Sometimes I feel like I’m the Queen of the Obvious.
Welcome to my kingdom.
I’ve recently come up with a solution that’s so obvious, I’m pretty sure every mom of more than one kid has been doing it since she washed her first load of baby-plus-toddler laundry.
But whatever. I don’t write for the moms who already have it together. I write for people like me who are just grateful for super simple tricks to help keep closets (more) organized and their laundry routines (more) headache free.
So what is the organizing solution that has improved our home? I assigned different colored hangers to each of my three kids.
Those who didn’t know there were people out there who hadn’t thought of this, pat yourselves on the back and move right along.
Those of you whose eyes have narrowed because this has never occurred to you, and therefore you wonder if it would actually make a difference, read on.
I Don’t Have to Keep Doorknobs Straight
I know. That sentence doesn’t seem to make sense. But it’s actually a big deal. My former system for keeping kids’ clothing straight as it came out of the dryer was to designate a different doorknob for each person on which to hang their clothes.
But I had to remember which doorknob was designated for which kid.
And I often didn’t remember.
Or I thought I remembered even though I didn’t actually remember and then clothes got mixed up.
Facts that might help you understand:
- I have four easily accessible doorknobs within range of my laundry room.
- I have three man-sized people in my home. One actual man (my husband) and two pretty-much-men teenage boys.
- My kids wear uniforms at their public schools. All in the same colors. So even my daughter’s clothing looks similar at a glance.
When I’m putting clothes on white, black or pink hangers as they come out of the dryer, that’s the only time I have to figure out who the item belongs to. I figure out whose shirt it is, hang it, and I’m done.
No more brain power required. And I just hang them all on the emptiest, closest doorknob. Together.
Mama Answers Fewer Questions
My kids caught on quickly. This shouldn’t surprise me. They’re smart people. But you might not have known they were smart for all the times they felt it was necessary to ask me which clothes were whose.
Since checking size tags is so hard(?), it really helps them to be able to see immediately which things are theirs, and that there are, in fact, clean clothes for them and not just for the better-loved brother.
Less Mess in the Shared Closet/Room
Even though there were clearly(ish) divided sides of the closet, the combination of the boys forgetting that fact and me absentmindedly putting things on the wrong side while having animated discussions with myself meant that clothes were often pulled off of hangers, tried on, and then dropped on the floor because they belonged to the other person.
Solving that problem is worth the cost of the hangers, for sure.
What Kind of Hangers?
FYI, I’m going to use affiliate links to the stuff I mention.
I had planned on getting velvet hangers in different colors for my kids. I love (love love love) my own velvet hangers.
But velvet hangers, especially ones in different colors, are expensive.
So while walking past a display of plastic hangers during back to school/dorm time, I grabbed some. For, like, $3.something a pack.
They work fine. Probably better for my kids.
Here is an example (using my referral link) of some similar ones on Amazon, but I got mine cheaper.
I’d love to know your best tricks for keeping clothes straight in shared closets.
I have no advice about organizing shared closets, but there’s something out there that will improve on the doorknobs idea. It’s a bracket that slips over the top of your door, with a loop of metal or plastic that makes a mini rod for hanging a bunch of hangers. Easily holds double what you can put on a doorknob.
I use those too! I have one on every bedroom and bathroom and laundry room door, so I can easily pick up clothes that aren’t dirty yet and hang them there.
Dena M says
My six children still at home (ages 7-20) each have an assigned day on which to do their laundry. My 15 & 17 year old daughters are assigned Tuesday and my 10 & 13 year old sons are assigned Thursday. On their respective days, they wash their laundry, dry it, and put it away. I help my 7 year old daughter & disabled 20 year old son do their laundry on Wednesday. They bring it to the washer and put it in, transfer it to the dryer after it’s washed, remove it from the dryer when it’s done, and put it away. I put the detergent in the washer, set the machines, and turn them on.
My husband takes care of his own laundry (because he wants to) and I take care of mine. I do the towels on my wash day, but everyone in the family is responsible for putting their towels in the washer when it’s time to wash them (or they don’t get washed that week).
I tried one day a week for all laundry and it didn’t work for our family. We have too much to wash everything on one day. This method I’ve developed for us works much better.
My children have learned that if they want clean clothes they have to wash them on their day or wait until next week. They’ve all quickly learned to wash their clothes on their day.
Love your color sorting system. I finally learned to just wash each person’s laundry on a different day and then there’s NO sorting to be done. It ALL goes to the same room. It’s so frustrating that I’m 50+ And just now figuring out what works for me.
Awesome idea! I love it! And …I’m 50 also, and NEVER once thought about that.
Dana, I’ve started doing that awhile back, not to separate whose is whose, but just because I love purple! So, I have purple, hubby has white. I purged all green, blue and black. The closet looks automatically organized now! then I bought small pink ones for the girls. I love how it looks!
That is a great idea of different colored hangers . Some of us have never thought of that ! 🙂
Darlene, are you talking about something like this:
MaidMax Closet Bracket Clothes Hanger (Amazon 12.99)
Honey Can Do HNG 01519 Hanger Holder (Amazon 5.42)?
Thank you! I have NEVER thought about that. My kids don’t share a closet, but I hang up their shirts. This will speed up putting them away. I may do it for my husband and I too. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and tips!!!
Morgan H. says
I totally forgot until just now, but my mom TOTALLY did this as when I was growing up.
I just assumed it was part of the color-coding she’d used since I was a baby. I’m an identical twin, so our clothes WERE the same size, there was no way to tell which would be which except the color of the clothes and a few outfits we had that were personalized.
Great idea! I had three children and used 3 colors of the plastic hangers. It was their responsibility to bring the empty ones to the laundry room. I also used colored laundry baskets.
Ooohhh! I like the colored basket/hanger combo for each person! That would take all the guesswork out of the equation! Right now no one (except me) puts anything in the hamper. And our washing machine is broken, so I have been having to haul it out to do it. It would go so much faster if I could just have it sorted and give it back to each person to fold and put away. I can’t tell my son’s clothes from my husband’s anymore! I will have to try and get over the need to sort by color/fabric weight.
Elizabeth A says
Since I sort in the kitchen, I used different chairs for each person. I only have one doorknob within reach lol.
My kids’ laundry hack is that I only wash one kids clothes at a time. So daughter #1, EVERYTHING goes in together – yes, socks, underwear, jeans, shirts… everything. Cold water wash, low dry. Fold. Into her room.
Repeat for daughter #2. No more getting their clothes (especially their underwear since they wear the same size) mixed up and having to fold and sort out to different rooms. They are also more likely to fold their own clothes but won’t have anything to do with the other’s. Previously when I did their clothes together and sorted by darks and lights, it would take me forever to fold and pile each of their items. I’d 2 shirt piles, 2 pants piles… you get the point. This has saved me an immense amount of anguish.
Maybe I even got this hack from you!!
Dana White says
I’ve never done that, but am considering it.
The “one-kid-at-a-time” method was a game changer for me. With 3 girls, it was so hard remembering who had which color of socks, etc., especially once they got past the age where they would want their initial Sharepied on their underwear!
One hamper per person, and no more guesswork!
R.M. Koske says
Velvet hangers are very nice for stuff that slithers off, but for over-the-head stuff, especially stuff with a small neck opening, I find them SUPER annoying. I was going to switch over to all-velvet, but I can’t stand them for some items because it’s just too hard to get the clothes on and off the hanger. (Luckily, I learned this before I got rid of the regular hangers.)
So you may want to test drive velvet hangers with the kids if/when you decide to invest. They may find them more frustrating than useful, especially if they’re wearing a lot of crewneck tee shirts.
Fairfax Avenue says
With my two oldest son’s differentiating between their socks was frustrating. I started buying striped for one and solid for the other. It wasn’t so easy for the girls socks! I liked winter when they wore tights.
My genius laundry shortcut: identical socks for my two boys. Each of their about 12 shared pairs are identical grey athletic socks making matching, folding and divvying breeze!
And my toddlers socks are identical as well.
The last two years our whole family wears mostly the same socks. I got tired of the fighting over whose were whose. Men’s black ankle high athletic socks. They fit my daughter and me more like crew socks, so they work with boots, too. They all are kept together in one basket. No one is allowed to hoard them for themselves. Wow, do we sound like savages!
We do different colored hangers, but we also mark the clothes themselves, either on the tag or on the collar. Oldest son gets 1 dot with a sharpie; youngest gets 2 dots. Even when I put it on inside of collar, it doesn’t show thru on outside of shirt or shorts.
Really helps when pulling clothes out of dryer to not have to remember which item belongs to which boy. And if something passes down from older to younger brother, we just add a dot
Can I tell you what a game changer the dots were after my 4th?! All girls and all in 5 years so everything looks the same!
I use washable colour coded laundry bags.
Started because I was fed up with odd socks and tights winding around everything.
Now I also use to keep the clothes separate – so I can still do coloureds or white wash.
Next stop = coloured hangers to match !
I do this too because even though we don’t have uniforms my kids are close in age and the younger wears hand me downs that the older wore not long ago so she doesn’t realize she outgrew it and it’s in the closet because it fits her sister.
A long time ago I had heard on Oprah I think that a really easy way to make your closet look nicer is to upgrade all the mismatched and wire hangers to matching hangers. At the time I lived with room mates with also mismatched hangers so I just decided to do white and black plastic (there wasn’t enough in one color) so I traded my roommates to get all the white and Black for closet. It greatly improved the visual appeal of the closet.
Seven kids here. Child #1 gets one black Sharpie dot on the tag of her clothes; child #2, gets 2 dots, and so on. As items get passed down, add a dot! I’ve gotten to the point where I do the dots in the order they appear on a die so that I can recognize it faster than counting a straight line of dots. Obviously can’t do that with #7, but I do it in a way I’d quickly recognize, like a 4 and a 3.
That’s very clever!
Cee BeeDee says
Yep! Dots are amazing and fast! And work well when sons and daughters skip sizes or dont like certain items from siblings.
1. My husband and I have 5 sons. Usually each guy buys their own favorite style of sock, so they are easier to tell apart. Anyway, my hubby got so tired of his own socks disappearing that he went and bought the CRAZIEST, most embarrassing socks, lol. The ones I hate the most have jalopeno peppers all over them.
dying laughing here.
2. My kids all do their own laundry generally speaking. But this past year or so, since one of my daughters loves hanging out in her room for most of the day, and since the laundry room is next to HER room, I put her in charge of laundry and the other girls in charge of helping in the kitchen.
This helps, but we still gotta remind her that FOLDING is also a part of the job.
3. As to identifying clothes in general, using a permanent marking and dotting each person’s tag with one, two, or three…etc. dots works well. Using dots is better than NAMES or numbers because you can add a dot when the clothing gets handed down to the next kids.
I have nine kids….laundry is my kind of labor pain.
Our house uses white plastic hangers. My three sons share a closet which is separated using bulky wooden hangers. Belts go over the hook of the wooden hangers.
If I am distracted, I sometimes mix up the one man and three man sized jeans. No organizational hack for that. The guys are all grateful that I do the washing anyway, because the children of my friends and siblings do their own laundry.
This actually worked for me! I have to organize 8 children’s church clothes in my walk in closet plus my husband and mine. wWhat do you know? Colored hangers are the answer! So easy! Thank you!
I thought of color-coding hangers for different family members a few years ago, fortunately while the children were still small (and less of them… only 2 at the time). Through the years I have decided I prefer the times that our family has used a shared closet, so now we actually use a coat closet near the laundry closet for all of our clothes. My MIL came to visit a few months ago, and sweetly did a lot of laundry while I was looking the other way (homeschooling the bigger kids), and my children were SO STRESSED that their clothes weren’t being put on the right hangers! I had quite a little work to calm them down multiple different times and tell them that Grandmother was being such a help, we would just appreciate it gracefully, and actually look at the clothes instead of the hangers, to see what they wanted to wear. I also had to promise that the day she left, I would sort the clothes according to our system. That was the only thing that actually lowered their stress level. I also explained that her system of hanging things up on the wrong hanger was much better than my system of leaving a gigantic pile of clean laundry to dig through on the couch, but that one went right over their little heads….. I’m heading over to check out the post about laundry day working for large families too, as we are now a homeschooling family of 7, and one laundry day didn’t sound workable in our home (can’t interrupt school all day). I’m interested in how other people accomplish it with a large family.
Ok, confession. I consider myself a very organized person, but this had never occurred to me. My men are all way too close to the same size so this is perfect for me – even though they don’t share a closet. Thank you SO much.
My daughters are 7 and 10 and share a closet. They each have a designated side of the closet. They both have identical space saver hangers. I can’t always recall which tops currently fit which child, so as soon as laundry is dry, they take turns sorting whose is whose and each put away their own, in their closet. My only issue with this is that I am very picky about the clothes hanging properly on the hanger, and sometimes (like literally just 5 minutes ago) I find the clothes being on there sloppy. P.S. My washer/dryer are in an unfinished basement which I try to spend as little time in, as possible, so I don’t sort clothes down there.
Itry to read all of your posts. Great idea. I only have me and hubby now but i WILL surely pass this on.
As I’m actually laughing out loud… I guess I needed this post today! Geeez, yes, it DOES get difficult to separate clothes of 2 girls who can *almost share them… Lots of laughs – especially from folks’ comments! Thanks, Noni & Readers!
Alethea Crossman says
My sons are 19 and 17 now. Even when they were little, the younger was as tall as the older. They often wore the same size. So we started early on with different colored hangers, But we needed more than that. I didn’t want to be the only person in the house that could figure out If this shirt belonged to older or younger.
Enter a sharpie marker. Stay with me here. on the tag inside the garment, or sometimes directly on the inside of the collar, I put 1 dot if it was older, 2 dots for younger. On most clothing items, a black sharpie works because the garment itself is like colored or the tag is like colored. Ended up buying a silver metallic sharpie, for the things that had a black tag or had no tag at all, where it was printed directly on the garment. I’ve done this several hundred times, over the course of their clothing life. and never never never did the sharpie bleed through where you could see it on the outside of the clothing. Once we established this system early on, anybody could take clothing out of the dryer and hang it up for me properly. The boys themselves, my husband, even a babysitter or a family member who is helping out. Okay that last one never happened but it sounded nice to type.
Occasionally, you’ll need to read darken the dot as it fades over time. and if a clothing item gets handed down from older to younger, we just add a dot. There was never a time for us that something went from younger to older.
And if it was a male article of clothing that had no dots, it belonged to my husband.
Anyway, sharpie markers plus different colored hangers. Lifesavers.
Alethea Crossman says
Sorry in my post above, it’s light colored not like colored. can’t figure out how to go back up and edit it.
Christina J. says
We’ve used different colored hangers since our kids were babies – I just loved seeing the colors! Now that they’re bigger, one kid has two colors (one type for shirts and another type for sleeveless) and the other has both types in the same color – 2nd one drives me a bit batty 😂.
I never thought to do dots! Thankfully my memory is decent about their shirts and pants and I check labels as needed. One kid likes patterned undies and the other just likes white, so that’s super easy.
We made up a little rhyme to help them know where it was acceptable to find their clothes if they didn’t want me to assume they were *done* with them:
On a hanger,
In a drawer (folded),
On the floor (specific spot for laundry), or
Out the door (give away or trash)
Since we’re trying to keep fewer clothes, I try to do one laundry load a day.
I’m lazy – I make my kids put their own clothes away!
They’re 12 and 9, and we’ve been doing this since they were around 7 and 4.
I wash their stuff together once a week, then dump the pile in the middle of the room (their shared room when they were still sharing, now my daughter’s room, since she has more clothes than my son), and call them to come put their stuff away.
Since we also do nightly pick-ups of their rooms (this took a long, long time to implement, and we have to re-implement every so often!), there’s usually enough space on the floor for them to sort, fold (fold what they want – I’ve shown them how, but it’s up to them to actually do it. My only requirement is that all drawers close easily, clothing on the body isn’t crazy-wrinkled, and all closets have zero clothes on the floor.), and then put away.
Decluttering clothing worked the best for us – we use the container concept for clothing, and keep the “containers” as small as possible.
Amanda Peterson says
I have 3 boys in very similar size pants. I try to do their laundry separately but sometimes they get combined. I started putting a dot on the tag for my oldest, two dots for the second and 3 dots for the 3rd son. When we hand down the item I just add a dot.
I have 3 sons and I have always bought them different branded underwear or a particular design so they and I know who owns which. Markings always washed off and it especially came in handy once they all grew to become the same size.