You might be where I used to be. I would have laughed at the thought of making laundry more manageable. What? Is that even possible?
I was drowning in laundry. Okay, maybe not technically drowning. But I'm sure you know the picture all too well. There were no seats left on the couch. None. They were all covered in freshly washed clothes and towels. The washer was full. The dryer was running. And there were still two more loads of bedding waiting to wash. Something had to give. And I didn't even want to see what mountains of dirty clothes awaited me in my kids' bedrooms.
Ugh. You can relate to this story, can't you? Laundry is a necessary task and it seems like it's never ending when you have a large family. In fact, we just replaced our washer and dryer last month after 13 years with our previous set. We figured that's a pretty impressive record since 13 years of service in our home is probably the equivalent of twice that many years in a typical home. The washer just never stops!
So surely there has to be a way to make it more manageable, right? Or if the laundry isn't going anywhere, maybe there is some way to at least make it more palatable? I wish I had a magic wand to offer you, my friend. I really do. Of course, I would sprinkle the magic fairy dust over my house first. But unfortunately there isn't such a thing as magic wands and fairy dust. The laundry isn't going anywhere. So you're going to have to take my 4 best tips instead.
My 4 Best Tips to Make Laundry More Manageable
1. Minimize the Need
You can't make laundry go away completely, but you can minimize the amount that needs to be washed regularly.
In my home, once my kids turn 9, I turn over the responsibility of washing their own laundry. Starting at around 5 years old, I start having them learn how to properly load a washing machine and dryer. And they help me with hanging up clothes and putting things in drawers. So by the time they are 9, they are usually tall enough to load the soap properly and push all the buttons. It's not always perfect, but it is nice to have kids take over their own laundry!
What I have noticed, however, was that through the pre-teen years especially, my boys have not cared at all if they had clean clothes. <<Please tell me I'm not the only mom with pre-teen kids who act like proper hygiene isn't a thing?! Please! If not, just ignore the rest of this...>> In fact, filthy clothes stay scattered all over their room and don't get washed, despite the best efforts from parents and grandparents to make it stop. Their laundry piles were so huge that we nicknamed them "Mount Neverest."
So, what we've done for our older kids who don't care about laundry is to help reduce the overwhelm--for them and for me. If they're going to wear the dirty clothes again without washing, why do they need 20 shirts just to pile up around their room anyway? So a few years ago, my husband and I implemented a new minimalist wardrobe system. With 4 shirts and 4 pairs of pants, plus church clothes, the laundry baskets no longer pile up. One load--maybe two--per bedroom is now all it takes to catch up. And it's not so overwhelming that they can't put it away easily. With our sons especially, we've continued on with this philosophy while doing kids' laundry twice a week. They do their laundry on Wednesdays and Saturdays since those are the days on our schedule where they are most likely to be home.
Thankfully, I'm happy to report that my daughters seem to have regained their senses as they've gotten older, and now keep up with their laundry just fine. So they are allowed more clothes as they desire. But my younger daughter especially still loves the freedom that a minimalist wardrobe affords her on laundry day.
Something else we did when the kids were little was to skip pajamas altogether. We just bathed our kids at night and put them in the next day's clothes to sleep. Not pajamas. It completely eliminated all the pajamas that needed to be washed. I will say that if you have a bedwetter or a kid in pull-ups or diapers at night, this might not always be the best choice. Their clothes can get kind of funky. But this system worked for many of my kids. One of my sons who has to get up early each day to leave for school still uses this method for the sheer convenience in the morning.
Another way we've reduced the need for extra laundry loads is to choose bedding sheets that can be washed with our regular clothes. This eliminates the need for extra loads just for sheets. We can strip the fitted sheet off the mattress and toss it in with the regular laundry and get it all knocked out at once. I have my daughters to thank for this technique. They started doing it a couple years ago, and I thought it was so brilliant that we started doing it for all the other twin beds in the house. I personally have a king sized bed, so I don't do this with my bedding, but we do it for all our kids.
Lastly, a great way to reduce the need for more loads is to have a bigger washer and dryer. Okay, I totally get it that this might not be a practical solution for you right now. Like I said, we went from no kids to 8 kids and overworked our previous washer and dryer for 13 years. But if you are ever in the market for a new set, I recommend getting the biggest capacity you can afford. Or if you have the room, you could even get two sets!
2. Take Care of the Piles Immediately
Did you hear that Beth?! Take care of the piles immediately! Okay, I'm totally preaching to myself on this one, but keeping the mountains of laundry to a minimum definitely makes the laundry more manageable!
I know it's kind of the running joke that moms all have piles of clothes on their couches or dining tables. But I've realized that, at least in my home, it's just a lack of self-discipline--not circumstances--that lead to the clothes piles on the couch. Ouch. It's kind of silly when I think about it. But I do think God cares about the mundane parts of our lives and we can glorify Him in even the boring task of folding laundry. The same Fruit of the Spirit that gives us the ability to show restraint in other areas of our lives can give us the self discipline to put the laundry away immediately.
The same Fruit of the Spirit that gives us the ability to show restraint in other areas of our lives can give us the self discipline to put the laundry away immediately.
I get it that things come up. Maybe you have a hungry baby and the laundry needs to wait. But if you are constantly having to sit on laundry on your couch, or you have to re-wash your laundry that never got switched over, maybe it's time to ask God for an extra helping of self-discipline so you can build a new habit.
If you have a large family, you probably have many helping hands that can help you sort, hang up and put away. Maybe even iron. (If you have kids that iron, will you send them to my house please?!) If you are always struggling with the piles, it's just a habit you've built. It's certainly a habit I've built in the past. Maybe it's time for a new habit.
Okay, enough with the tough love. Just know that God's grace is enough to help you build those new habits in your life. God can strengthen you so you can see that couch again and get those piles put away immediately!
3. Consider Doing Daily Laundry
"But I'm already doing daily laundry." Yeah, but this is different. Right now, I have 6 children who are competent to wash their own laundry. My youngest two are becoming good helpers. They can help me empty the dryer or put clothes on hangers. But there was a time when I was doing laundry for all 8 of my kids. That was hard! If you are in that phase where you are having to take care of laundry not just for yourself, but also for several children, you might consider doing a daily laundry schedule. It worked well for our family when they were all little.
Here's how it works. No one gets a laundry basket. Instead, you just put one laundry basket in the laundry room. Each morning you ask the children to put their dirty clothes from the previous day in the laundry basket. This could also include pajamas if you have babies who spit up, kids that wet the bed, etc.
Then you just run one load of your whole family's laundry. (This works well if you aren't a stickler about sorting colors.) Then everyone can take two minutes to put away their clean clothes. It takes almost no time out of your day to do laundry this way. And then you can schedule days for your other laundry, such as bedding, towels, cloth diapers or whatever incidentals need to be taken care of.
A great bonus to this type of laundry schedule is that you don't need very many outfits. Most kids wear only a couple favorite outfits anyway. So it saves time and money! And it definitely saved my sanity when my kids were little. I felt like I could spare a couple minutes from my crazy days to put a couple outfits away, but with a lot of little kids underfoot, it wasn't always feasible for me to put several loads away in one sitting.
4. Launder With an Attitude of Gratitude
When we feel burned out with all the laundry that our little blessings produce, it is easy to lose perspective. Sometimes all it takes to help us tackle the laundry is an attitude shift. I know I am guilty of this!
Really quickly....think about all the blessings you have in your laundry room! Have you been focusing on the curses? You have a washer and dryer. Even if you don't have a dryer and you use a clothes line, or even if you have to go to the laundromat...consider this: You get to use a machine that will wash an entire load of laundry for you while you get to go do other activities! You don't have to do the backbreaking work of kneeling next to a creek with a washboard or rock to clean your clothes! And your clothes come out clean and fresh!
Have you ever heard the phrase, "If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart?" Maybe we should rephrase it, "If you think my washer is full, you should see my heart." Those piles and piles of laundry come off of all those bodies running around in our homes. What a blessing that God has gifted to us! Sure, those little blessing have a penchant for getting those clothes as grimy as possible. But it's still quite the gift to have a full home!
Something I've done that has helped me to keep a good perspective **ahem, most days** in the laundry room, is to decorate it in such as way that I have constant reminders of the blessing it is to have lots of kids producing laundry. If you have not yet done so, consider putting Bible verses and quotes up in your laundry room. I have a framed image in my laundry room that says something along the lines of "Right now while you are washing piles and piles of laundry, understand that one day you won't have to anymore and you will dearly miss it."
Another idea is to hang washboards on your walls. This is something I would totally do if I had the wall space! I know they are super trendy and all kinds of farmhouse chic right now. But they could have a secret meaning for you--always the reminder that you are not having to scrub your clothes manually over a tub or a creek. It would be like a little heart check every time you walk by. A little moment to stop and thank God for the blessings you do have.
What's your biggest struggle with taming the laundry beast in your home?
What change do you plan to implement?
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