Laundry Lessons and Tips

This easy system will get you out of the laundry room and back to your life.

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For most people (including us), dirty laundry is a never-ending chore. You sort, you pre-treat, you wash, you dry, you iron, you fold, and you put away. Then it seems to start all over again. One of the tricks to living an organized life is to enlist the help of others to stay on top of everyday chores. We can't think of a better task to start with than laundry?

A Family That Washes Together...

Over three-quarters of American women say they are the chief organizers in their family. More than ever, we seem to pile more on our plates -- and rarely ask for help.  While it may be difficult to release control of your household diva status, trust us, you'll be glad you did.

Everyone in your house -- no matter how young -- can help get the laundry done. The trick is to make it easy. One way is to give each room three hampers: one for whites, a second for darks, and a third for dry cleaning. It may seem like overkill, but you've just sorted the laundry without lifting a finger.  Even a four-year-old can put her dirty clothes in the right baskets each night before bed. Another fun activity? A Pre-Treat Contest. Armed with bottles of Spray 'n Wash and Shout, family members tear through their clothes to see who can remove their stains the fastest. The winner's clothes are folded by the rest of the family for the following week.

Ready to get your family in the laundry business? Try these foolproof ideas.

#1: Rinse for Rewards

A special treat or quality time is a great motivator for kid and adult alike. Set up a chart next to the washing machine and each time someone helps wash, fold, or take clothes to the dry cleaners, give them a token. Five tokens can equal a payoff that's perfect for them. Kids might get extra TV time that night or earn an extra scoop of ice cream. Let's not forget husbands. Uninterrupted remote-control time is definitely worth a load of whites. Or how about a car wash for those folded sheets? Oh, and don't forget to reward yourself.

#2:  Celebrate and Have Fun

Stuck in a dark, damp basement with a loud, banging dryer? That's not fun for anyone. Instead, take the laundry out of its natural habitat and inject some fun. Why not throw a Friday Night Folding Party? You spring for pizzas and a movie rental and kids and Dad pitch in to get the job done. You can even hand out awards. Who wouldn't want to be crowned "Best Folder of a Fitted Sheet" and "Most Improved Clothing Article (Stain Removal Award)"?

Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore are the co-founders of Buttoned Up, a company dedicated to helping stretched and stressed people get themselves organized. They are also co-authors of Everything (almost) In Its Place.

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