After all of this talk about my laundry room, I feel like it is only fitting that I end the series with a little description of how I go about doing laundry for my family of five. I have found over the last few years that there are a lot of different methods for handling all the laundry out there, and sharing our ideas can be really helpful!
One night last fall, I gathered with a couple of friends for girl’s night. We have made a habit of regular Girl’s Night Out, (which I highly recommend!) but this particular night a friend’s husband was gone so we went to her house. As we were talking she moved her basket of clean socks to fold onto the floor and commented on how much she hates folding socks. She had mentioned this to me before, and I always thought it a bit odd. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t enjoy any part of doing laundry but I’ve never thought folding socks was worse than any other part of the whole process.
As we sat and chit-chatted we all realized we should just help her fold that basket of socks, so it was off her “to-do” list. Literally a half-hour later the four of us were still folding socks!!! I realized why this friend despised folding her family’s socks. Her three children are similar in age and all of those darn socks looked the same. We were literally laughing out loud by the end, at how hard it was for four moms to find a matching pair of socks!
Now, this friend is one of the most intelligent women I know, this was not a matter of intellect. She simply hadn’t ever set out to buy different colored socks for each kid. We decided that night that she needed to throw all of those white socks away and go buy socks with different colored toes for each child. She is also very wise with money, so I’m not sure that she threw away those perfectly good white socks, but I started to realize how the every day tasks of motherhood are approached so differently by us all. Some of us have figured out socks, others know how to turn any kind of meat and two cans of anything into a delicious crock-pot meal. This is why I love a good blog, the ability to share what we’ve each figured out, so we can lighten each others’ load!
So with that long story for an introduction, here is how I approach laundry day in an attempt to maximize it’s efficiency so I can get on with the fun things in life!
I start by separating all of the kids clothes into piles in the hall upstairs – fancy I know! I just take each of their hampers in the hall and throw clothes back and forth into their piles. I can easily talk a child into helping me with this part, since it is one time I am actually requesting that they throw something from one end of the room to the other!
Their laundry gets divided into five basic piles. (I have to add that my loads are often much larger than each of these! and sheets and towels are not pictured here.) The piles are…
2. White / very light colors
3. Light to medium weight dark fabric (usually shirts & dresses)
4. Heavy weight dark fabrics (usually pants & sweatshirts)
I sort into these piles for a couple of reasons. To start, I need at least four loads of laundry to make everything fit in the washing machine! The next couple of reasons are probably things your mother taught you, but I’ll share anyway.
1. I sort by color to avoid fading and color transfer.
2. I sort by fabric type to keep heavy items like jeans and things with zippers from snagging, tearing or damaging thinner and more delicate fabrics. I really think this keeps the kids’ clothes looking much nicer, much longer.
3. I sort by fabric weight to avoid shrinkage. It isn’t really the heat of the dryer that causes shrinkage it is the absence of moisture. So, when a lightweight t-shirt is dry, but the dryer is still going to finish drying a damp, heavy sweatshirt – the lighter t-shirt shrinks.
Now for the BIG reason why I sort clothes like I do – it makes putting clothes away so much easier and faster! Since our laundry room is downstairs I have to haul laundry up & down to wash and put it away. I also find it hard sometimes to put clothes away because when I am home and have time, kids are asleep in their rooms. So, a while back I started piling all of the kid’s laundry in the basket as I wash it and then making them help me put it away. Now I would love to say that I started having them help to teach them responsibility and help them understand the concepts of caring for our home & being a part of a family. Really, I just don’t want to put their laundry away!
As I fold each load of laundry I sort items by child and place them in a stack. Since my heavy weight/dark load is basically pants and a a few sweatshirts it is easy to sort by kid as I fold. I then lay each kid’s pile on the bottom of the laundry basket, without stacking piles of clothes that belong to two different kids on top of each other.
As I wash p.j.’s I do the same thing, sorting into one pile for each kid as I fold. I then stack p.j.’s on top of each child’s pile of pants.
Most of the lightweight/dark load items are things that we hang in their closets. So, I lay shirts & dresses flat in one pile per kid to take upstairs. I make a folded pile of any additional pants, etc. in the load as well. (i.e. my daughter’s leggings are usually in the light fabric load)
Last, items that need to be put on hangers are laid out flat on top of all the folded piles.
Once all the loads are done, I make my kids help me put their piles away. I take the basket back to the hallway outside their rooms. Each child is handed their clothes to hang and they lay them on their bed. Then they come back and get their stack of p.j.’s and put them away They return for their stack of pants and put them away…. In a few minutes the laundry basket is empty! The kids then finish up with their hanging clothes.
I go to my littlest man’s room to hang his shirts while he puts away undies, pants and p.j.’s. He sometimes needs a little help with pants, but otherwise he can handle the folded stuff now that he is 3! My daughter can do everything except skirts (the hangers are hard for her). My oldest can do it all solo!
This may seem like a crazy simple post to some of you. But, I have had conversations about laundry with many moms over the years. It can be so overwhelming to fold and sort and put away all of the laundry our families create on a weekly basis. I really think sorting and ordering clothes before you wash them and as you fold them makes the process so much faster, and way less overwhelming. You are breaking the sort process into two simple steps, when you have to handle each individual item anyway.
For example, if I washed all kinds of dark clothes in one load, I could be sorting p.j.’s, pants, dresses and shirts for 3 different kids while folding one load of laundry. That is 12 different piles, not counting socks & undies! The way I sort I usually only have 3 piles per load – much better.
This process also helps with the expectation that my young kids put their own laundry away. It is simple for them to get a stack of p.j.’s to put in their p.j. drawer, followed by pants for that drawer, and unfolded items to hang…. They can’t complain they aren’t sure where stuff goes – I’ve already made it pretty clear!
Other random thoughts…
1. I have talked to many moms that just make each child’s clothes a separate load. This is also a great way to limit the sorting issues. The only reason I don’t do this is because I like to sort by color & fabric weight too.
2. If you have two or more kids that are the same gender and similar in age consider purchasing socks & undies that make laundry day easier. i.e. Buy socks that have patterns or toe colors, and don’t buy the same socks in different sizes. Avoid plain white socks, as my story humorously advised!
I’m sure you all have lots of ways you simplify laundry day as well. Please, share what makes laundry easier for you too. I’d love to do a follow up of this post with all of your great tips! I know you have them!!!