My laundry area is in our unfinished basement and I prefer to manage my duties down there as little as possible. The cellar spiders are not my buddies and I'm less than interested in striking up a cozy relationship. My laundry is primarily conducted in the main level of our home... my bedroom in particular. When my management of this area of our home is wanting, its presence is a constant reminder that I'm failing at my duties.
And I was always failing.
Until late winter of this year, my method of laundry management was to tackle the majority of our laundry on a specific day of the week. This worked fine when my family was much smaller, but as it grew more, more days would find me hauling loads down to the basement. I was actually washing laundry closer to 5 days a week. My system for collecting laundry was ridiculous and it was no wonder that there was dirty laundry spread throughout the house when I was allowing towels to remain in each of the two bathrooms, adult laundry in a hamper in the bedroom, baby laundry in the playroom, and children's laundry sorted into square 5-gallon buckets on the basement stairs that when full were to be taken down and dumped into a laundry basket in the basement where it would be all presorted and ready for me to load on washing day.
Could you even follow that mess? Neither could my children.
The closet situation was no better and the clean laundry was equally spread throughout the house in various closets and dressers.
I was raised on a once a week laundry system and stubbornly I was clinging to that notion despite the fact that my brood is, thus far, double what it was in my home growing up.
Thankfully, Hannah at Cultivating Home posted her laundry system and I was quite freed by it.
I came to grips with the fact that
As a mother of six, I need do laundry every day.
Admitting it was the first step!
The changes that I've made as a result of this revelation have drastically improved the laundry situation and this area, more than the plan for food, will give me little cause for concern while I'm in a busy season of life.
ALL of the dirty laundry is now in one central location in our home, the bathroom. Hidden behind the shower curtain in the bathtub are two laundry baskets. One for "Towels" and one for "Not Towels." Easy, right? It sounds simple enough, but you'd be amazed at how confusing that is, even for a teen-aged person.
Full baskets are washed as needed. I check in the morning and night (when I'm adding to them.) Ideally, they would fill up at regular intervals and I could wash at either morning or night, but that hasn't been the case.
The full load, regardless of whether laundered at day or night, is hung on the line in the morning.
All of the clothes are washed together regardless of whether they are dark or light. Light colored clothes generally have a short life span around here. They are permanently soiled long before they have the chance to become dingy. But I try to stay away from light colored clothes altogether. Most light colored articles in our home are hand-me-downs from my oldest children when youth found me disillusioned that I could indeed have bright, freshly scrubbed children in their equally bright, freshly laundered clothing. Any remaining shred of ignorance on my part vanished upon becoming a homesteader.
I'm working to discover a homemade detergent that I am pleased with, but so far I have only had mediocre results. I tried the Duggar's recipe, hoping to replace the Fels with Ivory (a brand without petro-chemicals and that I know we don't have any allergies to) but was less than pleased. It was not getting my laundry clean at all. This week, I've been using a powdered version, but I'm going through it more quickly than liquid and the added lavender oil isn't nearly as noticeable. However the laundry seems to be cleaner than when trying the liquid, but it could just be a week that is light on dirt. For fabric softener on the towels, I use citrus vinegar and am quite happy with it. There is no unpleasant scent remaining on the laundry like their was when using straight white vinegar.
The full load, regardless of season, is hung on the line whether that line is outside or in the basement. This has saved I'm sure a ton of wear and tear on the dryer as well as energy saving when I went from 8-10 loads a week running through the dryer down to 2!
All towels are dried in the dryer. I tried hanging them and coming up with natural fabric softener alternatives that worked so well they would be fluffy, but alas no matter what I tried it was like drying off with stiff sandpaper.
My girls are required to help fold laundry. No ifs, ands, or buts. I've been accepting excuses far too long, but while the boys are off doing farm chores, they are to assist me with folding. If we work quickly, they are free to join their brothers outside.
Ironing is still done once a week. Although I would love to add that to my daily system, I have nowhere to keep the iron conveniently ready. I know that were I to set it up daily, it would become a permanent fixture in the room.
The new closet is in a former "attic" space upstairs that we finished. It's a far cry from some fancier family closet systems that I've seen in the past. It's simply a 7 cubicle column per child with a space at the bottom for their church shoes. (Outdoor shoes go in a plastic storage unit on the deck & tennis shoes or flip-flops go in a basket near the front door.) When I put the children's laundry away each day, the cubicles are loaded with a day's worth of clothes. They should be picking out Monday's clothes on Monday, but they've been known to swap them around.
Yes, you read that right, I put their clothes away. I do this for two reasons. One, I have no reason otherwise go upstairs and it helps me keep tabs on the clutter situation. Previously, I had gone days and days at a time not stepping a foot up there and it can quickly get way out of control, to the point where you can barely take a step. You would think that I had more up than for them to mess up than a simple play kitchen for the girls and a bookcase with children's books. Otherwise, it's furniture. I don't know where it all comes from. Secondly, it helps me keep tabs on the laundry situation. I can discipline more effectively for clean clothes being pulled from the shelves and left on the floor or dirty clothes not being brought down to the bathroom if I check daily.
Everyone gets 7 days worth of clothes. Two for the Lord's Day. I had been buying enough for 10-14 days, but quickly found that was a gross waste of money and eventually time because they were changing clothes at the smallest drop of water.
So how do all those pieces of the puzzle fit together? Well our typical day, so far as laundry goes that is, looks like this:
In the morning: The boys go off to feed and water the animals while we ladies work on dishes. Usually that entails me rinsing what Lydia (4) clears and scrapes and then Hannah (8) will wash the dishes and counters while Lydia and I go off and start the laundry. If it was washed the night before, I pull from the washer to be hung on the line. I will bring up the dry clothes from the dryer and turn them out on my bed, then have a little folding party. Hannah joining us when she finishes the dishes. Once finished folding, we put it all away. (I used to be very bad at this. I invested so much time in folding that I had none left to put the clothes away and they would stay piled around my room. Inevitably they would get unfolded and I would have to do the work all over again.) After I shower, I check the towels basket and launder them if necessary, setting a timer so that I remember to move them to the dryer. Then I'll hang the clothes I pulled out earlier on the line.
At night: I remove the clothes from the line and tumble them for 10 minutes or so to loosen the stiffness caused by air drying. Then I'll put that day's laundry in the wash (unless there is room for pj's in the morning) and bring the towels upstairs, if there were any, to be folded in the morning.
All said and done and I can happily report that I have been consistently staying on top of the laundry most days with about 30-45 minutes being invested daily in management!! If I do fall behind a day or so for whatever reason, like on Sunday- I try not to wash at all on the Lord's Day, He was so good to give us a day of rest!- it is a breeze to catch up.
Now it's your turn to share... how do you manage your laundry? Are you a once-a-day gal or does it go more smoothly for you to get it all out of the way Ma Ingalls style and designate a wash day? I would love any suggestions you might have to share, particularly as it relates to homemade soap or removing stiffness from line-dryed clothes without having to tumble them in the dryer!