Laundry is my nemesis. It's one of those household chores that makes me feel SO accomplished when it's all caught up, but it's so time consuming that I don't enjoy doing it. That means I get to feel incredibly accomplished about once every other year (just kidding).
Since I get frequent questions about laundry here at workingathomeschool.com, I thought I'd share how my family of 7 keeps laundry piles from forming in our home:
- I set hands-on laundry days for myself: I do laundry for my husband, myself, and my two toddlers on Mondays and Fridays. That way I can make sure that the four of us, at least, look presentable at church on Sunday and for work during the weekdays (I'm kind of jokingly saying that, but honestly – my 12-year-old has learned the hard way that since mom is so busy with babies, chores, work, and homeschool, if she doesn't do her own laundry she may be out of nice clothes to wear to church on Sunday, and she HATES that. Smelly clothes are a great motivator to do your chores).
- I schedule hands-on laundry days for the other family members: My 12-year-old, 9-year-old, and 7-year-old have assigned laundry days in the middle of the week. They each start by washing their sheets in the morning, then doing their laundry loads on their assigned day. I have three of my girls in one bedroom, and they use this laundry sorter – it makes it easier for the older girls to do their own laundry.
- I schedule one dedicated day for towels and blankets: This is Saturday at our house.
- I throw it all in together, whenever possible: I don't separate colors and whites. When we get new or new-to-us clothes, I check the labels and make sure there won't be any problems. I have two kids with pairs of dark jeans that bleed, so I always wash dark jeans and bright colors separately the first time, at least, but if you're following the recommendations on the tag and know that the clothes you're combining won't bleed, it saves time to wash clothes together.I remember on our last family trip to visit my Dad, he looked shocked and maybe a bit horrified to see me throwing a load in his washing machine that was all mixed up. “Dad, it's really ok,” I remember saying. “I'll just wash it in cold water – I've never had a problem!” I'm pretty sure he was mumbling something along the lines of, “Have I taught you nothing?!” as he walked away. And then I had to remind myself that I am 33 years old and how I wash my family's clothes should be my personal choice. Ahem. All of that aside, it may be better to sort the laundry, but mine gets clean enough with cold water washes and mixed up clothes. I've never dyed anything or had any huge mishaps, so I'll stick with that for now. Please read your tags first and do this at your own risk. 🙂
- I make sure we can get by with one laundry day each week, if needed: Every member of my family has at least 8 outfits including underwear and socks so we can go a week without doing laundry if needed. I know 8 may be a luxury for some, and we're thankful for what we have – four girls passing down clothes to each other has really saved us a ton of money over the years!I've found that more than 8 outfits or so per person can mean that we have way, WAY too much clothing in our house and the laundry piles up quicker than I would have thought possible.My son and my 4-year-old have more than 8 because my son gets so dirty from playing outside that he changes at least once a day. My 4-year-old daughter randomly changes clothes about four times per day and/or throws every piece of clothing she has on the floor while she's looking for something new to wear, so she has a little more to keep her from running out. Sigh. I have four daughters, and they all seem to engage in this method of choosing outfits, so I just let it go and have her pick it up herself (as she's missing out on play time having to clean up clothes, I've noticed she doesn't fling them as far or as often). I've also noticed that by helping her lay out TWO outfits for the next day (just knowing that the outfit switch is inevitable), we cut down on the drawer-rummaging and clothes-flinging.
- I don't fold toddler and baby clothes: Along those lines, I don't fold my toddler's clothes. There is zero point in folding the clothes that will be tossed far and wide when it's time for her to choose an outfit.
- I make a mental note or plan for my laundry: I ALWAYS make a plan for my laundry. I'm not totally ridiculous, there's a purpose behind it: I've learned that if I don't pick a time to fold and put away laundry, the clean clothes will end up in a pile somewhere. I've developed the habit of NOT switching the laundry unless I know I have a good 15 minutes to put everything away. To eliminate laundry piles, I mentally map out what I will likely be doing in an hour, when it's time to pull it out. I make absolutely sure that I have 10 or 15 minutes to spend folding and putting away the load before I get it out of the dryer, or I don't get it out of the dryer. I've learned to wait if I won't have time to deal with the clean clothes ASAP. If I start a load in the dryer before bed, I know I'll take care of it as part of the morning routine I made with the MoneySavingMom's Makeover Your Mornings course (which I highly recommend, by the way! It's changed the way I run my house and helped me to get so much more done every day).
- I set a timer: I set a timer to remind me when to switch the loads.
- I encourage the whole family to pick out clothes the night before: We lay out our clothes down to shoes the night before (another tip I learned from MoneySavingMom.com), which has become an excellent habit. Not only have we eliminated hunting for shoes in the morning when it's time to leave the house, but about twice a week one of my kids will very dramatically wail that they have nothing to wear! Finding out that there is “nothing to wear” the night before gives them time to put something in the wash that night.
- I prep for tomorrow: The kids and I have a basket of laundry ready to go at the top of the stairs the night before our assigned laundry days. As we're transferring clothes from laundry hamper to basket, we look for stains that we can pre-treat so that they can be washed in the morning. We also make sure the washing machine is empty so that we can get our laundry day started as easily as possible. This is done every single night, because it's a part of my evening routine. 🙂
To help you cut down on time spent with laundry in your home, I put together a summary of these action steps you can take today:
- Assign laundry days to members of your family.
- Have a designated day for towels and blankets.
- Combine loads when you can.
- The next time you're folding laundry, assess the clothing each family member has: does everyone have enough clothing to get through a week or so without doing laundry? Do any family members have clothes that they don't wear, yet seem to go through the wash frequently? Purge and reassess.
- Consider not folding toddler clothes, or having bigger kids help with them.
- Make a plan to fold and put away every time you put a load in the dryer.
- Set a timer to remind you to switch the loads.
- Get dirty laundry ready to go the night before your wash day.
That's it – I hope these tips are helpful to you! If you have any good laundry tips, I'd love to hear from you in the comments!