Laundry is a huge pain, no matter how many children you have. It is also one of the chores that I have struggled with more than any other over the years.
The problem for me is that I will get a good system in place, and then another baby will come, or a bunch of kids will have a growth spurt at the same time (bigger kids=bigger clothes=more laundry).
I used cloth diapers for my first five children, and that added a completely different layer of complexity and angst to the laundry conundrum. When you have a diaper pail full of dirty diapers, you REALLY must get them washed!
Right now, at this exact time of my life, I have a decent handle on the laundry. It’s still not a perfect system, but I rarely feel as though I am so behind that I’ll never catch up. Here are a few of the ways that I stay on top of my laundry.
1. Figure Out Your Ideal Loads Per Day
The first and most important step for me is to know exactly how many loads of laundry I need to do on a daily basis in order to get it all done. Remember, getting it all done is relative, because as soon as everyone takes off their clothes and puts on pajamas, there’s new laundry!
I also do not do laundry every day (I generally take Sundays and Fridays off because they are extremely busy days in our house). So it helps to know how much laundry it is going to take on the day following a day off to get caught back up.
I’m sure you’re curious as to exactly how much laundry a household of eleven generates, so I’ll share my numbers with you. If I do two loads of clothing, and one load of towels or sheets, I am able to stay on top of the laundry.
I have to double that number on catch up days, and there is actually an extra load generated on Sundays because of church clothes.
So, figure out your number of daily loads so that you know exactly what you are up against.
2. Start Early
The earlier in the day you start the process, the earlier in the day you will be finished! As soon as I’m out of my morning shower, I throw a load in the laundry.
I send one of the children up to change it over while I am cooking breakfast. Another load gets started when I’m laying the baby down for his nap.
I do my best to get all of the actual washing done as early in the day as possible, and I recruit several different children to help in this process to keep it moving throughout the day (especially on Mondays and Saturdays when I am doing the laundry for two days!)
3. Start Only What Can Be Finished
I read a housekeeping concept on a blog about a year ago (I wish I could remember which one!) that really helped me with the laundry. It touched on the idea of only starting what you could finish.
This concept has helped me a lot because I would get several days worth of laundry washed, but none of it folded or put away. As you can imagine, this created a huge backlog of folding that built more and more dread the larger the pile got.
As much as I am able, I set the goal to fold all of the laundry every day. As I’m folding, I am also sorting it, a pile for each child, and then once it is all done, all of the children come and get their pile and put it away. I put away the toddler and baby clothes.
This gives me a clean slate and a feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day, as opposed to the hamster wheel of laundry that my previous system produced.
So, practically speaking, if I know that I only have time in my day to get one load of laundry done, start to finish, then that is all I will put through the washer. It gets washed, dried, folded, and put away.
4. Time Yourself
In order to really be able to maximize concept three, first, you really need to know exactly how long each step will take you. If you know that it is only going to take you a minute to throw a load in the wash, and one of your children can change the load over from washer to dryer, and then it takes you five minutes to fold and sort one basket of clothes, suddenly, you can see how that folding and sorting can just be squeezed into an empty time slot throughout the day.
This is a concept that you use to keep my house tidy, and it works beautifully with laundry too.
I usually get a load folded really quickly when I am laying the baby down for his morning nap, another load folded when I lay down the toddlers for their afternoon nap, and a final load folded when I get the baby up from his afternoon nap.
If you know your times for doing each step, it is easy to just squeeze it in throughout the day instead of actually stopping everything and spending 15-30 minutes folding laundry. For me, 15-30 minutes spent folding laundry is a total bummer.
If I have a time slot that big, I’d rather be reading or painting my nails, anything but laundry or cleaning, so I do my best to get it all squeezed in throughout the day.
Different seasons of life and child-rearing will require different approaches to laundry. The method that I am using now is flexible and adaptable, so if you are struggling with laundry, this might be your solution.
If you skip a day or two like I do each week, you can always jump right back in, all is not lost. Just work the plan and you will get caught up.
Our laundry pile isn’t going to disappear, so we might as well figure out a way to conquer it!