Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Laundry Room Organization

I can not believe I'm saying this, but I actually enjoy doing laundry. This hasn't always been the case. In fact, it was one of my least favorite chores growing up and well into my married life. Some of it probably had to do with the fact that we had to use a laundry mat for years. Not much fun and honestly, I don't have any words of wisdom on that subject except save like crazy and go buy yourself a washer or figure out how to do it by hand! I was so desperate at one rental house we lived in that we got a hand-me-down washer from my husband's parents and put it on the back porch and hooked it up. Seriously. It worked just fine until the pipes froze one winter. 

Photo Credit: darrylh

Back to laundry at home... I'm assuming you have a washer and perhaps a dryer or clothes line. And a space to do your laundry, whether it's a garage, a basement, or a dedicated space often referred to as a laundry room. Let's face it, you're going to spend some time here, and depending on the size of your family; quite a bit of time. Why, oh, why, do we leave this space to fall into disarray and chaos, filled with clutter and junk from other rooms in the house? Why don't we make this space a joy to be in and efficient for the task of cleaning our clothes?

Years ago, I realized that I had to get this space under control. And not just cleaned up, but beautiful. Someplace I wanted to be! It didn't matter that the space was small and a dual use room, I had to make it so that I would be drawn to do my laundry productively on a regular basis. Here's some tips that helped me accomplish this goal...

Laundry Room Organization Tips

• Clean out the clutter. Unless you do not have any other space such as a garage, barn, storage shed, basement, or attic space where you can store discarded items, clean out everything that doesn't have to do specifically with laundry from your laundry area. If your washer and dryer share the space with your pantry or mud room (or another use), designate a portion for just laundry and clear it out. Be ruthless and ask yourself if you really need this item to do laundry.

• Keep the laundry room for laundry. Do not allow other things to take over your laundry space. If you must keep a tool box or other items in this space, make sure that they are organized and won't interfere with actually doing the laundry. You may need to get creative on this, but don't give up - and speaking of up, think UP. Consider using the wall space above for storage. Add some kind of shelves or a recycled cabinet if you need more space.

Create a space for folding clothes. If you don't have a place right by your washer and dryer, clothes will have to be taken to another area to fold. Avoid this at all costs! If you don't, chances are laundry will pile up beyond your ability to keep up with it (guaranteed - unless there are only one or two of you in your family!). However, if your folding area is right near your dryer, you'll be motivated to fold it while it's nice and warm, straight from the dryer. (If you use a clothesline, fold it as you take it down!)

I have a front load washer and dryer, but I opted not to use the pedestal drawers that were sold separately, but often encouraged. While I must bend over to access the appliances (good for the waistline), it allowed me to put an inexpensive Formica counter over the top since the controls are below on the face of the appliance. If you don't have this option, consider a countertop in another part of the room, but nearby, or install a folding shelf that drops down over the appliance when needed. This could be as simple as a prefabricated shelf on hinges with a latch to keep it up and a chain on each end for when it's lowered. As a last resort, you could use the top of the dryer, but you must keep it cleaned off at all times! So, I think you get the idea. Get some kind of folding space!

Have some way to hang clothes. Not everything is folded, so have a hook nearby. I'm getting ready to install more of these so that I have several!

If you have limited space you might opt for a retractable valet bar

Years ago in another home, I installed a regular closet rod over the washer and dryer. This worked great for us! Or how about a rod over the door

Keep in mind that like folding, you will want to hang as soon as possible after the heat has gone off so that clothes won't wrinkle and you'll be more motivated. Let's face it, warm clothes are just a pleasure to fold and hang; cold clothes are not.

Set up an area for line dry items. While you can hang dry some things on your coat hangers, a lot of items will loose their shape or get hanger marks if you hang them up. Laying the item flat is a better option. Your counter space might be your only choice, but if you have space for a drying rack, either a table top, wall mount, or stand up model, invest in one at the earliest opportunity. (This is on my list!)

Choose a beautiful and practical way to display detergents, stain removers, clothespins, and other items used daily. I love these jars! (But you knew that already.) I use them everywhere. And who says you can't use them in the garage on the shelf? Make your laundry corner pretty, girls! Put a cute mat in front, hang a pretty shower curtain around it to section it off, or put one on either side. Paint the plywood a bright color if you have to. Your garage laundry area will be spiffy in no time! 

These three jars cost me less than $30 with tax and I bought them one at a time. 

I found this tiny tin cup at an antique store for $3. It makes a perfect scoop for the jar as well as a stainless steel coffee scoop (in background).

Make some kind of label to let family members know what's in each jar. If you don't have a labeling machine, tie something around the handle on the lid or around the mouth of the jar. Get creative!

Store extra supplies out of sight. Your jars can only hold so much and you don't want to run out. So always keep some supplies hidden away. I only have two drawers in my laundry room, so I have to make the most of them; the bottom drawer contains the extra supplies. Whenever I use one up by putting it in the jar, I immediately purchase a new one so that I never run out. You can store the extras in another room, but don't forget about them! 

Designate a basket to receive dirty items. We keep laundry baskets in the bedroom area for dirty clothes, but I realized all those kitchen towels needed a place to go. Otherwise family members (myself included) just piled them up on top of the washer. In no time, my area was a mess and certainly not inviting! An old basket allows wet towels to air dry while keeping them contained. Attractive and practical.

Have a plan for clothes after they are folded. If you don't have a plan, they'll sit there for days and start to pile up, fall over, get dirty, and socks will vanish (if they didn't already vanish in the washer!). 

For smaller families or those who wash one person's clothes each day, a laundry basket on wheels is a lovely choice. And if you dry outside on a line, this might work for you in the summer as well.

For larger families or those who have only one or two designated laundry days, try cubbies or a stacking rack of some kind. I recommend cubbies with baskets so they can pull it out and take it to their room. You might have to buy the baskets and build a unit to fit your needs, but if that isn't an option, try using a bench with cubbies. Duel use is always good!

Select a container to collect lint. My top drawer holds three plastic containers, one of which is designated as lint and paper trash that can be composted. If you don't want to compost it, use the lint for fire starters: place some lint in each section of a cardboard egg carton, pour left over wax from candles over the lint, let set, then cut apart. Just light the cardboard and voila!

Keep needed extra supplies. Other laundry items you need to keep on hand should be contained and ready-at-hand: bleach pens, stain remover and stain remover pen, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and small toothbrush for stain removal, fabric labeling pens, fray check to stop ravels, and scissors. I use wool dryer balls which remain in the dryer, but you may wish to keep some dryer sheets as well. Keep it simple and don't buy stuff you really don't need! 

Add the little extras sparingly. If your laundry room is dual purpose (and most are) you may need to add back in a few (just a few!) items to make it function for your family. Our laundry room is the access to both the garage and the back porch. So we keep some dog treats on hand...

spare keys...

a color coded weekly calendar so the family can see it on the way out the door (not monthly, it's too much and overwhelming)...

A large old school blackboard for messages and reminders, scriptures and love notes...

and a splash of color. Things that make my heart sing...

Is it time for you to get after it and clean out that laundry room? Light a nice candle, get a cup of hot tea, and just go for it! Tell me you don't enjoy laundry more after it's organized and I'll eat my hat! (Just kidding!) 

Add your tips and thoughts for organizing. What makes your heart sing when you do laundry?


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