Where to Put Not Quite Dirty and Not Quite Clean Clothes

What do you do with jeans that you could wear a couple more times? How about a T-shirt that you only wear for an hour? A sweatshirt that’s not dirty enough to be washed, but also not clean? Turns out these are hot questions on Ask Metafilter , and people hold strong opinions.

I also have a strong opinion on this, as I live in a small room with three other people and no washer / dryer. In our house there is no “well, just throw it in the car if you’re not sure” – we only wash those things that are recognized as dirty. No clothes should be thrown on the floor, as this will stain them more quickly and therefore require more washing (cardinal sin). I’ll walk you through a few storage options for not-so-dirty but not-so-clean clothes, and then let you know as someone who has tried many of these options, which I personally find to be optimal. Best.

1. Anything that touches your skin, even for a moment, is washed off.

This is for purebred freaks. You put on your jeans to run to the store and then took them off? They are washed. The bra that you wore for ten minutes when your neighbor visited? In the sink with other delicacies. This is a system for people who either love to wash or tend to clean their clothes.

2. Everything is returned to a drawer or cabinet.

For these people, there is no “intermediate”. These black and white thinkers categorize their clothing as “wearable” and “not wearable”. The wearable is put back in a drawer or closet, not in a basket. There is no purgatory, only heaven or hell. The good thing about this system, like the first system, is that it is binary and simplicity is reassuring. However, there are many disadvantages: for example, a mole. Putting even a little sweat in your closet will attract pests. Dress moths are difficult to eradicate; this system won’t work for me.

Second, if a shirt you wore a couple of times returns to a perfectly clean shirt, how many times will you remember wearing it? How do you know when it reaches your personal “dirty” threshold? Add to that a busy week and a bit of forgetfulness, and you could very well accidentally wear the same T-shirt 12 times.

3. Everything is thrown onto a chair.

The chair is only one level better than its closest relative, the floor. This is the worst possible option if you have pets, and only marginally better if you don’t. Cats and dogs also left a lot of things on this chair, namely their fur, so for heaven’s sake don’t throw your fleece pullover or wool scarf over the upholstered furniture – you will be completely covered in pet hair. Even if you don’t have pets, your clothes will wrinkle and won’t ventilate between the socks.

4. Anything that gets tossed onto a valet or other freestanding rack.

This solution works well if you have a bedroom that can accommodate another piece of furniture. (Mine won’t like it.) I don’t like it either, because the valet becomes just another dump, like an exercise bike or cat hair chair that looks sloppy. Unless you have a real (live) valet to look after him, this is not the most aesthetic or practical system.

5. Intermediate garments are placed in a special intermediate box, shelf or basket.

This is good. On the day of washing, you can simply remove that drawer or shelf, run through the wash and start over. The problem of the clothes moth remains. And a special extra basket is too much furniture for my room, and besides, things will wrinkle.

6. You can use your own secret system.

In an earlier Ask Metafilter question (this question has been asked several times over the past ten years; I first came across this question in 2007), someone said they hung intermediate clothes in the closet but turned the hanger to serve as a signal that these are not perfectly clean clothes. This is not a Tom Clancy novel; I can’t deal with so much code when I try to get dressed. And again the moths.

7. You can hang them on a basket or on a dresser.

You can throw intermediate clothes over the edge of the laundry basket and put dirty clothes inside. This is normal, but they are not ventilated and will remain dented. It also looks messy. (By the way, this is also a solution for clothes that need to be dried, such as sports bras, before they are placed in the basket. You don’t want wet things to blur for a week. Although in an ideal world you would hang them outside look or immediately wash them.)

8. They can be hung on hooks or door pillar.

In my experience, this is the only thing that works. Hooks at the back of the bedroom door are used to hang jeans and items that can be worn more than once. For my kids, who used to just throw their clothes on the floor or put them on the dresser, I bought this outdoor hanger . The higher tiers are for their suits / dressing up and the lower tiers are for pajamas and pants that can be worn again. They don’t yet have the knack for shaking clothes and hanging them on hooks – they usually just stuff them in a bundle – but it has dramatically reduced the piles of clothes on the floor and in the dresser nonetheless. On the day of washing, the status of all clothes changes to dirty, I clean the entire rack and start over.

In the interests of fairness, this system is also not ideal: the door hooks can get overcrowded and your room doesn’t look like a designer store. But so far, this is our best solution. In my fantastic home, I have a dressing room: you walk in from the bedroom and out into the laundry room. All in-between clothes have their own hanger, and the elves come daily to chase away a couple of things. And I don’t need to think about the system at all.


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