Laundry. It never ends. Six years ago, I wrote a Mabelhood post about the incessant burden of laundry and how I was considering giving up clothes entirely to save my time and sanity. Unfortunately, the nudist lifestyle didn’t pan out, and here I am — still constantly sorting, washing, drying, and folding clothes. I have even more washloads now, as my kids and their clothing have gotten bigger (and smellier).

The laundry struggle is real, and we’re all in the same sweat-soaked, ketchup-stained boat. With this in mind, I have compiled some tips to help maximize your laundry organization and efficiency.

Embrace a new laundry mindset

It’s time to accept the fact that laundry is a constant in your life. As parenting author and mom of six Dawn Meehan put it: “I don’t have laundry day. I have laundry life.”

The great news is: we are not living in pioneer times. We have high-tech washers and dryers that whir away independently for an hour at a time. Be strategic and keep the laundry going in the background at every opportunity. For example, throw in a load while you’re doing dishes, watching TV, or sleeping.

A side note: if overnight wash loads are part of your routine, be sure to transfer over the damp clothes first thing in the morning, as they shouldn’t sit wet for more than 8 to 12 hours. Beyond that point, your best bet to prevent mildew and odor is to re-run the wash cycle and get a fresh start.

How to be more organized in laundry 

Here are some small steps you can take to make the laundry process more organized and efficient:

  • Pre-sort. Instead of a basket in each family member’s room, create a central laundry collection space with designated containers for each color. The floor of my already-cramped master bedroom closet is home to five (yes, five) different laundry baskets. Thanks to plenty of training and complaining, my kids now put their dirty clothes in the appropriate bin — lights, darks, greys, blues, and reds. Having this central repository allows me to visually assess which color load should be prioritized. (Who am I kidding? They’re all overflowing, all the time.)
  • Stock up. Your laundry room should have a full supply of all the products you need, including detergent, dryer sheets, and stain remover. If you have a baby, consider purchasing a milder hypoallergenic soap designed for infants. Everything should be within convenient reach for you, but not accessible to children.
  • Label everything. Take the guesswork out of sorting clean clothes with personalized name labels. They are a cute, colorful and laundry-safe way to ensure that the right things go to the right person. For socks, underwear and other tag-less items, a custom clothing stamp is a handy solution.

  • Involve the kids. Give each child an age-appropriate laundry-related task, whether it’s matching socks, folding towels, or carrying baskets to bedrooms. Make it clear that laundry is not solely your job. Everyone can (and should) be part of the laundry adventure!
How to handle sports laundry

If you have active adults and kids in your household, you may be faced with some “extra-fragrant” laundry that needs immediate attention. Raise your game (and combat the stink) with these strategies:

  • Hang it up. Active apparel (such as team uniforms, workout shirts and tights) is often made from technical moisture-wicking fabrics that must hang to dry. I’d be lost without my portable drying rack — it holds a dozen items and folds up accordion-style when not in use.
  • Ask around. While you’re on the sidelines or in the crowd, strike up a conversation with fellow sports parents about their go-to laundry products. You will likely spark an animated discussion and get some great stain-fighting recommendations. (For example, my kids play baseball, and my husband swears by the combination of Shout stain remover and an old toothbrush to scrub it in.)
  • Put a number on it. Specialized sports labels with your player’s name and jersey number will prevent inconvenient mix-ups with teammates’ gear. This is also helpful if you have multiple children in the same organization with identical designs or colour schemes.
  • Clean and disinfect. Some sports equipment, including certain pieces of hockey gear, is machine washable. Always check the wash and care instructions before proceeding.
Other laundry hacks

Here’s a final grab bag of laundry tips, to avoid costly blunders:

  • Check all pockets before loading up the washer. We’ve all overlooked the single rogue tissue that turns into a million tiny white bits that cling to everything. (I also once found a Hot Wheels car clanging around in my dryer.)
  • Zip all zippers to prevent their metal tabs from being flung around inside the machine. They may break off against the inner wall or cause damage to other clothes.
  • For garments with drawstrings (think hoodies, pyjama pants, and shorts), tie them up loosely before washing. This prevents tangling and the dreaded “disappearing act” where the string slides out of place and into an unretrievable location in the hood or waistband.
  • Turn screen-printed graphic tees inside out to protect the design. Also reverse any costumes or sports baselayer pieces that have Velcro tabs.
  • Use a mesh bag for delicates. I’m a “sports bra and full coverage underwear” kind of gal, but if you have underwire bras or other delicates in your laundry, a zippered mesh bag is a great investment. Some laundry ninjas recommend using a larger version for socks, to bypass the annoying “lost sock” phenomenon.
  • If you’re washing a child’s beloved stuffed animal and don’t have a mesh bag, placing it in a solid white pillowcase (knotted at the top) will do the trick.
  • No one wants a fire hazard, so keep the dryer’s lint screen clear. Make a habit of emptying it each time, before you add a new load.
  • If your washing machine has a self-cleaning cycle, run it about once a month. You can also purchase a specialized washer cleaning product (my appliance repair guy recommends Affresh). For a deeper clean, check out these DIY cleaning instructions for both front-loading and top-loading machines.

It’s clear that laundry is here to stay. As my mom pointed out when I was a teenager, those piles of soiled clothes aren’t going to wash themselves. In this age of “smart appliances,” that’s the invention I’m really waiting for: an automated full-service laundry robot. So, until the Laundr-o-Tron 3000 arrives on the market, I guess I’ll keep folding — and envying the nudists.


Kristi York is a freelance writer and mom of two sports-loving boys. Her work has been published by ParentsCanada, Running Room, ParticipACTION and The Costco Connection.

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