Laundry Tips from an Undomestic Mama

A bit off topic and uncreative for a post, but it’s been on my mama-mind.


So, I’m not very domestic.  SURPRISE!

Like many of us, I do feel a slight tug to domesticity.  More of an “I wish/I wanna”.   I pine for my home to look as tidy and organized as an IKEA catalog.  I measure myself against other mamas and usually come away feeling a bit of a failure.

But let’s face it – I have two kids that mostly inherited my clothes-flinging, mess-leaving habits.    And I like my time on the internet.  Alot. 🙂

I’m a “clean before company” kind of girl.   A closet-stasher.   A “leave the empty TP roll in the basket on top of the toilet where they collect” woman.  A “clean the dinner mess hours/days AFTER the meal” mama. A “leave the stickers on the floor and mop over ’em” kind of person.


Enter:  NESTING.

I am a whole new woman when I’m nesting.   Especially as a woman who chooses to birth at home.  I am obsessed with getting the space organized, cleaned, decorated, painted, and ready.   How can you not be? It is, after all, the place you will labor and birth in, whose counters you’ll lean against, whose toilet you’ll puke in, and whose paint and photos you’ll be staring at for hours while trying to focus on breathing down a new life.

I’ve painted and redecorated a bathroom (oddly enough, not the master), all with thrift store finds and household items I’d had.

I’ve helped Jason clean and organize the garage.   I’ve watched Jason install cabinets and a counter top in our laundry room (hear the angels singing? glorious).  I’ve decided to fold all my towels that tri-fold/space saving way and they are neatly tucked in my master linen closet – ready to greet a moments old new baby.   We’ve hung photos and decorations (more to come).   Closets have been cleaned and made orderly.  I keep a decent stock of toilet paper.

The baby’s dresser is tidy and ready, stuffed with clothes and slings and wraps and cloth diapers.  I’ve donated two truckloads of unneeded stuff to Goodwill.  I’ve reorganized our office.  I’ve told my husband “Starting in about 2 weeks, I’m gonna need your help keeping the house tidy every day until baby comes”.  Because, who KNOWS when that might be?  And he has been awesome at doing the dishes each night and bending over to pick up the hundredth Lego.


But, what I REALLY wanted to share with ya’ll is this.  And honestly, I’m a little scared – er embarrassed – to say it.  Like “Who Do I Think I Am??!” kind of embarrassed.

I’ve actually got a handle on laundry.

(Cue angels singing again)


For the first time in my life.

And it’s been almost 6 weeks since I’ve felt I’ve had it under control, so maybe I can consider that a habit?

And I’m doubly embarrassed to admit how simple my technique is.  Because I’m sure all ya’ll domestic divas have been doing this for years.


Background: All of us are clothes flingers.  Off our bodies and onto the floor they usually go.  In the bedrooms, the bathrooms, the living rooms.  Wherever.  Awful.    So not only was our laundry everywhere (what’s clean? what’s not?) but it also contributed to the general MESS.   Also, I was horrid at putting laundry away once it was clean because there was so much of it at a time.


1)      I bought a hamper (not a laundry basket, which I think is an important difference) for every room.  Bathrooms included.   In fact, we have a hamper on each SIDE of our bed – one for me, one for Jason.     I have one in our closet (off the bathroom).  The girls have one in their room and one in their bathroom – which happens to fit nicely concealed under our sink cabinet.    Can I tell you that from day one THIS simple change has made a WORLD of difference? My girls actually put their clothes in the hampers!  And no more clothes on the floor!  And I can – omg – just pick up the hamper and toss the clothes directly into the washer.  Wow.  So silly.  So easy.  (On a side note, we installed a double hook at kid-level in their bathroom and hung their hooded towels on them so they can actually REACH to take down and hang up their towels! Why didn’t we do this years ago?)

2)     Well, I’ve always done this and I admit – it’s gonna SEND some of you over the edge.   I always wash whites/darks/colors together.   (Gasp!)  It works for me and I’ve never had a problem.  Yeah, some of the t-shirts and socks get dingy and that’s why I have bleach.  But, it cuts down on sorting and makes a hamper-dump SO easy.    Now that I feel organized with laundry, I guess I could go the extra step to sort them.  But let’s not get in over our heads, shall we?

3)     Since I do all colors together, I also just leave the lid to the washer open so that I can toss in rouge towels and clothing when I pass the laundry room.   Bonus!

4)     Because all the laundry is contained, I now do one load every night or two.   This has done two amazing things for me:   I actually am inclined to put the laundry AWAY now that it’s of a manageable size.    And I’m realizing how little clothing we really need, as I tend to be washing mostly the same things.   That alone has inspired me to get rid of more clothing.  I also have one of these garment racks on wheels so that I can hang laundry up all at once (and be in the living room with my family while I do it) and then just wheel it into my closet and transfer clothing when I’m done.  Voila!

5)     I told Jason I wanted to “pimp the laundry room” to help me enjoy the routine of laundry more.  So, step one was cabinets and a countertop and the next step will be paint, a hanging rod above the countertops, and some fun hooks (we do have knobs for the doors but haven’t installed them yet).   With the new laundry room cabinets and countertop, I feel like freakin’ royalty.   And these were totally budget friendly.

My creative husband used a trick he’s done before on other home projects – purchased IKEA “over the fridge” cabinets.  So, they are extra deep (but not tall).  The countertop and cabinet doors are actually the cheapest you can purchase at IKEA.  You can see from the photo that he hung them floating and installed the counter on top of them.    I actually haven’t had the opportunity to put anything in them yet (i.e. organize) but the great thing is that they fit laundry baskets inside.   So, I stash empty baskets in there to use in the event we need to toss any misc. dirty laundry into them and those baskets stay hidden.   And the countertop can then always be clean and free to use for folding.

That’s it.   See, not much to it but it feels oh so good.  And frankly, the whole laundry routine takes me WAY less time now then it did before.

Laundry is kind of, almost…(gulp)…a joy now!?


Wait, do I have illusions that I’ll continue to be so organized with laundry?  Nah.  Reality check is that I’ll have a newborn and all that comes with it.  But I feel I’ve got a handle on it at least, that my husband knows the routine, and that my girls have finally been coaxed out of their clothes-flinging habits.

♥ ♥ ♥ So, please share with me your BEST household (EASY) tips.  I’d love to get a handle on other things in my house. ♥ ♥ ♥


15 Comments Add yours

  1. Megan says:

    I don’t have any tips, as my house is as messy as they come. However, I just want to convey my jealousy that your laundry room is on the same floor as all your living space. My basement laundry room (and “laundry room” is stretching it, as it is just my washer and dryer in the unfinished part of my basement with a couple of shelves) makes laundry wholly unappealing. If I ever move it will be to a house with a main or second floor laundry room, that’s for sure. Love that you are feeling some control over the mess; what a great feeling! XOXO

  2. mb says:

    i throw everything down the basement stairs in hopes the laundry gnomes will want to help a mama out.

    hooks. hooks are my answer.

    other than that, i just go with the flow. constant movement, trial and error and change. reduce everything. savor the mess as much as the clean.


  3. Shell says:

    Leigh! Yes, Yes, I am jealous! But also happy for you! As you know, you and I fight some of the same monsters and like you, I feel THIS close to winning the war.

    Here are some of my battle winning tips:
    1. Sheets and Pillow cases. No matter how I tried, I could not keep the linen closet looking tidy. Nice tubs with good lids have solved my problem. First I got rid of all the extras, then I purchased tubs for 1) the master sets 2) the kid sets and 3) the guest sets 4) Smaller tubs for the pillow cases. Problem is now solved.

    2) After 19 years of having kids, I finally accepted the fact that having their art and school projects in the middle of the living space is just a fact of life. Solution; they now have their own shelfs with organisational cups and file holders in the front room. The shelfs have doors and are integrated with the main shelving unit- so it looks pretty decent. When we want to tidy up, all we have to do walk the projects a few steps to their new home and close the doors.

    3) Cleaning buckets for all the bathrooms and the kitchen.

    I do not feel in total control yet, but I am getting there. You have inspired to me to take on the final challenges. We should have a victory party soon.


  4. leighsteele says:

    Shell – I am ALL over that Victory party. And I LOVE your tips. I actually had remembered your #1 and #2 and am going to try incorporating those shortly. I mean, how easy is the cleaning buckets in bathrooms and kitchen, right? I just need to do it.

    MB – oh, absolutely….embrace the mess too. I take the days to allow the mess to just BE.

    Megan – I totally hear ya on the laundry room thing. Remember my mama’s “laundry area” in the basement? Cold, dark, damp. That would be hard for anyone to want to go down to. Hmmm, I’m thinking a postbaby project would be to remodel some area of your house to add a laundry room on first floor. Send J the plans – he could do it. 🙂


  5. Heather says:

    I wish that we could bottle that nesting drug and take a big ol’ swig of it for spring cleaning time…

    I love the idea of the over-the-fridge shelves. We are so going to do that.

    I miss you and love you.

  6. luannemacy says:

    OMG awesome!!! I am so super jealous of your laundry room! I have been wanting shelves and a folding surface since forever. We’ve got the bleach bottle/detergent/iron/random laundry needs all stacked on top of the washer collecting dust and looking generally unorganized… Ugh, it bothers me. Your new room is AWESOME and your hubby is wonderful for doing that 🙂

    I know the feeling of laundry freedom – I just mastered it too (knock on wood)! My trick isn’t fancy: I just wash/dry as needed but only fold/put away on Tues/Thurs/Sun so it doesn’t feel like I’m doing laundry CONSTANTLY (hello burn out). Seems to keep it pretty under control. BUT, I don’t have 2 crazy kiddos running around. We’ll see what happens when Nathaniel is a walking tornado and I add another monster to the mix.

    My favorite tip for getting things done around the house is simply working in 15 minute increments. So, if I need to do dishes, fold laundry, scrub kitty puke out of the carpet and put away a mountain of mail, I simply only do 15 minutes of each thing, regardless of whether it is completely done after the 15 minutes. After I’ve done a little of all 3 things, I may (or may not) come back to it and finish the job (you’d be surprised what can get done in only 15 minutes). This stops me from getting too engulfed/obsessed with one thing and keeps my momentum going. My philosophy is that it’s better to do/clean 2-3 things quickly and half-assed than do/clean 1 thing perfectly. I clip a kitchen timer to myself and go as fast as I can.

    Hope this is useful for you 🙂 Enjoy your new found freedom!

  7. luannemacy says:

    Wow, do you like my novel-length comment? lol

  8. mb says:

    ha, ha leigh, have we any other choice to embrace the mess?

    but i must say a mess feels much different when the mess is in the middle of an organized house.

    but hook, i’ll say it again…hooks have saved my life:)

    love you

  9. Erica says:

    Not sure I deserve to comment since I’ve just got one kid and she’s little but I do have a few things I do that I thought were worth sharing.

    1. A basket for toys. I’ve found it very useful. She’s too young to put them away herself but she has one nice big basket that I stuff everything in to a night and sometimes if I’m feeling extra peppy stuff everything in a nap time too. It’s not organized but it’s a pretty basket and that helps somehow. She likes it too because when she wakes up in the morning she crawls over and pulls everything out. It’s her morning ritual. *lol* I figure each of your girls could have their very own basket. I plan as Ceridwen gets older to make putting them away a nightly routine for her.

    2. Meal planning. I’m not sure you’ll count this as cleaning help since it’s not cleaning wise but it is such a life saver and a money saver. Every Monday I sit down and write out a menu for our dinners for the week. I then make the shopping list accordingly. It may seem like a bit of extra work but the joy factor comes in when it is 6pm at night and instead of going “oh dear is there anything defrosted for dinner?” I go to my menu for the week and go “ah yes we are having spaghetti tonight and I pulled out the meat last night from the freezer.”

    On a side note I double what is needed for us at dinner and we have dinner for lunch the next day. It actually works very nicely. I bought these sectioned off tupperware containers and I even portion it out so Howard takes his to work and tosses them in the microwave for lunch.

    Good luck! And don’t over do it. I know when I’m on a spree I tend to burn myself out pretty fast.

  10. brooke says:

    God Leigh, I am SO boring but here goes – the only way I keep on top of the mess is to put it away as soon as I’m done. Really, that’s it. And I make the kiddos (and Matt) help too. Eat a bowl of cereal, rinse the dish when you are done. Take off socks, put them in the laundry hamper/bin/on top of washer/etc… Take a shower, hang the towel. Bring home lunch bags & back packs, all put away before anything else gets done for the afternoon.

    This frees me up to sweep floors, scrub toilets, change sheets. I don’t mind doing the deep cleaning if everyone else schleps their own crap.

    And same goes for the car. I don’t come in the house without the whole car unloaded. Even if that takes 3 trips. Satchel helps now too which is awesome. But I verge on extreme (ask MaryBeth! 🙂 in the car department – an old paint brush lives in my glove box and I brush crumbs at stoplights. Followed by a quick wipe of the seats/dashboard/windows with a baby wipe.

    Once the mess gets beyond a certain point, I can’t deal. So I just collapse and the piles overtake me. 5 minutes at a time, all day long, is the best I can do.

    That ‘s my 2 cents!

    But yay laundry – that’s a hard one. It has 4 long stages that take hours (sorting, washing, drying, folding….ooops, 5 – putting away.) Laundry is my nemesis. I have a mountain in the back room right now to prove it.

    Love you.

  11. Danielle says:

    Leigh our routine is pretty simple. I have a couple more kids than you, and they are mostly older so I get to have them help me more, but we did start them pretty young on the routine thing. Even Cayden joins in.

    We have a laundry routine that works … mostly. Each room has a basket and the kids know that’s where the clothes go. Then each night I dump it into the main one between their rooms. Each kids has an after dinner chore. We always eat dinner together at the table, no exceptions there. So this is easy to implement for us. One of the chores is to bring the laundry downstairs and sort it. We have a 3 sectioned hamper in the laundry room. I have my 5 year old even sorting. We also have a bar to hang clothes up right out of the dryer. This is a life saver. I drag hangers down once a week and hang them up. I found that hanging clothes right out of the dryer means they won’t get wrinkled and they have a better chance of making it to the closet. We do dress out of the laundry room often though, especially the boys. I tried to teach them to actually put their laundry in the drawers, but found that they end up under the bed or crammed in a corner.

    The other chores are putting dishes away, sweeping the floor, taking out the trash, watering the plants and whatever else needs to be addressed that week. We rotate weekly to be fair.

    We also have a basket on the bottom step that collects stuff all day. Each night when we go upstairs to bed, everyone must take with them a minimum of 5 things and put them away. One lego doesn’t count though. A big handful of Legos counts as one item. We had to ammend the rules pretty quickly on that one. Things that get tossed on the floor after leaving the basket, get tossed in the trash.

    Backpacks are a problem though, as are Lincoln Logs and all the toys in the backyard. Not to mention the 500 Legos in the vacuum, the random socks behind the couch and the million books that Cayden always drags around the house. (I shouldn’t complain about books though, huh?). At least with an upstairs/downstairs, we only have to keep half the house presentable for company. The other half only gets really cleaned when I can’t stand it! Oh, and please don’t open the cupboard where the sheets go, I have not had a chance to be as organized as Shell. I will be taking her advice though.

    I think the key is finding a routine. Routines work best when they are easy and make sense to you.

  12. Christie says:

    My home stays pretty messy too, I like to call it “Lived In.” That is like the ugly sofas I’ve been finding on Craigs list that are listed as “Comfy” A couple of things that work for me are.
    1. I only do laundry 2 days a week. I got tired of feeling like I should always be doing laundry.
    2. When I cook something that freezes well, I cook extra & stick one in the freezer for later. This has been a blessing at 5:00 What’s for dinner????
    3. I too use the 15 minutes at a time alot, & I have a couple of things that I (TRY to) do everyday. Like keeping Clorox wipes in the bathroom for a quick wipe of things, don’t go to bed w/ dirty dishes it feels so much better to wake up & not have that mess staring at me.
    4. Before bed Braden & I do a quick pick-up, I fold the covers that stay on the couch & he deposits all his toys in to a basket.
    Little things make all the difference for me. I love reading about what others do to simplify their life.

  13. leighsteele says:

    Once again, LOVE the tips! Danielle, I don’t see how you do it. You amaze me in a million ways.
    Christie – lived in is my house indeed!
    Brooke – if ONLY I could get a handle on my true nemesis – the CAR. I wish I had your inclination to tidyness.
    Erica and Christie – I need to do freezer foods. Gotta. Good points.
    I, too, have a few toys baskets for my kiddos.
    And I love all you 15 min fly-ladies. 🙂 You rock.

  14. mb says:

    Brooke: Extreme Car Cleaner.

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