I used to feel completely overwhelmed and behind with laundry. If the stars were aligned then I'd do like a load or so a day, but with the realities of life I'd usually find myself with like 8 loads to wash, (and sometimes rewash. boo.) dry, turn right way out, separate, and fold. My poor couch would be buried in the laundry avalanche.
Back in the day. Laundry: the Never Ending Story
It was a constant weight. I wasn't a fan.
But with 7 bodies that I am responsible for I couldn't see an end in sight.
Then I had an amazing comment from a wise, experienced friend that blew my mind and completely overhauled my entire laundry mentality.
I now only wash a few loads of laundry every week, and it's so not a big deal. How?
I've trained my kids to do their own.
I still wash the household stuff like rags. I also wash my baby's clothes, my hubby's, and mine. But that's it.
I started this about 6 months ago or so and I'll tell you what, the kids are completely capable. My older kids are 4, 6, 8, and 10 and every one is able to do this. In fact, when we started the little one was only 3 1/2 and honestly, she's been one of the best at it because it's fun for her. That being said, she is a pretty coordinated little thing. Some of my older ones might have struggled a bit at that age.
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Not only do I feel amazing about not having the constant mountain to tackle, but there is absolutely zero guilt. Why?
Why should there be guilt for not doing their laundry? I am doing no one any favors by enabling helplessness. In fact, I am doing them a huge favor by teaching them a practical life skill and teaching responsibility. There will be no magic laundry elf in their freshman dorm room. Plus, they are way more aware of the amount of work that goes into running a household and show gratitude for it as they contribute to it. Expecting them to chip in and take care of themselves quickly solves that clean-laundry-dumped-into-the-dirty-laundry-basket-because-I-had-to-clean-my-room problem or the oops-I-left-my-towel-on-the-floor-and-now-it-stinks problem. It's amazing how they figure these things out.
Plus, I'm a much more pleasant mom to deal with when I'm not angry about perma-laundry.
Once I figured out the details of how this could work for our family, that laundry SuperMom mentality of having to power through and serve my children at all costs while they take it all for granted quickly went away and I have not looked back.
And you know what? I don't love my kids any less because I don't do their laundry for them.
What Works for Us
Each room has a single laundry basket in it for dirty clothes. I don't have the kids separate colors from whites. It's not been a problem with them. If they did have an item that was a concern they could always toss it in the household separated baskets.
My kids share rooms. I've got an older one (8 & 10) in with a younger one (6 & 4).
The older one is responsible for bringing dirty clothes basket down to the laundry room when it's full, letting their sibling know it's there, and then bringing the basket back up to the room when it's clean. It's their responsibility to make sure there is always a laundry basket for dirty clothes in their room.
The younger child is responsible for actually doing the laundry- loading the washer, putting in the soap and starting it and then moving it into the dryer, emptying the lint trap, and starting it. They also unload it from the dryer into the basket.
Once the laundry is back in their room they are both responsible for sorting out their own clothes and putting them away.
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Hints for Success
We have front loaders so the little ones can reach. If you have top loaders, you'll have to problem solve that, maybe using a stool or having a taller child do the washer.
I buy laundry pods and keep a container full on top of the washer, along with a stack of dryer sheets. That way, it is so easy for the little ones to get what they need in a very simple, mess free way.
They don't do bleach. I have that put up in a high cupboard for me to use with whites, but since their clothes are all mixed they don't need it. If they have a particularly messy shirt I'll remind them to use the Shout in the laundry room before tossing it in the dirty clothes. What a better time to learn how to wash clothes than when they're wearing hand-me-downs or clothes I found on the cheap and not fancy pants teenager clothes?
As long as they can find what they're looking for and the drawers close I do not care what the inside of their drawers look like.
I have happily helped each of them organize and fold the clothes in their drawers, but ultimately, it's their stuff. If they want to look like a giant wrinkle, that's on them. If they choose to not fold their clothes, I do not care. They're learning to put their own things away, and what a gift that is to them. This can be a bit hard for my control freak part of myself, but then the rest of me reminds myself that I don't have to do their laundry, that this is actually good for them, and tells me to zip it.
We just went through this one's clothes with him. I'm sure this drawer won't look like this for long!
And yes, the 4 year old can hang up her own clothes in the closet too. We are fortunate enough to have kid closets with lower hanging racks they can reach which is such a help.
Since their load isn't that big, it really doesn't take all that much time for them to put it all away. Do they love it? No, of course not. But it's not that big of a deal.
They need to have the basket of clean clothes put away before any screen time. I used to try to have them do it in the mornings before school and it was horrible. This has been the winner arrangement for us as it takes so little involvement from me, which is truly the goal.
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They don't have a day of the week for laundry day as their baskets fill up quicker than that with 2 kids contributing, but I know that works well for many families. Instead the older one is supposed to take it down when it fills up. As he then has to lug it down the stairs to the laundry room and then back up when it's clean, it's in his best interest to not let it get too full.
Sheets: While we don't wash sheets every week, at sheet washing time I'll just tell everyone to get their sheets in a pile in the hall then I'll wash all our sheets at once. Since we all have white/light colored sheets I can throw in some bleach and get them really clean. When they're done, I'll help them get them back on the bed. That's pretty tricky for little bodies!
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This is what's working for us right now. As my kids get older or switch rooms or only want to wash their own, this will evolve and change, but for now, it's truly been life changing for me. I know I'm not hand washing and hanging to dry or anything like my grandma did for her family of 10, but sheesh, it's still a lot!
I think this just about sums it all up correctly
If you are finding yourself overwhelmed with laundry, do yourself a favor and think through how you could make this work for your family. Your empty couch will thank you.