jeans crammed on top of an overflowing laundry basket

Fix the laundry blues

On good days, there are overflowing hampers stuffed with dirty clothes and teetering piles of folded clean laundry on every counter, waiting to be put away. On bad days it feels like there’s a perpetual carpet of clothes on the floor, either dirty clothes that need to be washed or clean clothes that need to be put away.

What’s the hold up? It’s most likely getting the clean stuff put away so it doesn’t merge with the dirty stuff and need washing again. Here are some suggestions your grandmother would have shaken her head at.

Make laundry easier

  • Don’t worry about separating laundry into too many categories before you can wash it.
  • Wash everything in cold water.
  • Wash everything on the delicate cycle.
  • Dry everything on low heat.

Heresy, I know. But if you wash everything on cold and keep the red clothes away from the pristine whites, it’s all going to come out fine in the wash. Decades ago, I spent two years living in Cairo, Egypt and our laundry facilities consisted of a bathtub, a bar of soap, and a mini spin dryer. I washed everything by hand, spun it to get most of the water out, and let it dry on a clothes line on our balcony. Our clothes were fine.

Make a commitment

Wash and dry at a time when you’re available to move clothes out of the washer and into the dryer and then whisk clothes out of the dryer and onto hangers. Life’s way too short to iron anything.

Move through the whole cycle

If you take your warm, clean clothes fresh from the dryer to the place where you’re going to put them away and then do so immediately, the laundry cycle is complete. If you let laundry linger in the dryer or fold it and set it down somewhere to put away later, that cycle is still open.

Declutter so you can put away

Too many sweaters in the dresser drawers, umpteen t-shirts and camis competing for drawer space with socks and underwear. When the closets are full to busting, forcing anything else in there requires serious upper body strength.

You have one of two problems

Either you have too many clothes or you don’t have enough storage. If clothes are important to you, you need more than a three drawer dresser and half a closet. But before you invest in storage, try fixing the first problem.

Declutter your clothes by category

Do this in stages so you don’t get overwhelmed. Maybe this week it’s going to be dresses, maybe next week you’ll tackle gym clothes. If you get on a roll and want to declutter everything, please still go category by category and put the keepers away for one category before hauling out the next. I know Marie Kondo says to put everything on your bed all at once but we want you to be able to sleep in that bed tonight.

Easy fix #1: Take out all the empty hangers

That’ll free up some wiggle room in the closet. Throw out the thin wire hangers from the dry cleaners, they don’t give your clothes enough support.

Easy fix #2: Rearrange the closet in categories

Hang all the long sleeved blouses together, all the jackets, all the jeans and so on.

Doing this helps you see what you have. It’s much easier to make a decision about how many dresses are enough when you see them all together. When you can see that you have sixteen power red blazers, it’s easier to think about how many you may or may not need.

Easy fix #3: Take out all your sweaters and lay them on the bed, if available

Sweaters are bulky drawer and shelf hogs. Any decluttering you can do will make a big difference.

I recently went through my big sweaters after our cold snap, and it was interesting to note that they were all beige, brown or very neutral in color. That’s not me anymore, so I kept a couple for warmth and will replace the others soon.

Sweaters can also be annoyingly itchy, so if you’re keeping sweaters that irritate your neckline, do yourself a huge favor and dispose of them. Some lucky people can tune out the scratchiness but if you’re like me and you can’t, it’s time to get rid of all prickly clothes.

Easy fix #4: Put all coats in the coat closet, if available

If you haven’t decluttered the hall closet yet, this may be a challenge. Take a few minutes to assess the particularly big coats and see if you can come up with a pile to donate to Coats for Colorado or your local thrift store. Shove the rest in and vow to come back to it. Any coats you can take out of the bedroom closet will free up space for your everyday clothes.

READ MORE >>> How to declutter and organize

Time to think outside the box

If you’ve decluttered your clothes and there’s technically space for them but getting them put away is still an insurmountable chore, it’s time to get creative.

Stop folding

Don’t tell Marie, but folding is a waste of time unless you enjoy it. Hang everything up and you never have to fold or roll clothes again.

Use hooks

Or perhaps it’s the hanging that’s tripping you up. So replace the hangers with rows of hooks attached to the inside of the closet walls. Throwing something on a hook is far easier than wrestling with a hanger, especially one of those velvet hangers, which we all bought in droves and then regretted.

Baskets work too

If hooks or hangers don’t help, try baskets or open bins, stacked so you can easily see what’s in each bin. Label them if it helps you get the lay of the land. Toss items into the bins rather than folding or rolling if that makes it easier.

Take it to the next level

Move your dressers into your laundry room if there’s space. Install a  clothes rod along the wall nearest the dryer. Several of my clients have looked at me skeptically when I suggested this and then told me I changed their lives after they tried it.

Clothes come off in the laundry room, get tossed into baskets (or right into the washing machine if there’s a load) and then you grab clean clothes out of the drawers or off the rail and you’re good to go.

This method is particularly good at keeping a handle on kids’ clothes but anyone who appreciates efficiency is going to find this system very attractive.

If your closets are overflowing, use this system for the 20% of your clothes you actually wear and let the remaining 80% hang in solitary splendor upstairs. One day you may want that closet space for something else and you can empty the racks, confident in the knowledge these aren’t clothes you actually wear.

by Lucy Kelly


  1. Oh my goodness, laundry…. it’s my Achilles heel. I’m guilty of letting loads sit in the drier unfolded for days. Finishing a load in the same day is an exercise in discipline for me for sure. It’s for this reason that I’ve really pared down my wardrobe. Decluttering and rotating clothes for the season has made the biggest difference for me. Keeping up with the kids laundry is kind of a different story but im working on it, haha.

  2. So your point about seeing the laundry all the way through to the end is a good one. If you only do one load, that’s fine, just see it through to that load being folded and put away. I have this conversation with one client all the time. She lives in a building with shared laundry, which is always hard because you never know when the machine will be available. When she does get it washed, she will get it dried because of pressure to free up the machine. But folded? That’s what isn’t getting done. It’s hard.