the home arts

I have conquered…

The laundry.

Seriously, ya’ll.

My secret? Get rid of half your family’s clothes. (No, not really, but it might be a thought you should pursue. 😀 )

Don’t go running for the hills just yet, I’m only teasing! You can do this too.

I did start with a clothing purge, though. One of the blessings of being a large family is that there are always a lot of hand-me-downs. One of the curses of being a large family is that are always a lot of hand-me-downs. Laundry was really tormenting me most of the fall and well into January- I could just not.get.ahead. I felt like I was running five, six, loads a day and had dozens behind them. It’s hard to explain; it’s not like it’s called Mt. Washmore by so many mamas for nothing. In my 6 x 8 ft laundry room, the pile could easily stretch the length of one wall and be nearly 2 or 3 feet deep on a bad day, and the closets would still be decently populated with outfits to wear. Overwhelming. I’ve had this feeling for nigh on six years, and have tried multiple approaches.

I really did need to pare down. You might need to it to, or you might be comfortable with the amount of clothes you have cycling through your home at the moment. When I began the purge, I referenced the lovely Emily‘s list of clothes that she has been experimenting with. Her bywords: simple and quality. She explains it better than I; really, do go read.

I used to do laundry just about every day, sometimes multiple times a day. No more. With the level of clothing we have now, we’ll be forced to go by halves or underwear-less about every six days, which means I tend to do laundry about every third or fourth day. It is often Tuesdays and Fridays. Sometimes it shifts around.

The important thing is- don’t do laundry everyday. I swear that’s the single most cause for backup, procrastination, general malaise, and overwhelmedness that happens! We wouldn’t scrub the toilet all day, every day, would we? So why do we do that with the laundry?

The second important thing is- make the laundry space work for you. I am a huge fan of all those marvelous magazine laundry rooms, but let’s face it, most of us don’t have that. Some of us are even out in garages next to the car parts and hammers- usually not the most ideal situation. I am all for pretty, but I am even more excited about practical. When the two combine, it’s beautiful, but sometimes it just doesn’t.  And for crying out loud, if your current laundry room set up- even if magazine perfect- doesn’t work, change it!

What does this look like for me? All of our clothing is hung. We don’t have any dressers or the like; we do have plastic dishwasher buckets (cheapo at any bigbox store) that hold undies and socks. Which means- in my laundry room, I need a place to stage dirty laundry, a place to stage clean laundry, and a place to hang it. I have two average size laundry baskets and one tall one- in the beginning of the laundry process, the blue holds mostly darks, and the pink mostly lights, but as all my kids are under 9 years old, it’s a haphazard process. I’ll often straighten them out as I begin the laundry day. The tall one doesn’t come into play until later. I process thru the laundry day. Typically, that means just about six loads, give or take…usually the most of one morning. (Auntie Lelila has a whole series on laundry, of which this one is my favorite; truly a good place to start if you’re totally lost as to clothing care.) When the dry stuff comes out, I generally try to hang it as it comes out. (The laundry room is just off the school room- serendipitous, no?) If not, I make a very concerted effort to hang all the laundry from the day by the end of the night. Don’t let it float around the laundry room.  As I am hanging, the ironing goes in the tall basket, and it stays there until it just about overflows the top. Then, and only then, do I iron; typically about once every three or so weeks. I also make a very concerted effort to get the clothes back to their places by the end of the laundry day; this is often my oldest boy’s task.

The question you need to ask yourself is what you and your family needs. Folding space isn’t a big issue for me- the flat tops of my front load washer and dryer are plenty. I could see how a large family who folds most of their clothes would definitely need a larger folding space- maybe a cheapo folding table that comes out on laundry day- or, especially if you’re stuck in a garage, poor soul- a whole little area carved out with a hanging bar and the old ping pong table from the attic? It doesn’t have to be pretty, but it does have to work. I have a hanging bar that’s just about 3.5 feet long, and that’s just about enough to hang about half a typical laundry day’s worth of clothes; it forces me and my kids to keep it movin’.

But my real secret, honestly? You might not like it. And frankly, I’m sad to realize that it’s been the bane of my existence for six some years because I didn’t want to admit this, but here it is. Have discipline. Don’t go at the laundry by halves. Don’t walk away from it. Set a timer if you have to; tell your kids to annoy you about it till you do it. Deprive yourself of chocolate or whatever you have to do to mentally force the issue. It will really, really stink for like the first three weeks or so. It will feel overwhelming still. You’ll still hate doing the laundry. (Ask me how I know. Three weeks, five days, for me!) But suddenly, like any habit- it will begin to click. You’ll do it naturally and almost without thinking, and before long, Mt. Washmore will have disappeared. And if you need a big hooray and a boost from me each time you finish it, let me know! I’ll hoot and holler for you, because I know what a frustration it can be, and I know you can do this thing!

Your turn. Tell me. What do you do well when it comes to the laundry? What do you wish you could do better? What tips and tricks have you learned along the way? Make sure to mention them in the comments- perhaps someone else will find a solution they are looking for!


  • Erin

    About a year ago, I discovered the joy of washing day, like our foremothers used to do it. It usually stretches out over two days, because I’m busy and not always home all day. And I usually have to do a load of sheets or two (I have a bedwetter) in the meantime, but it is SUCH a relief on Thursday to look at the pile of laundry accumulating in my hamper and think, “I don’t have to deal with that today.”

    The other thing that has really helped is teaching my sons to help. They are nine and seven and can now sort the laundry and run the washer and dryer. I still do the majority of it b/c they’re SLOW and not so good at folding, but having them gather and sort saves me fifteen minutes or more.

  • Sandi

    You go girl! Finding what works makes all the difference. We have moved ALOT! Each house presented it’s own issues in this area. We have been in one place for over 2 years…..feels wonderful. I have really old machines that don’t take much in one wash (rental). I generally do laundry almost everyday but I have a time each morning during school that I switch and fold a load which helps me stay on task. I also have colored baskets on my freezer and the big kids put away their own cloths which leaves me ours and the toddlers. I also have less kiddos but laundry used to hunt me down too and still does on occasion, especially when our routine changes for some reason.

    • Joy

      Sandy, I’ve so been there with rental washers. Ick. You really would have to do laundry every day with those poor things! Sometimes I can’t decide who I feel sorrier for- the mama who washes, or the washer on it’s last legs, gears a grinding. The ones we had were ancient. I remember when we bought our first house-It amazed me how fast the laundry got done! The thing is, I really don’t have much of an excuse with these front loaders. They wash and dry a big load in right at 41 minutes a pop- if the laundry gets behind, it’s my own laziness at play.

      Erin really nails it on the washday, I think. I experience the mental overload *looking* at it- so being able to tell myself, it’s okay, it’s not Tuesday, etc. helps me to shut the door and focus on other things. I’ve never understood why laundry is so overwhelming, but it usually is for just about every woman I talk to. Auntie Lelia finally explained laundry management in terms I could understand, and that’s made a huge difference- but I wanted to append her advice with making the space work for you; it’s an obvious thing to some people, but for the rest of us, having a system that works the way we need/think is key! Why imitate anyone else?

Tell me what's on your heart~

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.