How to Catch Up on Dirty Laundry

Do you use the "sniff test" to salvage clothes from the dirty pile? Have you bought new clothes instead of doing laundry? Is your home cluttered with laundry piles? Will it take several hours, days, or weeks to get it done? Here's some advice on how to get caught up more efficiently!


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    Find a large area to sort clothes. Move furniture out of the way, if you must. If you can take over a bed or table for sorting, do so.
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    Gather all the laundry into this area. This includes bed and bath linens, dishtowels, slip covers, etc.
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    Prioritize sorting into piles. Start with underwear, socks, and work clothes as top-priority items. Then come favorite items that you wear frequently. If you don't have clean linens for bed and bath to replace the dirty ones, go ahead and prioritize them too.
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    De-prioritize the following into piles: Clothes that don't fit, off-season clothes, clothes that need repair, clothes you wear only when nothing else is handy.
    • Don't forget to come back to these piles. Mend an item if it's a favorite. Get rid of it if it doesn't fit or flatter. If you have a lot of things in this category, chances are that they're just getting in your way, jamming up your drawers and closets, making it harder to put away and find what you do wear. Throw away underwear and socks if they have holes or hopeless stains.
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    Place all these piles into manageable bags that each contain only enough clothes to fill a washing machine. You may need to prioritize the "priority bags," depending on how many piles you have.
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    Do it now! The sooner you start, the sooner you'll finish. The laundry task isn't finished until you've put away the clean clothes. If something doesn't fit or doesn't make you feel great to wear it, then don't bring it back in the home. Or even try a yard sale!


  • Once your priority piles are caught up, continue to schedule persistently and add one or two bags of de-prioritized items with what has now become a normal week's worth of laundry (including linens).
  • Try using clear tall kitchen trash bags for laundry bags. You can see exactly what's in a bag and general rule of thumb is 3/4 full = one regular-sized washing machine load.
  • If you're using bleach (for whites), add bleach after the wash cycle, or before the wash cycle. bleach and laundry detergent do not "mix", and will result in un-clean laundry, since the bleach kills off the detergent.
  • For washing at home, get a cooking timer. Time your wash/drier the first time you use it, and then all loads afterwards, you can set a timer to go off when the load is done.
  • Don't overload the washer, in most cases the drier is bigger than the washer, that's OK.
  • Large "outdoor" garbage/yard clipping bins work good to sort lights, darks, and possibly "colors" if you are a bleach-user.
  • Don't bother folding socks or underwear. Instead, make enough space in your drawers and just sort and dump it in. Who cares if your socks are wrinkled, anyway?
  • As soon as you've successfully completed one round of priority items, schedule another round as soon as possible (within one week or less).
  • Take the clothes to a laundromat where you can wash several loads at one time.
  • If a significant other or children have contributed to the problem, enlist their aid toward the solution.
  • When scheduling laundry, be sure to calculate and include the following time needed for: Traveling to and from the laundromat; washing, drying, and folding; loading and unloading the car (twice); putting clothes away; and, if necessary, ironing.
  • Avoid ironing. As much as possible, read tags before you buy clothing. Save ironing for special occasions or not at all. If you hate ironing and frequently have to wear pressed clothing, as for business, consider taking it to a dry cleaner or laundry shop to have it done.
  • Put aside clothes that need mending - next to the television where you can sew a button or stitch a seam during commercials.
  • Wash, rinse, repeat!


  • If you wash only a week's worth of clothes and wait a week (or more) before washing another load, you will never catch up!
  • Stop beating yourself up. This problem didn't happen overnight and it won't be resolved that soon either.
  • Under no circumstances are you to add items to any of the already sorted and bagged piles during this process. As soon as you undress, start a new bag to sort at the end of the week.
  • Avoid weekends at the laundromat. They are usually crowded and you may find yourself waiting for machines.
  • Only bleach whites; socks, underwear, and t-shirts.
  • Until you've caught up on the priority piles, don't bother washing shorts and tank-tops in November; likewise for sweaters in June.
  • Stop fretting over bags of laundry when guests stop over. Your home was already cluttered with laundry!

Things You'll Need

  • A large area to sort piles
  • Several laundry bags
  • Laundry detergent, fabric softener, stain remover, etc.
  • Quarters for laundromat machines (if you are going to the Laundromat)
  • Time

Article Info

Categories: Laundry