With babies and kids comes a whole lot of laundry! Some days it feels as if you are absolutely buried in it! And you wonder if you'll ever get caught up! Well you CAN conquer that laundry pile–it just takes some structure and a plan!
Here are some tips to help you decide how to do laundry:
Before you can do the laundry, you have to gather it all into one place, right? I recommend putting clothes bins in every room where kids (or spouses) get undressed. This usually means bedrooms and bathrooms, but you might also want to put a clothes bin by your home's entryways, too. This could be for wet socks from playing outside or when your little one strips off that sweatshirt after a visit to the park. Drop those items right into the clothes bin near the front door!
Then, on days when you intend to tackle the laundry, assign each child a clothes bin or two to gather and bring to the laundry room to sort (more on sorting later).
The key here is to have specific places to accumulate dirty clothes and assign kids the job to corral those items to the laundry room!
One of the reasons why we feel that we can never get caught up with the laundry is because there will ALWAYS be more to do! So stop thinking of laundry as a chore that you have “to keep up with” and instead think about assigning laundry tasks to certain days of the week. For example, the schedule in my house looks like this:
- Mondays — clothes laundry (4 loads)
- Tuesdays — master bedroom and bathroom laundry (2 loads)
- Thursdays — kids bedroom and bathroom laundry (4 loads)
- Fridays — clothes laundry (4 loads), cloth napkins (1 load)
Yeah — I do at least 15 loads of laundry a week, but keep in mind that there are eight people in my family!
Why not just two loads of laundry a day? Because then it would feel to me as if I were always doing laundry! And I need a break from my laundress duties, so four days/week is more than enough for me! And by assigning certain types of laundry to specific days–as long as I address just that type of laundry on that day–I know I have a plan to deal with the rest of it when the next laundry day rolls around!
One of the most commented-on posts I ever wrote on my own site was asking readers how they feel about sorting laundry before washing it, because people have VERY DEFINITE OPINIONS about this topic! People generally fall into one of two camps:
Camp 1. Sort laundry by color, or at least pull the whites out and run them as a separate load so that you can wash them in hot water with bleach to get them white again! Some friends advocate for separating laundry by darks vs. lights vs. whites. Others like to pull together cottons vs. fabric blends to minimize the dryer lint. Personally, I am one of those who prefers to bleach my whites. (Hello!? I have four boys, and their socks get pretty nasty!) So I do sort by color.
Camp 2. Do not sort at all! Today's laundry detergents are meant to handle colors and whites mixed together, even when washed in cold water. So throw it all together into one load. Or better yet, wash by person so a laundry basket contains only one child/adult's clothing, which makes folding and putting away much easier!
But by all means, if you do like to sort your laundry before washing it, assign this job to your kiddos! Kids as young as 3 or 4 can help gather clothes baskets and sort dirty clothes by color. In fact, they love this level of responsibility! You can “double check” their work as you load the sorted laundry into the washing machine, just to make sure that you don't bleach that favorite red sock!
When it comes to washers and dryers, you use what's available to you to use, whether it's the coin-fed machines in the laundry room of your apartment complex, the ones left behind by the previous homeowner, or the new ones that you purchased when you moved in. You've got what you got. The important thing is to know how to use them! You can find the instruction manuals of pretty much any machine ever made online. Just find out the manufacturer and model of your machine and then take few minutes over a cup of coffee to read the manual and know how to run the machine the most efficiently.
When it comes to laundry detergents and add-ins, make sure you also take a moment and read the labels. Most of us use too much detergent, thinking it is better to err on the side of extra clean. But too much soap does not make your clothing extra-clean–it actually leaves them dingy. (You can check out the Wall Street Journal's report on how Americans consistently use too much detergent!)
Start taking the approach that less is better. Do you really need fabric softener AND dryer sheets? Do you need detergent AND a color booster? Maybe not. Personally, I use detergent, bleach (for whites only), dryer sheets, and I keep a stain stick around to pre-treat some of the messier stuff my kids hand me, like shirts with pasta sauce all over them!
The best approach to folding clothes is to do so as soon as the dryer stops running. (Or you can also iron all of your clothes the way my mom used to do when I was growing up! HA!) But honestly, most of us have other things to do vs. sitting around, waiting for the dryer to ding! So my advice is that as soon as you find the time, remove the clothes from the dryer and place them as flat as possible into a laundry basket. If you have plenty of room in the laundry area, it would be great if you could put each person's clothes into their own laundry basket as flat and wrinkle-free as possible. This shouldn't take more than a few minutes per load to do!
Then, you can assign clothes folding to the kiddos … or your spouse … or you can do what I do and turn on your favorite HGTV show (hello Property Brothers!) and fold while watching an episode. For me, the folded laundry goes into a basket–one per child–and then I call them all to my room to collect their baskets and put away their laundry.
Sometimes, my kids need some extra motivation to tackle this chore, so I make it clear that I will be serving ice cream for dessert in 10 minutes, but the only way they can partake is if they put everything away NEATLY first and return the basket to the laundry room! You can call it bribery, but I call it an incentive plan!
I polled some readers recently to find out their best tips for tackling the laundry mountain at their own home, and here is what they had to say:
- “Throw all the clean laundry in a pop-up hamper, carry it to the family room, hand it over to the kids, and say, “You can watch TV if you fold the wash.” Works every time.” -Crystal
- “No sorting!!! I do wash towels and sheets separately, and grownup clothes go in one load. Other than that, ALL the kid clothes, socks, and undies go together.” -Amy
- “Always use a full load, not small loads.” –Erica
- “I don't separate anything. I'm more concerned with just getting it done!” –Ami
So what is your best tip for doing laundry? Please leave a comment and tell us!
Image via Flickr/Sean Freese