Throughout most of my time as a mother, laundry has always loomed in the background of my life.  I dreaded gathering it from four corners of the house.  I procrastinated sorting it. As for folding and putting it away, I chased the ever-elusive mirage of “catching up” on laundry.

Low fold laundry system

I just had in my head that laundry had to be done a certain way and I never thought to question it! Every mom spends one evening a month watching Netflix and folding twelve loads of laundry, right?

Then of course it needs to sit in baskets for a few days while everyone rifles through, toppling stacks of meticulously tri-folded bath towels in order to find what they really want, which is underwear (and they need to be the teal unicorn pair, not the navy hedgehogs, you know this.)  Within a day of being “put away” it has undoubtedly unfurled into a rumpled amalgamation of t-shirts and leggings inside my kids’ dresser drawers

When my fourth child came along in the midst of homeschooling my two older girls, I knew I couldn’t sustain the big, marathon version of laundry.  I decided it was time to set up some more sustainable laundry goals that didn’t involve hours of my work being lit on fire.

These days we have an essentialist laundry routine that everyone loves: we do one load a day without color sorting or folding clothing.  Here’s how it looks:

Gather Daily

Each day I have one of my girls bring down the laundry hampers from the upstairs bedrooms.  I have them dump it on the floor in the laundry room and return the hamper.  This is one of our six essential chores that we do every day.  Simply having the hampers brought down removes my biggest laundry roadblock.

I let my kids picked out one of these decorative, canvas laundry hampers for their bedroom, which makes it super easy to transport laundry up and down stairs.

The Wash

Instead of sorting it into different color families and waiting another day or two for there to be enough for a full load, I just throw everything into one load together and start it on cold!  Piles of damp, sorted laundry no longer sour in my laundry room since it goes right into the washer.

The exception to this is a plastic, lidded hamper that I have in my laundry room for dirty kitchen towels. I throw this in with whatever was brought down.

I set aside any delicates to be washed separately, but there really isn’t anything too precious in the way of clothing at our house. I have never had a problem with color bleeding. I wash everything on cold and make sure to launder new things by themselves before putting them into rotation.

The Transfer

The starting and transferring is my role simply because the girls aren’t really big enough to reach down and pull wet things out of the washer without feeling frustrated.  Also, I like to have control over exactly what goes where. (I hang dry all of my shirts and pants!)

When I switch the laundry, I put a few drops of lavender essential oils on my wool dryer balls and start the dryer.  I take the clean things from the dryer and put them in a basket to await chore time.

Sock basket

Sort/Fold and Put Away

When we do our chore time, I’ll pull out the basket of clean items for the girls to sort, fold and put it away.

Not washing things in color families makes this part less intimidating, since we never end up with one huge basket full of tiny “whites”  that take forever to fold like socks, underwear and washcloths!  (My kids never liked that!)

I call this a “low fold” system because the only items we fold are kitchen and bath linens.  This is simply because they won’t fit in our drawers any other way. (Other than that I wouldn’t mind leaving them unfolded!)

As for folding clothing, one day I asked myself why we were bothering!  It ends up in piles in the kids’ drawers anyways and not a soul sees it.  Our lifestyle is pretty casual and the few nice pieces we have for special occasions hang in the closet.

My kids were aghast when I told them that they could skip folding and simply sort the clothes into piles for each person to put away in their own drawers. And why not? I haven’t found one good reason to go back to folding kids’ clothes yet.

I do have one daughter who loves to fold her clothes Konmari style for fun so that should tell you a lot about who will be caring for me in my golden years.

As for my and David’s clothes, everything is simply brought up to our bed. I fold or hang my things in the evening when I come up to do baths and bedtime. Since we only do a little bit of laundry every day, this is usually just a few items.

Bonus Tips & Tricks

  • In the past we have had one hamper for all the kid’s clothing located in the hallway.  We used this when we had small children who needed help getting dressed and needed us to ascertain whether clothes were dirty or not.  It was a nice central repository for those chaotic years of multi-kid bath times and newborn outfit changes!
  • Our current system works in part because we don’t have overly full dresser drawers.  I only keep whatever fits and is in season.
  • A lot of our drawers have cloth drawer dividers which help smaller items like socks and underwear stay tidy.  Some of my bathroom cabinets also have baskets to contain washcloths and hand towels.
  • I started my girls helping to fold and put away laundry at about five years old.  I would have them fold and put away kitchen linens and sort their underwear into a neat pile
  • Young children also do really well as “runners” when you give them a small pile at a time and tell them where to take it, especially if you turn it into a game. (Example: “Take these shirts up to mom’s bed and come back for the next pile.”)  You can click here to download a free sample list of chores for younger children!
  • Levi actually has no dresser at all! We keep his clothes in cloth bins inside of the buffet in our living room along with his diapers! We do this in part because he doesn’t have his own room and also because it’s just so much easier than taking him upstairs every time we want to dress him for the day or change his outfit.
  • On top of our washer we have a designated basket for unmatched socks.  Any time we have a sock without a match we put it in there.  Every few months or so I take the basket out and cull through it, pairing the matches and throwing out anything else.
  • I adore a timeless, homespun wicker laundry basket, but unfortunately they aren’t as practical as I wish they were.  They’re not stackable and mine were always unraveling at the handles and leaving bits of wicker everywhere. I switched back to a sturdy plastic, stackable version which works better for our system.

Laundry system

Though the goal is to do a load a day, that isn’t always reality! The idea is sustainability, so if we miss a day or two, we just slip right back into to our routine.

I truly enjoy neatly creased stacks of clothing and tidy drawers, but for now I have shifted my laundry goals so that I can enjoy something else: my growing family.  Being an essentialist about the laundry ensures that everyone has what they need while freeing up time and energy for me to be present in this season of homeschooling young children.  They’re really wonderful helpers when given the chance!

I hope you enjoyed this post and that you found some fun tips and ideas to take back to your own home!  If you enjoyed this post, you might also like to read about our essentialist chore system.  You can also sign up for my newsletter, where I speak a bit more candidly about the challenges of managing a home in the midst of homeschooling!