SummaryMany large families struggle to keep the laundry beast in check. Gina Berrios shares her simple 5-step plan to involve the kids and get the laundry done.
I do a lot of laundry.
There are eight people in our house, and that means there are a lot of clothes to be washed all the time. A few years ago, we built on to our house, and I had a clean slate to build the laundry room any way I wanted. I have to admit: I love my new laundry room.
I hung pictures on the wall and placed decorative vases amidst my utility sink, drying rack, and folding counter. It really is a nice space, that is, when you can see it behind the laundry baskets and piles of clothes that need to be cleaned and put away.
I had this beautiful room, but the laundry beast was still roaming freely. So I set my mind to taming this out of control creature and coming up with a manageable plan to get the laundry done and still do everything else (like homeschool, cook, clean, run the mom taxi, oh and sleep!). Here’s my plan…
1. Assign laundry days.
I divided the family laundry into manageable amounts and assigned them a day. I used to do laundry only on one day, but it did not work very well.
Inevitably the day would get interrupted and, at the end of it, I would have mountains of unfolded laundry piled on the couch for days. (Eventually, I would be picking clean clothes up from the floor and under the couch as they would get shoved off the couch as the week went along. Can you relate?)
I set a rule (of course, it’s not etched in stone) that we would run two loads of laundry a day maximum. If I know the day is too busy and the load would not be dried, folded and put away, I will do only one load, or skip laundry that day. I will wash it on Saturday, or throw in an extra load during the week.
Here’s how I broke down our week: On each day we do a load of whites and darks. Monday is the boys’ day. Tuesday is the girls’ day. Wednesday is towels and bath rugs. Thursday is my clothes and my husband’s. Friday is bed sheets. Saturday is for extra loads. Sunday the machine sits quietly. It’s a day of rest, after all.
2. Involve the kids.
As our family size grew (and thus the amount of laundry), I realized I was getting overwhelmed trying to do everything, and I was also denying my kids a great opportunity to learn a life skill and to play an easy part in maintaining our house. I do not want my kids heading off to college not knowing how to do their own laundry, after all!
So, I invested in baskets: a colored one and a white one. The kids sort their own laundry into the appropriate basket. It is a simple task that even my two-year-old can do. I find that they really enjoy it too!
I taught the kids how to load their clothes and the laundry soap and run the load. I pair the little kids up with a big kid who can help with reaching the soap dispenser. When the washing machine is done, the kids easily transfer their clothes to the drier and hit start.
When a load is done, the kids pull it out of the drier and dump it out on the couch. I help them fold the clothes. They do the easy tasks, like matching socks and sorting underwear. Folding pants and shorts in half is also very simple. I usually fold the shirts, because I like their dresser drawers to be somewhat tidy (and the clothes fit better). When everything is folded, each child puts away his or her own clothes. I do not do this for the kids because it is a simple task even a toddler can do (and the toddlers feel like they are being “big kids” in doing it!)
My teenagers are old enough now that they prefer to do their own laundry, and that is perfectly fine with me! They run their own loads at a time that fits with their schedule.
3. Schedule the laundry during breaks in the school day.
On the kids’ assigned laundry day, the first task of the day is to take the two hampers to their room, and sort the clothes. Then one load is put into the machine before school is started. During our mid-morning break, the clothes are put into the drier and another load is started in the washer. During lunch, a load is folded and put away, while the other load is dried. When school work is finished, the last load is folded and put away. By the time we do any after-school activity, the laundry is done and the sofa is clean!
I have found that by having an assigned day, the kids do not see laundry as such a chore, and they are willing participants in getting it done, because it is only one day a week!
4. Have a sock party!
By having assigned days and the kids involved in the task, the laundry is managed, clothes are clean when they need to be, and items usually do not go missing.
But then there are socks. Despite our best efforts, those stray socks keep reappearing! I throw them all in a small hamper in my laundry room and every so often, I dump them in the middle of the living room. The kids gather around for a sock party. They see how many pairs they can match together. Any strays are rounded back up and await the next sock party.
5. What about the extra stuff?
Handwashing and smelly sports uniforms. Ugh, what to do with them!
I would not be able to walk into the boys’ rooms some days if their athletic clothes were left in the hamper! Sports clothes are put straight into the laundry room and sprayed with a stain remover. I wash them during a free evening. I have found by keeping them as their own load, it is easier to keep track of everything.
I have had many a “hand wash only” item ruined because it got thrown into a regular load. Now I have a small mesh hamper for those items, so that they stay separate from everything else. Again, this is an extra load that gets done when needed or when I have extra time during the day. (I have a hand wash cycle on my washing machine. The splurge on the nicer machine is money well spent for the time I get back from not having to actually hand wash clothes.)
My other time saver is finding a dry cleaner that picks up and delivers for free!
Our laundry routine has really paid off. Clothes are clean when they are needed. Clothes are put away so we can sit on our sofa. I am less frazzled because laundry is not overwhelming. The kids have a life skill that is needed for their independence. And I can leave the door open to my beautiful laundry room!