Monday, July 15, 2013

Monday Musings: Laundry

Let me preface this post by saying we have always expected our children to do chores. Not just tidying up, but help with laundry, dishes and keeping the house clean. I know there are some moms out there who want things done a specific way and they have a hard time letting someone else pitch in and help. In that case, I say, "don't gripe about how much work you have to do then, ever!" Also, while there are some chores that we have designated as "boy chores" and "girl chores", I expect my boys to do dishes and laundry just like my girls are perfectly capable of taking out the trash and learning to mow the lawn (provided they ever grow tall enough to see over the top of the mower handle). I don't abide by the "the house is the woman's work" philosophy and neither does my husband. In our house, if you live in the house, you help take care of the house. Period. 
Kernel of truth...amiright? Most people think laundry is a pain. It shouldn't be hazardous to your physical well-being mind you! (Dwija, I can't wait to see your laundry room makeover!) Very few mentally balanced people wake up giddily excited that they get to do laundry that day. Especially when you have a larger than average size family. More people means more clothes, and unless you are fortunate enough to have two washers and dryers you are probably going to be trying to clean those clothes on the same machine setup that a single person uses for just themselves. I can't speak for the more-than-5 kids-families yet, but I have noticed a couple of changes we've made that have helped tame the laundry beast.

1) My attitude!

Yep, you read that right. I changed my attitude. I went from thinking that laundry was something to be accomplished and completed to accepting that as long as we were wearing clothes every day, there would always be laundry to do every day. Think about it. 7 people all wearing shirts and shorts or skirts, and underwear with some of us also wearing socks or undershirts makes for about 30 items of clothing. That's almost a full load right there depending on the size of the garments and the size of your washer. Times 7 days and that's a minimum of 210 items needing to be washed. And I'm not even including sheets and towels in that count. Ain't no way you can save that up and do it all in one day! So make it a part of your daily routine. Start a load first thing in the morning, every morning! Just do it.

2) Automatic sorting
Well, this wasn't really a "change" since we've done it this way since we first moved into this house. I can't stand the smell of dirty clothes in my kids' rooms. Stale and musty smelling ick! I first bought a 3 bin laundry sorter {affiliate linkand put it in the hallway outside the kids' rooms. I taught them from the earliest ages possible how to sort lights, whites and darks. It started out with labels over the bins and pictures for example. They don't need those anymore. They take their clothes from the floor after they've changed and deposit them immediately in the appropriate bin. As the girls have gotten older, we added a smaller separate bin for delicates.

3) ONE laundry basket (to rule them all!)
Yes, I waxed poetic about those crunch cans in this post from ages ago and we used them for a good long while, up until this past year actually, but as they got older they stopped crunching as conveniently as before and became hard to carry as the handles stretched out due to hauling heavy loads. I still have mine saved in my linen closet but for laundry we went back to the tried and true laundry basket {affiliate link}. But only one! Otherwise you end up with a bunch of clothes that take up permanent residency in the baskets. Not efficient and the surest way to make me start feeling like a laundry failure. When I noticed that my kids were letting clean loads pile up, we had a little chat. I showed them using a timer that it really didn't take that long to fold a load and put it away. With one laundry basket now, they kind of have no choice. :)

4) HELP!!!
My favorite laundry room essential. He's going to make his wife very happy someday.

The most recent change we made was reassigning laundry duties. I had the oldest three set up on a weekly laundry assistant rotation. They were responsible for washing one to two loads of laundry a day including folding and then making sure the others came and put their laundry away. They did this for a week before it rotated to someone else. It was working out OK but I started noticing that some were better at remembering their daily loads than others and clean laundry was starting to pile up on the dryer and take a while to get put away. And I saw that BigBoy, at the newly turned age of nine, was  more than able to tackle some of the laundry chores too so it was time to throw him into the mix. So, we made a switch recently.  I purchased a separate set of sorters for the boys and gave the three bin sorter to the girls. The girls now wash, dry, fold and put their laundry away completely on Mondays while the boys have Tuesday as their laundry day. The Professor is usually the one to get the loads started while BigBoy comes in to help switch loads, fold and help put away. They actually enjoy folding their laundry together now in their room where it gets put away immediately while they chat.

The change has been tremendous! They work together as teams to get 2-3 loads washed, dried, folded and put away. Most days they are finished using the machines by lunchtime! They are only responsible for their own clothes which means they can take the basket into their room and not have to worry about having clothes from other people to deal with. It also frees up Wed-Fri for me to do laundry for Sean, Cupcake and myself. (Saturdays are sheets and towels and everyone pitches in as needed.) Previously we were trying to combine loads into a communal kind of laundry system. I couldn't tell Sean's t-shirts from The Professors and don't even get me started on who's socks those are! It's so much nicer now to be able to do our clothes the way I prefer. (MY WAY!) For example, I like to hang up Sean's work shirts as soon as the drier buzzes so they are easier for him to iron later.

Yes, ladies... he irons! Why? Because he was one of nine children and his mother didn't have time to iron every one's clothes so they ironed for themselves! Start training your sons now because we are training our sons and I want some excellent marriage candidates for my daughters! I hear a lot of moms of big families complain that they just don't have time to do it all. To those ladies, I say, "God gave you some amazing helpers! Use them."

Wow, this turned into a longer post than I thought when I started. My original idea was to just update those laundry room posts from 2008. I know that our way isn't going to work for every family. I never claim to be an expert with all the answers. I just wanted to share what's been working for us and hope that it might help someone else.


  1. Your system sounds wonderful, and I think it's great that your kids help out. How do you handle "glitches" in your schedule, however, such as going away for the weekend, entertaining guests, part-time jobs for kids, etc.??

    1. Well, so far, since we've been doing this, we've had my oldest working a summer job and a mild little stomach bug go through the house. We've still managed to keep everyone on track. My oldest actually did the boys' laundry yesterday with the help of his little brother since he needed his work shirts for the week. We haven't gone away for a weekend but I can't see that that would cause any problems since Saturdays are usually towels and sheets and I can easily find the time to squeeze those in during the week. If they start first thing in the morning, my kids are done with their loads by lunch leaving me the afternoon to do whatever loads I need to. The clothes we wear on Saturdays and Sunday get sorted in the bins and washed just like normal Saturdays and Sundays. Entertaining overnight guests isn't something that we do often since we don't have the room, but if we did, I don't have a problem doing laundry in front of guests especially when it's just one or two loads. I'd probably offer to do some of theirs for them.

      Really what it boils down to is understanding that most people hate laundry because they see it as this monstrous task to conquer. But we often times create that monster ourselves by not taking the time here and there to tame it. I remember complaining one time to a friend that I'd love to have a maid just to do the laundry, that's how much I hated it. She said, "You do have a maid... it's called your washing machine. You probably just aren't using her efficiently." She was right. (Can you imagine if we still had to wash our clothes by hand?) If I have my laundry already sorted in the bins, it takes 2 minutes to start a load, maybe 3 minutes to switch a load and start another one and about 5minutes to fold a load. That's really not that much of a burden.

      Like I said, our system may not work for anyone else but us. We are not a family who is running from this event to that event. We keep our outside commitments to a reasonable amount. If a family finds themselves so busy that they really and truly have no time at home to take care of the laundry, then a reevaluation of priorities might be in order. The Church teaches that food, clothing and shelter are necessities of life. If outside activities are getting in the way of taking care of those necessities and the family chooses not to make changes to their schedule, then they should at least do everyone the favor of not complaining about their laundry situation. :)

  2. Maybe I'm weird, but I don't find laundry as big deal as other things even with seven kids. (Now, getting bathrooms cleaned is another story.) You are right that if you see it as one of those things that you just have to do daily, like cooking and feeding the hoards, then it becomes less of an attitude burden. Sometimes it really is just a matter of perspective. We don't have an automatic dishwasher, so when my kids hear their cousins groan about having to load and empty the dishwasher my kids just roll their eyes. The washing machine does all the work after all. It takes just a few minutes to throw in a load throughout the day. We hang laundry out except in winter and hanging laundry is kind of pleasant. My teenage girls don't always see it that way, but they do it. I sort laundry as it comes off the line or out of the dryer (just like sorting mail as soon as it's out of the mailbox). I fold general use items like towels, table clothes and sheets right away. Clothing gets sorted into baskets and the kids are responsible for folding and putting those away. Sometimes items do take up seemingly permanent residence in the baskets, but I have a large laundry room so it's not such a big deal. It really doesn't take that long. I often do it in passing, between other things. Part of my "diligence" might be from memories of Mt. Everest-type piles in the laundry room when I was growing up. My mom worked and we were at school all day, so the laundry was always a problem. All my sisters are kind of obsessvie about laundry.

    We have a boys chores and girls chores here. When they are young jobs overlap gender-wise, but the boys get relieved of inside chores as they get older and start to do more outside, heavy work. Sometimes the girls complain about the older boys not having to wash dishes, but I tell them anytime they want to clean out the chicken coop or go out in the snow to milk the goats, I'll have one of their brothers do the dishes. They don't take me up on the offer for some reason.

  3. I don't think you are weird. I think those people who don't have a problem with it are people who have already accepted that it's a daily chore and take care of it a little bit at a time. When something happens and you do have a mountain pile up you recognize it as an unusual occurrence not daily life. And if we had outside chores like cleaning a chicken coop or milking goats, I could see where boys chores and girls chores might be more necessary.

  4. Charlotte
    Totally understand your washing system, isn't it fantastic when we find a system that works for us:) All children over the age of nine wash their own clothes here, each child has a washing day. One of the best systems we ever implemented, my life is now easier:)

  5. I refuse to deal with laundry daily. I do it two days/week. I need days off from it. My kids are HUGE helpers and they know how much I appreciate them/their help. I often think of my Mom and her crazy set-up for laundry--she had it so much harder than I do! She also refused ANY help with it, because she felt it was her duty. She was saintlike in that regard :)


Thank you for sharing your thoughts and yourself!