I have a slight homemaking confession.
*nervous throat clearing*
Laundry...has never really bothered me.
*ducking and waiting for the tomato ceasefire*
I feel just a wee bit apprehensive admitting that because so many women seem to loathe it so much. I struggle with keeping up on other things but laundry? That's never been an issue. I don't know, maybe it's my charism or something. I know it sounds super overly saccharine, but every time I throw something in the washing machine and push the button, I think about how easy it is and how women of old scrubbing at the creek or heating their giant tubs of water over the wood stove would covet such a machine. I really do. When you think about it, for us modern ladies, laundry isn't a whole lot of physical, knuckles to the bone, sweat-dripping work work, right?
It really is more of an organizational issue and about finding a routine that works for you.
I actually love the fact that a person like me who loves to accomplish and make every moment useful can find a bit of rest knowing that even though I am sitting and reading a book or picking up the knitting needles and enjoying a moment to hang out with my husband, at the same time I am still doing laundry while that washer or dryer is running. It does get monotonous, sure, but once you find a routine and system that works for you and you feel like you own it, there is a certain sort of pride in your work that comes with that, too.
So what do we do?
In the early days I had a weekly laundry day. This worked well for before John Paul was born and then until we added another little one. As long as we had enough underwear to last a week and since we weren't making enough laundry to do it more often, it made sense at the time to just devote one day to laundry. So I'd do three to five loads on that one day. Eventually that one day had to turn into a bi-weekly thing. That worked well for those days. But as our family grew I needed to switch it up a bit.
Now that we're a family of six I do one load of laundry every day. Except on warm summer days when I love to hang the laundry outside to dry, it happens at night. My days are filled with other chores that keep me busy and I find doing laundry during the daytime too distracting and I always seem to forget it's in there. So once dinner is over or at the end of the day, the kids change into their pajamas as soon as possible. I try to throw the load in by 6:30 but obviously if we're out it can be much later than that. Sometime later I make sure one of us remembers to switch it to dry and while Brian and I relax on the couch, and one or both of us fold. Or on one of the increasing number of nights that one of us is gone, the other one takes over. Clean laundry is then piled neatly back into the basket ready to go up the next morning before breakfast.
(One notable caveat: We do use cloth diapers but I don't consider them part of my "normal" laundry and see them as a separate chore. Those are done as needed, usually every two to three days and usually during the day.)
Here are some of my laundry guidelines that keep me sane and help me keep our load to one a day. Maybe, just maybe, they'll help someone out there learn to
love tolerate the laundry a little bit more:
::Don't wash what is clean::
You'd be surprised by how often we are washing things that really are clean. In fact, I think we Americans get a tad bit obsessive when it comes to cleaning things plus it really takes a toll on clothes. I wash things that need an obvious freshening but if I'm unsure, I will use the sight and smell test. No stains, no smell, no wash. I am not above having the boys fold their jeans back up in the evening if they aren't stained. This happens more often in the winter, of course, especially when they're not playing outside in just jeans. In the nicer weather, their clothes get pretty filthy but they're usually wearing shorts and one shirt which take up half the room in the washer anyhow so it kind of evens out. We reuse towels. (Make sure to fold them and hang them on a bar rather than hanging them from a hook and there is no mildewing or musty smell. They dry so much quicker that way!) Pajamas are reworn a few days in a row. Sunday church clothes are changed out of after Mass and unless they are stained or need freshening, they are folded back up and put in the drawer.
And I promise you that despite this approach, my kids don't look any worse for the wear than other children around. Most of the time.
::Stop the over sorting madness::
We sort by colors and whites and that's it. I've never noticed a difference when separating light and darks and different materials. There is no "towel load" or "delicate load" or "baby load" (remember when you used to separate out all the baby items and have a baby load?). It all gets washed together unless something is really disgusting or muddy. If something is brand new and looks bleedable, then of course I'll wash that separately a time or two but after that it goes in the colors. I usually have to do whites every three to four days and the rest of the days are the colors. At night when it's time to put the load in, I (or one of the boys) grab any kitchen rags or bathroom towels that might need to be washed and throw them in, too. And it all gets clean and no one dies from my lack of responsible sorting.
::Get rid of that hamper::
Seriously. Get rid of it. Or use it to store the dress up clothes like we do.
A hamper is basically an invitation and excuse to put off doing laundry. Train your children (and yourself) to bring laundry to the laundry area immediately. Train them to put whites in the white basket and everything else in the color basket (or however you choose to sort). That way you know how much you really have at a time. For us this means that one of the daily tasks in the morning is that the last person dressed brings down the scattered underwear and socks and pjs that need washing and takes them directly to the laundry room into a basket. This also works as a little incentive for them to get dressed and make their bed quickly rather than lollygagging (I just said lollygagging) around their bedroom so they aren't the last one down. Because bringing down six pieces of laundry is so hard. ;)
::Laundry - same time, same channel::
Find a routine that works for you. You might do better in the morning. In the summer months when I know it will be nice I do often opt to put in the daily load first thing in the morning so I can hang it on the line (which I really really like doing). But in most other weather, we keep laundry to at night after dinner. It's part of the routine and becomes habit after the kids change out of their clothes into pajamas to bring them into the laundry room and start the daily load. Now that our laundry is on the first floor, it's much easier to remember when to switch to the dryer but if you have a basement or upstairs laundry consider putting a timer on to remind you when it'll be time.
::Get rid of half the clothes::
You know you want to. Most kids and adults have way way more clothing than they need. Trim down the dressers and closets by half and most people would still have more than they need. Keep the wardrobes simple. If a child has only two or three pairs of shorts, then by necessity you need to keep on top of the laundry. It helps when you just don't feel like doing laundry to realize that if you don't someone may be without something to wear the next day. I think you'll find putting things away is even somewhat cathartic when it's going into a well organized and not overstuffed drawer or closet.
::Have one pair of sheets per bed::
So what about sheets? I only have one pair of sheets per bed. When they look, smell, or just plain feel sufficiently dirty, I wash them in the morning and have them back on the bed by late afternoon. Oftentimes I'll do two or three beds at a time and as long as my mom isn't reading, I'll tell you that I only wash them about once maybe twice a month, if that. (Do you think she'll be mad if I tell you she irons her sheets? She does. Maybe she's the one with the laundry charism.) I don't have them in a rotation but just wash as they seem to need it. Keeping to one pair of sheets per bed means that the sheets have to get washed and put back on before bedtime and prevents the laundry room backup that can occur when you know you can put clean sheets on the bed without having to wash the dirty ones first. This also works with towels.
::(If you have the option) Get the largest capacity machines you can::
If and when you need to replace your machines and you have children, get the largest capacity that you can. You end up saving time, money, and energy in the long run by being able to do as large a size load as possible at once. Our washer in this house holds about double what our last washer did and that makes a huge difference in keeping up with the laundry.
While we're on the topic, when you're researching machines, find out how long a cycle lasts. While I appreciate the large capacity of our washer, the normal wash cycle is almost an hour long. I think that's fairly typical for front loaders. Our last one was a top loader, took only thirty minutes, and got the clothes cleaner. I'm not a big fan of the front loaders for a good wash or soak. BUT front loaders are nice because children can help with the switching.
::Make your folding intentional. Literally.::
As soon as the dryer is done, aim to get your laundry out. This almost negates the need to iron (ha, not that I would anyway. Unlike my mom, I iron basically never.) and keeps you on the ball. If you're doing it at night, it also lets you feel done with your day and free to get to bed sooner. Take the time to fold the clothes well, sorting by person and piling back in the basket to be returned to dressers and closets.
Almost every single time I fold (ha, maybe it's because it's night and they're sleeping ;) I'm reminded of how blessed we are. How we have these little people that fit into these little clothes. How we are able to need and afford this many socks. How fast they are growing. I think about how skinny Michael is and how much David likes this shirt and how some of those grass stains that won't come out are a sign that my boys are blessedly healthy. And sometimes I even manage to remember a prayer for that little person whose shirt I'm folding. I know. It's corny but usually true and it changes everything. I see the order emerge from the chaos and it feels good. Once I finish waxing poetic over the basket, it's then ready to go up and be put away the next morning before breakfast while the boys are getting dressed.
I know sooner rather than later we'll likely need to do two a day rather than one load and I do have the goal of having the boys assume more laundry responsibility as they get older. Any possible daughters-in-law will appreciate that, I hope. Things will change but for now, this little system works and works well. And that's about as good as it gets when it comes to laundry :)
Any tips to share on keeping up with the laundry?
What works for you?
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