As a mother of seven, I have longed for the proverbial limit of two outfits per person: one for everyday use and one for special occasions. However, I have to wonder what was worn on laundry days, not to mention issues with odor and disease. Forced to concede that I like habits of regular cleanliness, I must admit that doing laundry is a good thing.
So, a preliminary step to establishing an efficient laundry system is deciding on your “laundry philosophy!” If clean laundry is truly desired, a good attitude about reaching that goal will help you be creative and energized. Laundry falls into the category of a never-ending chore, so we must devise ways to keep it from being overwhelming.
Much will depend on your laundry facilities, but I am going to list elements of my laundry system in hopes that it will stimulate you to come up with something that works well for you.
- Schedule more than one day to do laundry. Although you may want a main laundry day, it helps to collect it a few times a week and keep the process going with less bottle neck. I rotated the collecting chore among the kids on different days. When they collected, they also sorted, then began one load in the washer at that time.
- Have net bags for delicates or non-dryer garments kept handy (check the laundry supply section of Walmart), so that such things can be put right in them when sorting.
- Have dirty laundry baskets or receptacles wherever people change clothes. This tends to be bedrooms and bathrooms. Most of the time, a simple plastic bin in a corner will work.
- Require that damp items be hung carefully over the side of baskets or taken directly to the laundry room. The goal is to keep the laundry from sitting damp and growing mildew.
- LABEL laundry baskets. It is most important to me to label a couple of laundry baskets as CLEAN LAUNDRY ONLY. Clean items from the washer (going to the clothesline), the dryer (waiting to be sorted to owners), or from the clothesline can then be transported or held in these without extra steps to make sure they are clean.
- Have several smaller bins or baskets labeled for sorting clean laundry into. This helps avoid having laundry all over couches or beds, getting kicked or pushed onto the floor. One mountain of laundry is more challenging to fold and put away than a few conveniently sorted piles.
- Have bins for each person in the family AND bins for specific laundry such as kitchen linens, bath linens, or rags. It is then easy to carry a basket to a given location to fold and put things away right there.
- Have a place to hang things that need to be ironed and spread the ironing out some among the kids. Have them each iron 2-3 things once a week, the degree of difficulty varying with age and experience.
- Label each person’s clothing. We used a “.” and an “x” system. The oldest girl got one dot, the second oldest got two, etc. The boys got x’s. Makes any hand-me-downs much easier. This can be marked on places like tags or seams. For socks, I labeled toes, but it gets harder if the socks are darker. I also made a habit of buying different types of socks for each person. All of this makes it possible for other family members to also help with the sorting of clean laundry.
- Assign putting away of clean laundry 2-3 times per week. I also stipulated that their clean bin was NOT just another drawer for them. If they found they had to look in it for something, that was their signal that it needed to be emptied (clothes put away neatly).
- Each person was given another category of general household laundry to fold and put away, such as the upstairs bathroom linens, or cleaning rags.
- Sometimes, once they were tall enough, I asked that they all go out with their own baskets to the clothesline and collect the clean laundry they were responsible for. They often made a game out of it.
My washer and dryer are my old-fashioned maid. Like all help, they need to be supervised and managed. However, the machines have very flexible schedules and don’t need vacation time. Plus, they do the job much faster than a maid (or me) with a washboard!