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Laundry Lament
May 30, 2012 3:47 pm | by

Oh laundry, the never-ending chore. Laundry has never really been an area I excelled in. Since the last addition to our family, I completely strike out on a regular basis. Six people, five beds, scores of towels, tablecloths, cloth napkins, un-paper towels and all the other things I use to be as green as possible in my home mean my washer and dryer get quite the workout.

Unfortunately, even with all the laundry we do, I always seem to find a pile of dirty clothes lurking behind a closet door or a laundry basket of neatly folded clean laundry sitting on a bedroom floor, directly in front of the chest of drawers. I never can seem to find the perfect laundry routine that doesn’t leave laundry creating it’s own zip code in our home on one side of the machines or the other.
I’ve given it my best shot, I really have. I spent years flying, I’ve pinned all kinds of organizational ideas and I’ve bought all the best laundry gear off the Cotton Babies warehouse shelves. And yet, I still feel like a laundry failure.
Most recently, I decided to enlist the troops. If three boys who like to play in dirt, mud and water can create tons of laundry, they ought to be able to do it as well. Since they are still fairly young, we purchase the pre-measured detergent packets, taught them only one setting to use on our machine and keep an eye out while they sort their colors. They are only asked to do their own laundry. So far, it’s mildly successful. At the very least, it has stopped the morning cry of, “Mom, I don’t have any clean underwear!” Hopefully their future wives will thank me.
Even with that improvement, I’m still a procrastinator on my own laundry. I’ll wash the kids’, my husband’s, even the linens but wait until the last possible second to wash my own. Honestly, I just threw a load of jeans in to wash before sitting down to write this post because mine were all dirty and I need to leave the house in two hours.
Laundry, especially when you have little ones and are cloth diapering, is an ever-evolving thing. You get a great routine down and then they grow, start eating new foods, or the seasons change. These changes affect your laundry and you have to adjust your routine again. With summer here and the addition of all the towels from the pool, I’m in need of a jump start.
Do you have any tips to help with laundry efficiency, whether it’s for cloth diapers, kid clothes or just regular household laundry? Share them in the comments below. Maybe together we’ll find a way to make a mole hill out of this mountain of laundry.

About the Author

Heather is mom to four, born within 40 months (single, twins, single). She writes transparently about her chaotic household to encourage others through the twists and turns of parenting.



  • Sile said...
    June 4, 2012 at 7:23 am

    Their wives WILL thank you for teaching them to do their own laundry. My husband learned how to do his own when he was 7 and he still prefers to do his own! It really takes the pressure off of me to not have to do his clothing (I still do the household towels and sheets/blankets, but this is 2-3 less loads for me to do a week!).

    I can only imagine the fun when diapers come into the mix (we are currently trying to conceive, and I decided a few years ago that I will be doing cloth for many reasons, even though several people in my life think I’m crazy. But I’ll be a SAHM, so why not do the best?!)

    Laundry sorters are also a big help. I have one with four compartments that I keep down by the washer so I can seperate my laundry as I bring it down and then the full compartment gets done first. I’m thinking of getting a second one for when the babies come!

  • Anonymous said...
    June 3, 2012 at 7:39 am

    I agree with many of the tips listed above- bags/baskets for sorting dirty clothes if you have the space, starting at night and morning, having even little kids help.

    We don’t have a basement or big laundry room or other extra space. I prefer 2-4 baskets for pre-sorting dirty- blue jeans w/heavy pants, whites, lights and mixed mediums, sometimes a black/dark load.Yes, everyones clothes get mixed/sorted together based on color and fabric weight for drying time. With gardening and ongoing construction remodeling projects it easily is 2 loads a day with two adults & 1 preschooler. Sheets every two weeks unless hot weather or illness.

    My preschooler knows to put his own in basket and learning to put away, still trying to get hubby to do that. As limited space we currently have one basket. twice a week I dump and sort in the hallway, then start a load, put one on floor in front of washer, and stuff rest sorted in each half of a regular hamper.

    My preschooler has learned to fold small towels, his t-shirts and working on folding adult t-shirts. Yes, at our house clean laundry is dumped on our dresser, after pulling out things like office dress shirts/pants first to hang. I fold while watching less than hour of tv before bed.

    I try to dry on line outside when weather permits, but no room/basement to dry during winter/cold. I have hung diaper covers over open cabinet doors and there is a tree next to back deck with some clothespins too.

    My mom had a great system similar to the one with the tip above for baskets for each person. If you have some room in laundry, basement or maybe hallway, she used shelves labeled with our names. Baskets would be a great addition. It was your job to get your own laundry.

    Diapers- we had only enough for about 2-1/2 days. I washed every two days, having just enought to use while they were in they wash. Would start the soaking at night and run the load in morning.

    And I have an extra timing issue with a cranky septic system, the preschooler runs to check if water if coming up the access, usually after two loads, so load in morinng, load after lunch and one after dinner to avoid overloading system.

  • Anonymous said...
    June 2, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    Laundry is the one area of domesticity that I excell at. 🙂 We have a system that works well for our family: We keep a nice-looking, slim dirty laundry sorter with four compartment in the hallway. I labeled each compartment: dish and hand towels, washcloths & bibs; lights; darks; pants. Everyone puts their own laundry where it belongs at the end of the day. (My two year old can do it right.) Diapers are in their own bin. I wash one or two loads a day, as they are filled, morning and/or night. Sheets and bath towels are washed once a week to every ten days, whenever I have time and no full laundry bins. I love that my machine has a “keep fresh” function where a fan blows air inside it after the load is finished, so it doesn’t get mildewy if it’s left overnight. But when I get more than a day behind for whatever reason, yikes, it’s anxiety-provoking!

  • Anonymous said...
    June 2, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    I am 100% Type A. I do, most often, a load of laundry every day, and a specific load each day. Diaper days include covers, liners, & bags. Monday is towels, Tuesday is cold darks, etc. We have a laundry sorter in our laundry room and each person in my 4-person family sorts their own-even my 2 & 3 year old!
    I am that way with EVERYTHING! We have 7 scheduled breakfasts, one for each day of the week. 7 lunches. I plan dinners & shop for the month. Produce, dairy, etc are the only additional trips to the store.
    Also included in this plan is chores. Saturday is BIG day house top to bottom & maintence is scheduled. Monday bathrooms, Tuesday kitchen, etc. Obviously, this isn’t 100% foolproof with two young boys, but it helps.
    This is all on a 8×11 chart in my kitchen so my husband knows, too!

  • Anonymous said...
    June 2, 2012 at 9:51 am

    When I take a load of clothes out washer, I put them in the dryer on high heat for two mins. Then I gather and start another wash load. I take clothes out of dryer, and hang on hangers. Then when they ate dry the go directly to closets or drawers. As for diapers, I try to do daily. No short cuts here.

  • Eowyn's Heir said...
    June 1, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    We usually don’t have that much laundry– we aren’t afraid to re-wear clothes, and I don’t wash linens weekly (unless they get dirty from sickness or something). We use rags for cleaning, etc. But it all adds up to maximum 4 loads/week. I do one white, one colored on Monday and another set on Thursday… and sometimes I barely even have enough to do that. Sometimes it’s just 3 loads/week. Obviously, our laundry has decreased since our toddler potty-trained, but even with cloth diapers we never went above 4 loads/week. I doubt we will once we meet our new baby (due any day now!). I think a big part though is not washing every single thing we wear everytime we wear it– pants and skirts definitely get re-worn, sweaters and PJs too.

    • Anonymous said...
      June 2, 2012 at 12:06 am

      I combine my two kids clothes (11mo & 2yrs) in the wash to ensure a full load–darks together and lights together, although sometimes I just wash on cold and do a little mix of both if I’m in a pinch. I can relate to getting behind on my own laundry, but sometimes, to catch up a little, I will even throw in some of my clothes w/ the kids to fill the load. This is all manageable with the every-other-day cloth diaper wash routine because my husband does all his OWN laundry–which I thank my mother-in-law for, as she taught him and required it to be his own chore by age 14. (He’s type-A, I’m not, so this suits us very well.) I save the folding for after the kids go to bed–which I enjoy because I can catch up on TV shows via

  • Kaitlin said...
    June 1, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    When I was caught up on laundry, I did about a load/day and diapers twice a week. I would hang diapers outside on a line, covers and wipes on a folding rack, and hang all other clothes on the line in our basement plus my PVC hanging thing with extra rope in case. I did baby clothes about once/week. It was a good system and since all of our clothes went from line or hanger, all I had to do was cart it upstairs and either hang it or put it away. I’m weeks behind however because I just didn’t feel like doing laundry one day and that was about 2 months ago and the baby and I have both been sick in that time frame…sad, but I’m defeated, too.

  • The Vagabond's Bride said...
    June 1, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    As a family of 6 with 2 in cloth diapers, I am no expert to keeping laundry at bay, but something I have done is invest in a bunch of laundry baskets (about 10) that nest inside each other (bought them when they went on clearance after “College Back to School” sales). I usually do a load or two a day, but get behind on folding. With lots of baskets, I can have dirty clothes sorted in baskets in the laundry room ready for when the washer is empty, and have baskets left so as I fold I can sort by person. I have the big kids take their baskets and put their own clothes away.

    Yes, streamlining laundry always seems to be a work in progress. I have a friend who just tosses a load in each day and doesn’t bother to sort it if it’s kids clothes…I can’t do that…I’m a sorter.

  • Anonymous said...
    June 1, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    I put my kids down for the night at 7:30 and start a load of diapers everynight.I hang dry them in my laundry room and by the next morn they are dry. I have enough to last two days so I have to do a load of those everyday. When I wake up in the morn, I do a load of clothes to be ready to hang dry when the sun comes out. I have found this method works well for me 🙂

  • Anonymous said...
    June 1, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    We sort our clothes when we take them off by having laundry bags with separate light and dark compartments. When one side gets full, we do a load. Diapers get done every other day.

  • Joan said...
    June 1, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Elaine said: “Then, when watching tv/supervising hw/sitting around with hands unoccupied,” – there are moms that actually have time like that? If so, I want to know their other secrets for time management! I have a 10-month-old and an almost-3-year-old. I don’t know what “sitting around with hands unoccupied” feels like!

    I’ve been trying to get a load of laundry done each day (not including diapers), and I’m usually fairly successful at getting it through the washer & dryer, but the baskets of clean, unfolded laundry are taking over my house. We’re often rooting through baskets to find a clean shirt, pants, or underwear. But at least it’s clean and dry!

  • Cheerful Homemaker said...
    May 31, 2012 at 9:51 am

    I used to always be caught up on laundry. I even remember thinking I wished I had some clothes to wash. Then I gave birth last October. I haven’t been caught up since!

  • llamalluv said...
    May 30, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    We usually do 2 loads per day. Our laundry is sorted into: whites, dark colors, light colors, towels/dish cloths, and diapers. Plus sheets get washed once per week. As soon as we have enough of one bin full, we wash it. That way no one person has nothing to wear.

  • Elaine said...
    May 30, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Before bed, move the wash to the dryer, and start a new wash (if there’s a load’s) worth, and dump the stuff in the dryer into a basket & leave in the living room.

    On the way to work in the morning, wash to dryer, dryer to basket in living room, dirty’s to wash (again, if full load.)

    On the way in from work, dryer to living room, wash to dryer, and start a new load if necessary.

    Then, when watching tv/supervising hw/sitting around with hands unoccupied, fold the laundry & stack it in the original baskets by destination (ie, this basket is hanging, this one is for our room, this one is for kid #1;s room). Once everything is folded/sorted, take the basket to the appropriate location, and put away.

    It sounds more involved than it is. This routine means we’re rarely behind on laundry, and doesn’t take more than 10-15 minutes tops out of your day – and most of that is actually starting the new load. We get most of our clothes folded & diapers stuffed just watching one or two (max) shows in the evening… and we still get to talk with each other, because it doesn’t take a lot of attention to fold clothing!

    Also, once you’ve been doing the routine for a while, and have cleared up any backlog, you’re not doing more than a load a day, if that. (We end up doing about 3 loads + diapers per week, for sheets/towels/clothes for 2 adults, a toddler, and an infant.)

  • Fran said...
    May 30, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    This is what I am dreading most about cloth diapers. I don’t have a good schedule right now and there are only two of us. The main problem is that we don’t have enough dirty clothes to wash a load a day. I’m sure the little guy coming along might change that. 🙂

  • Anonymous said...
    May 30, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    surely if everyone does their own laundry it is more uneconomical, unless everyone waits for a full load before they put it on! I always do one washload once the kids have gone to bed, ready for hanging out in the morning, unless I’ve got an early start, in which case I’ll hang it out the night before. Sometimes I need to do another load, especially when it’s a nappy washing day, so this gets done in the morning and hung out when its finished. I also wash all the bedding at the weekend, so this is another couple of loads. I have a very big tree in my garden, so have put a rotary airer underneath it, which means the clothes still dry with rain showers, but if it’s very wet I’ll dry everything in the house.

  • A Fulfilled Mommy said...
    May 30, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    A load a day keeps the chaos away!

  • Novogoratz said...
    May 30, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    I try to run 2 loads a day to keep up. I am still working on a schedule as to when I will wash what. Once I get that figured out, I think that will help best! Time to go wash some dipes!