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Linda's Corner

Cleaning maven Linda Jones shares her tips, tricks and insights with a monthly column for Sandy Wipes.

Learn to Love Laundry

By Linda Jones, 6 May 2013

    It's May, and summer is around the corner! When it's so beautiful outside, it's easy to hate the chores that keep us cooped up in the home, stopping us from enjoying that wonderful warm air.

    It may seem like laundry is an endless task (you're constantly generating more laundry to wash, even right now!), but I've got a few tricks that can help. While I can't make your laundry chores disappear, I can make them go smoother and faster, and hopefully even make them a bit more enjoyable! The focus of my column this month is getting you from loathing laundry day to loving it!

Pre-Laundry: Saving time before you start.

With a few small behavior tweaks, we can get a good chunk of the laundry process done before we go anywhere near the machines!

Wash (certain) clothes less often. Some clothes, like jeans and sweaters, don't have to be washed after every use. Some people believe, in fact, that you should never wash denim, that it ruins the natural distressing and conforming process. While that may be extreme for most people, the fact remains that a lot of clothes can survive a few wears without needing to be washed.

Sort as you go with multiple hampers. When you throw all your used laundry into one laundry hamper, you inevitably have to sort through it in front of the washing machine, separating whites from colors. Adding a second hamper to your bedroom, one for colors and one for whites, lets you keep them sorted from the get-go. Add a third for reds/bright colors or delicates! You can even look for space-saving pre-built hamper 'racks', as pictured, which let you sort as you stow and transport individually by lifting the sack from the rack.

Homogenize your socks. If you spend lots of time hunting down stray socks to make a pair, it might be time to rethink your sock collection. The best strategy is to buy many many pairs of identical socks. This way, you don't need to find the specific sock that matches the one you want, because they all match! It's also much cheaper to buy socks this way.

Don't let stains sit. Don't waste time scrubbing out stains that have been there for hours or days - take care of the problem when it happens. Stains are obviously much easier to remove when they're fresh, so you'll save tons of time doing it ASAP. Make sure to tell family members to do the same, if you do laundry for multiple people! Check out this helpful graphic from WonderHowTo for some great stain-busting instructions!

Organize your laundry room. Putting in a bit of time to organize your laundry room now will save you a lot of time later, not to mention make the experience more enjoyable. Stow detergents and fabric softeners on a shelf or cupboard, to maximize table/counter space for folding and sorting. Or, install a pegboard to hold all laundry supplies neatly and conveniently. Put a small hamper in the laundry room to act as a 'lost and found' - When you find an extra sock or glove, throw it in there, and eventually its mate will wind up there as well! This saves time, but also reduces clutter and makes the space more comfortable.

Mid-Laundry: Getting it done.

It's laundry day, and the family is relying on you to get everything washed for the coming week. Let's see what we can do to make today go quicker and easier, so you can get outside and enjoy the weather or spend some quality time with the family!

Change your perspective. In my experience, the single greatest 'tip' I've found to making laundry day more bearable is a simple attitude shift. Rather than view it as this grueling recurring nightmare, try to see it as a chance to be alone with your thoughts, to have a bit of quality time with yourself. Many find laundry to be therapeutic in nature - It's a rote task that leaves your mind free relax, reflect, explore - whatever it wants! It's becoming increasingly difficult in modern society to find these moments where we can be alone with our thoughts. Take the opportunity to enjoy it - congratulate yourself on what you've accomplished in the last week, and plan your next one! It sounds simple, and it is, but it can really make a profound difference.

You can also find ways of entertaining yourself during the process - I've spoken before about audiobooks, and how they can make mundane tasks enjoyable by feeding you bite-sized pieces of a captivating story. The advantage over traditional reading is that you can do it while your hands are busy, not just while you're waiting between tasks. You can also listen to your favorite music, watch TV, or any other form of entertainment you enjoy!

Boost your washing machine. A laundry booster is something that enhances your laundry detergent, making it more effective. With boosters, you can use less detergent, and wash your clothes for less time! I recommend using borax and washing soda. They act as whiteners and water softeners, and borax is also a deodorizer. Throw in about a half-cup of each per load, and set your washing machine to light. You can also experiment with other laundry boosters - it's a subject worth researching.

Wash in cold water. Except when clothes are heavily soiled, cold water cleans just as well. Warm and hot water can cause colors to bleed and cotton to shrink. Also, experts say 85% of the energy used to wash clothes in hot water goes to heating up the water - that's money you don't have to spend.

Shake your clothes after the wash. Have you ever taken clothes out of the dryer, only to find that they've wrapped themselves into a condensed soggy ball, wrinkled beyond recognition? The easiest way to prevent this is to shake out clothes that come out of the washing machine before putting them into the dryer. Do this over the washing machine (if you have a top-loading unit) to catch any water droplets. Doing so will also make your laundry dry a bit faster!

Clean your lint filter after every use. This task takes seconds to do, but it can save minutes of drying time. Beyond being a fire hazard, not cleaning out your dryer's lint trap often makes your dryer up to 30% less efficient. That means it takes longer for your clothes to get dry, and delays all loads after it. If you've found that your dryer is taking much longer to dry than it used to, it may be time to clean the dryer exhaust ducts. Explanations for this tip are beyond the scope of this article, but I'd refer you to Treehugger's post on the subject.

Dry your clothes outdoors. Even if you have a dryer, consider hanging your clothes outdoor to dry. While not necessarily a time-saver, I like to grab any excuse to get outside during May that I can, and spring air will make your clothes smell wonderful. Sunlight even removes mild stains! You can also clean the dryer less, which helps save some of that extra time!

Post-Laundry: Ideas for managing your clothes.

After your clothes are washed and dried, the bulk of our work is done, but there are still a few tips and tricks that can make life easier and better!

Don't bother ironing. Ironing wrinkles out of clothes can be a huge time commitment. You can save some or all of this time by being vigilant. The second your dryer finishes drying, remove, fold and hang clothes - Often, they won't develop significant wrinkles and you can skip ironing altogether!

Appreciate what you've accomplished. You're done! Take a moment to appreciate that fact, and give yourself a pat on the back. Try to make the tail end of laundry day happy - if you feel happy at the end, that's the feeling you'll remember when it's time to do laundry next week. If you feel crabby and exhausted at the end, you'll remember those feelings next time, and it'll seem that much more arduous.

Organize your drawers. We talked a bit in Part 2 of the Spring Cleaning Extravaganza about organizing dresser/wardrobe drawers by stacking things front-to-back instead of top-to-bottom. The benefit of this new method is that you have access to all of the clothes in the drawer, not just the few items at the top, and you don't have to make a mess if you need to grab something at the back like you would to grab something at the bottom.

If you've got a knack for modifying or improving furniture, Ikea Hackers has a guide for adding rods to a dresser, so you can hang your clothes in, no folding required. The end result looks great, but it seems like a pretty advanced project, so beware. Despite the name 'Ikea Hackers', this guide can be used on any dresser, as long as it has deep drawers - no Ikea products required.

Fold clothes faster. Folding can take a lot of time if you're not using an efficient method. For T-shirts and other tops, check out the 5-second method, popular in Asia and becoming popular in America. Expert Village has a whole series of folding tutorials, for the trickier items like fitted bed sheets.

I've shared a bunch of tips here that will hopefully save you a chunk of time on your next laundry day, but I can't stress enough how much a change of perspective can help. I look forward to laundry day, because it's a chance to reflect on my week or enjoy an literary audio adventure. So much of how you feel is your attitude, and hopefully today I've managed to improve yours!

As always, you can reach me directly at linda@sandywipes.com. Let me know what you thought of this month's column - I look forward to hearing from you!

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