Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Maximizing minimal laundry room space

Yes, it's 4 a.m. on a Tuesday, and I've been awake since 2 a.m., unable to sleep, so I figured I would blog. I'm not tired, just really pregnant. Finally full-term at 37 weeks. Baby could come any day now, but I would be happy for her to hold off until at least Dec. 22, my last day of work for a really long time! And now, a post on laundry....

In the nearly two years (!) that I've been writing this blog, I do not believe I've ever once written about our laundry room. Probably because attributing the word "room" to this space is too generous. Probably because it's impossible to photograph. But most probably because up until last month I didn't have any good ideas for laundry room storage.

Our laundry room is a glorified utility closet. It shares its space with our water heater and furnace. Its walls are unfinished cinder block and wood. Its concrete floor has pipes running over it; thankfully, the previous owners created some sort of elevated wooden walkway contraption that allows you to actually walk in the laundry room without stepping on pipes. The room is barely wide enough to fit a regular-size top-loading washer and dryer. And the space completely lacks any type of storage.

Well, let me rephrase. The room we inherited did come with one tiny organizational solution. One small gift left behind by the previous owners: a metal bar attached to the ceiling by two bungee cords, which is a nice place to store our extra hangers and drape a couple items of drying clothing. Side note: did you know you can donate your dry cleaning wire hangers to many dry cleaners? Whenever Matt goes in for a big dry cleaning run (we dry clean infrequently) I have him take an old stack of wire hangers back. We've tried this at several different dry cleaners and all have graciously accepted them. Look at the background of this photo, and you'll get a better sense of the kind of space we're dealing with in the laundry room.

With so little space to work with, laundry room storage has proven a challenge. For years we've had all our supplies piling up in the small corner wedged between the wall and the washer, a space that is at most just shy of a foot wide. I've bought and returned several different shelving solutions for the space, but all of them proved just centimeters too narrow until I found these half-large flat wire stacking shelves at The Container Store. I brought home two ($19.99 each) and after Matt spent about 15 minutes repositioning the washer and dryer closer together and closer to the far wall centimeter by centimeter, I finally had exactly 11.75" in width in which to squeeze these bad boys into place. At 16" high, the shelves provide the perfect amount of space for laundry room supplies, particularly large bottles and boxes.

You may notice that on top of the top shelf I have two different types of Tide detergent. Here's a reality of my new life that I know will become only more true when the baby arrives: I am doing more laundry these days. Because I did not buy an extensive maternity wardrobe, and because I especially did not buy much in the way of winter maternity clothing, I am doing laundry almost once a week as opposed to once every six weeks (yes, I have enough underwear to last a lifetime, so in my typical non-pregnant life I can get away with not doing laundry for ages). So, this means I've temporarily stopped making my own laundry detergent, though I still have all the supplies on hand for when I'm ready to resume. My guess is that won't be for a while because I know I'm about to start doing laundry every day.

I placed on the top shelf the items that I am most likely to reach for now. You'll notice that the shelves are currently packed because Matt and I have completed our pre-baby supply-hoarding for all household goods. Besides my two types of Tide (one is with bleach alternative and the other is free of fragrances and dyes for washing baby clothes and supplies), I also have on the top shelf:
  • our giant box of Bounce dryer sheets
  • an unopened tub of Baby Oxi Clean
  • a Tide stain remover spray bottle
  • white vinegar -- at the ready with a funnel for mixing my DIY daily shower spray/window cleaner or adding a cup to the washer when cleaning towels and sheets to de-funk them
  • measuring cups
  • scissors -- a great laundry room addition to cutting little stray threads and tags off clothes
  • clothes pins
  • dryer balls -- they really do work at reducing the time it takes to dry your clothes, and they work well on fluffing anything that's better off without fabric softener

No good way to get this photo. See how little space I'm working with?

One other laundry room must-have I should mention: a small garbage can. This is ideal for throwing out used dryer sheets, the trappings of the dryer lint catcher, and, if you're like us, holey socks.

My simple laundry room reorganization came at the perfect time. Not only am I already doing more laundry, and not only is that laundry pile about to grow exponentially, but also it's so much easier to reach everything I need over my enormous stomach now that items are in easy reach rather than piled on the floor. I know once I have the baby I'll be less interested in contorting my body to fit into the laundry room nooks and crannies. Even Matt agrees that this storage solution makes being in the laundry room so much more comfortable, and he doesn't have a watermelon in his stomach.

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