Admit it. You’ve been there. You sorted the laundry, washed it, and dried it. But before you got it folded and put away, your husband is digging through the drier or basket to find a clean, but wrinkled shirt to wear. Before you know it, half of the laundry has been worn before it even made it to your drawers and closet. Or, 10 minutes before you need to walk out the door in the morning, your son is complaining there are no clean socks and your daughter needs her soccer uniform. Sound familiar? Here are a few tips to tame the laundry monster and help your home run more smoothly.
First, choose a laundry system. Make a plan for how you will get the laundry done before it is needed. That way you won’t have to think about it – you’ll just automatically do it. And there won’t be any of those “no clean underwear” surprises. I know that some households require everyone to do their own laundry. That may help the chief laundry engineer (Mom?), but it results in lots of small loads – not very efficient. Instead, design a system that washes only full loads, but does not drop all of the work entirely on the chief laundry engineer.
For example, at our house each person puts their dirty clothes in the hamper; if it’s not in the hamper it doesn’t get washed. Everyone’s laundry is washed together – no half loads for us. I divide laundry into whites, lights, and darks. Since I always seem to have wet towels, they get tossed into whichever color load they belong as needed. I wash, dry, and fold the laundry, but the kids help put it away. As my kids get older, some of the folding responsibilities will shift to them. Second, design a schedule that works for you. When we had a smaller family, I only did laundry on the weekends. We owned enough changes of clothes that I could simply do three loads on Saturday and then be set for the week. Now that we have three small children, including one baby, I do laundry almost every day for two reasons.
First, if I saved all my laundry for the weekend, I’d be tied to my washer and dryer for the whole weekend. Second, all those interesting baby burps, urps, and blow-ups would be pretty smelly and difficult to get out if they sat for a week. My current laundry schedule looks like this: I wash a load almost every day. I run the washer at night after baths are done. The next day I get home from work at 11:30. I move that load into the dryer so that I can fold the clothes and get them into the dressers and closets before the kids are in bed for the night. Basically it boils down to folding and putting away one load a day. Even on a busy day I can usually manage that. You need to consider the size of your family and your daily activities, and then decide what laundry schedule will work for you. Enlist the help of your family. If you have the luxury of a laundry room, have each person carry their dirty clothes to the laundry room on a daily basis.
Since my 13 month old is able to carry her shirt to our hamper, I know that your kids can handle this too. If you are like us and are not blessed with a laundry room, have a plan for dirty laundry. Have baskets in the kids’ rooms if that works for you. For us, with our washer and dryer in the kitchen, we have a pretty hamper that matches the decor right next to the washer. If you have the room, have three hampers. Use one for whites, one for lights, and one for darks. Have your family sort their dirty laundry as they drop it off. When you are ready to do a load, you can see at a glance which hamper is full and ready to be washed. If your kids are old enough, teach them to load the machine and turn it on. Family members can also help with the folding and putting away.
For our family, this means the kids and I, as we try to have the laundry done before hubby is home from work. When you are folding, separate the clothes by family member, and once they are old enough, each child puts away their own things. At this stage, I have one child who can carry his clothes upstairs and put them away. My second child needs me to carry the clothes upstairs, and I then I show him where each type of clothing belongs. Yes, I could do it faster myself, but the time spent teaching him will pay off soon. A kid-sized laundry tote can be very helpful. Discount stores (like Wal-Mart) sell inexpensive collapsible toy totes.
They are made of mesh, and pop up into a box about two feet by two feet, and they have two handles. Buy one for each child, and put their clothes in them as you fold them, or simply sort the clothes and let each child fold their own. Because they are small and flexible, your child can carry it with one hand, and safely navigate stairs and doors into their room. Take the time to evaluate the laundry needs of your family. Then make a plan to meet those needs. If you do your laundry in a regular systematic way, you can say goodbye to the laundry monster!