Laundry: one of the many household chores that never seems to be done! If you’re anything like me, you ignore it until your laundry basket is overflowing and the laundry mountain is taking over the bathroom.
Then you’ll decide to tackle the mountain and start putting load after load into the machine, swiftly running out of space on the dryer and leaving it hanging all over the house for several days until you wonder why there are no pants in your underwear drawer despite having done loads of washing recently.
Sound familiar? Until recently, this was me! I’m going to tell you my top 14 practical hacks that will save you time, reduce your stress and lighten that mental load one load at a time (get it?!)!
What have loads of laundry got to do with your mental load?
Well, loads actually! Doing the laundry may take more of a toll on your mental load than you realise. Just think about all of the steps involved in doing it: from thinking about needing to do it, to gathering up the clothes from around the house, sorting it, putting it in the machine and choosing a cycle, deciding how to dry it, drying it, folding it, sorting it again and putting it away…that’s a surprising amount of brain power being used up on something as mundane as doing the washing.
Add to that the fact that the average person in the UK does four loads of laundry a week, which means they do over 200 loads a year and a staggering 13,000 in a lifetime*! Phew, I’m exhausted just thinking about it. So let me help you out with my top 14 tips that will simplify the whole affair and use up less of your precious mental headspace. Let’s get started!
My Top 14 Tips for Laundry Made Easy:
1. Sniff test for the win
The single most effective way to get on top of your laundry mountain is to create less washing! So start thinking before mindlessly chucking your outfit in the laundry basket at the end of the day. Does it really need a wash or could you wear it once more? Maybe it wouldn’t do for a day out of the house but it would be fine as a lazy day at home outfit. As a general rule I’ll wear things 3 times before washing them unless they fail the sniff test or are obviously dirty. Needless to say that underwear is exempt from this approach!
2. Make molehills out of mountains
Don’t wait for that laundry mountain to take over your bathroom; go for the little and often approach instead. It’ll seem a lot less of a burden in smaller loads and you’ll avoid bottlenecks like no hanging space too.
3. Routine and reminders
Find a regular routine that works for you and do it on repeat. Build it into your daily or weekly routine so that it becomes something you can do on auto-pilot. In our house, we aim to do 3 loads of washing a week to keep us on track. While we aspire to have set days to do it, we find it doesn’t work out as planned so instead we just have the aim of getting 3 done whenever it suits us. Once you’ve found a routine that works for you, consider setting recurring reminders to help keep you on track.
4. Set a timer
Most washing machines have a delay feature so check yours and use it if you have one! Put a load of washing in the machine in the evening and set a delay timer for the cycle to start first thing in the morning while you are getting ready. It’ll be ready to hang up to dry as soon as you come downstairs for breakfast! (Note that you shouldn’t run the washing machine or tumble dryer overnight or while you are out as they are a fire risk so make sure you will be home and awake when they’re on.)
5. Forget sock pairing (part 1)
Do you hate this job too? It takes far longer than it feels like it should (and talk about added brainpower!). My solution? Just stop doing it. We now store socks unpaired in the sock drawer and pick out a matching pair each morning when getting ready. It feels more doable for each person in the house to find themselves just one pair each day rather than one person having to match 10+ pairs in one go. Try it!
6. Forget sock pairing (part 2)
Of course, another option is to just wear odd socks and be done with it. Call it a new trend!
7. Simplify sock pairing
A more radical approach to avoiding the dreaded sock pairing task is to set each person up with matching socks. Turn your current sock pile into craft projects, or give them to charity and buy each person in the house a set of new socks that match. If you’re on a budget, you could do this over time – just replace worn out socks with the same ones each time until there’s a fully matching set. No matter which 2 socks you pull out of the drawer, they will match! And you won’t be left with the odd-ones-out after the laundry fairy hides some of them!
8. Start with the end in mind
Ever had that sinking feeling when you’re about to crawl into bed, only to realise you forgot to put on fresh sheets after washing the old ones? It’s the worst! But I had an epiphany recently. Instead of thinking, “I need to wash the sheets,” I shifted my mindset to “I need to CHANGE the sheets.” Washing and drying can always wait, but making my bed with fresh sheets before sleep is essential. Now, I strip the bed and immediately replace the old sheets with clean ones – the washing part can wait! This simple change in focus has been a game changer.
9. A person a day
If you have a big household that gets through a lot of laundry each week, this is the tip for you. Designate a laundry day to each person in the house so that only that person’s washing is completed on that day. For example, you could do Mum’s washing on Monday, Dad’s on Tuesday and so on. It has to be washed, dried and put away that day which will eliminate the need for any sorting.
10. Sort in the bedrooms
Until recently, I used to sort laundry where the washer/dryer is located. I would take an item off the airer in the utility room, fold it, and sort it into piles for each person before carrying them to their respective bedrooms. However, this meant making multiple trips up the stairs for each pile or putting everything in a basket, which often resulted in messy folding when taking items out in the bedrooms. Nowadays, I find it more convenient to chuck the clean laundry into a large bag or basket and take it upstairs together. Then, as I put it away, I fold each item to prevent them from getting jumbled up.
11. Become one of the 29% who don’t sort*!
Don’t bother sorting into lights and darks, just opt for cool wash cycles and you won’t get any running. With energy prices soaring this is a no-brainer! If you want to make sure your whites stay super white, just do an occasional hot wash for your whites with a whitening product and you’ll be sorted.
12. Stop ironing
Just drop this task from your to do list. Gradually replace clothes that need ironing with those that don’t – life is too short!
13. Share the load
Agree a routine with others in your household. Perhaps one of you takes care of loading the machine and another is responsible for drying. If your kids are old enough then get them involved too. You may want to consider house rules like “if it’s not in the basket then it’s not getting washed” to save you the job of collecting up the dirty washing.
14. Outsource your laundry
If your mountain has an unsurmountable peak, you could consider outsourcing your laundry as a one-off. This can be a great way to get back on track after a holiday and might not cost as much as you imagine!
Laundry may seem like an endless chore, but it doesn’t have to be a burden on your mental load. If you’re ready to make a change, try these practical tips. Start by choosing one or two tips and give them a go. Don’t forget to let me know how you get on!
Source: *A 2021 survey commissioned by Ariel and carried out by OnePoll