Life Lessons I Learned While Doing Laundry

The earth must be shifting. Or Jupiter’s up in Saturn’s business or whatever it means in the planet world when things are miraculously out of the ordinary. I know this because I’ve kept up on laundry for—wait for it…Two. Weeks. Straight. This has only happened to me, like, maybe three times in my history of housewifery. And now that I’ve got this groove going, I’m obsessed with not losing it.  Like if I see one pair of underwear in the hamper, I want to hand wash them, dry them with a hair dryer and slip them back into a drawer before they multiply and I lose control again. I actually thought I had a great idea when I skipped the laundry basket all together and started putting the clothes I took off right into the washer to sit there until I had a full load, but Brett caught me. “Babe, the washer isn’t a laundry basket.” I can’t think of one good reason why not, but he’s got the whole age-and-experience thing going for him, and he’s way cleaner than I am, so when it comes to matters of order, I don’t really have a leg to stand on.

Every life category seeps into the next, and there are big things you can learn from just about anything. So, Laundry. Life lessons in that basket, there are.

Like what?

Let’s start with an easy one:

Socks get lost. Deal with it. 
In the scheme of the world’s problems, we’re talking a very low ranking here. Which is exactly where most of the things over which we get bent out of shape belong—with the socks. When I feel myself getting frustrated and designating energy to something in life, I want to ask myself—“Is this important or is this just another sock?”  Don’t give energy to the socks in life. Save it for the vintage sweaters.

Stop Overanalyzing and Get to the Bottom of the Basket
The biggest problem I have with accumulating laundry is follow-through. I’ll start sorting and washing clothes, starting with pulling out the favorite things I wear most, but I can never follow through to empty the entire basket because once I pull out my favorites, my enthusiasm is shot. The bottom of the basket where all the weird odds and ends build up is what kills me. I stop. I can’t deal. A Christmas-themed cloth napkin. A sash for that one dress I never wear. A pillowcase. Two mismatching socks. A doll dress (how’d that get in there?) A table runner. A romper that doesn’t fit Nella anymore. A shirt I think I hate but I’m not sure. A pair of pants with a little tear that I plan on sewing some day when everything else I’ve ever wanted to do gets done.

It’s too much decision making. Where do I put it? Do I sew it first? Do I iron it first? Do I put it in the Goodwill bag? Do I give it to a friend? Do I save it in case someday I wish I would have kept it?  I end up just leaving it in the basket and walking away with the sad realization that I quit.

The thing is: You can’t stop. You have to keep going—finish the laundry!—and the only way you can get to the bottom of the basket in life is to STOP OVERANALYZING and MAKE A DECISION. The fate of the world is not dependent on whether the belt to that Halloween costume ends up in a closet or the garbage. You just have to do something with it so that you can complete the task and move on.
Listen: Bitches get shit done. Don’t make small decisions more important than they are.

You Can’t Hide Stanky Laundry. 
Thought you could skip a rewash and the heat of the dryer would destankify it? Think again. When things stink in life, it’s a sign to clean it up. Spraying perfume ain’t gonna hide the stank. Face the facts. It stinks (hey, it happens). Deal with it. Do the work.

It’s Hard for Everyone.
Think you’re the only one who can’t keep up? You’re not alone. There are plenty of other women out there who pray company doesn’t accidentally open the laundry room door, mistaking it for the guest bathroom. Laundry is hard for everyone. Take comfort in the fact that you belong to a village–a tacklin’-laundry, raisin’-babies, pickin’-up-preschoolers, contemplatin’-dinner-recipes, self-analyzin’-ways-of-doing-things village. Whatever you’re facing…you’re not alone. The Laundry Village unites and supports you.

The Less You Have, the Easier the Wash Load.
Too much stuff = too much laundry, and buying extra laundry baskets ain’t fooling anyone. If folded clothes don’t fit in the drawers, you have too much stuff. Pare your closet (and your kids’ closet) down to most favorite, most worn things, and laundry will be much more manageable. Plus, it’s great incentive to do laundry when you’re running out of things to wear. I’m not naturally wired for simplicity and organization, but when I create it in life, everything’s easier and more manageable.

If You Love Your Wardrobe, You’ll Like the Laundry Job More
When I invest in quality clothes that I really love, I want to take care of them. Hanging pretty blouses to dry and folding that favorite pair of jeans I’ll want to wear tomorrow is a lot more fun than tackling a basket full of stretched-out impulsive sale buys. Likewise, life is a lot more pleasant when we choose to spend it with people and events that truly make us happy and build us up. Even the hard work doesn’t seem so bad when it involves good things and good people.

Tackle a Load of Towels to Give Yourself a Break
If all laundry looked like a load of towels, how wonderful life would be. Three easy folds and they’re done—and they all go in the same closet. Some days, all I can handle are the towels. And that’s okay.

Break the Rules—Wash Something that Says “Dry Clean Only” (gasp!)
Ooooh—dangerous. But I’ve done it many times—a delicate wash and a lay-flat-to-dry—without ruining a dress. Not all rules are meant to be followed.

If You Try and Enjoy It, You Just Might Like It
Put a rainbow on it. As much as I say I hate laundry, I admit I enjoy a nice Saturday morning when I try to like it. Brew a pot of coffee, use a favorite detergent, clip clothes to an outside laundry line and watch them flutter while they dry in the sun. Set up the ironing board, turn on You’ve Got Mail, smile and hum as you press wrinkled cotton. Line up hangers of ready-to-wear favorites and delight in the satisfaction of knowing you worked hard; it’s done. I like to think of not-so-fun jobs less as labor and more as ritual. A lot of times, it works.

I should also add that I started this post last night and at post time, there’s a new heap of clothes, already wrinkled, on my bed that need to be put away. 


And speaking of getting things under control, Lainey’s very into accessories right now, but we’ve had a hard time keeping them together. They either get lost or pushed to the bottom of a drawer where they’re forgotten, so we made an accessory rack this past weekend. We used a 24-inch towel bar (spray painted it red), simple shower curtain rings and painted clothespins. The small key chain-style shower rings fit perfectly into the holes of wooden clothespins.

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Leave a Comment
  1. I love the accessory rack!! We’re working on making my daughter’s room a “Big Girl Room” and this is going to be on our project list!! Thanks for sharing!!

    (And I’m a laundry failure too!! I need help!)

  2. Love the accessory rack!!

  3. My little girl just finished painting clothes pins, too. She put a magnet on back, and now they hold notes and pics on the fridge. :)
    Sweet stuff.


  4. Getting to the bottom of the laundry basket is like using every last veggie in the bin before it wilts – Dance of Joy worthy. Until I see the Leaning Tower of Ironing.

  5. I put all of our socks in a dedicates bag that hangs in our bathroom and just throw the bag in washer when full. No more missing socks!!

  6. I admit I hate laundry. I have a pile on my bedroom floor (yes, I am THAT mom who sets it on the bed and then bedtime comes, and I’m too lazy to put it away, so it gets thrown in a corner and stays there for days) that is so smelly because it took me two days to remember I’d done a load, and it stayed in the washer too long. Ugh.

    I blame it on my laundry room. I want a pinterest-worthy laundry room with a sink and a counter and a nice rack to hang clothes… It’s just not happening…

    Still, I keep telling myself that one day I will get it under control, and the kids, hubby and I will have perfectly washed, perfectly put away, perfect smelling clothes at all times.

    But who am I kidding? My priorities are more on having fun with the kids. My messy house and overrun laundry bins only bother me when they go to bed and I have nothing else to focus on. 😉

  7. I absolutely love this post! Especially the thought about missing socks – I can definitely see myself using that metaphor in life to not fret over small things.

    Thanks for sharing your laundry-life wisdom! :)

  8. And don’t forget to check pockets! You’ll either find small treasures (coins, special rocks, frogs) or avert catastrophe (pen, lip gloss, and candy meltdown). Don’t ask me how I know…

  9. Love that accessory rack!! May just have to steal your idea!! (You have so many great ones!)

  10. And this is why I love you Kelle Hampton. You can even make laundry fun and exciting. Thanks for the glass half full this morning! ***Smiles***

  11. Great post! Totally needed this today as I’m knee deep in laundry and organizing and can’t seem to get a handle on it all!!!

  12. I have something similar to Lainey’s accessory rack! I hung a small curtain rod on my bedroom door that I had strung with shower curtain rings and hang all my scarves on it. Works perfectly!

  13. This,Kelle,has to be my favourite post! I just totally hear what you are saying,so much that I might print it all out and highlight bits that resound with me. I always think you can tell how I’m feeling/doing by looking at my washing basket.’s either manageable (rarely) or out of control…I’ll say no more :-) x

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  15. I swear I have the exact same array of odds and ends in the bottom of my basket as you do…including the Christmas napkin, in June. Mine’s staying for a bit longer though, we’re headed outside.

    (Resubmitting as myself, instead of my daughter, who had apparently commandeered my computer and signed me out.)

  16. Kelle I’ve been struggling lately and needed this post! Thank you!

  17. RE: Towels: They also take up a ton of space in the hamper/basket, so if you do a load of them it makes you feel like you’ve gotten WAY MORE DONE than you actually have. It’s a great feeling. =]

  18. wildly impressed that you even attempt to iron.

  19. Rather unrelated to this specific post, but I will be heading the Gulf Coast in a little over a week with my 9 month old son and I wondered if you had any beach trip tips or tricks for those with little ones? Thanks!

  20. Awesome post. I am currently on top of our washing too but only because I am toilet training a very stubborn 3 year old who feels the need to assert her control and leave packages in her knickers while we are at home! It would be nice if she didn’t but I guess I’ll just have to keep reminding myself that the silver lining is an up-to-date washing basket!

  21. I think we feel similarly about laundry. I usually have a huge pile on the guest bed waiting to be folded. Always start with the towels! It makes the pile so much smaller. I’m super impressed that you iron before putting them away. Even when I manage to keep up with the laundry, I always just iron things as I wear them.

  22. We have to get used to life things, that there’re always there anyway.
    And sometimes all we need to do is to take a deeeep breath and go on, ’cause after a messy period, things tend to get centered again.
    Love your post 😉

  23. Thank you.. exactly what I’ve been thinking about lately. So happy to read some inspirational input to it. Thank you.

  24. This is fantastic. My trick to get myself to fold laundry is to let myself put a show I like from Netflix on my laptop while I’m working on it. I’m working on Parenthood currently but old favorites are 30 Rock and Gilmore Girls.

  25. More posts like this, please! Only you could make an entertaining blog entry out of doing laundry. Also, I love that accessory rack. Such a simple, colorful, and effective idea! Even better than Lainey painted the clothespins herself!

  26. I can SO relate to this, but I never, ever iron. Downy spray is my best friend. If it doesn’t become unwrinkled with a quick spray, I wasn’t meant to own it!

  27. Loved, loved this post! I have a love/hate relationship with the laundry! I so get your obsession with staying on top of it – i’ve totally had that feeling before!! And go girl – 2 weeks is an awesome effort!!

  28. I was (and still am, albeit to a lesser extent!) laundry obsessed! My husband used to say he’s worn the same underwear every day for 25 years because he kicks them off at night and they’re back in the drawer when he wakes up in the morning! They are, but he doesn’t! I always put the fresh goods on the bottom of the pile! I used to wash, dry and IRON everything the five of us wore every single night and have it all back in the drawers (on the bottom!) before I went to bed. Thankfully that changed with the arrival of our first computer! :). Still have never owned a laundry basket, tho. Washer is it!

  29. I probably shouldn’t tell that I’m 48, my mom lives with us, and does ALL MY LAUNDRY! (well, that’s because she says I don’t do it HER way so she’d RATHER do it than see me do it “wrong” LOL) and lest I sound like a 48 year old spoiled brat (what????) she actually LIKES laundry (gasp! crazy woman!)

    and that little accessory bar? GENIUS!

  30. Love the accessories storage. Great idea!

    Laundry is my least favorite chore, it turns into a mountain so quickly with 3 kids!

  31. “Buying extra laundry baskets ain’t fooling anyone.” You’re so right! This made me laugh out loud since I have EIGHT laundry baskets for a household with two adults and a toddler. I need to get it together lol.

    I do however, excel at keeping the kitchen clean and prepping for the week. So that cancels out my
    laundry neglect, right?

  32. I love this!! However, I think putting the clothes right into the washer is a fine idea… helps me skip the step of moving it from the laundry basket to the washer–time saver!

  33. Thankfully, my kids love to wear mismatched socks! I just throw all socks into a basket in their closet. I have no idea if there is an even number of them. Doesn’t matter anymore! I love that.

  34. Brilliant, Kelle!! Totally love the accessories bar, too!!! Thanks for the motivation!!! :)

  35. Kelle!!! You did it again….you put into words exactly how my brain (and heart) operates!!! Those darn miscellaneous items that I dwell over at the bottom of the basket (or the closet, or a drawer, or on top of a counter or dresser). I usually give up and walk away feeling defeated. I’ve already designated this the summer to just “Do Something!” This just solidifies the fact it’s the right thing to do. I’ve started with the boys’ dressers….because I couldn’t shut the drawers!!!!

    Love this. Thank you!

  36. BGSD. Even spray-painted, adorable towel bars. Love that cuteness.

  37. I love this idea. I’m so with you on using the washing machine as a basket. If only ours didn’t fill up so quickly. I need to make my 7 stop going through SO MANY CLOTHES. You are so right about having those odd items that you never know what to do with. In my house they always end up back in the laundry. Thanks for the Rack Idea, I am going to add it to the list of projects that we need to do.

  38. love love love the accessory rack!

  39. I’m cracking up at wanting to hand wash the underwear and then blow dry them to stay on top of it- I know that feeling! Great post.

  40. Believe it or not, the lesson I learned from laundry is this:

    I pray like I do laundry; when things pile up and I need something.

    It was a very humbling lesson from quite an unexpected thing.

    I like your lessons as well!

  41. UM… putting dirty laundry directly in the washer is quite possibly the BEST idea ever… LOL…

  42. My thoughts exactly!!! You always put things in perspective. Really enjoyed reading this post! More like this!

  43. Ironing is so passé… Don’t you know “Wrinkled” is the new starched and ironed…

  44. This might possibly be my favorite blog post ever. I immediately emailed a link to my bff. It’s like you are speaking our laundry language.

  45. “Break the Rules—Wash Something that Says “Dry Clean Only” (gasp!)
    Ooooh—dangerous”….haha, yes, I do this all the time!

  46. Loved your article!

    This little gem is especially true:

    “Stop Overanalyzing and Get to the Bottom of the Basket”

    Where do all of those stragglers come from anyway?

  47. I have this problem with dishes. Hate them!!! My kids never stop eating!

    I actually like doing laundry and I’ve got 2 kids and use cloth diapers.

  48. Hi Kelle! I know that one of the reasons you write is to inspire others… well you have inspired me, I fell in love with your family and your girls and new baby ¨since hello!¨ I am a stay at home mom architect, and because of your blog I finally decided to start my own! If you have time… It would mean a lot if you read it!
    Would love to hear from you!

  49. You crack me up and inspire me all at the same time and that, is why I love you and your blog!! And I adore that accessory rack! Genius :)

  50. Kelle….
    “Socks get lost. Deal with it. In the scheme of the world’s problems, we’re talking a very low ranking here. Which is exactly where most of the things over which we get bent out of shape belong—with the socks. When I feel myself getting frustrated and designating energy to something in life, I want to ask myself—’Is this important or is this just another sock?’ Don’t give energy to the socks in life. Save it for the vintage sweaters.” Very good!! I needed that analogy!! 😉
    Love you later, Raelyn

  51. The metaphors are fantastic! I totes understand every single one! My favourite is Stop Overanalysing and get to the bottom of the basket. I have a permanent layer of ‘the too hard basket’ at the bottom of my hamper and it’s like a black hole of avoidance. You are absolutely right – it’s just a decision or a series of decisions. This afternoon it will be my mission to deal to the bottom of the basket…the dolls clothes, the scarf that needs handwashing, the top that I need to cry over and then take to the op-shop, the top I wore once and will never wear again…and in the process consider what other more important aspects of my life I may be ignoring because I’m avoiding making a decision. Thanks Kelle. I’ve always loved how you see the world and let us tag along for the ride. Oh and, I totally use the washing machine as a laundry basket! It just makes sense :)

  52. This is so good. Only you could come up with lessons in laundry, but they’re so good.

  53. Oh my goodness! I didn’t think anybody could do laundry as well as you do. I have years on you lady and can still keep up! Oh my, what should I learn from this silly post?

  54. It seems like I am reading one so sweet and live story about cleaning clothes. As women, we all face these situations in our life. I like your observation towards the laundry. Good luck!

  55. A few years ago- when I started having children and that laundry pile grew- I pained a sign to hang by the clothes line, a quote I had seen in Yoga Journal:


    so true in life and laundry, right?!

  56. Jumping on the bandwagon here, but I LOVE the accessory rack. Just awesome! I have two boys. Perhaps a cool way to organize their growing collection of baseball hats…

  57. Such great analogies with life & laundry. I’d say you hit the nail on the head with me!
    Tejas love,

  58. Such great analogies with life & laundry. I’d say you hit the nail on the head with me!
    Tejas love,

  59. When I first started reading this post I was like, “What is this…” and then I continued reading and you really spoke my language. Just yesterday I told my girls to go through their drawers and pick out a FEW tops they love and give me their jeans to pack away for winter. Too much = too much! With five kids there’s already a lot.

    I’ve also started implementing a rule: bring one new thing home then at LEAST one old thing needs to go (trash or thrift).

    Your point titled “It’s Hard for Everyone” was spot on. And I would apply many of these to doing the dishes as well. We don’t have a dishwasher. Things just have to get done. It was time to stop complaining, whining and dragging me feet. Now I do dishes while I make my coffee in the morning. A few dishes sitting overnight never killed anyone and I am actually finding it a little therapeutic. It’s become a part of a routine.

  60. I love the parallels you made between life and laundry! I think we all become overwhelmed with family laundry at some point, especially with several young kids. After all, they like to change clothes 4 times a day! I was lamenting the fact that I could not keep up with the mounds of laundry that seems to multiply over dinner daily. It was as if there was “laundry hanky-panky” going on if I closed the utility room door! An older lady at my church told me to pray for the person’s item of clothing I was folding or ironing. That really changed my viewpoint while doing laundry. Now, a few years later, I miss those onsies and itty bitty socks. Instead, I find myself folding training bras and cross country and football uniforms. Take it from me big girl and big boy underwear just isn’t as cute as frilly-butt panties and underoos! I think I will print this post and frame it for my laundry room!

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