Laundry. It’s not the cooking. Not the dirty dishes. Not the kid’s schedules. Not the shopping. Not the noise. Not the chaos. In the spectrum of large family challenges, it’s the laundry that kicks my booty the most! You know those iRobot vacuums, that buzz around and vacuum by themselves? I need one for laundry. If they made an iRobot that sorted, washed, dried, folded and put away laundry,
I would sell my husband, a couple teenagers, and the family dogs to buy one. (Yes, I know, that was an inappropriate joke, and I’m praying towards remorse. 😉 ) All kidding aside, I have found some strategies to help me with my greatest housekeeping struggle! They keep the laundry beast from eating me alive.
Purge Unwanted Clothing
Gone are the days of old when every family member had two or three sets of clothing. My grandma used to say that she had a school dress, which she wore to school every day, and a work dress that she changed into when she came home. She wore those two dresses all week before they were washed. She used to look at my piles of laundry and tell me, “Your kids have too many clothes!” She was right, I know she was.
I am not interested in keeping only two sets of clothes per person, and Grandma wasn’t either. But having way too many is a real problem. (If I only had a nickel for every item I’ve washed that was never worn, only thrown out of the drawer to get to what some little booger was actually trying to find.) I try to keep a lid on the amount of clothes we have. Getting rid of unnecessary unwanted clothes gives me a great sense of satisfaction… I’ll never have to wash or fold that stuff again! A good rule of thumb: if there is not enough room in their drawers/closets to put their clothes away without cramming, it’s time to get rid of stuff!
It’s like our dishes. We must wash dishes after every meal, because if not, we don’t have enough forks, etc. for the next meal. So we wash them, period. That’s one of the side benefits of feeding 16 or so people at every meal. (Read Help Me! How to Plan Menus and Shop for a Large Family for help with that!) We can’t let the dishes stack up, and so we don’t. In the same way, the more clothes we have, the more dirty ones stack up.
2 Washers, 2 Dryers
For large families, two washers and dryers can be a HUGE help! When my ninth baby was born, we finally got two! I wanted two way before that, honestly. If you are home all day everyday, you might not need two. But I find that we are out of the house quite a bit! When we are home and need to get the laundry done now, it is super helpful to be able to wash and dry twice as much in the same amount of time. Think laundromat! (One time when our washer was broken, I took weeks worth of laundry to the laundromat. Seriously, so much laundry! It cost about $75 to wash and dry it all. It was totally worth it to have it caught up.) If I had the space, I’d get a third set for the master bedroom/bathroom. Just for mom & dad.
My two washers sit side by side. I can stand in front of them with a hamper of dirty clothes, and sort as I go. Darks go in one washer, lights go in the other. Love it!
Several years ago, when I was losing my mind with the towel situation, I picked up a Target ad and noticed that they had bath towels on sale in a variety of colors. I bought one in a different color for each of my kids. Each kid was assigned his/her own towel, and given the responsibility of hanging it up to dry after baths. Seriously, it was one of my best ideas ever. (Kid’s like to know that something is “theirs” and no one else can use it!) They use that same towel for a week before I gather them up and wash them. So…
- Every kid has his own unique towel.
- Towels are hung up to dry, and used for a week before washing.
It is pretty universally accepted that sheets should be washed once a week, I think.
Yeah, I don’t do that.
We shoot for once a month. (Now I know that for some of you, I just lost a great deal of your respect. And I apologize for that, I really do. But for others of you… you just fell in love with me a little bit, didn’t you?) Here’s the why:
- It isn’t necessary. We bathe. We do a great deal of working, playing, sweating, and generally getting dirty in this family. If there is dirt or sweat involved, a shower before bed is required. Clean bodies do not soil sheets that quickly. I personally think the “once a week sheet washing” was born of the day when people bathed once a week. If I showered only once a week, then I would definitely need to wash my sheets weekly too.
- It’s a giant pain to strip beds, wash, dry, and replace sheets. Who needs that aggravation more than is necessary? We have 11 beds in our house currently. Not happening, folks. I have better things to do.
- It isn’t necessary. Oh wait, I said that. If it is necessary, say some little cutie patootie wets the bed, or a stomach bug strikes, then of course we wash the sheets. One other exception would be a kids with severe allergies. Sheets washed more often to get rid of allergens will help them sleep better.
The One Touch Rule
Whenever possible, put everything you touch where it needs to go the first time you touch it! I used to have a terrible tendency to move this “thing” out of my way or set it down “for the moment” and “deal with it later.” Nope. Bad idea! That is how clutter grows and how things get lost! (Confession: I lose stuff. Constantly. I’m getting better-ish.) Now, when I pick something up or touch it, I try to make myself put it wherever it’s finally destination should be right away.
This principle helps with laundry too. As much as I have fought this idea, there really is no better way: As much as possible, fold the clothes as soon as they come out of the dryer! When I can, I take items out, fold, and stack on the washer. Then I put the stacks away right away. It saves extra touches. It also saves wrinkles, stuff getting lost, clothes falling out of the basket and getting trampled before it gets put away, and most of all… It saves the clean laundry from stacking up into an overwhelming Mt. Everest that I don’t want to climb.
Laundry Room Set-up
Setting up your laundry room in a way that works efficiently is huge! Even very small spaces can be maximized to your advantage. I finally got my husband to install a closet rod above my two dryers a couple years ago. (Like this one that I found on Pinterest: )
(I wanted one for years!) I keep empty hangers on it. When clothes come out of the dryer, the “hang” items go directly on a hanger and onto the rod. Then I gather all my hangers and take to the closet in one trip. This saves wrinkles and a several extra touches. Instead of going in a basket (1 touch), carrying into another room (2 touches), out of the basket (3 touches), onto my bed (4 touches), onto a hanger (5 touches) and into the closet (6 touches), or even possibly going back in the dryer or being ironed to get rid of wrinkles (7,8, or more touches.)
IF I had the space, which I don’t, I would also have shelves with individual cubbies for each member of the family. I would fold the laundry and then place each item in the correct person’s cubby as I go. This is a “someday” goal for me! Something like this, also from Pinterest :
Pinterest has some fantastic ideas for laundry rooms! Almost makes me excited about laundry. Almost. (It’s still laundry…sigh.) But, since you and I will likely spend years of our lives in there, we might as well make it a functional, and even pretty, space we can smile about! (I can’t help but notice that in all these beautiful pictures of laundry rooms… there is no actual laundry!?! They probably piled it in the kitchen while they snapped their pictures 😉 )
Laundry Folding Time
That being said, sometimes I simply can’t fold and put the laundry away right this minute. But I need to wash and dry more loads now! When that happens, the clothes wait in the baskets until laundry folding time.
Laundry folding time is when I gather my kids in the family room and we all spread out with a basket of clean laundry. Every capable body folds the laundry until we are done! (Yes, kids don’t fold clothes perfectly. But they learn by doing it. And anyway, I’m not a perfectionist. I’m a “good enough-ist.”) We stack laundry into separate piles for each owner or room. Then we put it away. When I get everyone together to help like this, it goes quick! Even that Mt. Everest I talked about disappears pretty fast with many hands to help!
The Laundry Schedule
With as many people as we have in our house, we need some sort of system to make sure everyone’s clothes get washed. Over the years we have tried a bunch. The following two methods have worked the best:
- Daily schedule: Everyone in the house is assigned a laundry day. On Mondays, the kids in bedroom #1 get the laundry room to wash all their clothes. On Tuesdays, bedroom #2 gets laundry room privileges, etc.
- Hourly Schedule: Everyone has a daily time slot in which they may do their laundry. Meaning that from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., mom gets the laundry room. At 8:00, kids in bedroom #1 get the laundry room. At 10:00, kids in bedroom #2 get the laundry room, etc.
There are pros and cons to each method. The daily schedule works pretty good, unless you are gone all day long, and your laundry day comes and goes without you. The hourly method takes care of this problem, because everyone still gets a chance to use the laundry room each day they are home. The downside of the hourly method is, it can be a little harder to keep track of the schedule. However, a sign posted on the wall with the schedule takes care of this!
Laundry is a Family Job
One thing I will never hear in my house is, “Mom, why don’t I have any clean clothes?!” If my kids are tall enough to reach the controls on the washer, they are old enough to use it! And if they are out of clean clothes, they better do something about it. Of course I will help when needed, but I am not their maid or their doormat. Furthermore, they need to learn to do laundry themselves because they are adults in training! I have known young people who grew up and went to college without ever learning how to use the washer and dryer. What good is a college education if you can’t use a washer?
If having your kids do laundry scares you a little, don’t despair. Just have a training session. Show them how. Explain how things work, including the laundry detergent, fabric softener, etc. (By the way, I never let kids under age 13 or so handle bleach. I’m not that adventurous.) Post step by step instructions above the washer and dryer, and go over them with the kids to make sure they understand. Then leave the instructions up permanently. I find that the pod-type detergent is great for portion control of laundry detergent, and it’s way less messy! (I used homemade detergent for several years, but during this stage of my life, I’m buying it.)
Obviously for sweet little tykes who are too young to do their own laundry, Mom is in charge. An older buddy can be very helpful with this process as well! Read How to Implement a Buddy System that will Save Your Sanity.
Even with our scheduling system, there is still some laundry that doesn’t necessarily fall into a neat little category. This laundry is usually done by me, but I reserve the right to appoint someone else to change loads at any time! I don’t want to create an “every man for himself” mentality about anything in our house, I want us to work together on the laundry and everything else!
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, laundry should be a means to an end. That end being that we need clean clothes to wear, period. How well we keep up on the laundry should not be a measuring stick of our success as mothers. If it is, I’m in trouble. If you should happen to drop by my house this afternoon, you may very well find some piles waiting to be folded. Please don’t judge me, it’s been a long
week month year. Thankfully, Jesus has redeemed me and the destiny of my soul is not dependent upon my laundry success or failures!
What are your difficulties with the laundry beast? What works for you? Comment below! Hugs, mama!