This is not one of those posts that promise you’ll never get behind on laundry ever again, nor is it a magical fairy that will come into your house and do it all for you (Um, hello. I wish).
This is simply a post outlining the steps I took to reduce the amount of overwhelm I was feeling (which was A LOT) regarding laundry.
Up until about six months ago I was ALWAYS.ALWAYS.ALWAYS behind on laundry. And I don’t mean in that cute cartoon meme kind of way where they’re all like “I did all the laundry and now there’s a dirty sock in the hamper. Boohoo.”
That would be cause for partying in my house, actually. Only one thing dirty? It would go down in history, folks.
A family with a bunch of young kids is gonna have laundry, and lots of it. I mean – have you ever met a four-year-old boy? Or his little sister? Or their baby spaghetti-face brother? Yes. So let’s be realistic here, people.
Sometimes my laundry room still looks like it imploded upon itself, and sometimes folded clean clothes languish in baskets for an embarrassingly long time…
BUT – and this is key, here – I can honestly say that I no longer feel overwhelmed and panicky at the thought of whether or not we’re all gonna have to go to church nekkid.
Because, ya know, that’s awkward.
So, here are the principles and tips I implemented in our home to make our laundry system flow smoothly (as smoothly as it possibly can in real-life with wild little kiddos).
1. Each person has their own small laundry basket
I got 3 small structured fabric baskets in different colours – black for Isaac, beige for Canaan, and pink stripes for Aliza. They know these as their very own laundry baskets.
Here’s the real key with these baskets: I keep them up on top of my dryer. They balance nicely on top of the dryer controls, leaning on the wall. When I take a load out of the dryer, the kid clothes go DIRECTLY into the appropriate basket. Unfolded if I’m pressed for time.
I also have 2 wicker baskets (which I love because they are pretty… and everyone knows that pretty + functional = the magical epicenter of awesomeness and productivity) that I use for Chris’ and my clothes, and also for towels and linens, and cloth diapers. Same thing: directly from dryer to the appropriate basket.
And boom, just like that – no more sorting through random piles of clean clothes to find your clean underwear. If you happen to get behind on the putting away (because c’mon – who doesn’t?!) then it’s honestly WAY easier to sift through a small stack of your OWN clean clothes to find what you need. I like to think of it as an extension of each person’s dresser.
2. Teach kids to put their own laundry away
My goal is for them to regularly put their own laundry away, with me never needing to do it. We are in the teaching stage of this, but it is already saving me tons of time.
As of now Isaac (nearly 5 years old) puts all of his own laundry away happily whenever I ask, and he will put his little sister’s and baby brother’s away as well if need be (though I need to work with him on getting things in the right drawers).
Aliza (3) can put her own away but is pretty easily distracted (she usually ends up trying on a bajillion different outfits and then leaving them strewn on the floor) so she needs supervision. Canaan is 14 months, so, um, yeah.
3. Minimalist folding
This might just be my favourite. Confession: I get a little kick out of the giddy/rebellious feeling I get when I toss kids’ clothes into a basket all willy-nilly or when I don’t match the socks for months at a time.
It depends on the season and how overwhelmed I feel, but basically since the kids’ clothes are pretty well all cotton and cotton blends anyway, I sometimes will just shake a piece of clothing out, hold it by the neck/waist, fold in half (kinda like draping a coat over your arm), throw it into the basket, and congratulate myself on being brilliant.
I used to be SO obsessive about folding things “just so”. I enjoy it – the smooth parallel creases and the symmetrical flat halves. But ya wanna know what I enjoy even more? Spending less time in my laundry room. Bazinga.
(I do still fold hubby’s stuff because he requested me to do so with batted eyelashes and a kiss. How could I resist??)
4. Family closet
Above are a couple of shots in the Family Closet Room / Guest Room, and below is a different angle to give you an idea of how it’s set up. In the shot below I’m standing near Canaan’s dresser, looking into the opposite corner where the older two kids’ dressers are kept. We took the doors off the double closet so that we could put Aliza’s dresser there and have it easily accessible. The filled baskets are ready to be emptied into drawers. It saves a ton of time having them all right there, versus having to take them into 3 separate rooms.
It gets a little cluttered sometimes (the photo below has outgrown clothes, odd socks, and random kid books on top of the white dresser), but that’s just real life. I didn’t attempt to make the room “magazine-worthy” before snapping these pics because, well, ain’t nobody got time for that.
(OK, some people do ‘got time for that’. Just not me. And probably not you, either, I’m guessing.)
5. Don’t wash unless it’s really dirty
I confess: I struggle with this one and it’s so completely ridiculous. When I see clothes on the floor my brain tells me to just swoop them all up and toss them in the hamper.
In reality probably only 30-50% of them are dirty enough to warrant a wash. Think about “back in the day” before modern washing machines! Clothes got worn a LOT more times between washings.
When we spent 3 months in Tanzania living with a family with no running water, we sure as heck lived by this mentality. Imagine having to haul water up from the creek down the hill, scrub the youknowwhat outta each item ’til your hands are raw, and then rinse them all in more clean water in a separate pail. I’m not kidding when I say that doing our laundry took about 4 hours (and that was with our local Tanzanian friend helping us)!
For clothes that have been worn but don’t stink or have any noticeable marks or dirt or whathaveyou on them – back into the drawer they go. I’ve even been known to keep clothes aside for another wear if they are play/around-home clothes anyway and only have a wee speck of whatever on them (I don’t know about yours but my kids attract dirt like a fly to honey).
I swear none of us are stinky… but we sure as heck aren’t obsessed about being perfectly clean and perfectly fresh at every moment. Amen.
6. No set schedule, but roughly one-ish load a day
I don’t follow a schedule, and I don’t make myself do a load every single day (though it often ends up that way). I have main floor laundry, which I love, but I realize not everyone has this luxury.
I think the real key here is just to know your own personality. If you’re a real scheduler, then plan to do laundry 2x/week. If you’re more of a spontaneous free-spirit type like me, then give yourself the freedom to just do the laundry when you get a spare moment throughout your day.
It’s kind of an irregular rhythm, if you will, but a rhythm nonetheless. Right now there are diapers in the washing machine and a load of wet bathing suits and towels to go in. I will probably squish that in somewhere in between dinnertime and bedtime, and hang stuff once the kids are asleep. It works for me.
(Also? It’s SO much easier to be motivated to toss in a load of laundry when you have it already sorted, and you’re not feeling massively defeated by your mountain of clean clothes still waiting to be sorted.)
7. Divided hampers
These are my dirty clothes hampers. Aren’t they great? (Sheesh, the things I photograph for you people. Ridonculous.)
The black bags slide right off those arms at the top and have carrying handles, so I can just grab one bag at a time to take downstairs to throw in the wash. I use them to sort my laundry from the get-go: one for darks, one for whites, one for brights, and one for towels and linens.
It really helps to have it already sorted when I have a spare 10 seconds to grab a bag. Before I would have to lug the entire hamper downstairs, dump it, and sort it all before I could even start my first load. That wasn’t convenient at all, so I got these. And before someone asks: they’re from IKEA.
Granted, they aren’t the most attractive hampers ever (I’d much rather those gorgeous wicker style ones) but these were affordable and practical, and they hide out in my bedroom anyway. Also? You can’t put a price on eliminating your laundry overwhelm, amiright?
So. There are the seven things I changed in our laundry routine to help me stop feeling so overwhelmed. And even after all of this my kids still spend half their days in their underwear. Go figure. Which, let’s be honest, I totally encourage because it makes less laundry for me to do. Yes, please.
It’s official: the laundry monster has been tamed, and now I can concentrate on the hopeless state of my kitchen…