Are you Dame Washalot?

My daughter loves reading the Faraway Tree books. In it is a character called Dame Washalot, who spends all of her time doing laundry.  Today, sitting on the floor in the laundry, sorting my own pile of washing, it occurred to me that most women (sorry guys, but usually the women do the majority of the clothes washing tasks!) spend far too much time keeping their family in clean clothes. Unlike Dame Washalot, however, they don’t really enjoy it!

I go into people’s homes just about every day. One of the most common causes of clutter that I see is clothes. Clean or dirty (or of unknown status!), they overtake the house! I see it time and time again – and it really bothers people but they don’t know how to deal with it.

Here are a few tips I implemented at home, and recommend to clients, to reduce the task a bit:

  1. Wash regularly and, if you have a good machine that adjusts water usage, with small loads. Don’t save it all up for the weekend.
  2. Reduce the amount of clothing you have by setting boundaries. If I can’t fit any member of our household’s entire wardrobe in their cupboard and the washing basket (and on them!), I cull their clothes (and mine, too, of course!). There should be no overflow whatsoever.
  3. Avoid ironing as much as possible. In summer I drip-dry, then shake and smooth them out before hanging or folding. In winter I either use the dryer (and remove and hang immediately) or I line-dry and then lay them flat on each other for a few hours before putting away. For the perfectionists out there who say this is impossible, let me tell you that this has made the single biggest difference to the efficiency of my washing cycle. I save around 2-3 hours a week, not to mention the elimination of the stress of that ironing pile waiting for me! I was once just like you, ironing everything but underwear. After a month on a family road-trip last year, I returned home realising that I will survive without ironing. And I have ironed only a handful of times since. If I can do it, so can you!
  4. Finish the cycle before starting another.  If you have mounds of clean clothes waiting to be put away, finish that job before you put another load in the machine. “Clean” is not the end of the job. If you regard it as such, you will find yourself and the rest of your family perpetually dressing themselves from the pile of clean washing taking up half of your living or spare room. Regard each load as a singular task, with “Away” as the end of the task.
  5. Engage the help of the family. Have them fold and put away their own clothes, or a load each.  It’s a simple job – one that can be done in front of the TV if there is a need to make it less mundane (although I have found it a great opportunity for meditation when done as a solo task).
  6. Have routines.  Choose a time to put a load on every day, and follow through the entire cycle (wash -> dry -> away) on the same day. Stick to the routines until they become a habit.

Do you have any tips or tricks of your own to help keep on top of the washing? Do tell!

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  1. Gabrielle says:

    The best thing I ever did was buy a washing machine with a timer, so I set it up when I go to bed for it to come on about 5am so that the first load is done before I wake up. Remember to close the kitchen door or the buzzing will wake you!. You can get another load done and hung out before you go out.
    I enjoy ironing but ALWAYS sit down to the irroning board – do not stand as that is so bad for your legs.
    Just lower the board to suit your height.

  2. I only have one clothes basket which helps me stick (mostly) to the it’s gotta be put away before I do another load rule. I don’t have an ironing pile. It goes away and if it needs ironing I’ll do it before I wear it. Sometimes I’ll even do a few things at once – gasp!

  3. i agree with the minimal ironing rule- i use the dryer instead of ironing with the rule that it is put on a hanger imediately- have done this for many years not- the trick is not to over load the dryer- sometimes the finish is better tan an iron especiallly for pants and jackets and t-shirts

  4. For drying clothes on the line, I hang shirts, t-shirts and jumpers (not wool ones though) one a clothes hanger on the line to dry – they drip dry with gravity doing the ironing for you 🙂 Then its just a case of take the shirts off the line and hang stright up. Jumpers and t-shirts are easier to fold too!

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