When we first got married (20 years ago this year!), I have to say that – in the laundry department – we would have scored very badly on expertise (and on attention to detail).
If our washing had entered Eurovision, our score would have been “null points”.
As a couple, we were laundry novices, in spite of me having been trained the Swiss way as an au-pair and both of us having done our own washing at university.
How we did our laundry in the old days
We first lived in a small rented flat, with no garden. So washing and drying anything involved the use of:
- washing machine
- tumble dryer
- clothes horse
We owned all of the above, but here’s the reality:
Everything went in the washing machine together. Everything got tumble-dried together. Everything ended up in a heated ball of tangled washing.
Fast-forward 20 years and things are so much better.
Here’s how we keep on top of our laundry and how we keep it simple.
Divide and conquer
Our laundry arrives in front of the washing machine, mainly via the washing basket (sometimes straight out of sports bags) in its usual mixed-up jumble. This is where the sorting starts.
We sort by type to bring bedding together, towels together, dark items, coloured items, whites, delicates etc.
I don’t own anything that needs hand washing. Most often, we use a quick wash programme that’s just half an hour; that gets different washes done speedily. Some of the delicate programmes take a little longer. We only do a hot wash if we really need to. That’s better for the environment.
I’d like to tell you that I’m outside every morning, pegging out my washing in the garden. However, those of you who follow my Instagram account will know that we actually live in the land of sunshine and showers, so leaving the washing on the line at 07:30 and hoping it will have been gently wind-blown dry by 17:30 is somewhat optimistic. When we have a spell of good weather, we do dry washing outside, but throughout 3/4 of the year, we turn to indoor drying methods.
I use the tumble dryer, but only for certain items such towels or bedding that can tolerate this and which don’t dry well on the clothes horse.
I do not tumble dry clothes, principally because it’s bad for the longevity of the fabric but I am also mindful of how much electricity the tumble dryer uses.
We have a condenser dryer, which means I can salvage the water in the tank for re-use. Tumble dryer water does fine for mopping the floor. We’ve even used it for watering the back garden with no problems.
For clothes (and for items such as pure cotton duvet covers), we have two drying methods.
Heated clothes horse/air dryer
This is a wonderful machine! It holds more than one load of washing, is cheap to run and does a very good job. It’s an investment – and you need space to place an item like this – but I wish I’d got one of these sooner.
Retractable wall-mounted dryer
This is great when you have a small amount to dry; ours is above a radiator so the clothes benefit when the heating is on. My Onjenu dresses go perfectly on this dryer. All I need to do is hang them up, then transfer them to the wardrobe when dry – no creasing, no ironing. Wear, wash, dry then wear again. Simple!
Once things are dry, we have two baskets into which they go:
- Items to be ironed (as few as possible)
- Items to be smoothed, folded and put away (which don’t stay here for long)
Basket 1 gets lots of attention on Sunday, as this is my ironing day when I can listen to all my favourite podcasts and do my ironing right next to the wardrobes where the clothes are to hang. Occasionally, I’ll whip out the ironing board if I need to something mid-week, but normally this isn’t necessary.
Basket 2 is a breeding ground for things like towels, tea-towels, e-cloths, sports kit etc. The key to the success of this is keep things moving. As soon as there are a few items in there, we fish them out, fold, then put away.
I am self-appointed Head of Sorting and Folding, after which I leave little “gifts” on the island in the kitchen (piles of washing to put away) or on the bed of the owner.
I’ve recently switched to a US product called ECOS. It’s a plant-based liquid detergent that is ultra-concentrated; a little goes a very long way. Even better, its chunky container fits perfectly in my cupboard. Plus, I’ll be able to recycle the bottle when all the product is used up.
I do use Vanish stain remover gel for stubborn stains, but have also experimented with undiluted white vinegar, which works reasonably well on lightly soiled items.
Tumble dryer balls are also the order of the day for improved efficiency.
Keep on top of it
The important thing is not to let things mount up. This does happen from time to time and the sight of what I call ‘Wishy Washy’s Laundry’ makes my heart sink.
So, we keep it going with a little and often approach. This way, we avoid overwhelm and no-one ever runs out of anything to wear (even when I maintain a pared-down wardrobe, Project 333 style).
What’s the benefit?
Taking a systematic approach to a necessary chore such as the laundry helps keep things simple. By establishing a routine, things just fall into place and you don’t have to think about it any more. This way, your time is freed up to do the things you’d rather spend time doing. Like I said in a previous post, that’s the minimalist way!
What laundry tips do you have? Any washing tips or laundry hacks? Please leave a comment in the reply section below!
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