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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 with baking soda/ repeat as necessary)
- Dry (then fluff on air only in an attempt to get the wrinkles out after the clothes sat 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 begin 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.
This accomplished several wonderful things:
- No sorting. The laundry was always sorted.
- No sorting. Thus no piles on the floor!
- With a glance, I know exactly what needs to be washed next, without sorting.
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. It doesn’t even seem like a “chore” anymore. These adjustments completely changed my outlook on this task. Between the stacking bins and the routine of starting a load every morning, I have slain this leviathan in our home.
© Machelle Baker 2014