Daily Tip: If something doesn’t work for you, that doesn’t mean you have failed. It means the method wasn’t right for you – try something new.
Laundry is easily the number one chore I hear fellow stay-at-home moms complain about. Although I don’t share this sentiment, I will gladly voice my complaints if you start talking about cleaning bathrooms! I enjoy doing laundry, but I know that is not the case for everyone. Like most things in my life, including cleaning bathrooms, I enjoy laundry even more when I have a streamlined, predictable routine.
In my experience, you need very few items to do laundry. A washer and a dryer (although I do know families that do just fine without the latter), certainly, but aside from that, what else is there? I keep it simple with soap nuts, wool dryer balls, and Calgon for when my cloth diapers need to be stripped (check out our blog, Cloth Diaper Wash Routine, to learn more).
My husband and I decided to use soap nuts for our laundry about a year ago. We lost our supplier of the original cloth diaper detergent we had been using and were struggling to find an affordable option where we were living. I came across this post on soap nuts and was sold. We placed a bulk order in January of last year and split it with two other families. This first order lasted until December. That is right…two pounds of soap nuts lasted us almost an entire year. Crunch the numbers to see for yourself, but I would venture to guess that soap nuts will be hands down the most frugal option for washing your clothes, especially for cloth-diapering families. Some people find soap nuts aren’t strong enough for cloth diapers (or pads), but that doesn’t mean you need toxic laundry detergents; you just need something a little stronger. Instead, an all-natural option, like Earthley’s Laundry Detergent.
I also have wool dryer balls. I purchased these from our local health food store, which gets them from a local sheep farmer, but you could easily make your own dryer balls. I love that these are local items, but even more than that, I love what they do for our laundry. I rarely have any problems with static cling, and our clothes are soft and wrinkle-free, provided that I get them out of the dryer as soon as they are done. If you are used to using scented fabric softener sheets, you can easily scent your dryer balls with a few drops of your favorite laundry-safe essential oil. I don’t have experience doing this, but I have been told it convinces skeptical family member who needs the “smell of clean laundry” scent that the laundry is truly clean.
Since we live in a small apartment, I do not have a traditional laundry room. My washer and dryer are in our kitchen, while our laundry baskets are housed in my husband’s tools bin and our bedroom. It’s not ideal, of course, but it is what I have to work with.
I have four laundry baskets lined up against one wall of our bedroom. One basket each for coloreds, whites, darks, and towels. This keeps the ever-mounting pile in check and cuts down on my time sorting clothes. It is an easy system for my husband to participate in, and I think it will be easy to learn as our children age.
I do all of our laundry, except our bathroom rug and shower curtain, which get washed on Tuesday when I clean the bathroom on Monday. I wash our cloth diapers thrice a week, but one of those times is Monday. Although I tried another method, I quickly returned to the all-in-one-day method that has worked for me our entire marriage. I sort the laundry into piles of tops and bottoms separated by color on Sunday evening so I can get started as soon as I get up on Monday morning. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I start by six in the morning and am finished washing, drying, folding, and putting away by bedtime.
Getting the Kids Involved
For many moms, the hardest part of attempting to do all the laundry in one day is finding a way to engage their children in the task. My son is twenty months old and extremely curious about everything I do. On laundry day, he puts the clothes from the washer into the dryer. Now, of course, he can’t complete this task on his own. I hand him the wet clothes from the washer, and he throws them into the dryer.
For older children, tasks on laundry day could include sorting the clothes into appropriate piles based on color or style, putting their own folded clothes away, or even folding simpler items such as towels or socks. It might be faster to do everything yourself, but I believe including your children, even toddlers, in household management is important. You will probably end up re-folding a load of clothes that a well-meaning child dropped or finding mismatched socks halfway through the week, but, in my opinion, it is worth the trouble to include your children in daily tasks.
Note from Kate: When my children were young, they helped fold some of the smaller items and put away their laundry. Sometimes, they’d pull laundry out of the dryer, into a basket, and bring it upstairs (if it wasn’t too heavy). Even at 3 years old, they pulled diapers out of the dryer into a bag and carried it upstairs. There is a lot the little ones can do!
While this works for me and my family, this is certainly not the only way to create a workable laundry routine. The point is that laundry day (or days, if you choose) will go much smoother for everyone involved if a routine is in place.