Photo by H.A.M. Photography

It’s Simplify your Life month here on To Love, Honor and Vacuum, and in my introductory post I talked about how we’d be doing three things this month: figuring out your purpose, learning to organize better, and then paring down. We spent last week on the big picture “purpose” issues, and this week I want to spend on organizing.

Here’s the warning I issued about organizing, though: I don’t think we should become tied down to any one particular system, because sometimes the system itself that we use becomes overwhelming and stops us from feeling organized. Or sometimes a system will work for a time, but you’ll lose interest, and then it’s time to find something else to recapture your interest and keep you motivated to go again!

When I asked last month what’s the one thing that you all want to organize better, the single greatest response I received was, “laundry!” So to kick off organization week, let’s tackle laundry!

Later this week we’ll also tackle scheduling kids’ chores, organizing your kitchen, and keeping communication going between you and your spouse over what needs to get done.

But let’s do laundry first!

Let me share how I do it, and then I’m going to link to other systems on the internet for your interest. Then I’d encourage the rest of you to leave your ideas in the comments! Remember, there is no one RIGHT way: when it comes to organizing, you need to find a system that works for your family, and even then you may need to keep renewing that system every few months. But no matter which system you use, one thing that is not negotiable is routine. When it’s routine, it gets done with a minimum of fuss. When it’s not routine, it doesn’t.

So here, without further adieu, are my thoughts:

Washing Routine

1. Keep laundry separated according to how you wash it. I don’t separate according to whose clothes they are, because by the time Rebecca got enough whites to do a load, she would have worn the same bra two weeks’ straight. I also find that by doing laundry everyday, we don’t need as many clothes. Since the girls are on a clothing allowance, they’ve each decided to only own two pairs of jeans. Because we do our loads together, they can make do with only two pairs more easily. If they had to wait a week between loads, it wouldn’t be as easy. So we just pile everyone’s clothes in together. Some families with teens have kids do their own loads all at once (and when I was in university I didn’t separate whites and colours; I threw them all in using cold water, and nothing really ran and the sky did not fall), but right now I just find it easier to wash everyone’s together.

I have four bins: colour, white, delicate, and hand wash. My hand wash is for lingerie and hand knit items (I knit a lot!), and delicate is for almost all sweaters and nice T-shirts. It’s probably overkill, but they rarely get really dirty, and if you wash them on delicate they last a lot longer.

Then, every single morning, after I have my shower, I put a load on. Just before I make lunch I put that load in the dryer and I put another load on. Just before I make dinner I put the second load in the dryer, and that’s it for me in the day. Two loads of laundry usually does us sufficiently and I don’t wash on weekends. That way it’s part of my natural weekday habit. If you work outside the home, you can do the same thing. Put a load on first thing in the morning, and then another as soon as you step in the door after work.

The Folding Dilemma

Folding is far more haphazard; I fold while I take up schoolwork with the girls, or we all fold together while we talk about whatever novels they’re reading for history and get into debates. I believe in multitasking! The big thing with laundry is that you MUST fold it, or it wrinkles horribly and it sits all over your bed and your floor.

Get in the habit of washing at set times and folding at set times, and it’s much easier!

I highly envy those who live in climates where you can dry clothes outside year round. I do not live in such a place, but in the summer I’d hang the clothes out right after breakfast and right after lunch, and it always worked fine.

Getting the Laundry to the Laundry Room

As difficult as it may be to figure out how and when to wash, getting the clothes to the machine is just as much an issue. My girls each have a hamper in their closet that they are responsible for emptying. It’s part of their daily chores, and everyday, after they make their beds, they’re to empty their hamper. They’ve done it since they were four, and it works fine.

But I have a secret to admit. I don’t have a hamper. In the mornings, my husband and I throw our dirty clothes by the door to our bedroom, and then when I leave the bedroom, I scoop them up and take them to the laundry room. Isn’t that horrible? I know, one should never put clothes on the floor, but honestly, they’re never there long! I don’t mind my husband leaving his stuff there because I do, too, and it’s no more work to add his socks to the bundle of clothing I’m already carrying of my own.

Of course, there are much more elaborate systems for laundry, and if you’re looking for one, or if you’re overwhelmed because you need to do more than two loads a day, here are a few more thoughts:

1. Often the reason laundry becomes overwhelming is because we are washing things that are not really dirty. Children, especially, have a habit of throwing things in the hamper because it is easier than putting them away.

Have a conference with your family to decide your own rules on how often pants should be worn before they’re washed; how often towels can be used before they’re washed; how often sheets should be changed; how often pajamas should be changed. Personally, I wear jeans a good four times before I wash them, unless I spill something on them or I’m in a smoky place. They really don’t get dirty. Sheets we change every week, and pajamas once a week. Towels are more haphazard.

But many children change clothes several times a day, just for fun, and when they do change they throw their clothes in the hamper. By the time you discover that clean clothes are in the hamper, they’ve already mixed with wet towels, so you have no choice but to wash them. Often the reason we have so much laundry, then, is because we’re washing things that aren’t actually dirty.

So talk to your kids about how often they need to wash certain items, and if they keep putting clean clothes in the washing machine, then I’d start making it their job to wash and fold all the laundry, or making them pay $1 out of their allowance for that load of unnecessary laundry!

2. Keeping track of which clothes are whose can also be a challenge. Buy one child all green underwear and another all white. Buy one boy all grey socks and another all black socks. Try to keep the basics that we get mixed up to single colours, so that you know whose is whose. And take a permanent marker and write a child’s initials on the tag so you know whose it is. If the item is then passed down, use a different colour permanent marker.

Now, here are some other great laundry links:

Laura from Organizing Junkie just has her kids do their own loads–and loves it! No more sorting. Read her thoughts here.

If you want pictures, here’s a great post with different hampers, small and large laundry rooms, and more to give you inspiration.

One last problem: I still haven’t come up with a solution to the single sock phenomenon. But I cannot bring myself to throw out single socks. So I have a box under my bed. Here it is. Did any of you steal the mates?

Now, what are your thoughts? How do you do laundry? Did you find a system worked better for you at a different stage in your life? Let me know in the comments, and let’s help each other!

Tags: ,