This is the seventh installment in our series, Homemaking Your Way. Catch up on the first six here.
About a year ago it finally dawned on me that I was running a small business from home (this blog) and that I am really unable to “do everything” that a typical homemaker does during the day. I just don’t have the time, the energy nor the desire to be any sort of “super woman.” I took a cue from some very successful bloggers and decided that it was really okay to farm out some of the daily tasks that I wasn’t completing on a regular basis. The one thing that I was consistently failing to carry to completion was the laundry.
Right off the bat you need to know that I have rarely handled the laundry by myself since having children. I just can’t seem to follow it through to completion. For almost a year after my fourth child was born, my mom did all of the kids and household laundry (and sometimes mine) every two weeks when she came down from the Seattle area to visit. I didn’t make her nor did I assume she would do it, but it was one of the ways she helped me out. My mother-in-law has also just taken garbage bags full of laundry out of my house during my first trimester of several pregnancies and brought them back clean and folded. I realize that I am beyond blessed to have three wonderful parents (my folks and my husband’s mother) and I humbly accept any laundry help (or any other help) they offer.
I figured out that I am able to wash, dry and sort laundry, but folding and putting it away rarely happened. And it was driving my husband nuts (he’s not fond of piles of clean clothes on our floor. Fancy that). So I decided that it was perfectly acceptable, though a bit embarrassing, to pay someone to do it for me. Each week, I have a girl from down the street babysit for me so I can scout out the Walmart deals and generally get some stuff done. The perfect solution was to simply add the folding and putting away job to her weekly responsibilities. I pay her a bit more and for about $5 a week, this task is accomplished.
I know that many of you are thinking, “I wouldn’t dare pay someone to do what I could do in 10 minutes.” I totally get it. But I realized that it was worth $5 to help me feel better and get the clothes in the dressers. And my awesomeness isn’t determined by if I can finish the laundry.
Here’s how the laundry system works at this point in our home:
Unlike Emily, I detest daily household tasks and I work better when they are considered “events” so I do the laundry once a week.
First, I have placed three laundry recipticles in “hot spots” throughout our home — where the clothing organically accumulates.
A small basket in the big kids’ room,
a medium hamper in the baby’s room,
and a large, pretty basket in the common area of our home. While this isn’t ideal, I realized last summer that I was piling dirty laundry in this exact place as I did my quick pick-ups, and I know myself better to think that I would magically start actually carrying the clothes to one of the kids’ rooms, so I just put a basket there. Now the area doesn’t look horrible and my husband doesn’t get frustrated that there’s a pile of dirty laundry on the floor (win-win!). If we’re having company that I really want to impress (which happens infrequently), I can just put the basket in a closed room.
When I’m ready to do laundry, which usually happens on Tuesday or Wednesday, I sort these three baskets into whites, towels and everything else piles on my bedroom floor (our washer and dryer are in our master closet). I have a front loading washer, so all of the kids and household laundry can be completed in 3-4 loads a week.
After each load is dried, I sort it directly into each child’s laundry basket. I purchased these baskets from The Container Store for about $7 each. I love that they are the same and stack so they don’t take up much space when not in use.
Since our laundry room is connected to our bedroom, I just sort next to our bed. Kids’ clothes go in their baskets and towels and washcloths get folded and stacked on my bed.
My daughter had the privilege of writing everyone’s name on their basket with a Sharpie. Why are permanent markers so exciting to kids?
I completed the family’s laundry on Monday and the baskets are still sitting in my bedroom, waiting for the folding fairy to arrive tomorrow. If someone needs an item, they just grab it out of the basket.
We are slowly moving to my older two (5 and 7 years old) to folding and putting away their own clothing. I totally know that my daughter (7) can do her own laundry and I will probably assign her a laundry day starting this summer.
As with all household tasks, I aim at making them as uncomplicated as possible. Here are some details to prove it:
:: Like Emily, we don’t launder an item just because it touched someone’s body. My kids regularly wear one outfit for a few days and they do sleep in it. As long as it doesn’t have stains or stink, I’m fine with it. As we move into summer and are outside more, the amount of dirty clothes increases dramatically.
:: I rarely use any sort of fabric softener. I just haven’t notice a real need for it. I have started to use it a bit in the last year because I was able to get a few bottles of Snuggle for free, but I usually just put half the recommended amount in when I remember, which is about every four loads.
:: I almost always use less than the recommended amount of laundry detergent and I set most loads to the shortest cycle. I do have a fairly new washer, so the “quick wash” setting gets the clothes clean.
:: I wash most items in warm, but that’s because I rarely pre-treat stains. I am just not aware of most stains before they get washed and dried and the warmer temperature usually knocks the stains out.
:: I wash dirty washclothes, underwear and most socks in hot because, while I don’t freak out about most “germs,” I do have a healthy fear of fecal contamination. I’d rather err on the side of caution when pinworms and other nastiness could result.
:: When I had infants and was dealing with tons of spit up and poop stains, I had a small bucket filled with water sitting next to the washer. Since I refuse to do less-than-full loads of laundry, I would throw the nasties in the bucket to keep the stain wet and use Shout on it when I was ready to wash. I know this is super gross to some of you and I’m sure unsanitary on some level, but we’re all still breathing and I was able to deal with most stains without going crazy.
:: I don’t use a clothesline. I say that with fear and trepidation, because I know where I live and I’m supposed to love the look and feel of sun-dried everything, but I have severe seasonal allergies and just can’t have anything near my face that has been exposed to whatever floats around from growing grass. And I know without a doubt that I would leave the items out on the line for weeks at a time. So, I use my clothes dryer with every load. I do air dry my shirts so they don’t shrink — I just drape them over the dining room chairs for the day.
I usually do my personal laundry once a week (or when I am out of sports socks) and my husband prefers to do his own, so I joyfully submit to his desire!
I would love to know how other readers who work outside the home manage the laundry. What works for your family?
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