simple stuff: laundry hampers.

June 21, 2017

simple stuff: laundry hampers | reading my tea leaves Simple Stuff: A new series devoted to talking about the stuff that might prove useful or helpful or otherwise necessary while making a home in a small apartment or anywhere. Its aim is to provide a bit of inspiration for simplifying your space sustainably and stylishly. Its contention is that what’s useful can be beautiful, and that you might already have everything you need.

For me, one of the most interesting revelations of living in small spaces deals with precisely the conundrum that something as mundane as a laundry hamper presents. When you head off to sleep and eat your dinner and entertain your guests all within spitting distance (and plain view) of your laundry hamper, suddenly you find yourself invested in what it looks like. Apply this same scenario to most everything in your small home and you’ve got yourself a lot of thinking to do before buying anything new. 

Lately, James and I have been spending inordinate amounts of time thinking about laundry, which is admittedly something of a bore. Does everyone have clean underwear? Are we out of burp cloths again? (Silas!) How many napkins can one family dirty in the span of a week? Where’s my only well-fittting bra? At the very bottom of the hamper, no doubt.

For the last five years or so, we’ve been using a lidded cloth hamper, but with the addition of a fourth extremely spit-up prone member of our family, the hamper started to literally burst at the seams. So began our search for something larger but still sufficiently svelte for a small space.

The good news is that while there’s an abundance of collapsible mesh hampers out there, there are simple, not-so-ugly options that work well in small spaces, too. In case you’re also spending too much time pondering the perfect laundry solution, here’s what we found to work for us:

As with everything, specifics of laundry sorting and storing come down to preferences and facilities. In our family, a large hamper keeps our dirties contained until we bag them up to get hauled to the laundromat. Space constraints mean we need something narrow enough to fit in the space next to James’s dresser. It’s a spot that’s only half-hidden by a sheer curtain and so I wanted our hamper to be something that I don’t mind seeing first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I also wanted our solution to be one that felt like it would be workable in another space whenever the time comes for us to leave our current apartment behind. Unable to find a satisfactorily simple lidded option, I eschewed that criteria, and focused instead on finding a hamper that was slim, washable, and in my humble opinion, pleasant to look at. simple stuff: laundry hampers | reading my tea leaves

Ultimately we opted for the Steele Canvas Small Bag Caddie made in Massachusetts. Designed for use on a factory floor, the sturdy caddy comes with a large canvas bag that stays in place with the help of tension and comes off easily for sorting and hauling. (Since we’re hauling laundry up and down four flights, for now we’ve decided to keep our canvas bag in place on the caddy and continue to use the cloth laundry bags we already own for the actual journey to the laundromat. We might eventually opt to buy a second bag from Steele Canvas if that proves more useful.) To cut down on laundry-day sorting, we keep a smaller canvas bag looped around the top and hanging into the main bag. Anything that needs to be hung dry goes directly in there, everything else goes into the main bag.simple stuff: laundry hampers | reading my tea leaves

+ For folks hoping to streamline their sorting even more, I love the idea of these Uashmama Laundry Bags (made from washable paper!). They’re sturdy enough to stand up on their own and can be purchased separately or as a set and attached one to the next to create a tidy package. 

+ For folks who are even shorter on space (and hopefully also shorter on laundry), I’m also a proponent of simply using a large heavy-duty canvas tote for laundry wrangling. I’ve been using this Tall Natural Canvas Tote from Steele Canvas to house the various RMTL-related stuff that comes in and out of our apartment, but it’s large enough that it could work as a terrific hamper in its own right. (If you want to go the full custom route, classic L.L.Bean totes are still made in Maine and you can pick all of your own colors (or lack thereof).)

+ For folks who already have a hamper, thankyouverymuch, but who might be looking for an alternative to the laundromat-issued nylon bag and an upgrade from the inexpensive cotton bags that we use (I’ve repaired small holes in them twice, for what it’s worth), these linen laundry bags from RMTL sponsor Son de Flor look lovely.

What about you? Favorite simple hamper solutions? (Insert pun about airing dirty laundry here.)

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53 Comments

  • Reply Maggie June 21, 2017 at 11:12 am

    How would you hang the last option? We aren’t in a small space but I think they would work great for my boys’ rooms (3 rooms…5 boys…)

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 21, 2017 at 11:14 am

      It’s not really a hanging option! We use laundry bags to bring our laundry to the laundromat, so that’s what we’d use something like that for!

      • Reply Maggie June 21, 2017 at 12:02 pm

        Ok…honestly they prob would end up on their floor anyway…out laundry room is in the basement…so a better way to bring it down stairs is in the works…

        • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 21, 2017 at 12:05 pm

          Gotcha! Maybe these ones from Uashmama that come with a drawstring closure? https://www.shopuashmamausa.com/collections/home-table/products/positano-bag

        • Reply Trish O June 21, 2017 at 2:13 pm

          Maggie, these are not the best to look at but for my boys’ rooms we use IKEA bags for laundry. Holds tons and easy for them to carry to the basement (age 13 and 15 now, biut we have been using for years)

  • Reply Tara June 21, 2017 at 11:31 am

    I have the same hamper as you and LOVE it. My washer and dryer are in a small corridor and so I also wanted something narrow so that we could still get past both the laundry machines and the hamper. I also appreciate that it moves around so easily.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 21, 2017 at 11:36 am

      so glad! we got the one on runners but still love how simple and streamlined it is!

  • Reply Ashley June 21, 2017 at 11:44 am

    I so feel you on this. We just moved and for some reason laundry has been all we can think about. We have a huge laundry room now (PRAISE) but we don’t have our machines delivered yet. Laundromats suck but it’s our only choice and we’ve spent the last week looking for a hamper. A WEEK. Never in my life have I imagined I’d spend so much time looking for something so simple.

  • Reply Sasha June 21, 2017 at 11:48 am

    I have an open closet, in my bathroom (took the closet doors off when we had to do a big remodel due to water damage last fall, & never put them back). Since I can see everything (still thinking of having singe curtains), I love our tall open basket hamper. It’s lined with a study cotton bag. I adopted a set of three when friends moved many years ago, and have loved them ever since. I also have hooks for airing not quite dirty laundry, to be worn again in the week. This cuts down a lot on laundry. And I’m very grateful to have a washer dryer in our small house – takes a bit of space but they are compact front loading efficient stackables, pretty essential with two kids and three dogs.

  • Reply Julia June 21, 2017 at 11:52 am

    We also go to the laundromat and live in a tiny apartment. My partner wanted to get a laundry bag that stood up on its own but also had backpack straps (we live on the 3rd floor so it’s been tough on our backs). We didn’t find one that we liked so for 1 year we just stuck through it. Now we’re moving in August and we’re not sure where exactly, so we’ve put off the back pack straps idea until we find what will work best for that apartment. I think though we’ll just stick with our torn and almost broken bag until it fully breaks, since that’s what we’ve been doing.

    • Reply Susana C. Galli June 22, 2017 at 2:02 am

      Hi Julia! I was reading the comments to see if I could get other ideas and came across yours. Why not buy some cotton or hemp webbing (in craft stores) take your bag to a local sewist/tailor? not sure how to say it in English… (if you don’t sew yourself, I wouldn’t advice doing it by hand) and they’ll do the job of attaching straps to your bag, you can even get fancy and make them adjustable.

      • Reply Julia June 22, 2017 at 9:56 am

        YES! Such a good idea. Thank you!

        • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 22, 2017 at 11:22 am

          Love the idea of straps, though I admit that we had a bag a long time ago with cotton webbing straps that repeatedly tore the bag itself under the weight of the laundry! If your bag isn’t heavy duty to start with, it might be a tricky fix, but a great idea for a sturdy bag!

          • Connie June 22, 2017 at 6:07 pm

            Cotton duck would be a good choice for a heavy duty laundry bag. I made my brother such a bag years ago with straps that could work as over-the-shoulders or be carried by hand. He said his bag was much admired at his local laundromat.

          • ERIN BOYLE June 22, 2017 at 7:24 pm

            Agreed!

  • Reply Janean June 21, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    Small apartment + laundromat routine here too. After many different systems, I found one that currently works for us: huge military green duffle bag (with backpack straps!) that sits in a sturdy extra large LL Bean Tote for support. When empty, I roll down the top of the duffle for easy tossing and unroll as the bag fills up. It fits a ton, has a strong top closure and can withstand major stuffing. There’s a tiny pocket for our soap/quarters. My husband is a big fan. Placing the duffle in the tote allows it to stand upright and also doubles as our “small wash” bag… whenever that miracle happens.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 21, 2017 at 12:25 pm

      awesome!

    • Reply Trish O June 21, 2017 at 2:16 pm

      I used a military duffle in college. It was the best.

  • Reply Cynthia June 21, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    Not relevant to your wonderful discussion on space-saving ideas, but had to chime in. I live in a 90 yo house in Seattle and one of the charms that sold me 25 years ago was the little door partway up the stairs to the second floor. Yup, a laundry chute where the clothes drop into a tall wire basket in the basement near the machines. My family laundry days are over so I have the luxury of Monday Laundry where everything is done on one day. I love the routine and orderliness of it! (And yes, I’m a laundry nerd with a secret ambition to be Laundress to the Mariners. All those glorious grass stains to remove!) Also, my boys and other small visitors have enjoyed rappelling down the chute. Quite an adventure that only involves moving the basket and a thick, soft rope.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 21, 2017 at 12:49 pm

      What a dream! And rappelling down the chute? !!!

    • Reply Genevieve June 21, 2017 at 1:41 pm

      This is such an awesome comment all around. If I could be small for a day I would hope to come rappel down this chute.

      As you are a self-proclaimed a laundry nerd, do you mind my asking whether you have any particular suggestions for removing stains from whites? Especially those persistent yellowings around the neck, etc. I have been using OxyClean soaks with OK results but if there’s anything better out there I’d love to know about it.

      • Reply SLG June 21, 2017 at 9:34 pm

        I’m not a laundry nerd, but I do sweat a lot. After years of throwing away nice white shirts that got stained after just one summer, here’s the only thing I’ve found that works for me: oxyclean stain-remover spray, sprayed onto any parts of the garment that got sweaty, *immediately* after taking off the garment at the end of the day. After that it can sit for several days until laundry day if needed. Spraying my shirts immediately has meant I’m now using them for way more than one summer, which is wonderful.

      • Reply Stacy June 22, 2017 at 6:17 am

        Genevieve, I highly recommend The Laundress Classic Wash and Stain Bar. It works really well and has just a slight clean scent. If you want to go old school. Try Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar Soap. It just plain reminds me of my mom and our laundry room. When I was child our washer was in the basement of the two flat apartment building that I grew up in. Our washing machine was the old wash tub with the ringer that had to be done by hand. My mom would put each piece of whatever she was washing and put it in the wringer squish out the water and hang it to dry. In the winter she would hang the clothes in the basement, in the summer on the clothes line outside. Believe it or not, that machine finally died about 10 years ago. Okay, enough of memory lane. But Erin has a way of doing that to people. Thanks Erin. By the way, both of those soaps can be bought on Amazon.

      • Reply Cynthia June 22, 2017 at 9:24 am

        SLG and Stacy have answered nicely, G. SLG hit the nail on the head with her note of immediacy. Anything that is Nice and White needs to be immediately reviewed upon removal with drips or spots treated. Any type of stain remover spray will be effective. If you know you have been hot, always spray the collar. Then these items are best washed and hung to dry outside in bright sunlight. Obviously this isn’t always possible. I keep bleach in a little squeeze bottle and for a very persistent spot, will apply directly to the white fabric and wash again. Always inspect your Nice and White items before drying and avoid letting stains set in the drying process. (I use the term Nice and White to refer to those special white linen tops, crisp white blouses, and other whites that require more care than t-shirts, etc.)

        • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 22, 2017 at 11:24 am

          Chiming in to say agreed that immediately treating stains makes a huge difference! We also use The Laundress Wash and Stain bar. I keep ours in a little jar on the back of our bathroom sink so I have super easy access!

          • Genevieve June 22, 2017 at 4:06 pm

            Thanks so much, SLG, Stacy, Cynthia, and Erin! I am going to try some of these tips…sounds like the number one “habit shift” I will need to adopt is treating my Nice and Whites (I love that term, Cynthia) right away. Hard sometimes when at the end of the day there are so many things I want to do than launder an item (most of them involving wine and being horizontal), but worth it for my pretty white items to last.

    • Reply Abhaya June 22, 2017 at 10:54 am

      I too have laundry shute memories from my childhood home. The entry was in the bathroom upstairs and dirty clothes ended up in a hamper in the basement right next to the washing machine. We would sometimes call down to mom for clean socks or undies then dangle a string down the shute. She’d tie the needed clothes on and we’d haul them up to get dressed!

  • Reply Genevieve June 21, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    This is a beautiful bag; I love and envy you for it. My personal laundry containment story: I use a white plastic basket that is really not my aesthetic (and will sadly never biodegrade), but it has good memories attached. I mentioned to a friend in law school that I was using something gross for laundry (garbage bag) and couldn’t easily replace it because I only had a bike as transportation, etc. One day she pulled up outside my house and triumphantly lifted the white basket from her trunk. The kindest gift.

    My main laundry challenge is what to do with damp items (washcloths, sweaty sports clothes), in my studio apartment. Throwing them in the laundry pile causes mildewy problems and even additional stains. If anyone’s come up with something brilliant let me know.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 21, 2017 at 2:16 pm

      Such a sweet story! For small damp items like washcloths, I’ll let those dry on the tub faucet or hand towel rack in the bathroom before putting in the hamper! For other damp items (of which there are many in our household), we let those dry on our free standing drying rack before putting them in the hamper. The drying rack is kind of the bane of my existence, but it’s a very useful item in our house and very regularly in use. (More on drying racks coming soon!)

      • Reply Genevieve June 21, 2017 at 4:07 pm

        Thanks! Yes, a drying rack is a necessity, but also sadly one more thing to have to maneuver around in a tiny home.

        • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 21, 2017 at 4:09 pm

          Yes, indeed.

      • Reply MissEm June 22, 2017 at 3:28 pm

        We’ve been thinking through this too. I have one of those wooden things you screw into the wall that has a few moveable arms that I’ve been thinking I’ll screw into the wall above our laundry hamper (also Steele, but slightly larger one bc we needed low and wide to fit into our little spot for it), hang stuff on it, then knock it into the hamper when its dry. For now we keep a bucket under the basket (it’s high enough off the ground) and toss wet stuff in there, but it starts to smell.

        • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 22, 2017 at 7:28 pm

          Yes! Love this idea! Making me want to finally bite the bullet and get the Iris Hantverk drying rack for this spot!

          • MissEm June 23, 2017 at 10:11 am

            That’s the one I have! We used to live in a building with a pool so we had it over the bathtub for swimsuits and floaties, but then I’d also use it when I had just a few laundry items to dry and didn’t want to take up floor real estate with the bigger drying rack. it’s such a beautiful, versatile workhorse.

          • ERIN BOYLE June 23, 2017 at 10:14 am

            Lovely! I love the idea of putting it over the bathtub (the pool/splash pad stuff gets tiresome to look at)!

      • Reply Jennifer June 22, 2017 at 5:19 pm

        We have lots of damp things here with a 2-month-old and 21-month-old. I drape anything damp over the shower curtain rod throughout the day and by the next morning it’s dry enough to be tossed into the hamper.

        So glad I read this post, will be swapping my laundry basket out for an XL LLBean tote with short handles. Genius idea for carrying laundry down the stairs while baby is in the wrap!

        • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 22, 2017 at 7:27 pm

          Yes! Shower rod is your friend! Also sometimes hang things from a hanger in the closet (on the pole above this hamper)! Have long had my eye on the Iris Hantverk towel dryer, which might also be a good solution for the small space drying rack!

    • Reply Heather June 24, 2017 at 2:26 pm

      I too live in a small space and often need a space to dry damp things. I have these chairs (https://www.overstock.com/Home-Garden/Mid-Century-White-Plastic-2-piece-Dining-Chair-Set-by-Baxton-Studio/4429638/product.html?recset=f9e24c8a-a7b2-4794-80ae-0387724df91f&refccid=WASBMHEMDDVIYBSDVNLV5OOXOM&recalg=872,873,839&recidx=1&refinement=brand:Baxton%20Studio|color:White|) and in addition to being super cute, I discovered that they’re great for draping things over to dry! 🙂

  • Reply M June 21, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    Thanks for the post — we must be on the same wavelength, been thinking about a new laundry basket this week!
    Could you advise what laundry basket you had prior? I’ve got a smaller family (and no burp cloths) to cater to. thanks!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 21, 2017 at 2:13 pm

      I had an old lidded option from West Elm, no longer for sale! It served us well while we had it, but it was a bit ho-hum in terms of design!

  • Reply Kari June 21, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    I absolutely love these posts on practical items! As for me, I use the standard wicker laundry basket that one sees everywhere. But I have my own laundry machines and a closet to store it in. I wouldn’t use it if I had to use the laundromat.

  • Reply Kaitlyn June 21, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    Your note on mending your laundry bags reminded me of this link I wanted to share with you:

    http://www.fixerscollective.org/about/

    Have you heard of the Fixers’ Collective? My dear friend who lives in Brooklyn just had her lamp and hair dryer fixed, and she learned how to solder in the process. Yay for sustainability and simplicity!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 22, 2017 at 11:31 am

      So awesome! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Donna June 22, 2017 at 3:33 am

    Possibly not a solution for a lot of people but we have a reasonably large bathroom and have 4 fabric laundry bags hanging on the back of the door (one for dark colours, one for whites, one for anything random that won’t go in the other two and one for my toddler son’s incredibly mucky clothes). The beauty is that the laundry is pre-sorted and can be hauled down to the washing machine in the bag. And they take up very little space when they’re empty. The bags were kindly made by my mother-in-law out of an old set of plain cream curtains that we no longer needed; and as she’s retired and has a little more time to do such things she embroidered literary quotes on them relating (loosely) to laundry, e.g. “Out, damned spot! Out, I say…” (Lady Macbeth). It brings a small amount of amusement to the mundane task of doing the laundry.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 22, 2017 at 11:27 am

      Such a sweet mother-in-law!

  • Reply Bailey June 22, 2017 at 8:43 am

    We haul sheets and towels to the laundromat via bike with a combination of bike panniers and a crossbody canvas newspaper carrier bag like this: http://www.dharmatrading.com/clothing/real-big-bag.html. But we still just pile the dirty sheets and towels at the back of the closet until we’re ready to wash them. Fortunately, we have a small washing machine in our kitchen that we use to wash all our other things. But unfortunately, this stuff sits in a plastic hamper (like this: https://www.amazon.com/STERILITE-12178006-Laundry-Basket-White/dp/B0063KZRI6/), which is handy for containing wet stuff between washing and hanging to dry. Would love to find an alternative to the plastic basket.

  • Reply Heather June 24, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    I live in such a small space that the closet won’t even fit a hamper, so I had to find one that I could put in my bedroom that I wouldn’t mind looking at. I have this one from West Elm (https://www.pinterest.com/pin/318066792405194998) and love it! Though looks like it’s not available anymore. It’s so beautiful, and the three compartments are great for sorting. Sometimes I even toss clean laundry in the top basket if I don’t have time to fold it before people come over 🙂

  • Reply Brit Harris June 25, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    Lovely! Erin, may I ask where you sourced the beautiful curtain fabric used in your closet? Thanks!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE June 25, 2017 at 9:01 pm

      It’s a linen curtain panel from Maison de Linge! I bought it at Collyer’s Mansion here in Brooklyn!

  • Reply Kara June 27, 2017 at 3:03 am

    I love love love this hamper. I bought one originally in some obscure little store in Vancouver, BC (I think it was called “nood”?) but scouted out another and found the same one here at Land of Nod, called the butterfly hamper. The seams have torn over many years of hard use, but its easy to mend. If something particularly grungy gets tossed in then forgotten about, you can just wash the fabric part with the rest of the load. Its pretty enough to sit out but oh so functional. Anyway, it works for us!

    https://www.landofnod.com/butterfly-hamper/s273802

  • Reply J. June 30, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    We use a vintage wooden traveling box at the foot of our bed to stow our dirty laundry. It doubles as a seat while putting on shoes and a booster for our preschooler, who likes to crawl into bed with us at 3 am. Inside the box, we keep four large drawstring bags of different colors/patterns to pre-sort the laundry into warms, whites, colds and delicates. We use folding mesh carriers (which can be stored in the box, too) to transport our clothes to/from our apartment to the shared basement laundry room.

  • Reply Amanda October 21, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    I’m struggling with keeping up with laundry in our small third floor apartment with a toddler and a newborn. We have three machines in our basement, but it’s a lot of stairs to climb and loads to carry. How often do you go to the laundromat and how do you do it with a baby, toddler, and bags of laundry? With bedding, clothes, towels, and other soiled items, laundry has been a huge struggle. Do you have any tips for doing laundry without a washing machine in your home?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE October 22, 2017 at 7:17 pm

      We bring our laundry to the laundromat once a week! We sometimes bring it there ourselves, but often have the folks at the laundromat pick up sorted bags from our apartment and we leave it there to be washed and folded. Not sure where you are in the world, but it’s a pretty common practice here in New York and the moderate extra cost more than makes up for the time we’d otherwise have to spend sitting in the laundromat ourselves!

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