A few weeks ago I had fallen down the rabbit hole we call The Internet and I came across a post from a woman who got rid of all of her clothing as well as her children’s clothing in order to cut way down on a chore she detested: LAUNDRY. Ok, so she didn’t exactly get rid of everything, she kept about three days worth of clothing and packed up the rest in boxes. Let me repeat that. Three. Days. Worth. I immediately had to know more! So I asked Laura if she would write about her experience and share a “how-to” here on my blog because I thought this was a remarkable idea and one that really resonated with me.
When you think about housewives in days of yore, you forget that people didn’t have as much stuff! Kids only had a few daily outfits and then their Sunday best. The same held true for the parents. Obviously things have changed and we are now fully integrated into a consumer system with huge closets full of clothing. I am not saying that is always a bad thing, but when it comes to staying on top of laundry, I am wondering if maybe returning to the way things were in the past could be part of the solution. This might be an extreme example, but I think there are some really good ideas here, so please enjoy.
By Laura Roberts
I stood in my laundry room, staring at the piles (and piles!) of clothes waiting to be folded and thinking about the other loads still waiting to be washed upstairs. Ugh!
That was the last straw. I had HAD it with SO MUCH laundry!
Right then and there, eyes wild and determined, I decided to try an experiment: I decided to pack up most of my kids’ and my clothing and try living with a minimal amount of clothing in our closets for one month. We had so much more than we needed; our family’s laundry situation was just plain OVERWHELMING. I figured that if I washed one load of laundry every day, we would always have something to wear, even if the selection was drastically reduced.
I started with my kids’ clothing. I began by packing up the “backup clothing”—the things they only ever wore if there was nothing else to wear. Once I was left with the clothing they actually wore, I decided how many items of clothing they would have in their drawers for the next month, and the rest was washed, dried, and packed into the box.
My children were surprisingly supportive of the idea and the process; it made me wonder if they were overwhelmed by the sheer amount of clothing they had as well! As long as I promised not to give everything away immediately, they were happy to show me which pieces of clothing were their very favorites, and which ones they could live without for a while.
Those four weeks of minimal clothing were LAUNDRY BLISS.
There was a noticeable lack of clothing strewn around the house and over bedroom floors. There wasn’t nearly as many articles of clothing making their way into the car or piling up…anywhere. I didn’t feel suffocated by ALL of the clothing EVERYWHERE. I could breathe!
In order to stay on top of things, I did one load of laundry a day. Each morning I would gather up the dirty clothes that had been worn the day before. At some point during the day, I would switch the load to the dryer and then fold it. The clothes made their way back to closets by nighttime, ready to be worn again the next day. However, if I got behind for any reason, it couldn’t be for long! After two days, closets were looking bare. And after three days of getting behind, nudity was imminent! I couldn’t procrastinate, by much anyway. When you are operating with minimal clothing, however, the best part is that it only takes a couple loads to get all caught up again…not TEN (and an entire day’s worth of your life) because those “backup clothes” have bought you an extra several days!
I noticed my five-year-old daughter would choose what to wear more carefully. Prior to the experiment, she would get so excited about all of the dresses to choose from in her closet that she would change FOUR times a day, just to get a chance to wear them all. With fewer to choose from, the panic about wearing them all seemed to fade; she would pick one dress and wear it all day. I liked thinking that it was one less thing for her to have on her mind as well.
Laundry actually became enjoyable for me. I liked that it was something I could take care of, and be finished with…instead of feeling like there was always more that needed to be done. The load off my mind (pun intended!) was positively liberating! I remember even passing up some super-cheap and super-cute clothing at a garage sale because I was feeling so “zen” about our minimal clothing situation! I didn’t want to mess with that feeling. Ha!
I learned so much from that simple experiment.
I learned that my daughter actually does not like jeans! She did not wear them once the entire month! Her daily uniform was a dress and leggings, or a skirt and shirt. Now I know where best to spend my money when picking out clothing for her, or when sorting through hand-me-downs from others. I learned what patterns and colors are best for my two youngest, who are still pretty little and pretty…messy. Stain-hiding colors for sure! If it hid stains, it lasted longer in their closet…a concept that I didn’t care enough about before because they had SO much to choose from anyway (it was almost like I was glad to have an excuse to get rid of a shirt or two because of stains). I learned how to choose clothing that would earn the space it occupied and would work hard for my kids, getting worn often and loved well…what fabrics, what fits and styles, and what brands, even! Some things did wear out pretty quickly; but when they did, we were satisfied that they had been used to the best of their abilities, worn right out, and were retired with love. I then knew exactly what needed replacing, and could select a replacement more efficiently.
Perhaps the most important lesson I learned was a deeper appreciation for what we had. We took the time to look for lost articles of clothing, to remove stains, to mend seams…because each piece of clothing was an important part of their wardrobe. Strangely enough, it didn’t feel burdensome like I expected; it felt like I was truly caring for the things we had, with gratitude. I felt a kinship with homemakers of years past, who hand-washed entire loads of laundry, felt proud of their whitest whites, and made-do with a minimal wardrobe themselves. Have you seen closets in older houses!? Tiny! Compared to our standards these days, anyways. I also felt a sense of how silly it was to have SO much more than we needed, when so many others went without. Surprisingly, living with less made me feel more grateful and richly blessed than when we had more stuff hanging around.
When the four weeks were over, I opened up the box and grabbed a few things to add back to the kids’ wardrobe, or to keep in a small box of extras to have on-hand. The majority of the clothing, however, ended up donated to a charitable organization. It felt good to spread the wealth. And it felt good to find what worked for our family, a way to live without the weight (mentally AND physically!) of clothing clutter.
(Interesting fact: I actually did this experiment with my clothing as well. I just remembered that the box I packed up is STILL in the basement, four months later! I clearly have not missed those clothes…)
Want to give this a shot?
Everyone’s ‘minimal amount’ of clothing will be different! But if you’d like to try cutting back on the laundry chaos for yourself, here are my best tips:
- If you’re nervous about getting rid of clothing, just call it an experiment like we did, and do it for a month or two. It’s easier to do something drastic if you know it’s just a trial run. It might surprise you how easy it was to forget about your out-of-sight clothing!
- Think about what you really like to wear, consistently. Do you have a “uniform” of sorts, or a style that you wear on a regular basis? I found that when I embraced my love of flowy/feminine tops, skinny jeans, and vintage dresses, the “extras” (clothes I only wore if all my flowy tops, etc. were dirty) in my closet became glaringly apparent…and easily weeded out.
- Ask yourself: do I feel beautiful in this? Is this a staple item? Do I love it? Do I wear it often…or would I wear almost anything else first?
- Give yourself a predetermined number of items (ie. I’ll keep three sweaters). It will help you decide which ones you like enough to make the cut!
- Once you’ve pared back, get into a good laundry routine that works for you. This comes so much easier with less to wash! Once you find your groove, you’ll have your favorites available all the time. This will also make it apparent which items you are only keeping around “in case” your favorites aren’t available…they’re the ones that remain unworn!
- Remind yourself to appreciate your clothing, and do what you can to take care of it. Again, it’s so much easier to do with less! And it’s so good for the heart and soul to live with appreciation and gratitude!
- Don’t feel bad if you really need to bring something back out of the box. You’ve learned that you really use and miss that particular item!
Good luck! And many thanks to Bethany for inviting me to share our family’s experiment with you. I’d love to hear your thoughts/experiences!