Today's mission is to catch up on laundry if yours is out of control, and you feel like you're getting buried under your family's dirty clothes.
If you feel like you're overwhelmed with laundry, this mission isn't one of those that can get done in 15 minutes, but it can be done 15 minutes at a time, with several stops and starts, as the washing machine or dryer runs, or you fold or put away some clothes, so that's how I want you to approach this.
The reason I've got this mission here, within the Declutter 365 calendar, is that starting next week we're going to be focused on the Laundry Organization Challenge, which will include setting up a laundry routine or schedule. This schedule will help you proactively deal with your family's laundry, so it never gets this piled up again.
However, you're going to potentially need to do a day or more of marathon laundry now, to get yourself ready. Then, once the backlog is done, and you're only dealing with the amount of laundry your family normally generates within a week, or less, the schedule or routine you set up with actually work properly.
To help you catch up when your laundry feels out of control, I've listed the 7 steps you'll need to take, below.
These 7 steps are useful whenever you feel behind on laundry, for whatever reason, such as because you've been extremely busy and it has piled up, the washing machine or dryer broke for a while and now you're trying to get caught up after the repair, or when you come how from vacation, and didn't have the ability to do laundry while traveling.
When this happens it is easy to look at the piles of dirty clothes and feel overwhelmed. But we all know staring in disbelief or panic at all that dirty laundry doesn't get it done.
Instead, use the 7 steps to take to catch up on your laundry. Most of these steps help you assess the laundry situation you've found yourself in, develop the plan that will work for you, and then the final steps are to actually work that plan. Making the plan is half the battle, because it gives you a way to stop the panic and overwhelm and begin getting the problem fixed.
You cannot even begin to create a plan of attack to get your laundry piles under control until you know what you're dealing with. And until you see it all in one place you can't get a true sense of what you'll need to do.
So the first step is to gather up all the dirty laundry into one place so you can accurately assess the situation, however dire it may be.
Next, sort the clothes into large loads.
Now is not the time to worry about keeping one person's laundry separated from another person's in your home. Do that instead when folding and getting ready to put it away.
Instead, now is the time to get serious about washing as many clothes as possible in as few loads as possible. After all, it takes less time total to wash fewer larger loads than more smaller ones.
This is not to say that you should make poor sorting decisions that result in ruining clothes, like washing delicate clothes in hot water on the harshest cycle, or throwing the red sock in with the white towels. That's not going to help get you less overwhelmed, trying to deal with those types of laundry disasters.
Instead, sort into as large of loads as you can without causing damage.
If you need help with how to sort clothes, use these 4 questions to sort your laundry.
Once you've got everything sorted into piles you can easily count and assess how many loads you need to do to get caught up.
This steps seems straightforward, and basically it is, but don't forget that depending on how big some of those sorted piles are, the pile may actually equal more than one load, so keep that in mind.
My personal hint for figuring out the actual number of loads you've got, if you're uncomfortable eyeballing it, is to use a laundry basket or laundry bag to "measure" the load. We've all got a laundry basket or bag that we know, when it is full, it basically equals one good size, but not crammed too full, load in the washer. Use that now to assess how many loads you actually have.
Once you know how many loads you've got to do, as of today, to get caught up, make a realistic deadline for yourself to get caught up.
If, for example, you have four loads and enough time to accomplish it all in one day, great. Your plan of attack (which you'll make in Step 5) will be easier to formulate.
On the other hand, depending on how far behind you are, and how much time you have available, since we all know life doesn't pause while we try to catch up, getting caught up in one day may not work. So if that's the case, give yourself some grace to take a few days to even a week to get it all accomplished, while still knowing you're just going to have to make it a priority for a while to get it back under control.
This is where the 15 minutes at a time mantra comes in handy.
Also, remember that creating a deadline for yourself is there, not to stress you out, but instead to get you motivated to actually meet your goal.
All of the steps above were preliminary steps necessary to do this crucial step -- making your personalized plan of attack for getting caught up. Like I said above, if you can realistically get all the laundry caught up in one day, then your plan is easy. Just do a marathon session to get it done.
But what about if your plan will take days, plural, to get done? You've got a bit more planning to do to make sure you are setting yourself up for success and not for a feeling of failure. Let me give you an example below to explain why:
Example: If you want to get your laundry caught up in three days and you've got six loads of laundry to do, planning to do two loads per day for the next three days is setting yourself up for failure. "What?" I can almost hear you saying to yourself as you read this. That's basic math, how is that wrong? But you read right. A better plan, one that sets you up for success, is to plan in that scenario to do three loads of laundry per day. Why? Because the first plan, that wasn't going to work, didn't take into account all the laundry that accumulates during that three day period while you're working on the six load backlog. Sad, but very true.
That fact, that dirty laundry NEVER stops accumulating, is why many plans to get caught up on laundry don't work. But now you know you've got to take all that still accumulating laundry into account so your plan can work.
Once you think about it for a few minutes you'll know approximately how many loads of laundry your family creates each day. For each day of your plan for catching up, make sure you add up those additional loads that will pile up so you will actually succeed in getting caught up, and then can get on a better schedule or routine later.
If your plan of attack will take multiple days to finish, make sure each evening during the washing process you, without fail, gather and sort all the new dirty laundry accumulated that day into the piles of laundry you've already made, and that you're slowly washing, a few loads per day. This keeps your loads as large as possible, reduces the total number of loads you'll have to do to catch up, and keep you from falling further behind.
Your plan has to take into account how many loads of laundry you'll need to do each day to finally, eventually, get caught up. That was something you did in Step 5. But especially if your plan to get caught up takes several days make sure the first couple of loads you do washes the crucial items people are really needing washed, and cannot live without.
That may be towels, or underwear, or jeans, or socks, or whatever. Whatever it is for you and your family, make sure the thing that is most crucially needed soon is washed first to relieve the biggest pressure quickly.
There are many steps in the laundry process, and gathering up, sorting, washing and drying the laundry is unfortunately not the whole task.
Instead, there are two additional steps that you need to make sure you're planning time for, and doing, when getting laundry caught up. Those two steps are folding and putting away laundry.
If you don't take those steps into account and force yourself (or others in your family) to do it you'll quickly convert your dirty laundry into piles of clean but unfolded clothes sitting on your couch in the living room. While it fixes one problem it creates another.
There are many strategies you can employ when trying to finish these last steps, but my favorite is to make it a family affair. Turn on a fun movie or some upbeat music and have a folding party. Many hands makes the task go faster. Then pause the movie when you've got it all folded, have everyone help put it all away, and then reconvene for the rest of the movie once everyone has finished the task to enjoy the rest of the film as a family with clean clothes on, and clean clothes in drawers and in the closet ready for wearing later!
You can get more tips for putting away clean clothes, after washing them, here.
I hope these instructions have inspired you to catch up on your laundry, hopefully for one of the last times, and then keep it that way by starting a laundry routine for yourself from now on.
When you begin to declutter and organize your home the feeling you get is contagious, so if you're loving the results you're getting I would encourage you to keep going.
I've got a whole series of 15 minute decluttering missions (eventually 365 of them!) that you can do.
Just pick and choose the ones you want to do, that will make a big impact in your home. But if you want someone else to tell you the order you can also grab the 15 minute daily decluttering mission calendars and follow along as we all get our homes clutter free together!
If you are excited to next create a laundry routine, check out these 4 questions to ask yourself, to create the perfect laundry schedule for you.
I would love to hear from you, sharing your thoughts, questions, or ideas about this topic, so leave me a comment below. I try to always respond back!