Simplifying life means finding ways to make life as easy for ourselves as possible and that, of course, includes household tasks. By simplifying our housework not only do we free up more time to spend on other, more enjoyable pursuits, we can also make housework less of a chore.
One area that’s actually very easy to simplify is the laundry. If you’re like I once was and often find yourself with a washing basket that’s spilling over onto the floor and that has things in the bottom that haven’t seen the light of day for months and could probably walk out of the house on their own given the chance, these tips are definitely for you.
- Use laundry baskets. Keep one in each of the bedrooms and in the bathroom, if there’s room. If you have a small bathroom, try to find room nearby. You can use a pretty lined and lidded basket, for this so it needn’t be an ‘eyesore’ if you choose to keep it in the hall. Old wooden boxes, chests and similar can also be used. I would try to find a way of lining them, though.
- Don’t have more clothes than you can store. If you don’t have room to put all of your clothes away neatly, you’ll never empty your laundry baskets. I have years of experience with this; I always had at least half a basket of dirty stuff simply because, if I washed it all, I’d be left with a pile that had no home.
- Change into pyjamas an hour before bedtime. If you wait until the last minute before changing you’ll be more likely to just throw your clothes in a pile on the floor, a chair or similar making more work later when you need to pick it up and put it in the washing basket. Besides, it’s comfy to lounge around in PJs for a bit before hitting the sack.
- Clear out pockets when you take off your clothes. Ideally you just want to bung your clothes in the machine and forget them without wasting time going through pockets first.
- Think twice about colours that run. If you’re thinking of buying a bright red t-shirt, think about whether or not it’s likely to bleed. If it does, you’ll just have to sort it out and wash it alone or wait until you have a machine load of reds, meaning once again that your basket will never empty. If you really must buy possible bleeders, then try soaking them for an hour in a bucket or sink of water with about a tablespoon of salt and 200 mls of vinegar added. Rinse, dry and then wash by hand to see whether the colour still runs.
- Choose neutral colours. If your wardrobe consists of neutrals you’ll have a lot less sorting to do. I wear mostly creams, browns, khakis, etc and never have to sort. My daughter, on the other hand, has every colour imaginable and is forever sorting her clothes. Neutrals save a lot of time.
- Get rid of stained clothes. I used to hang on to clothes that I liked even though they were stained, believing that one day I’d get that stain out. The truth is, if you’ve tried removing it and it’s still there, hanging on to it isn’t going to magically make it disappear. Cut it up and use it for rags, crafting, add it to the compost heap if it’s cotton, linen or wool or else put it in a donation box to be sent to the third world. Those people will be happy just to have something to wear, regardless of the stain. If there isn’t one local to you, then bin it.
- Reduce the need to iron. Ironing is a time consuming part of the laundry process and one most women would rather do without. By giving your clothes a good shake and a snap both as you take them from the machine and again before you hang them or throw them in the dryer, a lot of them will dry without wrinkles and the rest will have far less. Ask yourself whether those that are still a little wrinkled really need ironing – a child’s t-shirt that’s ironed isn’t going to look ironed after its been on for half an hour anyway and does it really matter whether your ‘slobbing at home’ clothes are wrinkle free?
Hang shirts and blouses on hangars before putting them on the line as this will further reduce the need for ironing. Also, peg t-shirts and other tops underneath the armpits where any peg marks won’t show up so well when they’re being worn.
Always, always, always fold clothes as soon as they’re dry. Take a basket into the garden with you and fold them as you remove them. The same applies if you’re drying on a clothes horse. You might like to take a look at this video explaining how to fold a t-shirt.
If you’re using a tumble dryer then remove and fold them while they’re still slightly warm. Even those that do need ironing will have fewer wrinkles to get rid of. Shirts and blouses should be hung on hangars and left in the bathroom overnight to cool. By morning most will have cooled wrinkle free.
- Throw dirty kitchen cloths into the machine as you use them. If you do this, by the time you have a few in there, you’ll also have a few towels that need washing to make up a full load. It saves carrying them to a laundry basket or having to keep one in the kitchen, too.
- Don’t wash your clothes so often. We frequently get into the habit of throwing everything into the laundry basket as soon as we take it off, but that isn’t always strictly necessary. Unless something’s visibly dirty or smells, why clean it? If you’ve been sweating badly then sure, that blouse or shirt’s likely to start humming pretty nastily during a second wearing but if you’ve been relaxing in a cool place for a few hours, there’s probably no need to wash it.
Every time we wash our clothes we knock a little of the life out of them. Living a simple life means taking care of what we have and extending an item’s life for as long as possible so it makes sense to think about whether or not we really need to wash something. Often, giving something an airing on the line is just as good as washing it.
- Turn clothes inside out. This prevents as much bobbling occurring so both prolongs the life of your clothes as well as saving you time spent ‘shaving’ them. Woolens - especially acrylics - are particularly prone to bobbling so always make sure these are turned inside out.
- Teach your kids the routine. Everybody in the house who’s over the age of ten should know to automatically empty their pockets, put their clothes into the laundry basket and to put them away as soon as they’re delivered back to them, although children should start to be taught this from a much earlier age. Get them into the habit of changing into PJs early, too.
A lot of ‘experts’ insist that we keep several laundry baskets to reduce the need to sort. That’s okay if you have the room but I find they just take up space and make rooms look more cluttered. Sorting isn’t a huge, time-consuming job so for me it isn’t worth it.
They also advise having a laundry routine – that we decide on a day(s) each week and stick to it. I personally disagree. How much laundry we have varies considerably and always has done. Sometimes the kids would get messier than other times, sometimes one of them would pee the bed or one of us would spill something and need to change. In bad weather I’d often come back from walking the dog with my jeans covered in mud, other times I could wear the same pair for days. Because of this I find it easier to check the laundry baskets daily and wash when I have a machine load or two. If I can wash when the weather’s fine and use the garden line, all the better.
Obviously, everybody will have their own ways of cutting down on their housework but sometimes we get into a rut and just seem to be going round in a never ending cycle. If some of these tips can be useful to you then writing this will have been worthwhile.