Monday, February 9, 2015

How to Tame the Laundry Giant

I fought the laundry and the laundry won...
I fought the laundry and the laundry won.

And that was the song that I sang every week.  Laundry was the enemy.  I was emerging from each battle more bruised and battered.  Typically I could get the clothes in the washer (that's the easy part) but the clothes sat on the cabinet or in baskets for several days afterwards.  Even worse, the clothes sat in the dryer collecting rent.  I tried doing a load every day.  I tried once-a-week laundry.  Nothing helped tame the laundry giant.

With our growing family of six, I knew there had to be a solution because the problem was only mushrooming with time. 

I headed to Facebook to find solutions from mommas just like me. I tucked each of the ideas away to ponder.  Then I began a scientific experiment of using the various ideas to see if I could answer my question, "Could I win in the laundry battle?".

I am happy to say that I stand a conqueror.  With much practice, trial and error, and tweaking I have come up with an idea that has drastically reduced the amount of time that I spend on this remedial and mundane task. 

Don't believe me?  Yesterday I did a week's worth of laundry for six people in under an hour (plus the time spent waiting on the washer and dryer to finish.)  Less than sixty minutes!  This used to take me days to finish. 

Want to know how?  Time to let the secret out of the bag.


Washer and dryer - We own front-loading machines due to the available size capacity.  I can do one load for every two that my mom does in her smaller machine.  It was worth the investment for us.  There are now top loading machines that are equivalent in capacity so check with a local sales representative to see what is available currently. The other thing that I like about the front loading machine is how much water is rung out of the clothes making drying time less.  This means that as soon as the dryer bell sings, I can get the clothes folded and distributed while waiting for the washing machine to finish. 

Laundry Soap - I make my own Homemade Laundry DetergentThe savings are huge.  I previously used powder but am now experimenting with a no-heating required liquid recipe that my elderly neighbor shared with me.  Both options have their advantages but that will be for another post.

Laundry Basket - For my laundry system, the rectangular baskets work the best.  If possible, have one basket per person. If you want to get even fancier, have a basket each for the kitchen and bathrooms. 

Laundry Sorter - Update:  After posting this, a friend suggested that I get rid of the laundry hampers and use a laundry sorter (with wheels) in the laundry room.  She was right on!  This has made laundry even easier. 

Laundry Plan

1.  Gather Laundry

Currently we have laundry hampers in each bathroom.  The kids were trained as toddlers to place their clothes in the hampers.  Whenever the hampers get full or I have a less-demanding day, the kids bring the baskets into the laundry room, dump them, and then return the baskets to their spots.  (The kids can actually do laundry from start to finish but that was last week's posts.)

Once dumped on the floor, the clothes are sorted into three piles - whites, darks, and jeans.  Depending on the season, I will have enough jeans for a full load.  Other times the jeans go into the dark pile.  Sometimes I add a fourth pile of clothes to be bleached.

The older kids are learning to sort the clothes directly from the hampers.  Much easier to sort that way.  I also sort from the hampers if the kids aren't helping with laundry that day.

UPDATE:  Hampers have now been placed in the attic and I use a Laundry Sorter (similar to the one pictures above) in the laundry room.  The kiddos bring their dirty clothes into the laundry room and immediately sort them into white, dark, and jeans.  This removes one more step from the process making it even easier!

UPDATE:  A friend suggested using Delicates Laundry Bags for underwear and socks.  Each person has two bags (one for whites, one for colors) which is clipped to his/her hamper.  Zip them up and throw them into the washing machine.  Eliminates sorting the socks and underwear from the dryer.  My friend suggested not filling the bags too full to make sure the clothes get clean.  

2.  Load the Load 

Having front loading machines allows the kids to load the laundry into the washer and dryer.  Peanut loves to transfer the laundry from the washer to the dryer.

3.  Laundry Basket Layout

Before the dryer is finished, I line up four laundry baskets (one for each of the kids).  Ideally, I would have a laundry basket for each person in the family but I keep forgetting to pick up a couple more when at Walmart. Currently I place my husband and my clothes as well as the kitchen and bathroom towels on the counter instead of in a basket.  Actually, since I have the wonderful Amazon Prime, I put the Laundry Baskets in my cart and will have them in two days!  Score!  Plus right now with this link the price is only $4.44 for each basket. 

4.  Fold and Sort Laundry 

Now comes the time saving part. In a strategic manner, straight from the dryer to the baskets the clothes go.   I place the baskets in age order.  Bubs' is the basket closest to the dryer with Peanut's the furthest. 

As illustrated in the image above, I mentally divide the basket into four areas:  underwear and socks, pjs, pants, and hang up clothes.  Notice that the pants and pajamas are the only things which are folded.  The underwear and socks are {literally} thrown into their place in the basket.  All shirts are shaken and laid over the side of the basket.  Hangers are waiting in bedroom closets to hang the shirts up.

Side notes: 
1.  I used to gather all of the hangers and bring them to the laundry room to hang up clothes.  Huge waste of time.

2.  We hang up all shirts.  Even play shirts.  In our home, hang up rods are ample while drawer space is limited. Also, messy drawers drive me crazy.  The shirts are more likely to stay neat when hung.

3.  We keep track of whose clothing it is (especially the underwear) by placing dots on the tags.  One dot means Bubs.  Two dots, Little Man.  Etc.  Any guesses whose underwear the image above belongs to?

4.  Rags are thrown into a box under the laundry room sink.  Never folded.

5. Washclothes also are not folded.  They are laid in a pile on the laundry room counter and then placed in a small box in the kitchen drawer. 

6.  When washing bedding and towels, instead of getting new sets out I simply wash, dry, and replace.  This saves the time of getting out new and folding and putting away the old. 

I keep hangers in the washer room to immediately hang up Daddy and my dress shirts.  Everything else is immediately folder and/or placed in a basket. 

It takes me approximately 5 minutes to fold and sort an entire load of laundry. 
Yes, five minutes. 

Here is Bubs' finished basket. You can see the underwear and socks, pants (jeans), pj's (black), and hang-up clothes ready to be whisked away to his bedroom.

5.   Put it All Away

In my mind, putting the clothes away is the task that seems to get trumped with more important activities.  To help with this, I do all the laundry once or twice a week instead of doing a load every day.  I figure a load a day means that I am putting clothes away 7 times a week verses once or twice a week. 

Now that the kids are of age, they put their own clothes away.  I typically have their baskets filled with clean, sorted, and folded clothes ready for them after school.  It takes each child less than ten minutes to put their clothes away.  I still assist the little boys in the process.

To tackle the hang-up clothes, I grab the pile of clothes laid over the side of the basket and lay it on a flat surface (oftentimes the bed).  I also grab several unused hangers from the closet. 

Grabbing a hanger from the pile, I slide it through the bottom. (Going through the top stretches out the neckline in some shirts.)

From the top, grab the hanger hook.  This shirt is laid to the side and the next one is ready to be hung.  The kids can easily do this process and it takes just minutes to go through a whole pile of hang-up clothes.   

As previously stated, boxes are placed in the kiddos drawers to corral the unfolded underwear and sock.  

Here is Peanut putting away his socks. When he is picking out his clothes for the day, he has a wonderful sorting activity to gather matching socks. 

The kids return the laundry baskets to the laundry room when finished. 

One disclaimer, when the kids began helping with the laundry it took me more time than if I had done it by myself.  But, now that they are trained, know the expectations, and understand that we work together as a family, my laundry time is less.  One more example of the importance of giving our children the gift of work.

And there you have it.  My easy laundry system.  I would love to hear your tips and be sure to ask me questions!

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The Our Out-of-Sync Life blog focuses on encouraging women to deepen their spiritual life, simplify daily tasks, and impress Jesus on the children around them.