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

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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!

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

  1. 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…)

  2. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

        • 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 : )

    • 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.

    • 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.

      • I am lazy and I let the piles accumulate because I hate hangers. Life is too short!
        I am thinking I may put 30+ hooks on a wall and see how that works. The closet/hangers will be for the clothes that I don’t wear and if those clothes stay in there, I will then know that they should be donated.

      • 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!

        • 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.

        • 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.

    • 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. 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.

  4. 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. 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.

    • 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*

    • 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!

  6. 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. 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.

  8. 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!!

    • 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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).

  13. 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.

    • 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.

  14. 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

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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!

  19. 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

  20. 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!

    • 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. 🙂

    • 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!

  21. 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.

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