Friday, May 27, 2016

Large Family Laundry Strategies - More Tips & Practical How-To's

Laundry is a very popular subject for people to ask me about.  *smile*  I've posted about it a couple of times ("Large Family Laundry Strategies:  How I Keep 9 Kids Clean, and Why That's Valuable", and "Large Family Practical How-To's"), but I'm always learning and improving my own strategies!  So I'll share some more great tips I've learned for making our laundry sparkly clean and smelling fresh, how I do it time efficiently, and how we get it out and put it away again efficiently in our home (a specific question from a reader recently).  I love it!  Let's look at:
  • More laundry tips for you!
  • Putting it away... and getting it out again!  

More Laundry Tips For You!

~ Vinegar for bad odors.  I learned from a dear mom friend that white vinegar eliminates bad odors from clothing items, towels, or cloth diapers!  *cheer!*  When our boys' night time Pull-Ups leak, they're then sleeping in wet pj's for hours until morning.  This has resulted in really stinky pj's, even after they've been washed!  I couldn't figure it out!  But now I've learned that there are agents in the detergent and in the fabric softener that binds closed the fibers and retains the smell.  *Ewww*  So, I put those items into the washing machine together, fill the detergent dispenser with my regular detergent like usual, and fill the fabric softener container/cup with vinegar, the same amount that I would normally fill it with fabric softener.  I run the wash load this way once or twice - two full cycles, refilling the detergent and softener cups with vinegar again.  Then I run those same items through again a third time with detergent and fabric softener this time so that they smell nice.  *ta-da!*  Sweet smelling pj's again!  (or towels that were smelling sour!)  *Aaah...*
~ Automatically separated socks.  If you have a hard time sorting socks once they've been through the wash, one idea is to buy zipping white mesh laundry bags for each person and mark each bag so you can know who's is who's.  Have them put their dirty socks in their bag as they wear them, and then when it's laundry time just zip the bag closed and put it through both the wash cycle and the dryer cycle this way.  When they're clean just return each persons bag to them to be paired, folded, and put away.  The mesh laundry bags are only a couple of dollars at Wal-Mart, about 12"x18" or so, and I think there are smaller ones available, too.  You could mark each bag with children's names by tying a 6" piece of ribbon to the zipper pull, varying ribbon colors or patterns so each person knows which is theirs.  I would also use "Fray Check" on the cut end of the ribbon to keep it from unraveling, and hand stitch/tack a 1/2" or so 'X' across the two pieces of ribbon at the top by the knot to keep them from coming untied.  Or, you could just stitch a line or an initial on to the bag with different colors of embroidery thread (could be small 1" size letters or large size) to mark each person's bag.

~ White sheets for kids.  I only purchase twin white flat sheets and fitted sheets for the kids bunk beds.  This way I only have to own one set per bed, plus about 2 extra sets for the linen closet.  I don't change all the bed linens at the same time, just one bunk bed set at once, so I have one extra set of sheets to use for this purpose.  With all white sheets, any sheet set can go on any bed, boys room or girls room, and match the room perfectly, and can be bleached when necessary (if blood doesn't come out in the wash, for example).  It may seem boring, but the sheets really don't show except when they're sleeping anyway, and the kids have fun, cute comforters, pillow shams, and wall paint that add color to the room.

~ Nice bath towels, but few.  I like nice bath towels, but can't afford to have extra sets of them and don't have room to store multiple sets anyway.  So we own and keep in the bathrooms one bath towel, hand towel, wash cloth set per person and we just wash them once-a-week and then put them back in the bathrooms where they "live".  I keep a couple of extra older bath towels in the linen closet for the rare occasion when we need them, and the extra hand towels in the closet, too, so we can switch those out more frequently especially before company comes over, but other than that there's nothing to stack up in the linen closet and I'm within our budget.  *smile*  Works just fine.

~ Treat clothes quickly.  Stained or soiled clothes that are chemically treated quickly (I use either Shout or Zout), even if they’re left to sit in the laundry room for a couple of days, nearly always come clean.  If I wait to treat the stain until the end of the day then sometimes the stain isn’t removed completely.  I try to get the stain treated while it’s still wet:  blood, red sauce, butter – I strip the clothing item off of that person (modestly of course *wink*), or at least as soon as the meal is over, and treat it right then and it’s okay. If I can't get it to the laundry soon then I use a Tide Pen on the stain and leave it on the child until I wash in routine again; the Tide in the pen keeps the stain from setting almost always.

~ Lysol the tub.  I keep a plastic dish tub on our dryer where I toss soiled or chemically-treated laundry where it waits to be washed on the next laundry day.  If I've had pj's or clothes that have urine on them and they smell, when I've emptied the tub into the washing machine the tub its self still smells and causes our tiny laundry room to smell.  I do not like to have any room smell like urine, and do not like to clean our clothes in a room that stinks, so periodically when I notice it emitting it's own bad scent I'll spray the tub with Lysol after I empty it.  This helps our laundry room be a pleasant place to work.

~ Boiling for berries.  Berry stains can be completely removed by pouring boiling water through a fresh stain.  I just hold the clothing over the kitchen sink and slowly pour boiling water through the fabric and the berry stain just disappears!

~ Washing sets together. 
When I have a matching set of clothes, for example a red skirt and top purchased together as a matching set, or a pj matching set, or in the past when I had sweat pants and a matching sweatshirt sets, I would always wash the top and bottom pieces together even if they are not both dirty.  This causes the die in the fabric to face over time at the same rate so that they always still match, and one doesn't lose it's color faster than the other.  For example my sweat shirt always got dirtier faster than my sweat pants, but I'd always wash them together anyway so that the die is always the same perfectly matching color between them.

~ Drip catcher.  I like to work in a clean work area.  These nice-sized laundry detergent and fabric softener containers from Costco sit up on the shelf nicely, and I love the push-button pour spout - but the drips were making a mess everywhere and even staining the top of our dryer surface blue.  (And sometimes our little sons have "helped" it drip even more, or have created small puddles on top of the dryer; that button is just so fun to push!)  So I now keep a cleaning cloth underneath the cups to catch any mess.  When the cloth pretty dirty and cups are caked thick with dried-on soap or softener I just throw them all in with a load of laundry and get out a clean cloth to use.

 (before - and this is just a mild mess)


~ Laundry without adding extra effort.  When I have laundry that needs to be chemically treated, I do so but then leave it in the laundry tub (a plastic dish tub) until the next time I do laundry, which is every other day (M, W, F, Sat.).  This way I'm not managing the washing machine and dryer extra days of the week.  If items really have to be washed that same day, such as a pooey "accident" under pants and shorts, then I throw them in to the washer and then the dryer, but I then leave those clean items in the dryer then to be dealt with and put away on the next laundry day.  If I've hung a few items to dry, such as nylons, slips or camisoles, then I leave those hanging up until the next laundry day and then when they're dry I drop them in to the basket of to-be-folded laundry.  No extra folding of laundry, no extra trips to put items away.  I try to add as little extra laundry responsibilities to my week as possible, rather leaving those responsibilities on the designated days.

Putting it away... and getting it out again! 

When it comes to folding laundry and putting it away, our oldest daughters are the primary people who do that in our family currently because they're the only ones tall enough to reach our higher up closet baskets. I've taught a variety of children to do the folding, but only the tallest two at this time put it away.  I've taught them how to fold each type of clothing and I expect them to do a nice job, not only because this helps our clothes look clean and smooth when we wear them, but also because the items fit easily and neatly in their storage spaces be that a drawer, shelf, or basket.  


We still have to work on attentiveness while putting clothes away, though.  Sometimes the girls do just open up a basket, make an assumption as to which basket that is without looking inside to check (shirts, when it’s actually shorts) and plop the clothes in.  But they do a good job over all, and they contribute to our family's functioning, they learn to work diligently, and to serve with a smile.  They put away all of the children's clothes in to our single kids' clothes closet, or take the item to the room where it belongs (extra linens to the linen closet, towels to the bathrooms, changing table pads to the changing table drawer, etc.) and they leave mine and Bob's clothes folded on our bed and I put those away myself.

A younger girl should be able to a great job of putting laundry away, too, however she may not be able to see in to the baskets if they’re in higher up cubbies like ours.  She’d have to take each one down which would take some time, but she could do it.  If I have our 6-year-old daughter put laundry away, I give her a small amount to do, say just the shorts and tee shirts maybe, or just the girls clothes. This keeps the size of the job manageable for her age, and she can feel like she did good work without becoming overwhelmed.

I do require that the laundry "put-awayers" do excellent work.  We’re always encouraging excellence with our children as they should be working for the Lord in all that they do.  So if they’re asked to put away laundry and they do it sloppily or with a poor attitude, then apparently they need more practice doing it well.  I’ll get some laundry back out and have them try again.  If they still do it with a poor attitude (or if they’re on their third try of doing it well and their attitude is growing increasingly poor) then they’ll earn an additional job around the house for extra practice in serving with excellence and with a good attitude.  This may not produce a smile on the day they’re doing laundry *chuckle*, but it does usually in future laundry days.  They feel good being able to a job well and do it efficiently, and that makes them smile.  And our older ones have said, “I’m so glad you’ve taught me to do this well”, when they see the blessing it is to our family, what a blessing it is to others, and when they feel they’re building their own skills as a home maker.  These things are an encouragement to them.  There's really no good excuse for sloppy folding or for not putting items where they belong; that is just laziness, and it's a character issue that we help them improve in when necessary.

Now when it comes to sons participating in doing laundry, here are some ideas.  A friend recently asked me for some ideas on how to have their 5 sons (and one daughter) help more with folding the laundry.  We believe folding laundry is a very good task for boys just as it is for the girls, and especially if a family has mostly sons or at least their older children are sons and this is simply one of the jobs that needs attending to.  (And by the way, here is a book recommendation that does a great job explaining the why's and how's of having sons do good work at home, Raising Real Men - Surviving, Teaching, and Appreciating Boys, by Hal and Melanie Young.)  But I will say that it is very different having sons fold laundry than daughters, from my experience.  Daughters seem to like to do things the "right way" and do it well (generally *wink*), and they usually see the value in doing it on task; but young boys are...well...less concerned with this.  *laugh*  And a lot more inclined to fool around while doing the job.  So these were some of my ideas for my friend.  

  • It is a good idea to select the person or persons who will be doing the folding, and have that be one of their main jobs for that entire school year.  This way they learn to do it well and do it time efficiently pretty automatically and without much effort.  
  • They can even listen to an audio book or a sermon message on CD or on an iPod while working, and still do great work.  This has actually really helped our children stay on task better most of the time (if it doesn't and they end up sitting there doing nothing, then they lose the privilege of using the personal disc player for the next few laundry-folding days).  
  • Then select the time of day that the assigned person will do the folding, and require that the folding is completed before there is any free time.  In our house, our girls would fold the laundry at the beginning of the younger children's nap time every day simply because by that I've then had time to rotate it all through the washer and dryer, the girls are done with their school work, there are no younger children around to undo their folded piles, and it's typically the beginning of their available free time after wards.  So the task is done before free time without fail, and it is done the same day that it was all washed so it never sits around in baskets taking up valuable space in our small 1100 sq/ft house, and doesn't collect in a heap on a bed causing the clothes to look like this (and wrinkly even when we're wearing them).

 (photo compliments of Google Images)

  • I also encouraged this friend to have the sons fold the clothes in separate rooms from each other if there is more than one folder, to help them stay focused and not be tempted to try to impress the other with how many pairs of underwear they can fit on to their head at once.  *wink*  *smirk*  
  • They should be instructed that they need to be on task and get it done time-efficiently (not dawdling and taking 2 hours to do something that should take 30 minutes, causing them to become bored - never a good thing with kids, and especially not with boys as most of us know!), and as soon as they're done they may move on to more great work or learning.  

And I encouraged my friend to not use the word "chore" for doing their jobs as that word tends to have negative connotations associated with it.  Instead we call these activities "jobs".  Daddy has his job every day when he goes to work, mommy has her jobs, and kids have their jobs.  It's just part of contributing to the family, learning to be a great worker, and learning to enjoy doing good work.  (More on this in my post, "Family Participation:  Chores for Kids").  

It is also good to consider how much laundry is produced in a single wash day so that a son, daughter, or mom is not facing an enormous task.  We currently do laundry 4 times a week.  This produces one basket of laundry for each of our 2 oldest girls to fold and put away on a laundry day.  Very manageable. 

(photo compliments of Google Images)

Laundry really never needs to look like this (below).  

If it does, than in my opinion laundry needs to be done more frequently through out the week.  This vision of laundry overflowing everywhere would be discouraging to anybody.  It looks defeating to moms, and to the children as well.  I choose to buy the largest laundry basket hampers I can find (with a lid, to help contain both odor and clothes) for each the bedrooms so that they easily contain all the clothes that I need them to.  Even if we've missed a laundry day for some reason and it has to wait, the laundry never looks overflowing and overwhelming.

Another large contributor to being able to manage kids clothes is not having way more than you need.  It's important to de-clutter and clean out before attempting to organize (you can read my post on principles for de-cluttering if you like).  I only have out for kids the currently seasonally-appropriate clothing choices.  I rotate clothes for the kids twice a year:  once in the fall for fall-winter clothes, and again in the spring for spring-summer clothes.  So pretty much whatever they choose to wear will be seasonally-appropriate.  Clothes are actually really easy to manage if there is only a manageable amount.  

Since we do laundry 4 times a week, we don't need tons of clothes.  I mean we have plenty, but I don't think nearly as many as most Americans.  Our girls have about a dozen dresses to choose from for every day wear, and maybe 8 skirts; they have 8-12 short sleeved shirts and long sleeved shirts each to choose from; about 3 night gowns; 6-8 outfits for church, and about 6-8 pairs of underwear and socks.  This gives plenty of variety for us, but keeps things under control.  And we wash clothes every other day, so pretty much all of their choices are available every day.  Our boys have 4-5 pairs of jeans each, 4 pairs of sweat pants, 8-10 tee shirts and long sleeved shirts each, one pair of church slacks and 5-6 shirts, and about 6 pairs of underwear each.  Plenty and manageable.

When we were still a small family we did laundry just once-a-week; then as we grew, twice a week; then three; and when our laundry increased with more people and there was more than one basket per person to be folded at a time then we started doing laundry four times a week.  This effort has kept the laundry folding at a manageable amount per laundry day.  As our children grow bigger and they have larger clothes, producing larger quantities of laundry, or if the Lord blesses us with more children, then we'll start doing laundry 5 days-a-week to maintain the manageable amount per day.  No big deal.  *smile*

Here are some photos of clothes put away in an orderly way, pretty inexpensively.

(photos compliment of Google Images - except the last photo) 

I usually recommend using clear plastic bins for everything around the house such as toys, school supplies, office supplies in the closet, and such because then you can see what's in each one at-a-glance.  However with clothes we don't need to see everything because pretty much each person has a row of baskets or boxes, and each vertical column has one type of item.  

For example, the right side cubby unit is our girl's clothes.  Our oldest daughter has the top row of baskets on the right, then our next oldest has the second row down, etc.  This way the tallest can see her clothes easily, and the youngest can see hers easily on the bottom row.  The far left column of the girls (top to bottom) could contain underwear/socks/slips for each person, Karen's on the top box, Melanie's on the next down, etc.  The second column to the right could contain pajamas.  The third, short sleeved shirts.  The fourth, long sleeved shirts.  And the fifth dress pants (to be worn under neath skirts & dresses to protect young girls modesty as they play, or older girls as they play or exercise:  shorts, leggings, bloomers, tights).  So getting clothes out or putting them away is easy.  We now have all rows of the shelf full of baskets now with 5 daughters.

The left side unit contains our boy's clothes.  In this case our clothing organization is opposite of the girls, bottom to top instead of top to bottom for chronological ordered rows.  I do this because our youngest sons are ages 2 and 3-years-old and do not get their own clothes out so they do not need to see in to a basket or box, and our oldest sons are only 5 and 9-years-old and being shorter need the lower rows to see their clothes.  For most families, the boy's clothes could be organized left to right columns like this:  underwear/socks, pajamas, short sleeved shirts, long sleeved shirts, pants/shorts.  Ours have to be a bit less orderly because of kids being very close in age.  Our two oldest sons share clothing sizes for pants, but not for shirts; and our youngest 2 boys wear all the same clothes sizes.  I need to buy 10 more baskets for the top row so that we have baskets for our littlest girls clothes, and for bathing suits, baby's blankets, burp clothes, and such.  I wanted to have the boy's whole cubby unit contain the blue boxes, but when I went to buy more at a later date they no longer made them.  *frown*  So we got more baskets, which is fine.

When getting dressed in the morning - getting clothes out - our older girls choose their own clothes of course.  Our "middle kids" (ages 13, 10, 9) get their own clothes generally, although I usually need to give some input for younger ones as to what the weather’s like or if we’re going somewhere which effect what clothes she chooses; then they head up stairs to do their morning jobs.  I do make sure that they have only clothes available to them that are seasonally appropriate so that they cannot choose tank tops, for example, in the winter. And most of their clothes match one another, so they usually choose pretty successfully (if not quite then I send them back for a different shirt or whatever they need).  Our youngest 4 children (ages 7, 6, 5, 5) I choose the clothes for.  And immediately upon getting dressed our children are expected to put away their pajamas, underwear and Pull-Ups in to the laundry hamper located in each bedroom.  No clothes left out anywhere, ever.  When clothing is left out the kids seem to think, Well there's clothes on the floor already I might as well add more, and mom won't even know who left them out.  If the rooms are clean, it's easier to maintain and have accountability. 
Laundry is one of those tasks that is just part of the "daily-daily", and in my opinion it deserves to have a good plan of attack in place.  *smile*  It's pretty much the same all the time, so if one chooses to be ON PURPOSE, it's very doable to create a plan for your family - and implement it.  How to get those clothes really clean (and remind yourself sometimes Why That's Valuable), determine what your strategy will be through out the week as things get dirty (like my putting the items in to the dish tub, treated, until the next laundry day), determine how many days a week you need to wash laundry in order for the task to flow smoothly and not become ominous, and how you'll plan to get clothes out and put them away again.  With a plan and some practice you can get right in to a great routine that just seems to happen pretty naturally and normally without much thought, every single week.

Blessings on your efforts!

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