Doing laundry for a large family can be a daunting task. Piles of dirty laundry in the bathroom, the bedrooms, and on the laundry room floor can be disheartening. Coming to the bottom of a laundry basket to find your favorite shirt for your baby has mildewed because the spill didn’t get washed off quick enough, or that the dishcloths are moldy because they have sat too long is depressing and enough to make you feel like a failure. But as a mother of 10 children, I have found a few ways to conquer the laundry mountain in my household.
Go to the Dollar Store and buy a large supply of laundry baskets. You can almost not have enough of these, as they are handy for many things other than laundry. When you are not using them, they can be stacked inside each other, and pushed in a corner of your laundry room or sat on top of the dryer. Give each child a basket for the closet of their room, and insist they put their dirty clothes in there. One way to enforce this rule for older children is to refuse to retrieve and wash any clothes that are not placed in this basket. In other words, on the day you are going to wash their clothes, take out of their rooms only what is in this basket. Or better yet, don’t retrieve clothes from their rooms at all, and make them personally bring their clothes to the laundry room. A couple of times of having to wear the same dirty jeans several days in a row is usually all it takes to convince them to comply.
Keep another one of these baskets in the bathroom, and empty it daily. Another basket at the top of the stairs is a good idea, and can be used not only for dirty clothes, but for anything else that needs to be taken downstairs. Be sure and empty the basket every day or so. If you have enough of those Dollar Store baskets, when you pick up one basketful of dirty clothes, replace it right away with an empty basket.
Once the baskets of dirty clothes are in the laundry room, you can either teach your children to sort clothes, or do it yourelf as quickly as possible. Have three clothes hampers in the laundry room, one for dark colors, one for light colors, and one for towels and washcloths. Spray any stains with spot remover as you sort. This will help cut down on stains and mildew.
Now that you have all the dirty clothes in the laundry room on a regular basis, don’t wait to wash them. At the very least, begin a routine of starting a load of wash every morning, when you first wake up and begin to feed your family breakfast. Then, before you go to bed, begin another wash load. If your family is large enough, you may want to do one at lunchtime. Regular times to put in a load of wash will help you keep the piles of dirty laundry down to a workable load and keep you from feeling overwhelmed. Two or three loads a day is also better than just trying to have one day a week to do laundry. Walking through the laundry room and seeing that the laundry is being diligently done will boost your spirits, which is no small thing for a mother of many children.
The next laundry problem is having piles of clothes all over your kitchen table or couch, making the rest of your house look messy, and making it seem like the laundry is a never ending, time consuming mess. One way to solve this is to put shelves up in your laundry room. Wire shelves from somewhere like Home Depot work very well, and never need dusting. Make the shelves tall enough to put your laundry baskets on, with room at the top to be able to toss clothes into them. Have a basket for each room of the house, or even each person in your family. Have another basket for things you need to iron. A nice thing about the wire shelves is that you can put the clothes on hangers as you take them from the dryer, and hang them on the shelves by the baskets. As you empty the dryer, put each item in the proper basket. Fold quickly as you go, it doesn’t have to be overly neat. When the basket gets full to overflowing, have the child come and empty it, putting another empty basket in its place. You can even have the child put their clothes up right away, and bring the same empty basket back, so that you can see that they have done the job. This will also keep them from tossing dirty clothes on top of the clean ones once they have taken the baskets into their rooms.
When you wash towels and washcloths, put these into a basket straight from the dryer, too. Then when you need to supervise the bath of a baby or young child, take this basket into the bathroom with you. Fold the towels and washcloths while the baby plays in the tub.
Some children will be content to just live out of their basket on the laundry room shelves. There’s nothing wrong with that either, as long as the baskets don’t overflow and spill clean laundry on the floor.
This idea will also work if you use a clothesline. Just take several baskets outside, and as you take clothes off the line, put them into different baskets for different people. At the end of the day, send each person outside to retrieve their baskets and take them to their rooms. Be sure and follow up, it’s disheartening to wake up in the morning to find it’s rained into the basket of clean clothes that someone didn’t pick up the night before. Or that the cat has curled up and spent the night on them, or the dog has scattered them all over the yard.
Buy quality laundry soap and prespot treatment. It’s tempting to skimp here, but making your clothes last longer and look nicer saves money, too.
With a little planning and creativity, the huge chore of washing clothes for a large family can become manageable and give you a sense of accomplishment. Not to mention a much happier family when most of their clothes are clean a large part of the time!