Levels of Laundry
Let’s talk about this design challenge: reducing piles of laundry in the bedroom. My parents used hampers but I trace my organic approach to the many levels of laundry to Bill Murray’s character in Ghostbusters 2 as seen in this clip:
This system served me well enough for years. Then in my mid 30s I got tired of dealing with occasional moth issues, an inability to remember what was clean vs what was beyond wearing in public. I started worrying that maybe it was time to grow up and do what my parents did. If you’ read my archives you’ll find a hamper that I designed and built. It’s a sturdy copy of a flimsy store bought design and overall it worked fine.
The hamper is great but it’s not the system. The hamper is part of the system. This design challenge is bigger than building a hamper. Reducing the piles of laundry that dot my bedroom requires design thinking.
The Design Challenge
To resolve the design challenge I began examining the entire system from dryer back to washing machine. The following is what I came up with along with the process I took to address this design challenge.
Define the Problem
Laundry is a collection of clothes, linens, towels, etc. which need washed before they can be worn or used again. Laundry does not equal clothes, it equals dirty textiles. Clean clothes by definition are not laundry. My issue was larger than clothes. If I limited my question to How do I do laundry better? Or how do I reorganize my dirty clothes? I’d not be solving the problem. My problem was big. I started with these areas of concern:
- How much clothing and other textiles do I own (hereafter referred to as textiles)? Do I own too much?
- How do I store clean textiles?
- How do I use and categorize textiles?
- How do I store textiles between uses and washing?
- How often do I wash discrete categories of textiles, (workout gear, delicates, etc.)?
- The distance to the washing area reduces trips and causes pile ups.
- My desire to not overuse water, energy, and soap or to wash things when they’re clean enough limits my trips and causes pile ups.
- How do I prevent clean and dirty textiles from getting mixed up?
This is a complex set of issues. Defining the questions I were trying to answer was not easy but here is what I settled on:
How might I process and store reusable textiles before and after uses?
This question works because it doesn’t limit my answers to clean or dirty, or the many layers between those two states. It also doesn’t limit the question to clothing. The questions of how to deal with dirty towels or towels that are not totally dirty both fall under this larger question.
The Design Process is Almost Never Settled
This would be a good time to say that I’ve not yet had that ah-ha moment where I’ve revolutionized the practice of laundry or developed a new way to organize clothes. What I have accomplished thus far is a partial solution based around analysis of the issue. I’ve yet to create something new. That said I’m still working on the project. For now the following is what I’ve done.
- Took inventory of existing clothing, towels, sheets and other linens.
- Washed or otherwise cleaned existing textiles.
- Threw away, donated or repurposed textiles that were no longer needed.
- Evaluated the room needed to store all textiles if all were clean and none were in use.
- Categorized all existing textiles as use and by season.
- Created or purchased new storage solutions for existing textiles.
- Committed to a process of putting away clean textiles in their assigned places immediately after washing to keep clean and dirty from mixing.
- Identified pre-hamper places for storing textiles that are able to be reused before being washed (jean, sleepwear, etc.).
Potential Points of Failure
There are several potential points of failure in this system. First, it doesn’t address the distance to the washing area. That is something that, at this time cannot be changed. A future solution that doesn’t require moving the washing area would be to build a space near that area for cloths storage and changing.
Another big area where this system is likely to fall apart is the commitment to putting everything away. Given the distance between washing and clothing storage means that clean clothes are likely to be left out. There is also the lack of dedicated clothing folding area which de-incentivizes putting clothes away.
Design Challenge Conclusions
Reducing piles of laundry is a big task so here are the current design challenge conclusions I reached. Ultimately I might not need to completely redesign laundry as we know it. My analysis and reprogramming of my system has helped. Being better organized and having a less chaotic bedroom means better sleep, less wrinkled clothing, less fretting over what to wear, and has allowed me to streamline my wardrobe somewhat. I don’t have a uniform but I have fewer choices. This suits me just fine.
I don’t know when I’ll return to my design challenge: reducing piles of laundry in the bedroom but we’ll see. If you’d like an update please contact me. For more on the subject here are a few ideas from The Spruce.