clean to start to organizing the laundry room

Do you have an area of your home that drives you crazy? One that is too cluttered, too unorganized or just too scary to attack? A room that you keep meaning to get to, but a) you never have the time, b) you can’t even begin to conceptualize how to organize it or c) you choose to spend any free moment you have doing something else you love more (I don’t blame you there!).

I have such a room. Ever since I moved into our home, I have been challenged by the size (small) of our laundry room (closet). Not only does it serve as our laundry room, it serves multiple functions for our household. This space works overtime as our [enter below description here]:

  • Laundry Room: where our washer, dryer and all items related to laundry live (detergents, iron, ironing board, sewing kit, shoe polish, hampers)
  • Hardware Store: where we stock flashlights, light bulbs, tape, every kind of glue imaginable, extension cords and those nifty devices to blow up sports balls
  • Cleaning Closet: where we keep our arsenal of cleaning solutions, sponges, rags, brooms, mops and dusters
  • Gift Wrap Center: our repository for wrapping paper, gift bags, tissue paper &bows
  • A/V Department: we house our outdoor Bose speakers here for easy access when entertaining on our deck

This was crazy! There was way too much going on in this tiny footprint of our home. I had to figure out a way to tackle and organize it.

Fortunately, there was already a cabinet above the washer and dryer. I dedicated the left side to laundry-related items, and the right side for our in-home hardware store. I even used the extra 4” of space on top of the cabinets for long wrapping paper rolls.

organizing starts with the cabinets above the washer

The real problem was the area to the left of the washer and dyer. The space is only 19” deep by 36” wide, but almost half of that space is blocked by the washing machine.

most efficient use of cabinet space

This organizational challenge set me on a mission to find the most efficient use of this space. As you’ll see, it took me several phases to come up with the perfect solution.

Phase 1: While it has always been my dream to have one of those fancy rolling 3-section laundry carts, it was impossible to squeeze one into this tiny space. The only solution I could find was this laundry bag stand that would fit in the front corner of the closet, but that left 6 cu. ft. of blocked space unused. I put a small shelf unit there to held cleaning supplies, but you couldn’t really access it due to the laundry bags hanging in front of it.

making your hamper fit in your laundry room

double laundry bag stand

Phase 2: Phase 2 was to move the laundry bags into that 6 cu. ft. of space and move the shelf out so it was accessible, and this closet suddenly became a quasi-sports closet for my son’s skateboarding/scooter/stilts/pogo stick protective gear (helmets, pads, etc.). Other than our garage, we don’t have a place to store sports gear, so it was fun for my son to have access to it here – and more satisfying for me that it was not out in the open by our front door. The only miserable part about this arrangement is that I had to reach over the washer and dive headfirst into the laundry bags to pull out dirty clothes from the hamper. Not fun. Out went the sports gear back to the garage.
phase two of organizing the laundry room

Phase 3: Phase 3 was when it came to me: instead of diving DOWN to get dirty clothes, why couldn’t the dirty clothes come out to me? As in drawers, people! The Container Store had the perfect solution: an Elfa 3-drawer unit that fit the space to a “T.” Suddenly, my laundry closet was taking shape.

phase three of organizing the laundry room

elfa-laundry-drawers-set

Looking up, there was a rod to hang clothes to dry and only one shelf to hold cleaning supplies, giftwrap bags, tissues & bows and our outdoor speakers. Everything was strategically and compactly stacked, but there had to be a better way.

Enter Elfa (Encore! Encore!): we removed the single shelf, added two shelves above with a rod below and . . . voilà!

Image 09_Elfa Installation

There was suddenly a system taking shape: laundry center below, cleaning center above, with the top shelf reserved for less-accessed giftwrap supplies and those outdoor garden speakers.

shelving in laundry room

Now, it is a JOY to do laundry! How I love the drawers! I can’t express that same excitement about the cleaning supplies, but, hey, I’m happy they have their own place, too.

organizing the laundry room

As you can see, organizing is a process and a journey. The saying about “the only thing constant in life is change” can be amended to: “the only thing constant in organizing is change.” Sometimes it takes a few attempts to find the ideal solution that works, as organizing is a constant state of experimentation and evolution.

Please share any organizational challenges you may have had, and the steps you took to make it better. I’d love to hear about them!

20 replies
    • Cary Prince
      Cary Prince says:

      Thanks, Cathy — it took me a while to get there, and while each phase was a great idea (at that time), a little trial & error helped me find the best way to use that space.

      Reply
    • Cary Prince
      Cary Prince says:

      Thanks, Ellen! I know — drawers, right? We get so accustomed to the conventional ways of doing things (laundry in vertically-oriented hampers) that to re-think the wheel and turn it on its head was so liberating. Where there’s a will, there’s always a (organized) way!

      Reply
  1. Linda Prince
    Linda Prince says:

    Love this, Cary! If you can work this magic
    with that tiny space, then I am really embarrassed about my big laundry room! What a disaster it has become. What an inspiration you are!

    Reply
    • Cary Prince
      Cary Prince says:

      Thank you, Linda, for your kind words! I’m a firm believer that everyone needs a place to hold various miscellany when it comes into the home (before it has a “home” of its own) or a place to sequester odds & ends, projects or piles of paper when you’re expecting company. For both of those purposes, your laundry room is the perfect solution! It’s not on public display, and it’s definitely a “working” room where you can continue your organizing journey.

      Reply
    • Cary Prince
      Cary Prince says:

      So happy to hear this, Theresa! I know — I never thought of using drawers for laundry but it makes doing laundry so easy (it’s all sorted, and my boys are fantastic about putting their dirty clothes in the right drawer) and it’s actually fun. I’m so happy, I’m doing cartwheels in there now! 😉

      Reply
    • Cary Prince
      Cary Prince says:

      I’m coming to Texas in June! I see an Austin Road Trip [“BBQ, Tex-Mex, Organizing or Bust”] in my future. Let’s make a date!

      Reply
  2. Debby
    Debby says:

    Awesome Cary! Gave me some good ideas about what to take out of my pantry(paper towels, etc) and store in my laundry room. I’ll make better use of the space now. Thanks for the tips!

    Reply
    • Cary Prince
      Cary Prince says:

      Fantastic, Debby! If you have the space, laundry rooms serve as a great “holding pattern” for items that don’t need to take up prime real estate in other areas of your home (cleaning supplies, lightbulbs, household tools, bulk purchases from big box stores, etc.). So glad to hear this post helped give you other ideas!

      Reply
    • Cary Prince
      Cary Prince says:

      Many thanks, Ellen — it was a challenge that became a journey with a very happy ending. 🙂 I can’t wait to see you in Atlanta for NAPO 2016!

      Reply
  3. Jo Frances Greenlaw
    Jo Frances Greenlaw says:

    I feel so locked into the built-in pantry shelves in my laundry space that I haven’t thought my way around them yet. Mainly I have just too much stuff I think I must have in that area. How to let go???

    Reply
    • Cary Prince
      Cary Prince says:

      I hear you — as many people (myself included!) have this problem. Stuff accumulates, and you never have the time to rethink how best to use the space. If you follow the steps outlined in this blog post, you’ll be off to a good start. Make a plan for the space (what happens here? and what do you need to do it?), remove everything from the shelves and identify only the things you need, use or love. Find better homes for items that don’t really belong in the space (e.g. could holiday decorations go into longer term storage like an attic or garage?) and let go of the rest!

      Reply

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