How to Stay on Top of Laundry

Okay, I don’t need any smart alecky remarks telling  me to pile it up and sit on it. My husband beat you to it!
Having a big family- there always seems to be so much laundry. How do you keep it under control? Here are my three main goals:

  • A minimal amount of clothing
  • Wear something more than once
  • Pick tops and bottoms that can be mixed and matched
I don’t regulate the amount of clothing my teenagers have. Perhaps I would struggle with that more if they were girls, but right now, they do well. They are responsible for washing their own clothes. I don’t set the time, or remind them. (They only have a couple years left at home, so I figure they need to notice when they are running out of clothes and when they need to wash more.)

Brian and I have both gone through our clothing, so our wardrobe is quite limited. We dress simply and have a fairly minimal amount of clothes. We wash clothes about once a week, 2 loads- one light, one dark.
With my little ones, I do limit clothing. They have enough to last 5 days. When they change to PJs at night, they have to put their clothes in the washer. They do not have hampers.
During the day we toss in towels, washrags and cloth napkins. The washer is run, either when it is full or when someone needs to wash a load of their own clothes. Typically it gets washed at least once a day, in the afternoon. We pile the clean clothes on the couch and sort them right away. The little ones are in charge of folding wash rags, cloth napkins and putting their clothes away.

Our typical load of laundry will look like this:

80% belonging to one person
15% household laundry
5% small children’s laundry

We have color coded bath towels and wash them once a week.

I keep one set spare sheets for the older boys (twin), so they rotate washing sheets, or just wash and put back on the same day. I have one spare set for the master bedroom and then 3 spare mattress covers/sheets for the toddler beds. There have been times when I have had to strip the same bed several times during the night, so I don’t want to be caught without sheets for them.
And as I mention when I discussed Family Organization: Mark a “dot” on the tags in birth order. Oldest child has 1 dot, 2nd child has 2 dots, 3rd child as 3 dots, etc. If something is passed down, you can just add another dot to the tag. People who don’t dress the kids regularly can easily sort out who’s is who’s.
How do you stay on top of the laundry at your house? Leave a comment and give me your suggestions!

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About Rachel Jones

Hi there! I’m Rachel Jones, and I founded Nourishing Minimalism in 2012 at the beginning of my minimalist journey. If you're looking for encouragement in your journey, I created a FREE Facebook Group - feel free to join me there: Nourishing Minimalism Facebook Group and I share videos each week on YouTube


  1. Sharon M on 04/22/2013 at 11:07 pm

    I don’t have any suggestions bc apparently we do some of the same things to keep on top of laundry. The best thing I’ve done is I teaching my girls to do their own laundry when they were 9, 12 and 15. It was out of necessity bc I had to go to work. Now, I’m raising 2 grandkids, ages 6 & 9, boy & girl, and don’t have as much laundry, but I am also trying to be conservative with money (ie: electric and water bill) and my own personal energy. Like you the towels get washed at the end of the week and we wear our jeans more than once; shirts & underwear go in the laundry basket each day. By the end of the week, we usually have 2 loads as well, 1 light and 1 dark and about every other week a load of sheets. I always wash in cold water and only wash full loads. I’m also making my own detergent at a cost of approximately $1.00 a month! Been doing that for almost a year. Found a really simple and easy recipe…no grating and cooking of soap for me! I’m going to start going thru our clothes and getting rid of more bc right now, even though we only wear a small percentage of the clothes, we still have way too much! I do need to work on folding and putting away clothes right away though. Right now I have 2 baskets of clothes, including towels, etc waiting to be done. 🙂

    • Rachel on 04/23/2013 at 1:13 pm

      Sounds like you have a good routine Sharon! I dislike folding as well, which is why we all participate in it. Makes it go much faster.
      I made homemade soap for years and now I use soap nuts, which I love. But would you mind sharing the recipe you found that doesn’t take grating and cooking?

    • Sarah Mueller on 04/28/2013 at 2:58 am

      I think it’s awesome that your teens are responsible or their own laundry. My two older boys (12 and 9) are almost there. My favorite tip is to do loads by person or room as much as possible. I hate putting away 27 little piles of laundry so I usually do the laundry from each bedroom once a week.

      I wrote a blog post about my laundry system a couple weeks ago.

  2. Anonymous on 05/13/2013 at 10:22 pm

    ahh love the idea of minimalist clothing…I have two pre-teen girls and it will be a stuggle to get them to catch on board..maybe my husband too? Any thoughts on persuasion would be so welcomed. I read the first comment by Sharon and thought she is right…we do a lot of wearing more then once but we do seem to go back to our favorites so why have more? Just get rid of it.
    What does anyone think of the idea of a box….you know for every item the girls purchase weather it be thrift or other wise….one item has to go out? What would be the magic number of outfits? Weeks worth of jeans, shorts, t-shirts and then you would have to keep the clothes, shirts for school activities etc…. Anyone with more brain powe then I can put this to paper pen chart and I’d gladly take it.

  3. Anonymous on 07/19/2013 at 4:34 pm


  4. Anonymous on 08/07/2013 at 11:34 pm

    The best advice I can give for a large family is to have a sorter basket. The kids put their laundry in the sorter when they take it off. The sorting is then already done. Every morning, we start a load of laundry. When the kids get home from school, they put it in the dryer. After dinner, we all fold the laundry together.

  5. snjhal on 09/02/2013 at 8:56 am

    thanks for a great information.

  6. Stephanie @ Life, Unexpectedly on 09/04/2014 at 5:19 pm

    We have three hampers, one with underwear and towels, one for light colors, and one for dark colors. When a hamper gets full, I wash, about 4 – 5 loads a week. Hubby and I still do the laundry for everyone as the girls are too young to do it themselves, but they are responsible for sorting their dirty clothes into the hampers. We try to minimize laundry by wearing jammies or bottoms more than once (unless they are dirty). Thank you very much for sharing your tips!

  7. Barb McC on 05/05/2016 at 2:12 pm

    I’m an empty nester now, but the thought of doing laundry on a daily basis back when my kids were young would have made me want to pull the covers over my head. The kids had separate hampers for lights and darks – yes, preschoolers can sort their dirty clothes. I did their laundry once a week, along with towels and sheets, and my and my husband’s clothes. As soon as they were tall enough to see into the washing machine, they started doing their own laundry. As I recall, this was about age 8.

  8. Kate on 05/08/2017 at 11:11 am

    The best thing we did was to get rid of the laundry hampers in everybody’s rooms (excluding my elderly mother’s) and simply start hauling every day clothes to the laundry room at the end of each day. The sorter bin is in there and the nice thing about that is that when one bin is full, you can see it immediately and do a load before it has time to pile up. Also, I freely admit that I wear the same pants every day to work for four days (I only work Monday-Thursday) and even wear my gym clothes twice (with a good airing in between) before throwing them into the wash. We replace towels & sheets once a week and wash cloths every day. I use the delay function on the washer a lot now to start a load before going to work so it will wash just before I get home, at which time I throw it in the dryer and then finish it up immediately. It means that we’re doing at least a load every day, but I’d much rather do a load of laundry every day, than have four or five loads to do on the weekend.

  9. Lindsay Cook on 05/15/2017 at 3:04 pm

    I love the idea of the dots to sort the kids clothes! Brilliant!

  10. […] While my family generally still has the same amount of clothing, lessening mine has been incredible.  If your looking for some practical tips for staying on top of the laundry check out this post on Nourishing Minimalism. […]

  11. Olivia on 02/06/2019 at 11:21 am

    colour coded towels is actually a great idea. The pile of dirty towels always seems to cause arguments in our house , since noone wants to take responsibility for who’s used them, with coulour coded that problem could be avoided!

  12. Anne on 03/11/2019 at 10:18 pm

    When I was single and lived in an apartment that didn’t have a washer or dryer, I went to the laundromat every Saturday. I would put my wash in a few washers and go to the deli next door for a bagel and to read the paper. I would return to the laundromat and put the wet clothes in a couple of dryers. When they were dry, I would fold them or put them on hangers. I would bring the clothes home and put them away. Life was easy. However, many people felt sorry for me since I didn’t have a washer. I frequently think about how wrong they were as my laundry piles up now that I have a washer. Many times less is more.

  13. Asom on 09/25/2019 at 4:19 pm

    I have five girls. Laundry stays in the laundry room. My children have been assigned a color in which their baskets (and anything else we are able to buy in their colors), I toss their clothes in their baskets and everything else goes in one basket for me (or someone else) to take care of like my laundry, my spouses laundry towels, etc… it saves a lot of time and it is their responsibility to make sure their clothes or folded… or not, but they cannot complain about wrinkles… this was my game changer. I even made it happen in a house that wasn’t built that way, and made it happen, because all the clean laundry inevitably ended up on the floors and being waste washed one more time😢

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