Tuesday Topics: Tackling Laundry

This week we are taking a break from the “Big” issues and tackling the topic of laundry.

This is from Nancy (whose blog you must see – her photography is beautiful):

Laundry is my arch nemesis and a continual source of stress. How do you tame the laundry monster? I have 6 little ones, ages 15-2, one washer/dryer and have tried so many different methods from everyone doing their own laundry having their own day of the week (which was SO much more work for me that much of my other duties were neglected) to me doing it all a couple days of the week to me just doing a few loads a day. Nothing seems to work long term. Socks are just a nightmare and the littler boys just seem to have dirty clothing hiding in every nook and cranny. Eventually the great laundry monster rises from a mountain of soiled clothing the size of a small baseball stadium to rear its ugly head just to show me who’s boss.

As with last week, I will hold your comments until next Tuesday (11-17-09) and post them all at once. It is much more fun that way! I look forward to reading your good advice. Let’s encourage one another.


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Laurel
    November 10, 2009

    First … buy a BIG front loader. wow! That has done wonders for our laundry piles.

    Second … our kids begin doing their own laundry at about age 11-12. They are fully responsible for their own clothing.

    Third … when a "big kid" shares a room with a little kid or two, this big kids gets to also share a laundry basket. Big kids keep the clothes clean, little ones keep the clothes folded and put away.

    This past summer, we had 12 or our 13 children living at home. Mama was only responsible for 2 little boys' laundry. They didn't share a room with a big kid, and their room was across the hall from Papa and Mama.

    Fourth … as for the SOCK monster. Oh yea! We used to have a cardboard box that was always full of socks. Everyone just dug through until they found a pair that semi-matched.

    Give each laundry basket their own "sweater bag". This bag stays in the laundry basket, to be filled with dirty socks. Socks get washed in the bag. Socks get dried in the bag. Socks get folded and put away right along with the clothes that come out of the dryer.

    Fifth … dispersing duties as they grow. Our kids start folding their own clothes at about 5 years old. They can start folding towels about 4. They can fold wash cloths and kitchen towels at 3. Start them young, and they will always know that it takes TEAMWORK to take care of a large family.

    Sixth … as for little boys laundry hiding in every nook and cranny. Consequences. Hmmm … your play clothes didn't get washed; that means you can't go out to play today.

    When a load of laundry comes out of our washer, I immediately assign someone to fold it. This way, we never encounter a Mt. Everest of Laundry (as I know so many large families do.) After it's folded, I immediately have children take their piles to their rooms and PUT THEM AWAY.

    Hope this helps. Laundry doesn't have to be a nightmare.

    mama of 13

  2. gloryrevealed
    November 10, 2009

    We have a lot of laundry. We have 3 boys under the age of 3 plus a renter sharing our laundry room. This means our family has to do laundry Monday through Friday. I generally try to wash clothes on Monday and Tuesday and get everything put away by Wednesday. I then wash towels and sheets on Thursday and then whatever needs it on Friday. It was harder when we did cloth diapers (finally done with that!). One thing that helps is our washer has a timer so I can put a load in at night and have it freshly washed when I get up in the morning or when I get home from school with the kids. That keeps me from rewashing moldy clothes. We also have a large capacity machine so I typically only have 3-4 loads of clothes a week.

  3. Staci
    November 10, 2009

    I am terrible at laundry. AWFUL. But one thing I do that helps me is to not combine peoples] clothing. Like if I do a load of me and hubby's clothes, no kids stuff in there. That way, I am more likely to fold it, hang it put it away all at once. If I have multiple rooms to go into for this one load, I will never do it. I can't wait to hear other comments.

  4. Life in Fitzville
    November 11, 2009

    Our laundry situation is far from perfect, and I am always trying to catch up. But we have a few little tricks that have made things a little easier.

    Socks… I gave up a long time ago. I now only buy one type/brand. I am lucky that my younger 6 are all close in age/size. But we still have a couple different sizes in there. I have one hamper by the laundry area known as the "sock bin". All clean socks get thrown in there. I do not sort them at all. When you need a pair of socks, you just go look in the 'sock bin'.

    My husband also put up some big plastic shelves in our laundry area, and each child has a bin with their name on it. The bins are rectangular, and slide easily onto the shelves. They are just big enough to hold a small pile of laundry, and small enough for even my youngest to carry. If they don't have a clean shirt/pants, etc. in their drwawers, then they need to check their bin. Full bins must be put awy, and brought back with dirty laundry to throw int he pile.

    Not perfect, but it works pretty well.

  5. Cindy
    November 11, 2009

    I have 6 kids, ages 15, 15, 12, 11, 4, and 3. I have constantly been overwhelmed with laundry. My husband tells me often that I need to delegate more work to our older children, and he is right. Not long ago, I assigned the big kids each a laundry day. They each have a basket, and the morning of their assigned day, they are to remove their sheets and wash those as well. They get started first thing in the morning, so it doesnt take much time. They each end up with only 2 loads of wash. But, it cuts my work in half! Once I showed them how to use the washer and dryer, and told them what I expect of them, they just do it on their own. I dont have to supervise them at all, except to remind them whose day it is. Seriously, a child of 10 should be very cabable of washing their own clothes. And I know that if I were to get sick or had to be away for some reason, I could trust that the laundry would all still get done.
    I still do laundry for myself, my husband, and the two little ones, and all the towels. But now, it takes much less time. I find though, that it's best to just keep the wash going all the time. Our washer and dryer are pretty much always running. I hate when laundry gets piled up and then I have to face that huge mountain!

  6. Bonnie
    November 11, 2009

    Woohooo a question I actually can answer! We currently have 5 kids at home ages 3-16 (but in the next month will be welcoming home 2 more ages 7 and 8) and laundry can get overwhelming if you don't have a plan. In our house once you are about 10 you do your own. The 14 and 16 year old have been doing it for years and do just fine – they each do thiers on the weekend the 11 year old still needs supervision but is getting really good at it – just tends to overstuff the washer if not checked. So that leaves me laundry for my husband and I and the younger kids – the grade schoolers all put thier own clothes away with supervision. I do most clothes on Monday as that is my day to mostly stay home so it is simply one load after another. Then Friday is sheets and towels. We have extra sheets and towels for everyone so if those don't get done that day it isn't a huge deal. The best advice I have is to try and do laundry when you know you will be home to keep moving loads and anyone tall enough to reach the buttons gets to do their own.

  7. The Michel family
    November 11, 2009

    To tame the sock monster, try one of those laundry bags for delicates. It is a mesh bag and will keep all of the socks together. Each kid would have their own (underwear can be tossed in it too) and when the laundry is done, all of the socks in the bag will belong to one person and there won't be any mis-matched or lost socks.

  8. Julie
    November 11, 2009

    Well I only have 4 so my laundry monster is not as bad. But we are on an energy saving electricity plan which means that I can only do laundry after 7 pm or on the weekends. So it became the weekends. On Friday night we pull out all the dirty clothes and sort them. I do all of the kids clothes together (in loads by color) and when they are dry they are separated into baskets for each of them and then THEY fold them. They started this as young as 4, including hanging up shirts and putting them away. Then this leaves me with our clothes. Usually I can get it all done in a day – usually Saturday. This works for us because we're usually hanging at home on the weekends.

    I've also been trying to train them that just because you wear a shirt for 4 hours doesn't mean it's dirty and sometimes it can be worn again (my mother used to tell me the same thing). It has helped cut the laundry done somewhat.

    Sometimes I'll decided to do one load of kids clothes (usually jeans and darks) in the middle of the week as well.

  9. darci
    November 12, 2009

    We only have three kids (right now) but it still seems like we are overwhelmed under large piles of laundry. (I have actually taken pictures of my laundry, that's how bad it's been!) Right now, and this seems like it's working the best yet, I have just accepted that I will be putting laundry in every day, including Sunday. First thing in the morning, in goes a load, and I just continue cycling laundry til it is all washed. My kids fold it, deliver it, and put it away. (they are 9, 7 and 2, and the 2 year old loves to 'help').
    We also have a front-load washer, which makes a big difference.

  10. sandi
    November 12, 2009

    ok, I'm typing with my left hand only while I nurse my 4 month old… so it might not be pretty!

    I have 5 kids 7 years and under… they make a LOT of laundry!!! I especially hate socks, so what I do is maybe going to sound dumb, but it saves SO much time. No one in the house wears matching socks, not even me! I throw all the socks into a drawer and I just get them to pick 2 random ones in the morning. Seriously, I can't sit there for an hour and match socks… plus what do you do with all the mismatches?? No problem now!

    It certainly is a conversation starter at your massage therapist/doctor/chiro etc when you are walking around with one purple bunny sock and one red Christmas sock… and yes I'm talking about my socks. lol

    Just what helps me!


  11. Mark and Wendy
    November 13, 2009

    I by no means have the laundry monster tackled…but on the days I follow our routine (more or less!), we keep on top of it. I have 3 kids (7, 5, and 2 1/2 yrs). Each week its one of the older two's turn to be the laundry helper. They put the load in the washer and start it as part of their morning chores, transfer it to the dryer before luncyh, and take the load out of the dryer to my laundry-folding station (my bed!). This way, my day keeps on ticking, doing what I need to do, with just a reminder to the helper that it's time to move the laundry along. Then, depending on how the afternoon goes, I get a load folded while doing math facts or spelling words with my 2nd grader, and if it's a crazy day then my husband and I fold it together and use the time to talk right before bed.
    I try to do at least one load a day, and if I keep close to this it gets done. It was a pain teaching my boys how to do each step, but it was definitely worth the investment in time! This week my 7 y.o. is the laundry helper, and when it was his own load being done, I had him hang up his own clothes and fold the socks and underwear. It wasn't as neat as if I'd done it, but it was a breeze to finish up!

  12. Anonymous
    November 14, 2009

    Here's my laundry schedule that works wonders for my family of 6. I have four children ages 7, 5.5, 3.5, and 2, with another on the way. Every Tuesday and Friday, my husband carries all of our laundry down to the basement for me. I used to sort everything before starting the washer, but I've found it saves time to pull out whites and put them into washer and sort out the rest of the laundry as I'm searching for whites. I usually sort into whites, darks, brights, pants, towels, rags, and delicates. We use Arm & Hammer laundry detergent becuase a few people have sensitive skin and I can use it with newborn laundry. I'm usually able to get in 6 loads on Tuesdays and 3 or 4 on Fridays. My daughter loves to drag the basket of wet clothes over to the dryer to put them in – she also usually unloads the dry clothes. Occasionally, Tuesday's laundry spills into Wednesday, but that's ok with me. Sheets are on an "as needed" schedule – about once every two weeks. I fold everything except the towels and rags which my two oldest kids take care of. They also put all the kids' laundry away and assist me with the rest. If I'm blessed with a day visit from my mother or mother-in-law, they usually help me catch up if I'm behind. One thing that helps me keep a steady perspective on laundry is this – I never do laundry on Sundays or Mondays, and I only rarely do laundry on Thursdays and Saturdays. Here's my wonderful stain soak: For really stubborn stains (like baby poo or even stains that have been through the dryer): Fill a medium sized bucket with hot water, 1/2 cup Biz, and 1/2 cup dishwasher detergent. Leave it to soak for 4-7 days and then dump the water with the clothes into the washer to wash as normal. I've found this brightens up clothes beautifully, and it works on most clothes. For greasy spots, first rub in a bit of dishsoap (like Dawn or Sunlight). For rags that have begun to smell bad, soak in a bucket filled with hot water and a cup of vinegar.



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