In the depths of your home lurks a scary beast that no parent wants to face: The Laundry Monster. Some parents put off laundry for as long as possible. One mom I know has even bought new clothes for her children in lieu of doing laundry. The laundry monster creeps up on us all. Alas, unless we want our children to go to school with spaghetti stained shirts and stinky socks, the Laundry Monster must be tamed.
Below is my system for taming the beast.
First, organize all of your laundry supplies into one place, preferably in the laundry room. Gather your preferred detergent, any stain fighting product you may use, fabric softener, dryer sheets, hangers and any other miscellaneous supplies and put them in the designated space. Shelving above the washer and dryer are the ideal space to store these supplies, but a nearby closet or a portable caddy will do in a pinch.
Next, divide up your laundry to make a big job easier. Whether you have two people in your family or twelve, everyone should have a place for their dirty clothes. Assign a laundry basket or hamper to each bedroom and one to each bathroom. Label the bottom of each basket with the name of the room where it belongs. Instruct the inhabitants of each bedroom, whether child or adult, to put their dirty laundry only in the basket in their own bedroom. Towels should be placed in the basket or hamper in the bathroom where they came from, not the bedrooms. From now on, schedule laundry based on the rooms it comes from.
Pick a schedule that works for you, not someone else. Whether you choose to do laundry daily or weekly is up to you just make certain you are consistent. Assign each room a day so that the occupants of that room know when their dirty laundry absolutely must be in their hamper for it to get washed (if you are doing laundry once a week the day will be the same for everyone).
In an ideal world, clothes would always land in the hamper when they came off, but children (and spouses) need reminders from time to time. Set a deadline for when clothes need to be in their designated spot. My deadline is 8 AM on the appointed day, but if you are an early riser you may set the deadline as the night before so that you can get a jump on the laundry in the morning. If your children (or even your husband) want you to wash something, it needs to be in the basket or hamper at the appointed time. Otherwise, they will need to take care of it themselves or wait until next week.
When the day comes for a particular room, grab the basket from that day’s room (or the first one on the list for that day) and run it completely through the cycle. Any item requiring delicate treatment or separate washing (think indigo jeans) can be set aside and dealt with in bulk at the end of the week, but with colorfast technology and the durability of today’s clothing many items that our grandmothers separated out can be washed together. Treat the clothes for stains, wash them, dry them and fold them. When you are done, put them back into the basket for that room.
If you washed any items that require hangers, hang the item and lay it across the top of the basket. Deliver the clean, folded laundry back to the room it came from and put it away. You now have an empty basket ready to be filled for next week.
Sheets and Other Misc Items
Sports jerseys and equipment, dry clean only items and sheets all must be dealt with. In our house, they get their own day. Every week, I wash half of the sheets. On Saturdays, the occupant of the day’s assigned bed is responsible for pulling the sheets off of their bed and bringing them down to the laundry room before breakfast. Having two sets of sheets for each bed in your house is nice, but processing laundry through and getting it finished is nicer.
If you want to use a different set of sheets so that the beds are made in the morning just make sure the dirty sheets don’t live in the corner of the laundry room for the next two weeks.
You don’t and should not have to do all of the laundry by yourself. Teach your children the laundry basics when they are young and by the time they are ten or eleven, they will be able to care for their clothes on their own. Take the time to show your children the laundry care instructions on the labels of their clothes. Teach them how to fold and put away items and how to use the machines. They won’t do it perfectly at first, but they will learn.
Once you have your system in place, stick to it. Post your schedule and let your family members know their assigned days. Commit to following your schedule and laundry will become as routine as brushing your teeth in the morning.
Be mindful that every new routine will experience hiccups. Know that even if you forget to run laundry one day, all is not lost. Pick up where you left off and shift your schedule as needed. The Laundry Monster is tamed by persistence, not perfection.