Overcoming the Organizational Hassles of Apartment Living Part 1: Simplifying Your Laundry Routine

I have lived in apartments for the past thirteen years.  Whether it was in college in Maine or various places throughout Boston, with roommates, significant others or alone.  Apartment living has many perks, never having to shovel (I’m looking at you winter of 2015), landlords are responsible for fixing anything that breaks, and sometimes a drastically smaller financial responsibility.  However, apartment living comes with its share of down sides as well.

Often, apartments are too small, don’t have enough storage, the closets are tiny or nonexistent, and off-site or shared laundry facilities are a major hassle.    I’ve dealt with all of these issues over the past thirteen years and I imagine many of you are having some of the same experiences.  I’m using the word apartment, but the same principles can be applied to dorm rooms, condos or even retirement housing.

In this three-part series, I’m going to offer all the tips, tricks and products I’ve discovered over the years to help combat some of the most common problems encountered with apartment living.  This month it’s all about simplifying your laundry routine.  Next month, we’ll tackle those tiny, weirdly shaped closets and pantries, and the general lack of storage in apartments.  Finally, we’ll address all that stuff you’re storing away for your next or future home.

Let’s face it, laundry isn’t a chore many people enjoy, regardless of the size of your home or size of your family.  However, laundry in apartments can be especially daunting.  I’ve been lucky over the years to usually have a laundry facility in my apartment building, although sometimes several floors away and shared by other tenants.  I’ve also had to make the trek to the laundromat down the street on more than one occasion.  No matter what your specific situation, simplifying your laundry routine is paramount in making the task less overwhelming and dare I say, enjoyable.

Tip #1: Sort your clothes right when you take them off.

Sort your clothes into separate hampers or baskets according to what gets washed with what right when you take it off.  Sorting clothes immediately takes the same number of steps as shoving everything into one hamper, the difference comes when you go to wash the clothes.  Instead of taking everything out of one hamper and sorting it on your bedroom floor, usually leaving piles of dirty clothes to sit there for who knows how long, the task is already done.  When it’s time to do a load of laundry, you grab the load you want to wash, the other dirty clothes are still sorted in their own baskets and out of the way, and you know everything going into the washer can be washed together because it’s already been sorted.  No more pink tinged whites when you miss that one red sock!

Personally, I use three hampers, one for darks, one for whites and one for sheets and towels.  Some people like to add a fourth for light colored clothing or delicates.  I love the laundry baskets from The Container Store pictured below.  They stack on top of each other while still leaving space to place items in the lower baskets without unstacking.  They utilize the vertical space in your home and save floor space, which can be especially important in apartments.  The baskets are lightweight, so they are easy to carry to and from the washer no matter how far away, and each basket holds about the same amount of clothes as the average washing machine.

Tip #2: Bring the hamper or basket with you to the washing machine.

Many times in apartments, the washing machine is in the basement, down the hall, or even outside the home.  Carrying a loose pile of clothing just isn’t practical.  When it’s time to do a load of laundry, grab the load you want to wash and bring it right to the washing machine, basket and all.  This way, no clothes get dropped along the way, no matter how far away the washing machine is.  Invest in baskets that are lightweight and easy to carry.  If you are going to a laundromat, make sure the baskets fit in your car.

Once you load the clothes into the washer, leave the basket next to the washing machine.  That way, it will be right where you need it when it’s time to transfer the clothes from the washer to the dryer.  When the clothes come out of the dryer, they go right back into the basket to be easily transported to where they will be folded and put away.  No more running back and forth with armfuls of clean clothes!

Tip #3: Gather all laundry supplies together and store in one location.

In apartments, the laundry facilities are often shared with other tenants.  Therefore, you are unable to store your laundry supplies in this common area.  Instead, designate a spot in your home to store the laundry detergent, bleach, stain stick and dryer sheets together in one location.  Don’t forget about the quarters if you have a coin-op machine.  If possible, choose a location that you will see on your way to the laundry room to serve as a visual reminder.

Consider corralling your supplies into a tote that can be easily transported to and from the laundry room.  When it’s time to do a load of laundry, grab your hamper of clothes and your tote of supplies and bring both with you to the laundry room.  If everything is stored together, you’ll have everything you need to do a load of laundry without making unnecessary trips back and forth for forgotten items.  When you’re done with the laundry, put the tote of supplies back in the same location for next time.

Tip #4: Use a timer to stay on task.

How many times have you started a load of laundry only to remember about it hours or even days later?  When you finally go to move the clothes to the dryer they’ve been damp for so long they’re starting to get that musty smell, yuck!  Also, when sharing a laundry room with other people, there’s always the chance of other tenants removing clothes left too long in the washer or dryer to start their own load.  No one likes their clothes sitting out for the world to see or falling all over the laundry room floor.  Setting a timer with an auditory cue can help prevent these scenarios.

The average washing machine takes about an hour to complete a wash cycle.  Of course, this time can vary depending on the model of washer and dryer you’re using, or which cycle you choose.  A little trial and error may be necessary to determine the correct amount of time, but an hour is a good place to start.  Once you’ve started the wash or dry cycle, start the timer and go about your daily routines.  When the timer goes off, move your clothes from the washer to the dryer or remove your clothes from the dryer.  Setting a timer with an auditory cue keeps you on track, prevents you from forgetting about loads you’ve started, saves time, and shows respect to other people waiting to use the machines.  Laundry that used to take all day can now be completed in half the time!

Tip #5: Fold and put away your clean clothes as soon as possible.

                Once you remove your clothes from the dryer, bring them to where they will be folded.  Try to fold them as soon as possible while you are still in laundry mode and motivated to do so.  No need to wait for all laundry to be done, you can fold as you’re waiting for other loads to finish drying, thereby cutting the task into more manageable parts.  Clean clothes left in baskets too long tend to stay there, getting wrinkled and potentially getting mixed back in with dirty clothes.  No one wants to spend time rewashing clean clothes or doing unnecessary ironing.

Most apartment laundry facilities don’t have a designated area for laundry folding and if they do it’s usually shared by other people.  I recommend using the flat surface of your made bed for laundry folding.  There is plenty of space to spread out and create piles according to family member or drawer where clothes will be returned to.  Just be sure to put the piles away once they are folded so your bed is clear at bedtime.

There you have it, five ways to simplify your laundry routine.  Although these tips were intended to help overcome some of the specific challenges of doing laundry in an apartment, they can be applied to routines in most homes to simplify and streamline the process.  You no longer have to dread laundry day!

Check in next month for part two of the apartment living series.  It’s all about closets and pantries, especially the tiny, odd shaped, non-existent ones that often come with apartment living.