Sorting and Organising Dirty Laundry … A Reader Question Answered …

Sorting and Organising Dirty Laundry 001


Today’s post is the result of a reader question from Sally in Townsville, Queensland:

“Hi Mrs O, I need some ideas for my Laundry! I’m looking for some tips that will help me get better organised and spend less time in the laundry. Can you please HELP!!”

What a great question and I’m certain most of us share Sally’s frustration and would love to spend less time doing the laundry. Why? because most days it feels like an endless, thankless, overwhelming job that never ends! Can you relate to that?

So to make the job easier, to save time and reduce stress, it’s about creating routines … nothing complicated, in fact, the simpler the better. The idea is to reduce the workload as much as possible and be more efficient … to look at the way you do things now and then find a better way.

So, to answer Sally’s question, the first thing I did to make my life easier in the laundry was to pre-sort all our clothes. For a long time, my laundry routine was as simple as keeping a single clothes basket that everyone put their dirty clothes in. It worked fine, but as my family grew, so did the amount of washing … it grew and grew and grew! So I needed a system … a system that would make my life easier. So, I created a simple system that allows everyone to sort their clothes as they bring them to the laundry rather than me doing it later.


Sorting and Organising Dirty Laundry 004


It consists of a set of chrome shelves with 4 plastic, labeled tubs where everything can be pre-sorted into the following:


  • White/light items (whites/pastels/light greys)


  • Coloured items


  • Dark/black items


  • Sheets


These 4 categories work for me but you might like to have different ones depending on the type of clothing that your family wears. You might include categories for delicates, school uniforms, business clothing, jumpers (if you live in a cold climate and have a lot of these to wash) and so on. My system has really evolved over time and changed as the needs of my family have changed. And that’s really the point, it’s about finding a system that works for your own individual family.

With everything pre-sorted, I simply load one tub of clothing/items into the machine, turn it on and walk away … yeah! It means I don’t double handle clothes by sorting a single basket each and every time I do a load of washing. It also means I don’t miss items that get tangled up with other clothes. It used to drive me crazy after I’d finished a particular load, to find I’d missed something that was overlooked. It was especially frustrating if someone needed the missed item and it was still dirty.


Sorting and Organising Dirty Laundry 002


A few tips that help make this work for my family:


  • I typically wash in cold water, using the same cycle for all washes because we have fairly hard-wearing, basic clothing that doesn’t need extra special treatment. I will share in future posts, though how I care for delicates, silks, woollen jumpers, stains and things like that.


  • We don’t have laundry baskets in any bedrooms or bathrooms. This saves space in those rooms, as the baskets are one less thing to clutter the spaces. It prevents smelly odours if wet or damp clothing is left in a basket that gets overlooked for a couple of days. It stops clothes from “stockpiling” in baskets, which is overwhelming when it all hits the laundry at once and finally, the need to empty these baskets is one less task that needs to be done.


  • The kids (and hubby) have been trained from a young age to put their clothes to be washed straight in the laundry. I’ve never made it a habit to go from room to room collecting dirty laundry … if it’s not in the laundry, it doesn’t get washed.


  • Being a family of 5 we’ve always had a lot of washing, so I’ve always had set days that I do certain loads, taking into account our family routine and when clothes are needed to be worn again. It’s the kids’ responsibility to be aware of the routine (which is always displayed in the laundry) and to make sure their clothes are in the correct baskets to be washed in time for when the load is run.


  • I also taught the kids (and hubby) it was their responsibility to empty pockets on shirts, pants, dresses, skirts, uniforms, etc. This may sound tough but I’ve always worked part-time (and still do) and I really don’t have time to check every pocket. You’ll only need to wash a note, usb or other important item once for them to get the message.


  • You may or may not also want another tub for towels. I generally take the towels straight off the hanging rails and put them in the machine. I do worry about leaving damp or wet towels sitting around in a basket or tub because they will begin to smell and the dampness is a breeding ground for mould and bacteria.


  • Sheets go in one of the tubs until I have enough for a full load. All the beds have at least two sets of sheets for each season (2 sets of summer sheets and 2 sets of winter flannalette sheets) so when I take a set off to be washed I make the bed with a new set straight away.


Sorting and Organising Dirty Laundry 003


What I love about this system:


  • It saves me time, is super easy and saves my sanity.


  • The tubs (or baskets) work better for me than a drawer system with mesh/wire baskets because when the load is done, I put the wet items back into the plastic tub and use this to carry them to the clothes line to hang out. This eliminates the need for an extra clothes basket, which saves space.


  • This system is a great use of “vertical space” and takes up no more room than a single clothes basket. It works for my family because my girls are now older and taller and can reach all four plastic tubs. If you have smaller children in your home, this system could still work but you may need wider shelves that allow you to stack 2 tubs on one shelf side-by-side and 2 tubs on another shelf side-by-side so the littlies can reach all 4 tubs.


  • The tubs are lightweight and easy to move around. They sit freely on the shelf, won’t slip off or be accidentally pulled off drawer tracks and have no sharp, hard edges.


  • The tubs aren’t see-through which looks neater, reduces visible clutter, and the lovely colour helps to brighten the laundry.


  • With everything pre-sorted, it also makes it easy for me to ask one of the kids to put a particular load on without any worry that something might end up in the wrong colour load and discolour other items.


I purchased the shelves and the plastic tubs from Howards Storage. Other retailers would have similar products or, if you have a handy hubby, he could maybe build something. You may not even have to buy or make shelves. If you’re linen cupboard is fairly large, you could use 3, 4 or 5 baskets to create a similar system … it’s really a case of doing what works for you and your family.

This system has worked well for my family for many years. It saves me loads of time and involves the kids (and hubby) to help create a smooth-running household. It passes on some responsibility to the kids, teaching them to be aware of workloads and that their actions (or inaction) can contribute to making someone else’s life harder of easier … great life skills!

In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing some fantastic Laundry Labels that I’m working on at the moment and these will be available to download totally free!

So tell me, do you only use a single wash basket and have you ever thought about how much time you spend sorting clothes to be washed?

Leave a Comment