B & A: The Dreaded Laundry Closet

I am so far off the wagon with my March goal that I can't even remember what the wagon looked like. I can't motivate to do much. I am devoting some mental energy into figuring out why I feel compelled to "produce" or "accomplish" things with my days. Maybe having something to show for my days (a new light fixture or a cleaned out cabinet) is a necessary balance for having so little to show for the majority of my time. I mean, raising kids doesn't really come with a report card or something to "show" for how I've spent most of my day.

Now before you get all "but you're doing the most important job of all" and "you have beautiful, perfectly behaved children to show for your time" (oh, stop. really) just hear that I do not really think that I have absolutely nothing to show for spending all day with my kids. It is valuable time and they are better behaved with me mothering them all day than if, say, the feral cats in the neighborhood raised them.

Sure. But most of the kids' awake time is spent in repetition- change diapers, wash diapers, serve meal, clean up after meal, and so on and so forth. And some days it is hard to feel like that adds up to much but crazy-making.

So periodically I like to tackle projects with a definitive "before" and "after". A finished product. Cue the laundry closet.

You threatened to defeat me, oh laundry closet. Oh yes you did. But in the end I prevailed.

The laundry closet has been the bane of my existence for several months now. We have open shelving on the right, the stacked washer and dryer dead ahead, and tons of crap on the floor at all times. When it is time to load the washer, picture me standing in the doorway to this laundry closet, trying to chuck various clothing items into the washer from about five feet away. There's always so much stuff in my way that getting to the actual washer is not really an option.

See how this is ripe for a good cleaning? And would give me such a feeling of accomplishment?

Here's a few tips when you decide to clean out an area. It doesn't matter if it is your bedroom or the top of your dresser. These rules apply:

1. Start in one place and work your way in one direction.
Start at the top and work your way down, go left to right, or (if you're tackling an entire room) work clockwise. For this project, I started at the right side of the bottom shelf and worked my way to the right, then moved up to the next shelf, and continued the process. Don't move onto the next area until you have finished the one you are currently working on. Do not move onto shelf two until you have finished shelf one. See?

2. Stay the course. Don't take this opportunity to empty your vacuum bag, even though you move the vacuum and see that it needs it. You're not doing that right now-- you're organizing your laundry closet.

3. Get rid of as much as possible.
Recognize that you don't need a good percentage of what you have, and getting rid of things frees you up to enjoy what you hold on to. Some things I got rid of: old medicines, cleaners I don't use, the bleach container that held about 1 tablespoon of bleach, ratty old towels (some repurposed for rags, some tossed), dvd's we haven't watched in years, and cd's.

4. Leave space so you can move things around on your shelves.
This applies to dressers and closets, as well. If you have to stuff things onto your shelves, balanced precariously so it all stays put, chances are that you're missing out on lots of things that have gotten jammed to the back of the shelf. So get rid of some stuff so you can actually access all that is in/on your drawers, shelves, and closets.

5. Resist the temptation to buy lots of storage containers before you organize.
Purge as much as is necessary, organize, and then see if you still need containers. I ended up with two spare containers at the end of this project, to be used elsewhere in the house. Score!

6. Keep in mind that the space you have right now is all that you've got to work with. Don't buy clothes or linens or cleaning supplies as if you live in 3,000 square feet with too many closets to count when, in fact, you are actually in 900 square feet with one closet. As my friend Carolyn said- "get real with yourself". This applies to the things we hold onto, and the space we are actually living in. Get real with yourself. For real. Like, seriously.

Behold the "after":


  1. Bestill my heart! I think you've officially become a mastress/guru/sage on this matter. You should lead seminars.

  2. Love it Katherine! I totally know what you mean about needing a tangible "before and after" project every now and then... to feel like I've gotten more done than just the repetition of the day-to-day. And yes, like you I know that raising kids is valuable in and of itself... but I just like to have some sort of different response every once and a while when Ryan comes home and asks "What did you do today?" :) Your laundry closet looks amazing. I've actually been fantasizing lately about having a dryer and a laundry room of my own someday. :) Currently we share with the girls downstairs. It's totally fine... but to have a little area that's all mine with all of my things accessible and in one place? With a dryer as well? Sounds divine!! :) Well done on the reorganization project - looks great. Awesome tips too! :)

  3. thanks for the props! it's the little things that get me by some days-- like an organized laundry area!

    adriel, i remember the dryer-less days. all of my 100% cotton was totally stretched out in no time... and faded from the sun... ah, life in the tropics:)


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