You Can Tackle the Laundry

...and have time and energy to spare. Try these smart, helpful tips from real women and experts who tackled the ghastly scenarios you posed to us in a recent survey.

Photo by Christopher Griffith

Finding the Time (and the Dirty Clothes)

The first big challenge with laundry is simply carving out the right time to do it. (When is better: Tuesday evening or Sunday afternoon? After dinner or before breakfast?) Second to that dilemma is locating the dirty clothes, which tend to accumulate everywhere. (Why, exactly, is a used pot holder under the sofa?) Here, when to do the washables and how to track them down―without losing your marbles.

You don’t have enough hours to do all the laundry from start to finish.
The fix: Break the process up into small tasks that can be undertaken at different times. “I collect clothes in the evening and put them in the washer around 10 p.m.,” says reader Nicole Klemens of Rye, New York. (Experts say it’s generally OK to let clothes sit in the machine overnight.) “I throw them in the dryer when I wake up at 6 a.m. and fold while watching Sports Center at 7 a.m. I never really feel like I’m doing laundry―it’s just part of my daily routine.”

With a large family, you lose your entire weekend to laundry.
The fix: Create a schedule that divvies up the work throughout the week, such as sheets on Monday, dark clothes on Tuesday, and lights on Friday, suggests Cathy Bloch, a mother of three in Bronson, Michigan. Or wash each child’s clothes on a different weekday, suggests Lori Gaskill, a mother of four in Eagle River, Alaska. The best part of such a system? “By Saturday, I don’t have to think about laundry at all,” says Bloch.

Carrying the wash down the stairs is breaking your back. (What genius decided laundry rooms should go in the basement, anyway?)
The fix: One load typically weighs eight pounds, and some bags and baskets hold two or more loads. If your laundry room is a flight or two away, use bags that close at the top and gently roll them down the stairs. Or try a roomy bag or backpack that fits over your shoulder. “It’s more convenient to carry my laundry load downstairs in a huge plastic shopping bag,” says reader Viviane Imperiale of San Francisco. “That way, I can hold the stair railing, which is safer than when I carried a big laundry basket requiring both hands.”

If you prefer a basket, choose a flexible model, which can mold to your body and is easier to schlep than a stiff one. Minimize back strain by holding the basket close to your body at waist level, says Karen Jacobs, a clinical professor of occupational therapy at Boston University.