Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mt. Washmore (Laundry for a Large Family)

Dear friends,

I love the blog Cheaper by a Baker's Dozen that Debbie Pittman writes.  This lady is hilarious.  Debbie is the mother of 11, six of them by adoption.  This morning, she tackled the topic of  Mega Laundry Solutions.  Go take a look -- it will be well worth your time!  She also links to "laundry for large family" posts by several other bloggers.

Meanwhile, I remembered, as I was putting a load of linens into my own washer this morning, a section of a chapter in my first book The Real Life Home School Mom all about laundry.  So here we go!  I definitely need the refresher course since we always seem to have laundry waiting in baskets to be put away.  I think I'm going to try Debbie's tips on doing all the laundry every day and putting the clothes in labeled dish pans for the kids to put away.

Three other related posts from this blog and my main one...

(Photo below is from this last post!)

Clothing the Lilies of Your Field

            Those lucky lilies!  The flowers of the field are arrayed in dazzling colors with velvety soft textures, and they don't even have to do laundry!  If your house is like mine, clothing care is a never ending job.  Here are a few suggestions to make life easier:

            Equip your laundry area or bedrooms with plenty of containers for sorting dirty clothes.  For several years, we used recycled laundry detergent buckets and labeled them for each child, as well as delicate clothes, linens, white clothes, items to be bleached, etc. Now that we have less space in our laundry area since our garage was converted to a bedroom, storage room and office.  I try to keep minimal dirty laundry out there.  The kids are supposed to bring out their clothes when they are ready to wash, and not let things pile up.   I find that sturdy square laundry baskets are much more practical than the larger rectangular ones because they are easier to carry, especially for young children.   We also use smaller, transportable hampers (rectangular trash baskets) for their dirty clothes in their bedrooms.   We have a small hampers in our dining room and kitchen for dropping in wet rags used for wiping the counters, drying dishes, or cleaning up spills.  These get washed every day!

            Round up all dirty clothes and linens after breakfast.  Then sort them into your bins or baskets, and get the first load going before starting school. Try to put away clean clothes the same day they are washed.  If you do a mixed load of all of your children's laundry every day, they may each have only one or two outfits to put away!  My three sons share a bedroom, and I do all of their laundry at once.  I usually sort the clean clothes into separate baskets for them so they can fold and put away their own stuff.  Otherwise, it takes much longer for them to get it done if they do the sorting themselves.

As soon as your children are able, make them responsible for their own laundry.  You will need to show them which washer and dryer cycles to use, how much detergent to add, how to treat stains, and other specific skills.   Children as young as age two can help fold wash cloths, match socks, and put clothes away. Stock up on a few dozen pairs of identical socks to cut down on sorting.  Equip closets with plastic hangers, low rods, and sturdy plastic boxes to make it easier for them to finish the job.

            Lay out clothes ahead of time when you are going out.  This will cut a lot of frustration as you are trying to get the family out the door for a field trip, co-op classes, or church service.  Ideally, you should lay out clothes, shoes, and hair accessories the night before.   If modesty is an issue at your house, make sure that all clothes are approved my mom or dad, too!

            Find good sources for “recycled” clothing.  Garage sales, consignment shops, friends, and family members are good bets.  When you don't pay full price, you aren't as grieved when an item is damaged, lost, or outgrown.  We often find plastic bags with hand-me-down clothes in them next to our van after church, and we’ve been known to do the same thing for others!  It makes sense!

            Teach your children (and maybe the adults too) a few laundry policies.  Here are a few of ours:

   Don't go outside in stocking feet. 
   Use towels, pajamas, and sweaters more than once before washing.
   Take wet or heavily soiled laundry directly to the laundry area.
   Turn items right side out and empty pockets before placing in the hamper.  
   Never put crayons in pockets, even for a minute! 
   Tell Mom about stains and rips immediately so they can be treated before laundering. 
   Use a smock or wear old clothes while doing messy projects. 
   When you take out anyone’s laundry from the dryer, make sure that you lay clothing such as nice skirts, pants, and shirts nicely across the top of the basket are on a bed so they won’t get wrinkled.  We also want them to alert the owner that their laundry is out so they can get to it promptly.

Your turn!  What do you do to stay on top of your laundry?


  1. Wow! You linked to me. And you called me hilarious. Will you be my new BFF? :)
    that picture of the laundry pile was so worth sneaking over here when i'm supposed to be teaching latin. Too funny!

  2. ... this may not be quite what you might have expected, but I am throwing my link out there anyway :o) Many years ago, I lived in the UK and became acquainted with the use, in former centuries, of wooden racks, mounted on the ceiling, and raised and lowered, as necessary to load the drying laundry upon. I was so intrigued, and have beckoned to dh to make us some for a few years now. Well, dh finally came through, and you can find my blog post on them here.

    We have become much more disciplined with the laundry since I have had them. I no longer use the dryer, AT ALL. I hang or dry flat everything, and I can run two loads at night, hang them before bed, and they are ready to fold and back to the rooms the next morning. Then I can throw another 2 loads in in the morning, and they are dry by eve, or sooner in the winter with the woodstove going. The fact that this is just about the greenest way to dry your clothing, is icing on the laundry cake. Also, I make my own detergent once a week, for mere pennies. Everyone over 3 ft tall puts their own laundry away, and keeping out of season clothing in storage bins in the garage helps keep the drawers clear too.


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