Can I just say I hate it? I mean, I don’t *love* any chore, really — who does? But laundry. If I could somehow get around ever doing it again, I would. It’s not even the washing and the drying that’s the problem. It’s the sorting, the folding, and the putting away. You mamas all know what I’m talking about….
In my old home, we had a series of laundry baskets in each bedroom, plus one in the upstairs bathroom, and one in the kitchen. There were at least 8 different baskets, plus two wetbags full of cloth diapers throughout the house. These had to be carried down (mostly) two flights of stairs to the basement to be washed and then brought back up again. This was very unfun…and worse because I could not leave the basement door open while doing laun y, because my little ones would go down and get into things. Try opening the basement door while holding a heavy basket and trying to keep a toddler from escaping….
But in my new home, while I still really don’t like laundry, I’ve found a much simpler solution that works for us. It does help that the laundry room is now on the main floor. That wasn’t the only change we made, though. I’m hoping what we’ve learned can help you, too.
What’s Your Laundry Personality?
Everyone has a different laundry (or even more generally, “cleaning”) personality. It’s so important to take this into account when creating your routine. Answer these questions to figure out what your personality is.
1. Do you like to sort the laundry carefully by color, fabric type, etc. or do you just dump it all in at once?
2. Do you pre-sort, pre-soak and treat stains ahead of time…or do you wash and hope for the best?
3. Do you like to have control over how the laundry is done or will you take all the help you can get?
4. Do you prefer to do your chores in small chunks, or would you rather do it all at once and get it over with?
Once you’ve answered these questions — honestly! — then you’ll know what your laundry personality is, and what you need to create a successful routine.
Decoding Your Personality
Let’s take a look at what your answers mean about you….
Sort Vs. Dump
Everyone has a different way they handle the laundry. My mom is totally the ‘sort’ type — she carefully separates all her laundry into piles after reading their care labels and she follows them religiously. Me? I stuff the machine as full as it can handle with whatever’s dirty and hope for the best.
Sort: Try using a system of several laundry baskets in a central location, where you can sort immediately as things are dirtied. If you have no space for this, choose one large container or area to keep all the laundry and sort right before washing. Plan to do your laundry once or twice a week. Choose the right water temperature for each load according to care labels. Keep a couple of different laundry detergents and fabric brighteners in your stash, to use as needed for different fabric or load types.
Dump: Keep large hampers in a couple central locations — kitchen or bathrooms — for all the clothes to go into (I found this much more helpful than several baskets). Choose cool or cold water for all loads (unless you use cloth diapers — those should be washed on hot and separately). Keep a good, all-purpose, natural detergent around, plus white vinegar for “fabric softener” or borax for brightening, if you like. (I bought my detergent at Costco.)
Pre-Treat Vs. Wash’n’Go
Some people are adamant about stain treating, pre-soaking, and so on to preserve the look and feel of their clothing. Others simply wash them and hope they’re clean (not that big a deal if you buy most of your clothes at a thrift store anyway).
As you’re preparing to wash, go through each item individually and inspect it. Non-stained clothes get put in the washer; stained clothes get separated out for pre-treatment. Choose a natural stain-remover or place clothing in the sun with lemon juice or oxygen bleach to get the stains out before washing.
If an item is really stained (like your kid spills spaghetti sauce all down his front), take the item and immediately rinse with cool water, and use dish soap on the stain and scrub. This usually gets the stain out. Set it aside to dry or toss it in the wash immediately. (Don’t put it in the hamper wet; it could get mildew.) Alternately, wash it normally with cool or cold water and inspect it before it goes in the dryer (that would set the stain). Put the item in the sun for several hours and wash again.
Control Vs. Help
Honestly, this isn’t a “control” issue. Every person has things that they want done a particular way. For me, that is not laundry. But it is how I organize my pantry and many other items — things must be in their “homes!” I have been known to rearrange the dishes in the cabinet, the jars in the pantry, etc. if they are not “right.” So no judgment here, mama…just know which is true for you.
Keep laundry as your chore. Plan to do a load or two per day and make the time to carefully sort, wash, and fold it all the way you prefer. Delegate other chores that don’t matter so much to your children or ask your husband to pitch in — dishes, sweeping, etc.
If it doesn’t much matter to you how the laundry’s done, enlist all the help you can get. My husband and I take turns washing and drying the laundry — whoever’s around does it. We sort it together and fold it, and our older children put their own laundry away. The younger kids sometimes help fold and put away small towels and wash cloths. It’s a team effort. (And I keep control of the dishes and pantry!)
Chunks Vs. All At Once
Be honest, now, mamas: do you prefer to do tasks a little bit at a time so you don’t get bored with any one item? Or do you prefer to just get it over with? I am definitely a ‘get it over with’ type. I can’t cook a meal, no matter how hungry I am, until my kitchen is clean. Until my evening chores are done, I won’t sit down at night. I am not a ‘moderation’ kind of girl. Others just love a 15-minute blitz and to have “permission” to quit when the timer goes off, no matter what’s done or not. That is like nails on a chalkboard to me…I feel crazy leaving things half done. Anyway.
Chunks: Plan to do 1 – 2 loads of laundry per day. Do it all the way through, one step at a time throughout the day.
All At Once: Pick a “laundry day” once a week (less if you have a small family and enough clothes; more if needed). Do several loads throughout the day, as fast as possible (switching as soon as the last one is done) and let the clean laundry pile up until the evening. Then sit down and sort and fold the day’s laundry all at once, and put it away or send it with family members to put away.
How I Do Laundry
I told you in the previous section what my “laundry personality” is. If you’re like me, this might be very helpful. If not, maybe it isn’t. But let’s dive in anyway!
I keep a large hamper in each upstairs bathroom — there are two. One in my room and one in the hallway. All of the kids’ clothes go straight to the hallway hamper, and mine and Ben’s go in the one in our bathroom. Any laundry generated downstairs goes either on the floor of the laundry room, or straight into the washer (the laundry room is right off the kitchen).
I will do a couple random loads of laundry throughout the week. If there are a lot of dirty clothes or towels that came from in the kitchen (I’ll take a kid’s shirt off right after a meal if it’s that dirty and toss it in the laundry room) then I will do that load right away. It may not get folded until laundry day, though. I also do cloth diapers as needed.
Usually on the weekends, we’ll take turns washing and drying 4 – 5 loads as quickly as we can. Then, in the evening we’ll sit and watch TV together and fold the laundry. The boys’ clothes, once folded, are put into baskets to take upstairs. My daughter doesn’t like hers folded, so it’s tossed into a basket as-is. They will be taken upstairs the next day (since the kids are usually in bed when we’re folding) and put away. The 5 and 7-year-olds are expected to put their own clothes away.
I have a basic natural laundry detergent and some borax in my laundry room, and I wash most loads on cool or cold (except diapers). I tend to wash stained clothing and hope for the best…if I’m on top of it then I will rinse them and use dish soap immediately.
Having the couple central locations for dirty laundry and a plan to fold it all at once helps me stay on top of the laundry better!