Laundry: the Minimalist Way

Laundry: such a daunting word to so many people. It’s that necessary task that most of us dread because it seems like there’s always a mountain of it and it’s impossible to get to the bottom of it.

I use to be completely swamped by my family’s never ending mountain of laundry. So much so, that I would go to do it, feel overwhelmed by the amount that needed to be done, and then quickly leave the laundry room to go do a more outcome-promising task. We would run out of clothes to wear once everything was dirty. I went out and bought myself 20 pairs of socks because I never seemed to have any in my drawer. Just like all the other areas in my life, I was defeated by the amount of stuff I had in my laundry pile. Even though I had way more articles of clothing for the family back in that day, we never seemed to have anything clean to wear. The task of laundry was overbearing, and it needed to be simplified.

In the same way I attempted to declutter my house by organizing the large amount of stuff better, I also tried to make my laundry more manageable. I came up with a plan that looked like this: On Monday I’ll wash my clothes. On Tuesday, I’ll wash my husband’s clothes. On Wednesday, I’ll wash towels. Etc. But like everything else in life, organizing all the stuff still meant dealing with all the stuff. It was STILL an overwhelming task.

To simplify your laundry, you must simplify what goes IN your laundry. Here’s some things to think about:

Clothing:

-The best place to start is to get rid of a lot of it! I have already laid out a plan for a 50 Item Wardrobe that you can follow to create your own small, but functional and versatile minimalist wardrobe. Not having excess clothing means you won’t be tempted to just keep pulling more clothes out to wear instead of washing what you’ve already worn. Your pile of laundry can only get so big.

-Don’t assume something is dirty just because you’ve worn it! When you take clothing off, examine each piece to see if it’s visibly dirty. If it’s not, do the sniff test. If it looks and smells okay, put it back in the closet to wear another day! I will wear pants for a few days before I decide to throw them in the hamper and shirts sometimes twice if they don’t smell bad. I help my children examine their clothes each night too.

-When you purchase new clothing, pay attention to the care instructions and shop for clothing that is simple to care for and doesn’t require hand washing or dry cleaning. Also, consider buying wrinkle free shirts. I haven’t ironed in years and I don’t miss it.

Sheets and Towels:

Again, the best way to simplify is to get rid of excess. Each of my family members has two towels and there are two hand towels for each bathroom. Same with sheets. When I went through my kitchen, I found that I had a whole lot of kitchen towels and dish rags. I weeded out the majority of these and only kept a few. If you have few items to wash, you are able to get on top of your laundry. And if you are on top of your laundry, you need fewer things! It’s the beautiful circle of simplicity.

Cloth Diapers:

If you have babies and use cloth diapers like we do, consider buying prefolds and covers instead of all-in-ones. This way, you can buy enough of the inexpensive prefolds to last a week and fewer of the more expensive covers. One load of cloth diapers a week is not daunting to most.

Once you have lessened the items in your home that need to be washed regularly, you will notice the difference.

The Method

I only wash two loads of clothes laundry a week for my family of five. Granted, when my kids are older and their clothes larger, this may increase slightly. On Wednesday I collect our family’s dirty clothes, throw them in the machine, and usually have room to wash towels as well in that same load. Sometimes, if I’m washing sheets, I’ll do the towels in a separate load along with the sheets and dish towels and rags. All of our clothes are machine washable which makes it easy. Also, I don’t separate darks and lights unless I have a brand new item. Most clothes don’t bleed after the first couple washes, especially in cold water and make this an unnecessary step. Once the load is done washing, I dry it (some by line and some in the dryer) and then fold and put away as soon as possible. I stopped sticking a load of clean, unfolded clothes in a basket because I realized when I do this, they tend to end up sitting there a few days instead of getting folded and put away right away. Now I put them on my sofa…an inconvenient place to just let them sit!

On Saturday (of course, these are just the days I chose, you could pick any day of the week!) I do one more load of clothing for the family and a load of cloth diapers. And beyond special circumstances, that’s IT! The other days of the week I don’t even think about laundry.  And even though we have way less items of clothes in our wardrobes, we’re only ever out of about 3 shirts and a pair or two of pants before everything gets washed again!

So to sum up my laundry per week:

-2 loads of clothes (for a family of 5)

-1 load of sheets/towels

-1 load of cloth diapers

That doesn’t sound like a mountain! Nor does it feel like one. I am able to get rid of the 20 pair of socks I bought because I only ever wear about three pair before those come through the wash and are in my drawer clean again! This summary is a guideline and will look different for each person/family depending on size, age of children, etc.

I also use minimal supplies when it comes to washing laundry. This is not only simple but also saves a great deal of money!

Here’s what I use:

Soap Nuts are very inexpensive and completely natural. We use these to wash our laundry, including cloth diapers, and they work fabulously! They are very simple to use. Wellness Mama has a great article about soap nuts that you can read here. We prefer to cook a large batch of liquid soap  with the nuts and freeze them in ice trays. One cube per load. 15 soap nuts makes about 60 loads!

Dryer balls eliminate the need for dryer sheets and cut down your dry time up to 40-50%! You can use them over and over again. I made wool ones that work wonderfully.

That’s it! I’ve eliminated detergents, dryer sheets, softeners, stain removers, etc.

Laundry doesn’t own me anymore thanks to simplifying this area of my life and living with less. I hope this provides ideas to make your mountain into a manageable size and that you enjoy the freedom that brings.

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16 comments

  1. I love this post! And your blog is just lovely. 🙂 I can’t wait to read more. Minimalism has always been the lifestyle I’ve wanted, but I’ve had a hard time articulating that to my husband. I didn’t realize minimalism was a “thing” until I started researching it about a year ago. Thank you for these wonderful tips. I look forward to reading more.

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  2. I bought a bag of soap nuts in March, 2014, and still have half a bag left. They are wonderful, economical and earth-friendly. I will never use regular laundry detergent again. I do use Mrs. Meyers dryer sheets. I throw one in the washer (for clothes that don’t get dried in the dryer) and then put it in the dryer.

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  3. You are so smart! I never have heard of soap nuts and such a great idea. I thought that my making my own detergent was such a great way to go more natural and save money but these soap nuts sound like the perfect way to cut down on clutter and save more time. It takes a little time to make your own detergent – grating the soap bar and then mixing all the other ingredients. So glad I found your blog. Again thanks for taking the time to share.

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  4. Processing laundry is not among my joys in life. I’m with you: it’s so much more bearable when there isn’t a ton to wash! And when the kids get older and have bigger clothes, they can help, which is a different kind of simplifying. 😉

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  5. This is probably the wrong time of year to start, but I’ve decided to really pay attention to what is actually dirty and only throw that in the wash. Of course, in this weather (without A/C) most of my shirts are worth washing! But my skirts…rarely. I can wear them for a week at least.

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  6. […] And finally a few packs I drink daily – I tend to have 3 different kinds a day to keep it interesting. My favourite at the moment is Indian Tulsi Green Tea by the way. Amazon it! Amazing! When I told my husband about my endeavour to remove the excess in minimalist style he said to keep some normal tea for guest not just my weird stuff (meaning green tea). I think he didn’t realise I also drink peppermint, camomile and black tea so that is enough choice for guests. Note to guests: if you are coming to stay longer than a day and you have specific requests. Happy to buy it just let me know I cannot keep a cupboard full on the off chance situation.   Now my teas have been reduced to this:     Why did I keep all the extra bits?    – disposing of gifts would lead to guilt – disposing of something I just bought would feel like a waste – disposing of something I don’t like would feel like a waste and someone else might like it   All those fears are meaningless. I haven’t lost a single ounce of sleep since I did the the deed of throwing the excess out. Also, the joy of seeing my selection when I open the cupboard and being able to take a tea bag without 7 packs falling out is totally worth it!   I’ve learned my lesson and I hope it inspires you to also keep it simple!   Some great ideas, inspiration and wisdom to structure where I apply the 5 minutes:    http://bemorewithless.com/25/ @CourtneyCarver http://bemorewithless.com/begin/ @CourtneyCarver http://nosidebar.com/decluttering-your-home/#comment-136 @hilarybarnett https://simplenotplain.wordpress.com/2015/05/04/wardrobe/ https://simplenotplain.wordpress.com/2015/06/13/laundry-the-minimalist-way/ […]

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  7. I think I need to post on this topic too! When I first moved into my current apartment I made the decision to only buy white bedding, bath/kitchen towels and terry cloth rugs that are color fast, that way I can throw all these into the same load and wash with hot water and sometimes bleach for really tough stains. And only white or black socks, so that I don’t have to worry about finding the matching pair. Thanks for the post.

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  8. Just found your site. Love it! I have a question… What did you do with all your things when you cut back? The sheets, clothes, etc. I want to minimize but I hate just throwing away things. Goodwill is overloaded with clothing. Do you have any suggestions for outlets that are the norm?

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  9. I’ve learn some good stuff here. Definitely value bookmarking for revisiting.

    I surprise how so much effort you set to make this sort of excellent informative web site.

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  10. Great tips! The number one thing that reduced the amount of laundry I do is, I stopped doing my husband’s laundry! I don’t know why I ever started doing it in the first place. I still do most of the kids’ and household laundry, but once my kids are old enough, they will also be responsible for doing their own.

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