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Anyone with kids will understand industrial engineer (and mom) Başak Anil’s despair at the sheer volume of laundry they create: “After our second baby, the laundry situation in our home went crazy. There were piles of unsorted laundry everywhere.”
It just stacks up so quickly — not just dirty clothes waiting to be sorted and washed, but clean laundry waiting to be folded and put away, too. The amount of laundry isn’t necessarily even the biggest problem. It isn’t just an activity that you do, it’s a whole process that has to be managed.
The Problem: Laundry Bottleneck
Anil explained to me that when she and her husband first came up with the TROFAST laundry system they realized that the issue wasn’t a capacity problem: “This was a bottleneck problem. Laundry was piling up at three points: sorting pre-wash, folding post-wash, putting away post-wash.”
These points are problematic because they require you to make a hard decision, and decision-making requires attention, which can be a sparse resource, especially for parents. “A thousand other things require your attention, and you run out of it, so you avoid these tasks for as long as you can, which ends up blocking the flow,” shares Anil.
No matter how much capacity (that is, laundry basket volume) you allocate, it comes down to three psychological bottlenecks:
The Solution: the IKEA TROFAST Laundry System
The TROFAST laundry system has only two elements: buckets and racks. “This system allows sorting, folding, and putting away to be handled in a single bucket,” explains Anil. In short, your laundry basket turns into a ready-to-wear-from drawer. Each rack holds three buckets vertically and you can have each rack represent a category of laundry: lights, darks, wool, baby, toddler, etc.
The family collects dirty laundry in the bottom buckets of each rack, with the top two buckets containing their clean clothes. Anil calls these buckets “atomic laundry units.” The items in each bucket go from dirty to clean in four steps:
How to Implement the IKEA TROFAST Laundry System
Anil and her husband sold all of their dressers to invest in the IKEA TROFAST atomic laundry system. They now have eight of these units with mostly medium (9-inch tall) buckets, handling eight categories of clothes.
“Whatever can be washed and stored together is a category,” she says. Of course, you don’t have to go all in right away. Anil suggests picking a category that goes into the wash most frequently in your home (for example, toddler clothes or adult T-shirts) to become its own singular system. Anil recommends using the entire column of three baskets as a laundry basket and dresser, instead of sorting clothes and placing them back in actual drawers.
The 9-inch buckets make up a half load in the family’s washing machine, so they run them in short cycles and then dry the items. They do use some of the smaller 4-inch tall buckets, which can be bought separately, where necessary for easier access to smaller items, but still, they don’t combine trays because it creates the additional step of sorting them post-wash.
Applying an engineer’s logic to household chores lets you build systems around things that handle the largest traffic, such as laundry, and spare your attention for fun activities with your family. “Laundry shouldn’t be something that steals your precious attention,” says Anil.