This month’s question is from one of our readers named Dana:
Question: I have three small children ages 4, 2, and 8 months. Laundry is a constant struggle. I always seem to have piles of clean laundry building up, but no time to put it all in the proper places.
I’ve tried individual bins in the laundry room, different laundry baskets for each child, but still no great solution.
Any ideas? It’s one of my last organizing battles at home. Thankfully, most other things are under control.
According to the Canada Science and Technology Museum:
Laundry has generally been considered by women to be the most dreaded of household chores. Indeed, “Blue Monday” (the popular term for laundry day before the turn of the century) hinted to more than the bluing agent used in rinse water, it also signaled the drudgery involved in the washing process. “Blue Monday” in itself, however, was somewhat of a misnomer. In fact, prior to the automation of laundry, the typical wash cycle involved DAYS of hard labor. [my emphasis]
Back in the 21st century, when it comes to laundry, each household, each parent, has their own style and their own unique set of needs. We each have a different sized families with kids of different ages, and it all adds up to no one single “right” way to do things, as you have probably already discovered.
Dana, you mentioned that you don’t have time for putting the clothes away once they are done…
I have always found with any kind of clutter that the things we don’t seem to have “time” for are the things we just don’t enjoy doing. As with anything, there are only two options: change your attitude or change the situation. This months response needs a bit of both…
Here are a few tips that might help make ‘Blue Monday’ (or whatever day of the week it is) more efficient!
Lightening Your Load (Literally!): Laundry flows more smoothly and gets put away more easily if you don’t have too many things overflowing in your closets and drawers. No one wants to put away clean laundry into a cluttered spot. Your first priority is removing anything that you or the kids no longer use and giving or throwing them away. This will save you a lot of time and frustration right off the bat! Not only will you be able to find things to wear more easily, but putting the clean clothes away will be a snap! As in most cases with ‘stuff’, less is surprisingly MORE. You’ll probably find that getting dressed in the morning is a lot easier the fewer choices you have.
Beautify: Making your laundry area a lovely place to be is a popular solution. Treat yourself, you spend a lot of time in that part of your home! Some suggestions: paint the walls a color you enjoy, add shelving and hooks to suit your needs, and one woman I read about even mentioned using vintage washing items like old fashioned washboards and wringers to decorate the walls. You can really get creative, so you don’t feel like you are in Siberia when you are doing your wash.
Streamline: It makes sense to streamline the laundry room as well as the process of doing laundry, as it is the most utilitarian of rooms for people with large families:
- take everything not laundry-related out of the room and put it where it belongs somewhere else in the house or garage.
- make sure you have adequate shelving for your supplies like soap and softener, dryer sheets, hangers to hang things that don’t go in the dryer, mesh bags for socks and lingerie (hah!) your iron and ironing board (if you use one), etc.
- keep a small plastic wastebasket nearby to hold dryer lint, used dryer sheets, pocket clutter, etc. Maybe even a piggy bank for all the ‘treasure’ you find in the pockets!
- have whatever type of hamper and plastic laundry basket works for your situation on hand and easy to access. You may need to try several different systems before you land on the one that works best for your family.
- keep a cardboard box or extra large bag in the laundry room so when you come across something that no longer fits anyone, just toss it into the ‘blessing box’ and when it’s full…off to the thrift shop or local homeless shelter!
Systematize: For some people, having a laundry routine works well, using a specific weekly schedule such as:
Tuesday – towels
Wednesday – husband’s clothes
Thursday – my clothes
Friday – baby’s clothes
Saturday – towels
Sunday – everybody’s clothes
Monday – catch-up
For others, choosing one or two specific days of the week to complete the task is the way to go. Remember, gathering the dirty clothes, folding and putting away the clean items is just as much “doing laundry” as washing and drying the clothes! Again, try a few different systems until you land upon the one that works best for you.
Make it Fun: Of course, at times, laundry will seem the “chore” it actually is, but the more of a game you make it f or yourself and the little ones, the easier and faster the process will go. Time the kids while they run around to gather the clothes from the various laundry baskets in the house, teach them to sort the colors from the whites, and then allow them to “feed” the “hungry monster” washing machine.
Find a song to sing when the dryer dings or buzzes, fold the clothes to a book on CD or a video so it doesn’t seem so tedious, make putting their clothes away a fun treasure hunt or a “race” for the toddlers, whatever it takes.
Remember, ‘perfect’ is not fun, relax your standards so your kids can help and learn. Even kids as young as 3 can learn where their clothes go! It’s much easier for mom when she doesn’t feel she has to do everything alone.
For older kids (7+), one mom had a great idea:
“I made up little packets of laundry powder, single-load size, and put them in a little basket with a 3X5 card of step-by-step instructions on how to do a warm-water, mixed load — wash and dry. Then I walked each child through a real washload of their own. Now they have it on paper, and they know how it “feels” to do it — no longer mysterious to them, and they feel more independent.”
While I was researching for this response, I found a tremendous resource by Googling “Flylady and Laundry”. For those of you who don’t know her, Flylady is amazing!.
Please take a look at her site, but make sure you have a few hours to spend, as you’ll get lost in the volume of amazing tips, tricks and resources for what she calls “SHE”s—Sidetracked Home Executives; stay-at-home (or working) moms whose perfectionist tendencies have held them back and who want the support and guidance to make the change. All her information is free and she has a great Yahoo!Group you can join. (Remember to set y our email preferences to DAILY DIGEST, or you will be flooded by the 25+ emails she sends out per day!)
Flylady has an entire 5 pages devoted to the subject of laundry alone—testimony to the struggle that most of us have keeping up:
Solving the Laundry Quandary with Flylady – http://www.flylady.net/pages/FlyLaundryquandry.asp
Oh, and in case you were wondering, here’s a way to fold fitted sheets: How to Fold a Fitted Sheet
Remember, I am on your team!
..· ´¨¨)) -:¦:-
((¸¸.·´ ..·´ Jessica -:¦:-
Jessica Duquette from
It’s Not About Your Stuff