Sorting out a system for a tidy laundry room

Is your laundry room a chaotic dumping ground for dirty clothes, or is it a haven of quiet and calm? 

For many of us, the latter can seem unattainable in a space overwhelmed by piles of laundry, shelves of cleaning clutter and goodness knows what else. But with a little reorganization, you can transform this hardworking room into a place you actually want to visit.

Laundry rooms present unique design challenges, thanks to the presence of washers and dryers, water lines, vents and inefficient cabinetry. But Michelle Gion, a designer at Stile & Rail, a custom cabinet dealer in Bellevue, says she enjoys the challenge of designing a space that looks good and works well. 

“These projects are fun because it’s a space people hate or dread going into,” she says. “But when all is said and done, they love it.”

Some of a laundry room’s clutter comes with the territory, Gion says. Standard-issue builder cabinets tend to be tall and deep, which causes items to get lost and clutter to build.

“When there’s a large cavity and lots of small items, you’ll have difficulty with organization,” she says.

Rather than cabinets, Gion prefers custom counters installed above a side-by-side washer and dryer set for easy folding and stacking of clean laundry. She isn’t a fan of the pedestals that are often installed below front-loading machines to raise them off of the floor because they limit the options for counter space. But older people or those with mobility issues may prefer them, Gion says. 

Sorting by category

To organize the items you regularly use in your laundry room, start by completely emptying any cabinets or shelves, says Stacy Chia, an organizer with Seattle-based A Mindful Method. Throw out anything that is past its expiration date, then toss anything you no longer use — like that detergent you never really liked but couldn’t bear to throw away. 

Chia suggests sorting your remaining items by function. These usually include: 

Washing: Detergent and other cleansers, including stain removers.

Drying: Fabric softeners, drying tools (clothespins, hangers).

Fabric care: Static guard, leather spray, lint rollers, fabric shaver for sweaters, sewing kits.

Clothes prep: Ironing board, iron, drying racks.

Next, Chia says she assesses the items in each category and determines the appropriate storage solution — for both the space and the family’s laundry system.

“We find people want easy access to their everyday laundry cocktail,” such as a little detergent, some bleach and a dash of OxiClean, she says. “We try to figure out where it could be stored and be accessible.”

Chia sometimes decants laundry detergent, softeners, dryer sheets and wool balls out of their original packaging into clear canisters to create uniform storage in sizes that work in the space. Transparent canisters can also clue you in as to when you’re getting low on pods or dryer sheets. 

Lilian Chiu, the owner of Bellevue-based Peony Professional Organizing, also decants her clients’ products — particularly those who live in small condos and apartments, where the laundry room can be little more than a stacked washer and dryer behind a closet door or tucked inside a bathroom. In those situations, Chiu likes to store detergent bottles and other supplies on high shelves or in cabinets. Then she adds a 3M Command stick-on caddy to a wall near the washer and dryer, where smaller amounts of cleaners can be kept. 

When storage space is limited, less-bulky options, such as detergent strips, are worth considering. Dryer balls can be stored inside the dryer. A collapsible drying rack can be hung over the door, and a mini trash bin can capture lint or other small bits of waste. 

For those with the luxury of a large laundry room, Chia says to store miscellaneous fabric care items within a divided turntable, which makes finding that button collection just a spin away. Stash overstock from your Costco runs on upper shelves, where they’re out of everyday reach but not out of mind.

Gion uses drawers and pullouts to organize smaller or oddly-shaped laundry items, such as garment racks and steam cleaners. An ironing board can be hung on the back of a door for frequent users, or tuck into a closet for those who don’t iron regularly. A wall-mounted drying rack is best for those with lots of delicate or heavy (wool) apparel, while others can get away with smaller models. Gion says Pottery Barn sells a variety of drying racks.

When a laundry room is located in the basement, Gion often places lower cabinets on top of plastic feet with a detachable kickboard, in case there’s flooding caused by plumbing issues or heavy rain. If the kickboard does get waterlogged, it’s possible to remove and replace it and preserve the cabinetry. 

More than laundry

According to our experts, laundry rooms often double as storage space, and entryway mudrooms from the garage. A combination mudroom/laundry room makes sense, Gion says.

“When you have kids in sports and all the gear that comes with that, it’s easy to throw a messy baseball or soccer uniform right in the wash,” she says.

For a mini mudroom within a laundry room, Gion suggests installing a bench with built-in drawers underneath that are assigned to each family member. Shelves can be a “breeding ground for chaos,” she warns, and are usually not recommended. 

If space allows, lockers can contain backpacks, school or work supplies and other items that don’t need to come all the way into the house.  

Chia likes to include open-air baskets for quicker drying of muddy or wet shoes.

To store housekeeping supplies, Gion suggests a tall, skinny “cleaning cabinet” with lots of hooks for your broom, mop, vacuum and other awkwardly-shaped cleaning tools.

Spacious laundry rooms can also provide storage for common household items, such as batteries, flashlights and lightbulbs, as well as small everyday tools like tape measures and screwdrivers.

While an organizer or designer can undoubtedly help you create a well-organized laundry room, it’s up to you to keep it that way, Chia says. Be prepared to shift your organization system as you observe where messes or piles begin to form. Don’t hesitate to add a shelf or move a basket if it’s needed.

“People maintain the organization as much as they’re committed to it,” she says.

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