Tuesday, September 3, 2013
5 Ways to Simplify Laundry
Nothing can be more daunting than a mountain of laundry which seems to grow exponentially. And around our house, nothing seems to come in greater abundance than laundry. With soon to be 5 kids ages 6 years and under, I have to be realistic with how laundry is done.
Here are 5 ways to simplify the laundry in your life. Some of these suggestions may not be applicable or useful to your family, so take it for what it is: How one family, working outside the laundry basket, attempts to keep up with the laundry monster.
1. Find a consistent time of day to work on laundry. I find that it's easiest to do laundry every day instead of waiting for one or two days during the week. This depends on how many people are in your household - the fewer people, the less laundry and the fewer days per week you will need to do it. The opposite is true as your family grows - more people equals more laundry equals more laundry days.
Our washer has a very cool feature called "Delay Wash". If I'm staying on top of doing the laundry, I wash cloth diapers after dinner time and then put a load in the washer before bed. Then I set the machine to start washing early the next morning. When we wake up, the laundry is ready to be moved to the dryer. This keeps from having wet, smelly laundry in the morning, and also ensures that the laundry is ready to be sorted and put away early in the day.
A consistent time of day helps so that laundry is part of your routine and not an interruption to it. Figure out what works for your schedule and then take a month to build the laundry habit into your day or week.
2. Pare down your wardrobe. Yep, the fewer clothes you have the less laundry you can make. I've found this to be amazingly true as I've noticed the huge difference in how full my kids' clean laundry baskets are.
Our 1-year-old has very few clothes - just the bare minimum - and his basket is barely full any time we're doing laundry (no matter how many loads I've washed and sorted). Our 5-year-old, on the other hand, has a lot of hand-me-downs (praise the Lord for hand-me-downs!) that she has fallen in love with. As a result she has more clothes than she needs, changes them often, and has an overflowing basket every time we sort.
So, figure out what your family really needs in terms of clothing, bedding, and towels, and get rid of the rest.
3. Wash in big loads. We did this out of necessity over the years of living in apartment buildings. I wasn't interested in paying $1.25 to wash a tiny load of delicates. So, we don't sort our dirty laundry. Everything goes into one big load and everything gets dried together (with very few exceptions). This saves time and we've never had any problems.
If you have a crew of small kiddos, try to buy clothes that are easily laundered and will lend themselves to washing all together. Try not to buy clothes that will bleed or shrink easily. Trust me, your 4-year-old is not going to miss wearing a cashmere sweater!
In our household, there is one exception to the large load rule: Cloth diapers. I put these along with Abby's training underwear in their own load. In our apartment days we washed cloth diapers by hand, but now we can put them in the washing machine (which senses the size of the load so as not to waste water or energy). The diaper covers hang up to dry. The inserts/prefolds may hang up, they may stay in the machine to be washed and dried with the big load, or I may put them directly in the dryer. Usually I leave them in the machine since I'm not too fussed about the detergent and such - it simplifies things in the long run. Once in a while I put vinegar in the rinse cycle to strip the diapers and help them maintain their absorbancy.
4. Stop folding. No, we don't fold clothes except very casually. Why no folding? Let's face it...my laundry helpers are 3, 5, and 6 years old. Clothes stay folded as long as they are in a neat pile in Dad and Mom's bedroom. Once little hands touch the piles, the folding is out the window. And have you checked your kids' dresser drawers recently? Yeah. Folding is a bit of a waste in my opinion, but then again, I don't mind slightly wrinkled clothes.
Our big laundry breakthrough came with the discovery of the "Sort and Stuff Method".
-Laundry comes out of the dryer and is sorted into baskets and piles depending on how it is stored.
-Sorted laundry is gathered up and stuffed into the appropriate drawers and baskets. A few miscellaneous items are folded.
Our sorting looks like this:
-Each family member has a labeled basket (Dad and Mom share) and one for cloth diapers.
-There is a pile each for towels, sheets, and things to fold (small linens that don't have baskets yet and kitchen towels that need to stored in a shallow drawer).
This method has really simplified laundry and has cut back on the time it takes to get it all put away (which for us is the hardest aspect). As our kids grow up and our family changes I'm not sure that we will keep this method, but for now it is the simple solution that we need to keep from climbing mountains of laundry on a daily basis.
5. Enlist some help from your crew. Our kids have always helped out with household chores since they were young. Our laundry help looks a bit like this:
-(Almost) 3-year-old Abby transfers laundry from the washer to the dryer each morning before breakfast. Front loaders definitely help in this area!
-Every child has "Mom's Helper" day (except 1-year-old Jeremiah, who tags along anyway). On that day they help me to sort and put away laundry along with a couple of other household tasks. This is a great way to spend some individual time with my kids!
-Every child is responsible to put away his/her clothing every afternoon once it is washed, dried, and sorted. Even Abby is able to do this since we have labeled her set of drawers.
Kids love to help and feel important around the house. So, if they're old enough, have your kids load the washer and/or dryer. Let them help you sort and (if you do it) fold. It may not be how you would do it, but it's a wonderful learning and growing opportunity for them. And it will help you in the long run.
Sometimes tackling every day chores requires a bit of ingenuity, a change in expectations, and a willingness to think and work outside the box. Figure out what isn't working for your family in the area of laundry and then brainstorm some solutions - you may find the one that makes you laugh is the one that works (like sorting and stuffing).
Now, get out there and do some laundry!
So, how do you tackle laundry in your house?
Check how others are getting their laundry done at The Joyful Keeper.