Staying in Control of Laundry

<i> McCullough, based in Colorado, is the author of five books on home management. </i>

The manager who has a reasonable amount of control at home will organize programs to deal with the ins and outs of food, clothing and paper.

The primary principle is to have a beginning and an end. If you are managing a family, the wash will probably be once a week. Those who live alone or with just one other person may set a deadline every two or three weeks. Very large families may need to do the wash twice a week.

Set a cut-off time. Gather all those items and sort them according to fabric type, color and soil. Deal only with this amount. Do not worry about the clothing the family is still wearing. Those items will be part of the next assignment.

Concentrate on washing, drying, folding, pressing, mending and putting away that allotment. If you have four or five hours (or if you go to a self-service laundry), you can finish in one day; otherwise, it may take several days. Do not count yourself finished until every piece has been put back in the closet or drawer. It is a wonderful feeling to be finished for a couple of days.


Drawbacks to Daily Washing

There are drawbacks to washing every day. It tends to grow into a bigger task than need be. For example, if you are not strict about finishing, some items that need special care tend to be set aside until you have more time. These waiting areas take up space. Besides, they usually look messy. You never feel off duty. A haphazard system increases the number of things in circulation.

The longer it takes for an item to get back into the closet or drawer, the more clothes you need. If your present system has long delays for items that need to be ironed, mended or hand washed, you will need more clothes per person to compensate for the extra length of time. More clothes cost more money.

Another tendency of those who wash all the time is to gather things and run them through before they really need to be laundered in order to have enough to fill up the machine. Cost per load, in my opinion, is between $1.50 and $3. It not only costs more, it wears out clothes and takes more time to run around gathering and putting away.


Sometimes it helps to divide the laundry into two parts: clothing and linens. Certainly, these principles need to be adapted to suit individual needs.

One woman washes linens on Monday when she cleans the bathroom and changes the bedding. On Tuesday she washes the dress shirts and blouses that may need pressing. She puts the denims in twice a week. By having a specific time to take care of the dress clothes that need to be pressed, she can be available to take them immediately out of the dryer to avoid wrinkles.

We all know how inefficient it is to run to the ironing board every morning. It is frustrating to rummage through a pile on top of the dryer for two socks that match. Get control of this part of life. Getting behind in the laundry can cause serious roadblocks. Having a smooth system can give freedom.

Dirty clothes are not rags. Treat them with respect and clothing investment will last longer. Before you start to wash, sort clothing into boxes or laundry baskets. The containers can be stacked if you can’t get to the wash all at once. Don’t leave piles on the floor to get stepped on.


Measure the detergent into the water before putting the clothes in. Look at each item. Take a second to squirt spots with stain remover. Close zippers; turn most items right side out, and loosely tie drawstrings. Put small things or long items that may tangle in a mesh laundry bag.

Fold or hang the clothes as they are dry. Sort according to room or the individual to whom they belong. Boxes, dish pans or baskets make good dividers. Do not count yourself finished until they are all put away.

For years I have been saying how rewarding it is to have the laundry done in one day. People who wash at a self-service laundry already know how nice it is.

All in One Day


Recently, I received a letter from a friend who accidentally found out how satisfying this program can be. She was pregnant and had great difficulty negotiating the stairs. Her washer was in the basement. She would toss all the dirty clothes downstairs. She packed a lunch and a tote bag with fun things to do for the 3-year-old. She made one trip down the stairs and stayed until everything was finished. After school, the older children carried the clean clothes upstairs and put them away. An element of necessity forced this family to use the all-in-one-day plan and they loved the freedom. Everything was put away. No more concern with the washing for a whole week. Each individual has a hamper in their bedroom to hold dirty clothes until wash day comes again.

To prepare food, you need a kitchen with the necessary appliances and supplies arranged in an efficient manner. The same thing applies to laundry. This is a prime work area. It needs to be efficient and simple. It makes the process so much easier to have a specific area built to expedite the cycle of laundry. If possible, keep it out of the way of other work processes.