Dear Home-Ec 101,
I have a dilemma. I find my bedroom becoming cluttered very quickly with clothes that are “too clean to wash” yet “not clean enough to put away”. I was a single mom for many years, going to school or working, sometimes more than one job, and as a result, I didn’t want to spend more time on laundry than I had to. I’d wear clothes until they were visibly dirty, overly wrinkled, or they became… umm… odiferous.
When I was a single parent, that didn’t take as long as it does now! Now, I’m married and have one teen at home (who is responsible for his own laundry). I work at home caring for my elderly parents, and the piles of “not clean, not dirty” clothes are overwhelming in our bedroom and my parents’! Sometimes, items in the pile have to be washed simply because they have been there so long, they’ve become wrinkled.
What do other people do with their clothes? Do they wash every item, every time they wear it? Do they wear the same thing until it needs to be washed? Do they hang up or fold and put away slacks and jeans and tops that have been worn but aren’t dirty?
Help me get out from under this heap! If you need something cleaned, I’m your girl. I’m not a very physically organized person, and “stuff” is my great foe.
I’ll let you in on a secret, I’m a bit disorganized, too. Ok I struggle a lot with organization, but I do try. I tend to be a perfectionist control freak -no comments from the peanut gallery, thank you very much- about my own space, which in a weird cruel twist of fate means stuff often piles up as I wait for the “right” time to take care of something. It takes a huge amount of -wait for it, I’m about to say a dirty word- self-discipline for me to do the daily upkeep that organization requires.
When I read your dilemma my first thought is that perhaps you have too much clothing.
Generally speaking those of us who live in relatively affluent Western cultures have too much stuff and that stuff causes misery. If we aren’t careful we tend to enter a cycle where we work to buy things and then work to take care of our things and then work to buy more things to replace the things that fell apart due to neglect. I’m tired just thinking about it. (You all know that this is where some people are going to tell me that they live with exactly 3 pieces of clothing not including their underwear and that they have no idea what I’m talking about, right?)
So outside of those people who claim to have 3 items of clothing, what are you to do?
Don’t pile your clothing.
Piles are the enemy.
Hang everything you possibly can, ESPECIALLY the items that have been worn but aren’t ready for washing. If you can’t hang everything, then you must find storage for out of season clothing and I don’t mean a pile in the corner of your room. Space saver bags, a box under the bed, a box in the attic, anywhere except a pile that’s going to get knocked over and them trampled on.
Hanging allows clothing to dry thoroughly, preventing that musty now I have to wash it condition.
Go into your closet(s) right now and hang everything backwards on the bar.
As you wear items and wash them, hang them the normal way on the leftmost side of the bar. Just keep shoving the stuff hanging backwards toward the right. Over six months or a year (depending on your climate) you’re going to get a better idea of the clothing you actually wear. Donate or consign the rest and do not feel guilty about it.
Just let it go. Someone else needs that item much more than you.
Don’t hang onto items for “when I lose ten pounds” and certainly don’t hang onto items “in case I gain ten pounds.”
Just let it go.
While you’re undergoing the great clothing weed out, do not buy more clothing. If there is an item you cannot pass up, something in your closet has to leave the house before that item can be introduced to your wardrobe.
This isn’t an overnight fix, but over time you will notice a significant reduction in the amount of laundry done in your home.
Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.