6 Tips for a More Functional Laundry Room

My home is over 100 years old. The laundry room is in the basement, which is unfinished and a little bit scary and dungeon-like. Whenever I look at the beautiful laundry rooms on Pinterest or in the magazines, I lament the fact that mine will never look like those gorgeous rooms, no matter what I do. Sure, there are a few improvements I could make that might end up looking good enough to belong on a magazine cover, but honestly? Those types of changes would cost me thousands of dollars and my laundry room just isn’t a very high priority when the rest of my 100-year-old home—the part that we actually live in—needs plenty of updates, too.

Pinterest-worthy laundry rooms aren't a necessity! All you need is one that functions properly and works hard for you. #overstuffedlife

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A couple years ago I decided to make my best effort to brighten up the laundry room, and I’m happy with it. It’s still far from “Pinterest worthy,” but I’ve realized that looks don’t matter so much when you’re dealing with a laundry room.

Functionality is what matters most in a laundry room.

1. A {good} washer and dryer

Obviously, the most important thing to have in your laundry room is your washer and dryer. I splurged a few years ago and bought new high efficiency, large capacity machines. My old ones were limping along and I had no idea how bad it was until I got my new ones.

Laundry rooms don't have to be pretty—they just have to work.

What you need in a washer and dryer totally depends on your family size and how much laundry you do. Buying the large capacity machines effectively cut my work load in half (although I still have to fold it all, darn it!). Now I do 1-2 loads of laundry per day instead of 3-4. It’s pretty dreamy!

Putting a rug in front of your washer and dryer in a basement laundry room is helpful

Because of the age of my home, there is nowhere for the washer to drain, so the hose goes directly into the work sink. It’s not my favorite, but it works. The work sink used to be absolutely disgusting and really old, but I bought a new one a few years ago and it just makes everything seem nicer and cleaner! If you do have a sink in your laundry room, it’s a good place to do handwashing or to soak stained items.

The above photo shows just how not-Pinterest-worthy my laundry room is. The painted stone foundation, the exposed pipes, the placement of the dryer vent, the ugly foam we had to put in the window because it kept flooding. Yeah, not gorgeous. But it could be much worse! If I did have a budget for laundry room fixing up right now, it would go towards new windows first. But I don’t, so let’s move on to the next thing, shall we?

2. A place to sort laundry

One thing I actually have going for me in my basement laundry area is that there is plenty of space. When I was growing up we had a teeny tiny space to do laundry. It was really just a bathroom with a washer and dryer in it, too. I remember absolutely hating to dig through the laundry basket that lived on the top of the dryer so I could find all the whites for the load I was putting in.

Idea for sorting laundry—use vinyl lettering on the wall above the sorting baskets. Great way for kids to learn how to sort the laundry!

I purchased four tall laundry baskets from WalMart (see it here: Mainstays tall laundry hamper) and placed them in a row along the wall. I then had my friend cut me out some vinyl lettering so that it’s always clear which type of laundry goes where. Having the labels is particularly helpful to my children, since it’s usually their job to sort laundry and I rarely do it myself.

I sort my loads into darks, whites, lights, and towels. The towels category also includes things like dishrags, hot pads, table cloths, and sheets. Each basket holds about one and a half loads of laundry—at least for my large capacity machine.

Idea for sorting laundry—use vinyl lettering on the wall above the sorting baskets. Great way for kids to learn how to sort the laundry!

In my last house I only had a laundry closet, but since I love sorting my laundry so much, I kept a laundry sorter in the hall. I had one similar to this: Rolling Laundry Sorter.

3. A place to keep detergent and other supplies

Since my laundry room is in the unfinished basement, putting up cupboards isn’t practical for us right now. I think that would be the ideal place to keep laundry supplies, but instead I have an old bookshelf that I use. It is directly across from the dryer, so while not as convenient as cupboards above the washer and dryer would be, it totally works.

A functional laundry room always has a place to put supplies.

I keep all of the laundry detergent, stain sprays, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets on the top of the shelf. In the shelf there are extra laundry supplies, a bin that holds mesh laundry bags for washing delicates, and my iron. The other basket holds all the random things that find their way into the laundry that shouldn’t be there. I try to empty it every week or so and get things back to their proper homes.

(That grey thing leaning against the wall there goes to my dryer. You can dry shoes on it, which is pretty cool.)

4. A place to fold laundry and/or iron it

Of course, this is not an absolute necessity. But if you have the space to fold laundry immediately, it is something very nice to have. I used to just have my ironing board always set up down there, but it finally bit the dust. I kept forgetting to buy a new one (and still haven’t), but we recently retired a dresser from one of the bedrooms so we moved it to the laundry room.

A functional laundry room has a place to fold and/or iron laundry.

It’s also turned out to be a great place to store beach towels and other linen items that I didn’t really have a place for before. When I need to iron, I just place one of the beach towels that are in the drawers on it, and it works for now. Maybe someday I’ll remember to buy an actual ironing board.

Related: How to Get the Funky Smell Out of Your Towels

5. A place to hang clothes

While writing this, I realized this is the one thing a truly functional laundry room needs that I do not have. So, I hopped over to Amazon and took a look-see and found something that I think will work very nicely in my particular laundry room.

Hanger Holders for a more functional laundry room.

I found these: Wall Mountable Hanger Holders. I think they look pretty snazzy and will be perfect for my particular space.

Update: I received the hanger holders and they work very well for our needs! Sometimes it’s too damp in the basement for anything to hang dry, but it’s nice to have this so I can hang those things up while I am emptying the dryer. I then bring them upstairs where they are more likely to get dry.

Fun decor for a laundry room!

My basement may have concrete floors and stone walls, but somebody at some time did partially finish it with paneling, and that will be where I hang these (I purchased two). The paneling used to be dark wood, but I painted it bright yellow because it was so dreary down there. The yellow made a huge difference and brightened it up considerably. I also painted the floors red—it is a much happier color than concrete color.

6. A little bit of decor 

Finally, you should have a little bit of decor. I know it’s not something that helps the room be functional, but having a few things you like to look at in your laundry room will make you a more functional laundry doer. That is, you will enjoy going into the room a little bit more—at least, that’s what I’ve found in my own life.

I bought a cute rug to put in front of the machines. It’s functional because I’d rather have laundry fall out onto a rug than onto the concrete, but it’s also really cute. (The one I bought is similar to this one: Chevron Runner.)

I painted it a color that made me happy.

Hang fun laundry-related decor in your laundry room.

Finally, since I did have that big blank wall of paneling, I made a fun canvas with a silly laundry limerick I wrote to hang there. (See how I did it here: How to Make Faux Chalkboard Art.)

Even the vinyl I used to denote the sorting baskets is cute. It makes me happy when I see it, and that makes me more likely to go down there.

It may not be Pinterest-worthy, but I love my laundry room and it works for me!

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I hope you don’t mind that I typed-up your laundry poem to put on my laundry room cupboard. I love it!!