Laundry Leviathan

My laundry habit used to look something like this:

  • Pre-treat and sort (leave piles on floor for days until all laundry is completed much to the chagrin of my family : )
  • Wash (leave in washer until they sour/ re-wash/ repeat as necessary)
  • Dry (then fluff in an attempt to get the wrinkles out after sitting in the dryer too long)
  • Fold/Hang (or more likely leave in piles until you are ready to wear it)
  • Iron (NOT!)
  • Put-Away (with or without folding…maybe…)

Because I had no control over this area of my life, it consumed my emotions, my time, my house and my heart.  I hated doing laundry with a passion.  It was the most dreaded chore for me.  It weighed on my shoulders constantly.  I didn’t know how to overcome this monster living in my house.

Then one day everything changed!  We got rid of the dirty clothes hamper!  You know the one.  The place where, if the clothes make it off the floor, they all live together in one dark damp hole called the dirty clothes hamper.  Wet towels, delicate whites, darks, teenager’s nasty socks, underclothes, jeans, all of it mixed together in that dark hole in the wall until laundry day.  Then you have to dig out all of those clothes you have thrown in together, and sort them to begin the horrible cycle listed above.

What if…what if we never mixed the clothes together in the first place?  What if we sorted them as they came off our bodies?  Thus began a laundry experiment that changed our lives.  I bought sturdy stacking plastic recycle bins.  Stacking because our laundry room is very small.  Sturdy because I have children : )  I labeled each container with self-stick labels and a Sharpie: towels, darks, lights, reds, jeans, etc. I gathered my children around and explained our new system.  We would no longer feed our clothes to the monster in the hallway.  Instead we would bring our clothes to their new home in the laundry room and put them into the appropriate containers.

Laundry Solution

This accomplished several wonderful things:

  1. No sorting.  The laundry was always sorted.
  2. No sorting.  Thus no piles on the floor!
  3. With a glance, I know exactly what needs to be washed next.

Then began a routine.  First thing in the morning I washed a load that required hanging – lights or darks.  Then when those went into the dryer I would put on another load.  The last load of the day would be either jeans or towels because neither require attention if accidentally left in the dryer overnight.   At this point in our experiment, I personally hung up everything that required hanging.  Then I established laundry baskets in the children’s rooms where I would deposit each child’s unfolded clothes and unmatched socks.  They were required the following morning to fold and put away all clothes in their basket.  I also divided up the towels, hand-towels, rags, sheets etc. among my children based on age.   Due to the size of our family, I repeated this cycle daily except on Sundays.

A few years back we entered a new phase as a family.  I took on some ministry roles that required we shift some things at home.  Laundry was one of those things.  At this point the labels on our stacking bins changed from darks, lights, towels etc. to names of each individual in our household.  I made each member of the household responsible for all of their own laundry.  I assigned each individual a day of the week in which they had access to the washer and dryer.  Due to the size of our family multiple members were assigned to the same day in some instances.  I suggested those individuals (the younger boys) do their laundry together.  They all already knew the mechanics of doing laundry as that had been part of our home school in previous years.  Thus very little teaching was involved in this process, just some reminders and a shift in responsibility.

An amazing thing happened at this point.  All of a sudden we had much less laundry!   Mom’s suggestion that their towel be used more than once didn’t sound like such a bad idea.  Nor did wearing their church clothes more than once, sound so silly anymore.  No longer did they put their clean clothes back in the dirty clothes bins just because they didn’t want to put them away right now. They realized they were the ones who were going to have to wash them (and still put them away once they were clean : )

I haven’t struggled with laundry in years.  It doesn’t weigh on me emotionally the way it did.  These adjustments completely changed my outlook on this chore.  Between the stacking bins and the routine of starting a load every morning, I have slain this leviathan in our home.

© Machelle Baker 2014

Machelle Baker (18 Posts)

Machelle is a native Texan who values liberty. She has home schooled all six of her children at some point during their education. She continues to home educate the youngest three, all boys. They are currently 16 yrs., 14 yrs., and 10 yrs. old and have been home educated their entire lives. One way she expresses her passion for helping others is as a Disaster Relief Chaplain. Some of the disasters she has ministered at are: the Bastrop, TX wildfire (2011), the West, TX explosion (2013), the Moore, OK F5 tornado (2013), and the Central Texas flood (2013). She also serves as the Co-Chair of the Chaplain Core Team for the Austin Disaster Relief Network in Austin, TX.


14 Comments

  1. Kay @Kay's Little Korner

    Fantastic post!! Isn’t it wonderful when a light comes on to help us move past a dreaded task!! I love getting the kids involved. I think our next step will be those individual tags when each older child is responsible for their own dirty laundry. We are rapidly hitting that phase with our oldest where he must learn to function outside our home!
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    • Machelle

      Thanks Kay. Those light bulb moments are wonderful. In this case – life-changing – literally! I stayed away from letting everyone do their own laundry for a long time arguing it wasn’t practical in our large family. However it has worked out wonderfully.
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  2. Beth

    These are great suggestions, Machelle! I love how you looked for helpful solutions and adapted them as needs changed. This is a great example of being proactive and thinking outside the box (or perhaps hamper! ha!). I love this and am grateful that you’ve linked up at Wedded Wed. I’m not sure that I’ve visited your blog before either, so welcome and nice to meet you!

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  3. Rachel G

    I’m from a big family, too (I have 6 siblings). So, with 9 people in a small apartment in the tropics, we couldn’t even let laundry sit around or it would mold. So I grew up doing 1-2 loads of laundry every day, and yes, it was the kids’ job! That’s a good way to teach responsbility!
    Rachel G recently posted…Contentment and FaithfulnessMy Profile

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    • Machelle

      Rachel, thanks for sharing your story. We just went from 10 people down to 9 and then down to 7, in our household. It will go back up to 8 when one comes home from college in the summer. I used to do 3-4 loads/day. Now I do about 2-3 loads/week because everyone else is doing their own : )
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  4. annette @ A Net In Time

    Oh yeah! You figured out a method that works!

    I do a laundry basket upstairs that once full goes to the basement for sorting into other baskets. As each basket fills it is washed.

    Clothes are folded for the owners to put away.

    So much easier than me doing all the work. even the lad can sort the clothes out, and put them away himself. Soon he’ll be washing select loads as well. :)
    annette @ A Net In Time recently posted…Snow up in our neck of the woodsMy Profile

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    • Machelle

      Annette, a system makes so much difference. It completely changed my outlook on laundry. Children helping of course lightens the load enormously also. Thanks for taking the time to comment :)
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  5. Kym

    Great post! Laundry has never been the biggest challenge in our household (I would say taming clutter throughout the house gets that honor) but I know the frustration of forgetting to move the wash into the dryer or neglecting to get the laundry done so that someone was scrambling to find “sort of clean” clothes! Ack! My kids have had the job of folding and putting away since they were quite young and they are completely in charge of their own laundry from the time they turn 12. That has helped us so much.

    Visiting from Christian Fellowship Friday – have a great week!
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    • Machelle

      Kym, clutter has always been a problem here too! Although we are learning to tame that one also. Making children part of the process makes the burden so much lighter. Thanks for coming by and commenting.
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  6. melcaldicott

    Great tips here. I stopped ironing a year ago and have never looked back!
    Thanks for linking up at Essential Fridays.
    Blessings
    Mel from Essential Thing Devotions
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    • Machelle

      Mel, I rarely iron, like not even once a year :) I enjoy Essential Fridays. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
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  7. Shecki @ Greatly Blessed

    It’s amazing how much difference a system makes! :)
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