Beyond the chair-pile: What do you do with not-quite dirty clothes?

September 14 | offbeatbride
Three guests © by Javier Kohen, used under Creative Commons license.
With the exception of things like undies and socks, I wear clothes multiple times between launderings if they aren't stained or smelly. It saves the time and quarters of doing laundry, the water and energy of washing, and helps clothes last longer.

However, I feel odd putting my semi-clean clothes back up in the closet. But between the Sunday school t-shirt I wear one morning a week, my don't-have-to-be-perfect-after-work-running-errands clothes, and that work dress that I can wear again, before I know it I have a semi-clean-clothes monster piled in a chair! What systems — physical or mental — have folks come up with for managing semi-clean clothes? -Alissa

Ooh, we're SUPER curious to hear what awesome systems Homies have for this everyday challenge. Bring on the advice!

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  1. I use my fold up drying rack. It stretches out most of the wrinkles and contains the pile to that corner of my tiny efficiency apt.

    7 agree
  2. I use an extra drawer (except for things I really don't want to fold up because of wrinkling — those I re-hang and not-quite-clean-ness be darned); my husband uses a section of the closet, slightly separate from his clean clothes. Before we were married, he used a heap on the bottom of the closet, but since we now keep the laundry basket in that space, and it's a SHARED space… he's changed his habits. (As long as I can remember, my parents each had a chair for draping worn-once clothes over…)

    4 agree
  3. It is all about the mental system for me. I know it feels weird to hang things back up or put them away, but if things aren't smelly there just isn't a good reason to keep them elsewhere. Things have to have one place or they get all wily and take over.

    29 agree
    • I am learning to do this, too! I used to feel very weird about putting these intermediate things back in the closet, but then I just decided that if it was clean enough to go back on my body then it's clean enough to go back into the closet.

      For some reason tho, it is much harder to make the leap to putting t-shirts back in drawers. I tend to hang up all of my "not dirty yet" work clothes, but the "not dirty yet" comfy, house clothes tend to live in a chair pile.

      17 agree
      • I guess it's just an alternative to a chair pile, but I have a small hamper that I put not-quite-dirty clothes in, not because I feel weird putting them back in the closet, but so that they don't end up on the floor. Eventually they either end up back in the drawer or put back on. It's also a great system for couples on opposite schedules – I was washing a lot of clothes that my husband said "weren't dirty yet!" because I picked them up off the floor and put them in the dirty-clothes hamper. Now instead of dumping them on the floor, they end up in our small hamper.

        6 agree
        • I do this as well. I have my laundry baskets different colors so it's easier to tell what is dirty and what is clean – i.e., light colored baskets always have clean/mostly clean clothes, even if they aren't folded, and dark colored baskets have dirty clothes.

          5 agree
        • I thought I was the only one who did this! I feel so much better about the state of my bedroom! I have the not-quite-all-the-way-clean basket next to the closet, and the dirty clothes on the other side of the bed. They end up quite wrinkled, but thankfully, my husband does the ironing : )

          2 agree
    • I think this is the "Katie System" because I totally do this too. It's all about the mindset.

      I just repurposed a bookcase as a "dresser" recently. I put all of my clothes into little baskets on the shelves. I have a basket on the bookcase for the not-quite-sparkly-clean clothes. I hang up not-quite-clean work clothes and re-fold the house clothes and put them in the basket. It works really well so far. Otherwise they tend to live on my desk or on the bathroom floor, where if they weren't totally dirty before, they shortly become so. Ick.

      5 agree
        • And Katie spelled the good way, yay! :) I also turned a shelf/stand thingie into more dresser space by placing baskets in the openings. There is one for undies, bras, and socks. So nothing goes in there that isn't straight from the laundry! Katies are so clever. heh.

          1 agrees
    • I totally hear ya. I think a big problem is getting over my mental block of hanging things back in the closet. Maybe I gotta just push through and make myself do it and eventually find that it doesn't bug me as much! :)

    • Usually I'll take clothes off and they'll end up on the floor in front of my dresser for a day or two. I'll then fold them back up and put them in the drawers. I'm lazy, but it works.

      3 agree
    • exactly! if i only wore it for like an hour or two, i hang it back up. if, it's no dirty, but it's not fresh, i rinse it in water & hang it outside.

      • I like this for clothes-that-you-can't-wash-all-the-time-but-are-kinda-dirty. A girl I used to play roller derby with said she would get home from practice and shower with her sports bra on,then hang it up when she got out. There's a day in between practices so that way she'd always have a sports bra un-grossified!

        4 agree
        • I do this with my lifeguard suits! It works perfectly, because shampoo is my preferred soap for swim suit material. It keeps them from fading and losing their stretch. Otherwise, I would never get through a summer of working at s ponds with just two suits.

          2 agree
        • OMG genius!! I dragonboat. You get really wet, like soaked through with sea water usually and if you leave a sweat-and-seawater soaked sports bra overnight it smells awful the next day. Being on the water sometimes 4 days a week I am so sick of washing these constantly, I am going to try this!

    • Since we're without a laundry machine and do sporadic washings at our parents' houses, I've started using those Downy Unstoppable tablet thingies in my laundry. It makes it smell "laundry fresh" for way longer, so it feels less weird to hang once-worn shirts back in the closet.

      We have an over-the-door towel hook hanger with eight hooks for the two of us. I hang some of my still-wearable worn clothes on the extra hooks, mostly jeans and a bra.

      3 agree
    • Same here! I figure if I am going to re-wear it there's no reason not to just re-hang it in the closet or re-fold it in the drawer. Although lately I've been considering getting a dedicated rack or hamper for once-worn clothes, just so I have a better sense of what needs to be washed come laundry time without rooting through everything and trying to remember if I wore it. Haha.

      3 agree
  4. I got a smaller basket for my not-clean-but-still-not-dirty-clothes. I try to kind of fold the things I put in there, so everything doesn't end up wildly wrinkled. I go through it about once a week or so, otherwise, I'll forget I have something in there and think I've lost my favorite shirt or something.

    1 agrees
  5. So, I really like Unfuck your Habitat's (I'm not affliated with them but do love them and have found a cleaning zen through them) philosophy on this idea of keeping your warddrobe from becoming a floordrobe. Summarizing: If the clothes aren't dirty enough to be put in the hamper then they can go back in the closet.

    While that still kinda skveeves me a bit, I set aside a part of my closet to be the clothing 'in-between' haven.

    Hope that helps!

    5 agree
  6. We finally settled on a workable solution to this now that we've moved again (more workable than the previous floor piles we used).

    We hung up those stick on hook/hangers on the long wall of the closet. We probably have about 4 apiece for myself and my husband. We've had them up for a couple of months now and my room has never been this neat. Amazingly enough they actually get used and they don't get that inevitable I wore you once and then you didn't get aired out smell.

    8 agree
    • I totally got all 'basket epiphany' when I figured out I could just hang up some hooks. Three for me and three for my wife, for the still-good jeans, blouses that you just tossed on for the evening and PJ's that could totally handle another night. Nothing living on the floor anymore! Everything has a place! *heavenly moment*

      7 agree
    • I submitted this question, and 3M hooks in the closet has been one of my solutions. They definitely help, but I need more hooks for all my half-clean clothes! :)

      1 agrees
    • SO brilliant! I hate hanging clothes, so I tend to just toss them atop the bureau at the end of the day. I don't mind putting once-worn clothes in the closet, but sometimes I'm lazy/tired or I want to air them out a bit.

      Our bedroom is a mess because my partner and I have way too little storage space (tiny bedroom, tiny closet) for our clothes and we both hate doing laundry. We're making slow but steady progress, though!

      1 agrees
  7. When I wear something that I judge as still clean enough afterwards, I fold it and put it on top of the dresser if it's a shirt, hang if it's a dress, drape over a storage basket in my closet if it's pants. Then, I try to rewear the item the same week so I don't get swallowed by clothes. Jeans that I've worn to work but still have wearability get worn on the weekend for errands. Same with shirts. Dresses get worn on a date night, or errands depending on what it is (coffee followed by grocery shopping, Saturday lunch, etc.) Pajamas I want to keep wearing I just drop in a pile in the closet. I don't care if those are wrinkly or messy. If I hit a point where too much is laying around, or I haven't been good about rewearing, I do a scorched closet process and just wash everything that isn't hung.

    7 agree
  8. I either drape them somewhere (on a shelf in my closet usually or, okay, on a table near my bed) or hang them up to air out in my closet (pushing other clothes away to give it some space).

  9. I use a hanging set of cloth shelves. I think the shelves were meant to be a closet shoe or sweater organizer, but they also work great for lightly worn clothes.

    2 agree
  10. Oh gosh, this is so my life. As a work-from-home person, I often will wear lounge cloths all day and put on "real" clothes for an hour or two to go out, and then re-wear them again. I hang them on the footboard of our bed or drape it over the edge of the laundry basket. Sometimes I'll hang them on a hook on the bathroom door – that is the best option, and def. gets things off the floor and stuff, but the one I do the least!!

    6 agree
    • So glad to hear others out there struggle with this! :)

      I've learned that having fewer clothes overall helps. I went on a big minimalism kick a year ago, and thankfully have kept the wardrobe pretty sparse.

      6 agree
  11. I just through the clothes in the hamper anyways, and then sort through it later. Normally I'm just looking for my jeans anyways, and they tend to gravitate towards the top of the pile, and sometimes I'll sort through to find a nicer shirt too.

    When I was young though, I had a kind of rack with 3 bars at about waist height, and I'd hang anything I wanted to re-wear on that too. I'd completely forgotten about it til this question.

  12. I don't really have a system, but I've been donating any clothes that are too big for me now so I have more space. So the plan is to hang up worn, but still clean items in my freed up closet space.

  13. Hooks! I use a set of hooks for my current shower towel, bathrobe, and clean-enough-to-be-worn-again clothes. There are over-the-door hook sets that you can install without damaging rental walls, and the heavy duty 3M magic tab hooks work well for this as well.

    4 agree
  14. i have a two-piece system.

    i mounted six hooks on the wall (theoretically, 3 for me, 3 for the wife…but i'm not sure if she can count) which are stellar for not-yet-dirty jeans (that's what belt loops are for, right?), dresses (all mine are sleeveless and hang nicely by the straps), and dress shirts with the little collar-loop-things, but can kind of dent/stretch t-shirts that stay there too long.

    and then i've got a basket, which i mostly use for sweaters/cardigans that will skew if hung up, and that i re-wear a lot more often.

    and then there's the third prong of our system, where half our stuff ends up on the floor anyway 'cause we're lazy (at which point the dog sleeps on it and it is no longer only kind of dirty).

    5 agree
  15. For garments that are going to wrinkle and shouldn't (like work slacks), definitely just hang them back up in the closet. I know it feels weird, but it's OK – if it's clean enough to wear again, then it's probably clean enough to hang.

    To be honest, everything else just gets tossed in the same hamper right now. I've tried and tried to set up a two-hamper system, but my partner never quite grasps the concept and it just devolves into two equally-smelly hampers.

    1 agrees
    • Yup. I hang everything back up (if I'm organized enough to actually put my clothes away). If it helps, I don't think of them as semi-clean. My clothes have two categories: clean and dirty.

      1 agrees
  16. An over the door hook hanging from my closet door facing in with two or three hangers on it hold my in-between clothes. They don't wrinkle, they are out of sight and I can leave the door open if I want to air out

  17. I work in piles: One pile dirty, one pile clean, one pile worn allready. Hehe.

    3 agree
  18. This problem has plagued me since childhood. My mom wouldn't let me throw once-worn clothes into the hamper because she thought it wore them out faster. (Clearly I had a pretty happy childhood if this was my biggest problem).

    A few years ago I discovered a product like this.

    Only mine is black and white. I'm pretty sure it is for sorting lights and darks but since I don't bother separating my laundry I use one side for dirty and one for already worn but not yet dirty. The only trick is re-wearing an item soon after its first wearing so that you don't forget about it.

    2 agree
  19. I have lots and lots of hooks. Which I encourage my husband to use with moderate success. But at least if the hooks are there either one of us can quickly pick up the clothes from the floor without prolonged communication about what's actually dirty.

    For me, jeans and dresses usually just go back in the closet/dresser, and get washed when they start to look or smell dirty. My husband uses pants the way many women use purses, and takes a full ten minutes to move all his stuff in or out of a pair, so he hangs them up between wearings (and pulls out a new pair every 3 days or so).

    We also sometimes resort to using our empty laundry baskets (distinct from the hamper where dirty clothes go) to corral clothes that need to get dealt with if we're really in a hurry.

  20. I use the dual hamper system which I sort through on laundry day. But if I have something like a blouse or dress that I don't want to wrinkle I will hang it back in the closet but inside out. That way I can tell what's already worn and it gives the important parts the ability to air out.

    9 agree
  21. I put them back in my closet, but I push them to one side and keep the clean ones on the other side. Because if you don't hang them they get all wrinkled and look like dirty laundry!

    2 agree
  22. I have a chair that my worn, not clean, but not yet dirty clothes go on – HOWEVER – my chair sits back to front, rather than the chair back being against the wall, the seat faces the wall (like a naughty time out chair lol) which still gives me a chair to pile stuff on, but also a back of chair to hang/drape things over to reduce creases

    2 agree
  23. If it's something that normally is hung in the closet, I just hang it inside out. That way I know that it has been worn once, and I should check it for any dirtyness that I didn't notice bfore. (I have a toddler) If it's jeans, I put them on a different shelf, or hang then on a hook behind the bathroom door. If it's a shirt, I fold it in a different way, or hang it up. I've been using my system a lot less since having a child though. Everything get's dirty right away!

    8 agree
    • Hanging stuff inside out – what a clever idea! How have I never thought of that? Since I just did laundry this weekend so nearly everything's starting clean, I'm gonna give it a try. :)

  24. I haven't fixed this problem but I have a solution. The valet stand! We are in the middle of redecorating our bedroom and I'm on the lookout for the perfect valet stand. Some of them even have drawers for pocket contents. I'm hoping I'll turn up one secondhand.

    Nearly forgot. I saw this awesome Ikea hack: It's a little too odd for my tastes but it's so entertaining!

    5 agree
    • Glad to hear someone mention a valet stand – I've been thinking of getting one, too! Though I'm torn between this and a while stand, which (let's be honest) would probably allow me to put a winder range of stuff on it.

      I also like the suggestions of hooks. For some reason I really prefer that semi-worn stuff is hanging rather than folded up, but mine just never makes it all the way back to the closet (which, in my defense, is in another room).

      So glad to see this topic on here, though! I always feel like I'm the only adult that can't get it together to stop making piles of stuff…even though I know it's an inherited trait, given that my parents always had at least one pile each, themselves!

  25. I use one of those clothes organizer box thingies (you know, kind of like these here. I just loosely fold my used-but-to-be-worn-again clothes and put them in there. It looks much neater in a box than just a pile, plus it holds together a lot better. The box sits in an unused corner of the bathroom, on top of a little stool. There's also a hook on the wall for the rare times when I wear a dress or something that I'd prefer to hang up.

  26. I usually don't wear shirts multiple times, except maybe lounging tees, so wrinkles aren't a huge issue for me. I use a smaller second laundry basket from my dorm room days for my half-clean jeans and such.

  27. In our bedroom, we have a quilt stand next to the bed. Something like this.

    I have a very pretty (but impractical for regular use) quilt hanging there, so it's a nice decorative element when there are no clothes on it. Laying things out instead of in piles helps keep wrinkles down. Then on laundry day (once a week), I just grab anything there and pop it in the wash.

    • That is exactly what I used to use! Only mine was cheap and eventually broke, but I had no idea how to describe it or what it was supposed to be for.

  28. Hah! Currently, what I use for my semi-clean clothes is the floor. And apparently my keyboard. And also they're draped over the rod in my closet.

    …I need to figure out a system, clearly.

    1 agrees
  29. My husband has this problem because he wears a uniform to work so when he changes after coming home, he wears it for a few hours at most. I use a fabric bin and I sometimes throw PJs or something that I'm gonna re-wear in there too.

  30. Clothes that need hanging, I put back in the wardrobe.
    Other items, I fold and put in a basket next to the fireplace in our room. There are two matching baskets – one for clothes to rewear, and one for dirty washing (eg. what I take off before I go to bed at night).

    • I was going through these comments WONDERING when someone was going to mention a clothes tree! Especially if hooks in the closet aren't enough for you.

      I have one that I got from Target or someplace, and it has at least 10 hooks (rotating around the base all the way up, but with four at waist-level). This means I can hang a few paris of pants on the waist-level ones, then shirts/pjs/sweatshirts/hoodies/etc on the rest. And my bath robe goes there too. It's small enough to fit in a corner, and even though it's usually a giant mound of clothes, at least that's what the rack is for so it doesn't look quite as bas as keeping a chair for clothes (which is what I used to do). Added benefit, the cats can't sleep on the clothes and cover them in fur!

      1 agrees
  31. I don't know that it's a solution, but it kills 2 birds with one stone. I have a small wicker basket that I keep odd socks in while they're waiting to find their mate. During the week I put the things I'm going to re-wear on that basket. There's almost always a sweatshirt in it.

    Usually I hang up pants/jeans along with the other semi-clean ones. Pants never get dirty. Unless you're wearing them for the first time after you wash them. Then you're guaranteed to spill food on them.

    3 agree
  32. I'm another one for putting things back in the closet. If it still smells good and isn't visibly dirty, it generally goes back where it came from.

    1 agrees
  33. I consider myself lucky if I manage to stick such items on top of my dresser or drape it over the bed's footboard. They usually end up on the floor.

  34. Most of my semi-clean clothes end up strewn all over the place, but I am strangely organized about my pajamas. I have little basket that sits on the back of the toilet and every morning I tuck my folded pajamas into it. That way, I don't have to search all over the place at night when I am half asleep!

  35. I have a cheap Ikea coat rack that I'm supposed to use. But it's usually too full already, so I drape things over the dog crate….

  36. I wear the same clothes for biking to/from work every day, so I just drape them over my bike. (It also helps avoid the early run-around WHERE ARE MY PANTS)

    1 agrees
  37. Depends. Not-quite clean jeans and things that can stand a little wrinkling go on a shelf in the closet. PJs get tucked under the blanket at the foot of the bed. My work shirts, however, need to get hung up. So for those, I have a hook on my wall that can take a fair amount of weight. I let them air out there a few days, and give them a Febreeze spritz if needed, then put them in the "worn once" section of my closet.

    But I am so glad other people have the same thing with not wanting clean clothes and "dirty" clothes to touch. I always felt like a weirdo!

  38. When I was little I had a precarious chair pile but nowadays I use the bottom drawer of my dresser as my hamper. The right side of the drawer is for dirty underpants, dirty socks, and shirts I don't intend to wear again and the left side is for jeans I wear several times and shirts folded nicely that I'll wear several times. This system has worked great for me for years now.

  39. So this is slightly off topic, but for me the problem is determining if something should be re-worn. What makes something qualify for the semi-clean pile? Do you all have a mental system for that?

    • For the semi-clean pile, what I do is check for visible dirt, and then… the sniff test. Is that gross?

      2 agree
  40. I am struggling with this problem, especially as I sometimes just pull things out of the basket and at the same time I am in the process of fixing the laundry chute so that I don't have to have baskets of dirty clothes sitting around.
    My husband has a vintage valet (sort of like this: which he found at a storage locker sale. It looks like something Don Draper would own, despite it is usually covered with jeans, pjs, and hoodie instead of the suit.

    1 agrees
  41. I have a coat rack in the bedroom that I use for clothes I'm going to wear again the next day, sweatshirts I've worn for a couple of hours in the evening, my bathrobe, etc.

  42. Once a shirt becomes "questionable", I hang it up again, but inside-out. That warns me to give it a visual inspection and a pit-sniff test before I wear it again.

    2 agree
  43. Two words. Hat Rack.

    We got hooks for the entryway and had an old hat/coat rack that was going unused. We put it next to the sofa in the bedroom and now when stuff gets gently used, it goes on the rack.

    I was a big floor piler, but things get eaten by the dog if they are on the sofa or floor.

    1 agrees
  44. I've always wanted a men's valet for this purpose! I just use a floordrobe and hope it doesn't get too much cat hair on it!

  45. Honestly, if I cannot put it in my closet with the clean stuff, it goes in the laundry. Mainly because with our two white cats, everything lying around will soon be a case for the decatomat anyway.

  46. Everything goes into the hamper. Often things come back out of the hamper. Oh dear, now that I think about it maybe I should get a second hamper.

    1 agrees
  47. I used to have a perpetual pile of once-worn clothes, until my now-husband and I moved into a camper for the summer. There's just no place to have such a pile, so jeans and bras that I'll wear again in the next day or so get hung on hooks over the back of the bathroom door, and shirts that pass the sniff test just go back in the closet. Down Unstoppables have made it so that almost all shirts can be worn more than once.

    It also helps that I wear a uniform at work. My regular clothes only get worn briefly in the morning, and then for a few hours in the evening. That's just not enough time for them to get stinky . My uniforms get dry-cleaned from work, so I don't have to worry about those. I have vowed to always have a uniform job for the rest of my life. No more picking out work outfits!

  48. I absolutely can and will not just re-hang things in the closet that have been worn. Too many issues with allergens, and far too often I take something off and think I can wear it again, but with a fresh nose becomes clear it definitely is not (this happens less often now that smoking inside public places is banned where I live, but it used to happen more often).

    I have a quilt rack with 3 bars and a small shelf underneath. It's placed perfectly so that it's front and center when I'm looking for clothes, so I can see it first and be reminded that there is something wearable there. re-wearable PJS get wadded up and tossed behind my pillow, regardless of whether or not I end up making the bed.

    Where I have an issue is my wonderful, darling, scatterbrained partner. We have hooks behind the door that are intended for such things as robes and my purse and his work clothes if they're rewearable, but he tends to put 2-3 sets of jeans, shorts, etc. on one hook in crappy drywall and now the hooks are falling out. So instead he started tossing his jeans in a pile at the end of the bed, thereby covering ALL my clothes on the quilt rack and then tossing a t-shirt on top and now the quilt rack becomes a giant pile because I'm not willing to move his stuff at the end of the day.

    I did just get an over-the-door hook set for the bathroom, so I'm going to tell him that THAT is where jeans and shorts need to live. It's where they lived at our old apartment so I don't see it being an issue. And then he can SEE them all and stop forgetting that he has a pair wearable already before he picks up a clean pair. Then hopefully the quilt rack system will work a little better again.

    1 agrees
  49. I love you OffBeat Home! I thought I was crazy/lazy for rewearing my clothes so often! <3
    One day I plan on redoing my walk-in closet (I kicked my husband out of it and he uses the guest closet. muahahah!)
    so that there are hooks everywhere for my slightly used clothes. I also plan to write corny things like, "Hey girl! You are beautiful." Or "You are rockin those jeans!"
    I also thought it would be cool to have a hook for each day of the week. So you put together an outfit for the week on Sunday, and not have to worry about it in the morning. Its like a meal plan for your clothes!

  50. My husband found me a valet stand at a thrift store, so it was like $5. When our home systems are working well, I use that. Once it gets filled up, I have to wear the clothes or put them in the wash. Funnily enough, I have fewer re-wearable clothes now that I have a 5 month old. :)

  51. I keep a cheap laundry basket from the dollar store in my closet to hold my "not quite clean" clothes. or you could be like my husband and just throw them on top of the dresser -sigh-

  52. How often do you wash your clothes? I don't wash mine very often unless it is socks, underwear, or an undershirt. I just hang everything back up. When, I notice a dirty spot, I'll wash it.

  53. For pants and other foldable items, I still use the Chair Method, and stash them away in a drawer if I need to clean up quickly. For tops and other things that I won't want to get wrinkled, I put them on a hanger and then on hooks on the back of my bedroom door. They hang neatly and flat and don't crowd the door, and are hidden from view (since my door is in the corner of the room.) Sometimes, I air them out by hanging them on the shower curtain rod overnight.

    My husband still uses the tried-and-true Floor Pile method, which turns into the Cat Lounge, and then everything ends up in the hamper anyway. :)

    1 agrees
  54. I have never moved beyond floor-chair-bed (because i might actually put them away…maybe)-floor-chair-wear method. Sometimes though I would be very happy with a couch in my bedroom for the accumulation.

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