actually do your laundry. Are you on a schedule? Do you just do it when you run out of clothes? Do you return the clean clothes back upstairs immediately after washing them?
posted by jacksides to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I miss my laundry chute and my laundry fairy, too. It resulted in the same problem at our house -- laundry's in the basement, bedrooms on the second floor.

For us, it was determining why laundry was piling up where it was piling up. Which in our case was on either side of the bed, because we'd shed clothes in a heap before getting into bed. The solution was for each of us to have a "dirty clothes laundry basket" on our side of the bed. Dirty clothes go in the blue laundry baskets, clean ones in the white. Laundry gets done mostly on weekends at our house, so on Saturday morning he brings the baskets downstairs and dumps them onto the floor. I sort them into a laundry sorter (whites, darks, colors, hand washables), and start the laundry. All the clothes get washed every weekend. Sheets, towels, and rags get done more sporadically, and usually during the evenings.

Clean clothes come out of the dryer (into a white laundry basket). Folded. Put at the bottom of the stairs to be carried up as we come and go. I try to keep separate clean baskets for him and me. Underwear, pjs, towels and sheets get put away immediately because there easy. Baskets of other clothes in the closet. We are still working on actually putting the clothes away instead of just having laundry baskets everywhere, but at least everything is contained.

I fear adding a baby in May might make this system go all to hell.....
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:18 AM on March 2, 2009

I am a bachelor, so my system may not work for you. I just have a laundry basket in my closet where the dirty clothes go, then I carry it down to the basement do laundry and carry it back up with the clean clothes. It's really easy because the basket is always there, and it's close enough that one isn't tempted to just pile dirty clothes on the floor when undressing.

So, my suggestion: laundry baskets... one in each bedroom. If you want to use the hamper, empty it into the laundry basket and carry that down the stairs instead of the hamper, which really isn't portable.
posted by MegoSteve at 10:20 AM on March 2, 2009

We also have 2 kids and 2 adults at home, with no laundry chute and on multiple levels. I try to only do laundry on weekends because I hate the feeling of it dragging out all week. I know some people prefer to do a load each day but that never worked for me.

The bathroom and each bedroom (3) has a hamper in it. Dirty clothes go in. On Saturday morning, I start 4 piles in the hallway from the bathroom and my hamper - bright colors, whites, darks, and towels. Then I have each kid separate their hampers into those piles. I started when they were little like yours, even at that age they get the general idea of what goes where.

I carry a load down and start washing. In the laundry room, I have 4 baskets, each a different color, one for each person. As I fold, their laundry goes in their basket. I may not finish on Saturday, but when I am done each basket goes to the right bedroom to be put away. Now that mine are older they put their own away. You will want to do it yourself at this point, unless you want to refold everything!

Hope this helps. It has worked for me for years, but YMMV!
posted by maxg94 at 10:22 AM on March 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

We have a small linen closet on our 2nd floor with the bottom 1/2 filled with a three-bag laundry rack (available at Costco for about $20). We pre-sort things there (whites, colors, towels). We then bring the full bags down for washing as needed. We keep a separate laundry basket in our daughter's room since most of her clothes can be washed together without sorting.

This system works great for washing in that dirty laundry never stacks up anyplace visible. The big bottleneck for us is in the folding/putting away of clean laundry. Baskets full of clean but unfolded clothes tend to stack up until the Sundays.
posted by scblackman at 10:24 AM on March 2, 2009

We have 2 levels and our laundry is in the bsmt. 3 small kids and 2 adults (plus home daycare so lots of extra bedding, towels, etc).

When the kids get changed their dirty clothes get tossed into the hallway (keeps it out of their rooms) and brought to the bsmt at the end of the day.

The adults clothes (are supposed to) go in a basket in our room, brought to the bsmt as needed.

We also have a basket on the landing btwn the bsmt and main floor for dishclothes, change pads, etc.

I probably do a load every day or two, plus bedding, towels, etc. on the weekends. The folding is either done at the kitchen table or master bed, depending on the time of day.

Once it's folded, I sort piles of whos is whos and it gets put in front of their door (this is usually at night when the kids are sleeping and I can't get in their rooms right away) to wait for mornig. Grown up clothes (are supposed to) get put away right away.

I am always doing laundry. Always.
posted by Abbril at 10:32 AM on March 2, 2009

I lived with a room mate. Bedrooms were on the 2nd floor, laundry machines were in the garage. My roomie threw her clothes on the floor but since I was the designated laundry person I refused to pick her clothes up and put a hamper in the hall for us to dump our stuff into. When it was laundry time I would put the clothes into a pillow case and throw it over the landing to the first floor (always fun no matter how old you are) and then would collect it at the bottom of the stairs, which happened to to be at the door leading to the garage. Voila. Didn't have to carry the hamper up or down.

When the clothes were washed, dried and folded up, I'd put her clothes in a basket and mine in my own. She could take her own clothes upstairs.
posted by Piscean at 10:52 AM on March 2, 2009

Hmm- I think I should reword the above:

I lived with a room mate. Bedrooms were on the 2nd floor, laundry machines were in the garage. My roomie threw her clothes on the floor but since I was the designated laundry person I refused to pick her clothes up. Instead I put a hamper in the hall for us to dump our stuff into. When it was laundry time I would put the clothes into a pillow case and throw it over the landing to the first floor (always fun no matter how old you are) and then would collect it at the bottom of the stairs, which happened to to be at the door leading to the garage. Voila. Didn't have to carry the hamper up or down.

When the clothes were washed, dried and folded up, I'd put her clothes in a basket and mine in my own. She could take her own clothes upstairs.
posted by Piscean at 10:55 AM on March 2, 2009

Shout color catchers are the key to my system. They allow you to throw everything in together without sorting. We're a family of 4, with 2 small kids.

Every morning I bring down a load of laundry and put it in the washer before leaving for work.

Every evening I put it in the dryer, and bring what was in the dryer upstairs and dump it on my bed. We are not allowed to go to bed until it's put away. As in, folded or hung up. But since it's only 1 load at a time, it is dealable (I can put it away in 10 minutes). If the kids are asleep when I get around to folding, I make one folded pile for each kid and put that away in the morning.

After getting the kids ready for bed, the laundry goes in one of 2 hampers - in our room, or a little clothes basket I keep on top of the washer/dryer which is, thank god, in the kitchen. If the machines were in the basement, a mesh bag hanging on the door to the basement would probably work just as well - you have to remember to grab the contents on the way down to do laundry, though.

Laundry is a harsh mistress. The system relies on these key elements:

No extra clothes! If your closets and drawers are too full, you absolutely must go through and declutter them first. If you put a bin of kids clothing on the curb in front of your house with a sign on them saying "Free" it will be gone in 20 minutes. If you want to save them for the next kid, you have to sort them by size and keep them in some predetermined storage area. You have to go through and declutter every season. If you do it regularly it doesn't take too long.

Laundry is not done until it's put away. Don't put a new load in till the freshly dried laundry is hung up or folded.

Nothing ironed. You can get wrinkle-resistant shirts, and they're so worth it.

Wow, look at all I wrote. I am a dork. I do a lot of laundry. My 6 yr old sometimes calls me and his dad "Laundry" and "Trash" because that's what we spend so much time doing.
posted by selfmedicating at 11:03 AM on March 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

2 laundry hampers in my room, lights and darks. No sorting or separating. Socks and underwear don't get sorted, folded, or organized when coming out of the dryer, just dumped out together.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:08 AM on March 2, 2009

Two laundry baskets in each bedroom (or for each person): one for dirties (socks, underwear, tee shirts), one for things that might be worn again (jeans, sweaters).

On laundry day, go through the maybe basket, see what needs a wash and what can be rehung / refolded. The rest goes in the dirty basket. Bring it downstairs, do it (in one load, if all the darks have been washed before, to save time and money) and back to the basket. Hang / fold contents of basket. Repeat.

This works for me, and I used to be a terrible "clothes on the floor" person. With this system, nothing is ever on the floor, and questionable items are never rehung.
posted by charmcityblues at 11:42 AM on March 2, 2009

There are three hampers in our house. They never move. Laundry piles up.
There are three laundry baskets. I fill a basket by pulling darks/lights from each of the hampers and bring it to the washing machine and start the load immediately, setting the basket in front of the machine. When it's done, it goes into the dry and the basket gets moved in front of the drying. I fold and sort by owner and clothing type then put the laundry away for me and my kids (Mrs. Plinth does her own).

Three laundry baskets are for two loads in progress, one not yet put away.

With a family of a similar size and ages, I expect to do 6 loads a week.

The kid's hampers are double hampers in the hopes of presorting the lights and darks. Shyea. As if.
posted by plinth at 11:47 AM on March 2, 2009

Two adults and 3 teens. Our system is amazing in its simplicity and its efficiency. My wife does her laundry separately. My kids are told that they need to get their dirty laundry to the basement (from 2nd floor). They usually have about a half an hour. If they don't make it in time, they can do their own laundry after the rest of the family is finished or wear something else. When washed and dried, it is dumped on the couch in the tv room. If they want folded wrinkle free clothes without everyone pushing it around or sitting on it to watch tv, they need to bring it upstairs themselves. My 13 year old son just asked to be taught to do his own. My 14 year old daughter usually panics that she has no clean clothes and begs for a load from my wife. My other son does not give a crap what he wears so it is often wrinkled, too small or dirty. I do my own laundry. I own A LOT of underwear, tshirts and socks. I am good for about a month before I need to get to work. I would rather clean the toilets than fold. So, sometimes I make that deal.

When the kids were small, (1,2 and 3) we moved the washing machine up to their 2nd floor. It was easier to go through the hassle or running pipes than doing laundry 2 stories away. To this day, I believe one of the reasons that house sold so quickly for as much as it did was because another couple with 3 kids saw what we did and loved it.

The other option which worked for me very well in college and for the few weeks our machines were out of order at home recently, was the wash and fold by the pound at the local laundry mat. Well worth it, but not with delicates.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:17 PM on March 2, 2009

My parents' house has 3 levels and laundry is on the ground floor. Basically, my brothers and I were expected to bring our dirty clothes downstairs and put them in the hamper (in the kitchen). This worked well because we all visited the kitchen at least once a day. :P

My mom did laundry every day for a family of 5... she washed all the delicates by hand and everything was hung out to dry because dryers are unheard of where I come from. I don't know how she kept up!
posted by Xianny at 1:04 PM on March 2, 2009

One small thing that makes my laundry-doing less annoying is using laundry bags to haul the laundry down to the basement, rather than carrying the hampers down. Something about the hampers requiring two arms to hold and going ca-thunk against my hipbone seems more chore-like than slinging a bag over my shoulder. Also, the laundry bag can be hurled down the stairs if that seems like it would be fun.
posted by desuetude at 1:13 PM on March 2, 2009

A laundry room on the same floor as the bedrooms is ideal (in most cases)
Barring that, a chute of some kind (I just installed a chute from master bedroom to laundry area - the kids are SOL and need to bring their own clothes down)

Chute goes to 1st floor laundry room "Big Basket" (Actually a wide and deep cabinet over the dryer) The kids can drop their clothes down the cute if they want to instead of carrying it down. Chute is very large and relatively "un-cloggable"

Once a day or every other day my wife or I sort the "Big Basket" into smaller cubbies ( I modified some IKEA wooden shoe storage cabinets for this purpose) I usually do this while I'm waiting for a coffee to heat or something. Just tilt out all the cabinets, sort the loads, and if the cabinet doesn't close, run a load into the washer.

Washer and dryer's have buzzers so it's hard to forget to chaneg a load.

With 2 adults, 1 college student, 2 teens and 1 toddler, we run about 1 load a day, takes maybe 15 minutes of actual work to wash/dry/fold any load
posted by emjay at 1:33 PM on March 2, 2009

We moved the washer and dryer into a cupboard upstairs where a big old boiler used to be. The cupboard was next to the bathroom, so easy to plumb for the washing machine, and we had a condensing dryer so there was no need for outside venting.

All it took was to hump the laundry bin from the bathroom about a metre to the washing machine, chuck everything in, move the washing a metre up into the dryer when it was done, and then chuck it on the bed of the washing's owner, who had to put it away before they could go to bed.

Having a washer and dryer that both beeped loudly when they were done helped too. No more finding old loads of washing sitting damp in the machine and starting to smell funny.
posted by emilyw at 2:15 PM on March 2, 2009

I'm embarrassed by how much I've thought about this question, but here's more:

With kids that age, the big laundry hassles are the fact that they outgrow stuff so fast, and that they are always in your arms so it's hard to get anything done.

I solved the first issue by having a separate bin for giveaways. When they outgrew something, I laundered it as usual, then tossed it in the giveaway bin instead of putting it back in their closet. That way it is easier to keep the amount of clothes under control.

I was also able to get them to help some. A baby is generally happy frolicking in the clean laundry that I put on the bed to fold. As toddlers, I usually asked my kids to find matching sock pairs. When they presented me with a matched pair, I would do this crazy silly victory dance which they liked. Finding matches took enough time that I could fold.

Older kids, I am told, can put their laundry away. We haven't mastered this yet. A friend has her kids be "laundry robots." They shuffle forward with arms outstretched robotically. They receive their folded laundry. They shuffle off chanting "laundry...robot...laundry...robot." She claims it works.
posted by selfmedicating at 4:06 PM on March 2, 2009

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