I got a message last week from a reader who was wondering how I manage my laundry and laundry room. She has a husband and five kids (hence, lots of laundry) and was hoping I could give her some new tips. Here’s all I got on that topic:
Staying on top of laundry in a large family
As much as I wish I had a simple secret to share that would make this chore cease to be a struggle, the fact is, my family has grown and changed a lot over the years, and my strategy for laundry has had to change, as well.
Dad pitches in to help when things get really out of control, but the kids and I try to stay on top of things so he doesn’t feel a need to get involved :-). Here’s how that has looked at various stages of their lives:
- Mom and babies – I washed, dried, folded, and put away everything myself.
- Mom and littles – I washed & dried. Everybody folded and put away their own clothes. Babies still got help from Mom or older siblings.
- Mom and middles – Laundry became an assigned, rotating chore. An older child was responsible for washing, drying, and sorting clean clothes into individual laundry baskets, which was then folded and put away by its owners.
- Mom and teens – The teens do their own laundry by themselves, start to finish. I wash everything else, and the younger ones put it away.
As for my laundry room, that has changed a lot over the years, too:
- No Washer/Dryer –
When we lived in an apartment, I did all our washing in a laundromat across the street. I washed once a week, when my husband was home to stay with the babies while I did it.
My main memory of those years was that I never seemed to make it home with all our socks. The machines ate them. I kept the orphans in a hatbox until their mates showed back up. At one time, there were 72 unmatched socks in that box — and that was when we only had two children! (Doug eventually hit on the perfect solution to that problem… but that’s another post for another day.)
- Laundry Closet –
A couple of the houses we’ve lived in just had a small stackable washer and dryer in a closet — no room for working or even storing supplies. Still, it was nice to be able to throw a load in without having to run across the street or worry about childcare.
In those situations, I’d keep the laundry supplies in a nearby cabinet and dirty clothes hampers in the bathrooms, then I’d do all the sorting and folding on the couch and coffee table in our living room.
My biggest laundry struggle during those years was being constantly behind on the ironing and feeling incredibly guilty about it. (I eventually eventually gave up the ironing and the guilt trips. I do almost zero ironing today and don’t feel bad about it at all. Praise the Lord for permanent press!)
- Separate Utility Room –
In our last few homes, we’ve been blessed to have a dedicated room for doing laundry. Several years back, we designed and built a home with a big enough laundry room to house a washer and two dryers, a sink, a long folding counter, and twelve cubby holes wide enough for individual laundry baskets for each member of the household. That was really nice and made it much easier to keep the laundry neatly contained at every stage of the washing/drying/sorting/folding process.
That was great while it lasted, but most of our homes, including the one we live in now, have a much smaller utility room. They have several things in common with the larger one, though:
- A sink for pretreating stains – see my free printable stain removal guide at the end of this post for making this task easier
- A cabinet for storing supplies – that allows me to keep detergent, fabric softener sheets, bleach bottles, & stain removers out of sight (and out of reach for little ones who could be harmed by dangerous chemicals)
- Counter space for folding – I try to sort each load as it comes out the dryer, quickly folding and/or hanging up the clothes that belong to me and my husband, and passing the children’s stuff off to them to be put away
- A comfortable chair or stool – Even with all the older kids doing their own laundry, I still process at least two or three loads a day myself. Having a pretty chair with a padded seat that I can sit in while doing this task makes the job so much easier 🙂
- Easy access to needle and thread – I keep a well-stocked basket of mending supplies in the utility room for making quick repairs as I discover them – a stitch in time saves nine!
Regardless where you do your washing, here are a few general tips that will help make the task more manageable:
- Sort as you go – We have two laundry hampers in every bedroom or bathroom — one marked “LIGHTS” and one marked “DARKS”. The dirty clothes get sorted as they are stripped off the bodies, which makes gathering and starting a load a much easier task.
- Wear it more than once – Unless it was worn by a sweaty boy who played basketball in it, not every article of clothing has to be washed every time it is worn. If it still looks (and smells) clean, we just hang it on a hook and wear it again the next day — or in the case of coats or Sunday clothes, hang it back in the closet until next time.
- Triple check laundry for stains – I tell my kids to check their clothes for stains when they take them off their body. If a stain is found, that item goes in the sink in the utility room, so that I can spot treat it before adding it to the next load of laundry. I do another cursory check as I put loads into the washer, and then check known spots to make sure they came out before putting it in the dryer (otherwise, the dryer’s heat will set the stain permanently).
Have any more tips for keeping up with laundry? I’d love for you to share them in the comment section below!