Do you ever look at your laundry pile and wonder how it got so huge? How so many items of clothing escaped from the drawers and closets and ended up in the dirty laundry pile? And now, what started as a small pile has grown to a mountain rivaling the size of Mount Saint Helens. What’s more, if you don’t start doing something about Mount Saint Laundry, there’s the potential for it to blow up… but wait! It already feels like this laundry has exploded and taken over your house!
Have you ever been there? Standing there staring at the laundry, wondering where on earth to start, how on earth all this laundry was created in the first place, and baffled at how to do all this laundry and get it clean?
My Friend, I’ve been there! It never ceases to amaze me how much laundry 1 child – let alone 5 children! – can produce. Now, let me be perfectly honest with you here: If you’re looking to find the answer to how on earth your Mount Saint Laundry got created in the first place, I don’t have any earth-shattering answers for you. My best guess on that one is: Children create laundry. It’s an indisputable fact of having kids.
However, when it comes to the questions of where to start and how to do all the laundry, that I can help you with! In fact, let’s take it a few steps further and not just get rid of your current Mount Saint Laundry (before it turns into a volcano!), but let’s create a strategy for making sure Mount Saint Laundry doesn’t re-form week after week after week.
Universally Accepted Facts About Laundry
No matter who you are, no matter how many clothes you have. No matter how many people are in your family, there are some universally accepted facts about laundry. However, are these facts true? Let’s take them one by one:
Fact #1: Everyone needs clean clothes (particularly underwear!).
Reality Check: This fact holds true! No one likes to live in dirty, smelly clothes. So for this reason and this reason alone, laundry does need to happen!
Fact #2: Laundry is tedious and takes a long time!
Reality Check: People used to have to haul all their laundry down to the river or haul all the water from a well or another water source to their house to wash their laundry. And then they had to wash every piece of clothing by hand before hanging it up on a clothesline to dry in the sun. Today, there are wonderful machines called washers and dryers that do most of the work for you. These machines take the back-breaking labor out of doing laundry. So, instead of complaining about the length of time the washer and dryer take to clean your laundry for you, choose to be grateful for these wonderful machines that do most of the work!
Fact #3: Laundry takes over my house!
Reality Check: Laundry can only take over your house if you allow it to. Believe it or not, containing the laundry piles is fairly easy when you have bins or baskets or hampers in certain spots specifically for the purpose of holding dirty laundry until it’s time to run a load. Also, when you have a plan to keep Mount Saint Laundry from forming, you stop the laundry from taking over your house before it even starts. More on that in a moment.
Fact #4: Getting the laundry done is the responsibility of the momma.
Reality Check: While the laundry does need to be done, the laundry does not need to be done by one person every time from start to finish. Everyone helped create the dirty laundry in the house, so it only makes sense that everyone should help clean the laundry.
Get It Done
I can almost hear you thinking: “Okay, we’ve established that this does not need to be a one-person show and that we should be grateful for those electronic gadgets that help us out on a grand scale, but I still have all this dirty laundry hanging around my house! How do I get it gone?”
There’s one simple answer, but I don’t think you’re going to like it. The answer is: wash the dirty laundry and put it away. Yes, yes, I know, it’s a simple answer that doesn’t even begin to address how to put together a system so you don’t get back to this place of laundry overload.
But you see, when you’re dealing with a huge mountain of dirty laundry and you feel like you just can’t get a handle on it, you’re really dealing with 2 different things: The first challenge is to conquer the current Mount Saint Laundry in your house. The second challenge is to create a system so Mount Saint Laundry doesn’t return!
How to Conquer Your Current Laundry Pile
Let’s face it, when you’re looking at the Great Smelly Mount Laundry Range, it can feel incredibly daunting! At this point, there’s really only one thing to do: Put a load of laundry in the washer and get it started.
While that first load is going through the washer, start creating piles from the rest of the dirty laundry so when your washer stops, you can simply grab the next pile and get it going, no time wasted.
One of the things that makes laundry so daunting is that it’s not a one step process. In fact, laundry has 5 steps!
- Put away
And here’s the challenge: If you only do part of these steps, it starts to feel like the mountains of laundry come back to haunt you yet again.
When you’re taking on a big project like conquering your current Mount Saint Laundry, it’s best to do it all in one day. Keep your mindset on the laundry. When you put a load in the washer, set a timer so you know right when that load is done. When your timer goes off, don’t waste any time getting that wet load into the dryer and put another load in the washer. Keep the machines working for you. Fold and put away each load as it comes out of the dryer. Yes, it makes for a lot of laundry. Yes, it feels like the only thing you do on this day is the laundry. But you’ll get it done!
There’s no big secret to demolishing Mount Saint Laundry. It’s all about getting started, putting in the work, and getting it done. And as you work, you need to remember to do all the steps in the laundry process. If you stop somewhere along the process, you’ll create another laundry mountain that you’ll have to deal with later.
Now, it feels a bit intimidating to think of laundry as a 5-step process, doesn’t it? But think about this, if you only sort and put your clothes in the washer, then leave them there, they can start to smell or even mold depending on how long you leave them. Then, you have to wash that same load all over again before you can do another load. In other words, you just created more work for yourself.
Or, if you only do steps 1-3 (sort, wash, and dry), then your clean clothes just sit and get wrinkled wherever they land. They could end up staying in the dryer and get a smell to them, they could land on the couch and get wrinkled as people sit on them, they could land in a laundry basket and get all compressed in together, or they could land on the floor so you never know if they’re clean or dirty. When you have clothes laying around the house like this, it feels like the laundry is never finished. Then when it comes time to do laundry again, you can never figure out if the piles are clean or dirty, so you end up re-washing perfectly clean clothes. (I don’t know about you, but I hate doing double the work when I don’t have to!)
Even if you take it all the way to step 4, folding the laundry, but stop before you put it away, you’ll still have clothes everywhere. You’ll still have that feeling like the laundry is never done.
So when it comes down to it, laundry is a multi-step process. You need to not only sort, wash, and dry your clothes, but they need to be folded and put back in their correct drawers or hung in the closet where they belong. That’s when that lovely feeling of finishing the laundry sets in.
Creating Your System
Now that you have your first load going to conquer your current Mount Saint Laundry, it’s time to create your own laundry system. And when it comes to creating your own system, there are many different choices. No matter where you turn it seems that everyone wants to tell you how to do everything in your house – including who should be doing the laundry, how often you should run loads, what soap you have to use, whether or not to use dryer sheets, liquid fabric softener, or none at all, and more! I’m going to be up front with you here: That’s not what I’m going to do!
Always remember the best organizational system for you is one that you help create and one that you can keep going. This principle holds true for laundry, too! Yes, I know it might seem strange to think of organizing your dirty laundry, but the truth of the matter is the laundry needs to get done. And when you create a system for the laundry to get done, that’s how you keep Mount Saint Laundry from reforming.
As you work to create your system, keep in mind that laundry has 5 steps to it:
- Put away
You need to make sure the system you create includes all 5 of these steps. Okay, okay, I know not everyone sorts their laundry before they put it in the washer. If sorting your laundry is important, do it! If you just want to pull out the sheets and towels and give them their own load, consider that your sorting. If you want to simply make sure the amount you put in the washer will not overload the washer, consider that you’re sorting.
Again, this is your system. Sort your laundry in a way that works for you and makes sense to you. Although, I highly recommend not overloading your washer so you don’t break it!
Hampers and Baskets
There are two things every laundry system needs to have: A hamper and a laundry basket.
Every home needs at least one laundry hamper. Now, what do I mean when I say “laundry hamper”? Well, this could be a basket, an actual hamper, a mesh bag, even a cardboard box if you have nothing else! It doesn’t matter what form your laundry hamper takes. It matters that you have a central spot to gather all the dirty laundry (that way it doesn’t end up spread all over the house!).
And here’s the great thing about laundry hampers: You can place as many of them in your home as you want! In fact, if your children are doing their own laundry, I highly recommend that each child has their own hamper.
You also need a laundry basket. Again, your laundry basket can take many different forms. It could be a plastic basket in any shape or size you choose, it could be a wicket basket, or it could even be a clean bag. They key here is that you have a container to transport the clean laundry from the dryer to a place where you can fold your clean laundry. And then you can even use this same laundry basket to transport the folded laundry to the room where it needs to be put away, saving you multiple trips between rooms.
Choosing Your Method
So, now that your current Mount Saint Laundry is in the process of being conquered, how do you set things up so the laundry mountain does not reappear? What method do you use? Through the years, I’ve come across many different suggestions and laundry plans, but they all seem to come down to one or a combination of these three methods:
Method #1: The Load A Day Method
Some people keep Mount Saint Laundry from piling up by running one load of laundry every day. They alternate which load they run: lights, darks, towels, etc. But by doing one load each day, they stay on top of their laundry and never let it pile up.
This method can be extremely useful if your family keeps their laundry combined together. If you are only doing laundry for a few people, you may struggle to find enough clothes and towels to justify doing a load every day.
This method can also be very useful if you’re not home the majority of most days. It allows you to get your laundry done and not use your entire day off to catch up on laundry. On the other hand, using this method can sometimes make it feel like the laundry is never done!
Method #2: The Each Person Does Their Own Laundry Method
Some families choose to make each person responsible for doing their own laundry. Each person has their own hamper where they place their dirty clothes and when that hamper gets full, they run a load or two of their own laundry, fold it and put it away.
If you choose to use this method, you could assign each member of your family a specific day of the week where they can use the washer and dryer. If they miss their day, they need to wait until next week to do their laundry. Or, you could choose not to assign specific laundry days but simply allow everyone to run loads of laundry when they’re needed and work with each other to share the washer and dryer.
This method is very useful if you have multiple children who are old enough to do their own laundry. (For example, a 2-year-old would not be able to take care of their own laundry, but a 5- or 6-year-old would be very capable of learning with a bit of supervision and a 9-year-old would be fully capable of doing their own laundry.) It’s also a great way to teach responsibility while taking the full burden of laundry off of only one person.
Method #3: The Big Batch Laundry Day Method
Some families combine all the laundry in the house together, sorting all the dirty laundry from the hamper (or hampers) into piles, then working together as a team to keep the washer and dryer running all day long. This method has the advantage of getting the bulk of the laundry done in one day, but it has the disadvantage of feeling like you’re glued to the washer, making sure everything gets cycled through and the machines never stop working!
Finding Your Method
Finding your exact method for keeping Mount Saint Laundry from forming is going to take some trial and error. You might find that one of these three methods works perfectly for your family. You might find that you need a combination of these methods. As you work to find the best method for you, don’t give up until you find the one that works!
And keep in mind that the best method for you to do laundry will most likely change over time. For my family, I have used all 3 of these methods. In some seasons, I exclusively used the Load A Day Method and the Big Batch Laundry Method. Currently, I’m using a combination of all 3 methods. I use the Load A Day Method when it comes to washing rags and dish towels (I keep those separate from my clothes laundry). I use the Each Person Does Their Own Laundry Method with a couple of my older children. And finally, I use the Big Batch Laundry Day Method when it comes to my younger children’s clothes combined with my husband’s and my laundry. In our home, everyone helps in the laundry process! Even my 2-year-old helps to put away clothes in the drawers – hopefully without unfolding them in the process!
Now, please don’t misunderstand me! I’m not telling you the way I do my laundry so you can look at what I do and copy it exactly. Far from it! I tell you this to let you know that even these methods are not a one-size-fits-all approach or even a one-method-fits-all! Customize it and make it your own. Find the pattern and methods that work for you and your family.
So, if you’re looking for me to answer the question, “What method should I use to keep up with my laundry?” You’re asking the wrong question.
The right question, the one only you can answer is: “What method (or methods) will work best for me and my family to keep up on our laundry in this season of life?”
If you don’t know the answer to that question, don’t worry! Try them all out! Think of it as a test run: Pick a method, use it for at least 2 rounds of laundry (2 times of doing laundry, not just 2 loads of laundry!) and see if it works. If it works really well, fabulous! If it doesn’t fit well with your family, then try something else.
There is a system, a method of doing laundry that will help you keep Mount Saint Laundry from reforming in your house. I know it!
Folding it All Together
When it comes to organizing, the best organizational system for you and your family is one that you help create and one that you can keep going. It’s the same thing with laundry. The best method, the best system of doing laundry for you and your family is one that you help create and one that you can keep going.
Don’t use someone else’s method simply because they tell you to do it their way. Do some testing and see what way works best for you and your family.
And don’t forget: Everyone in your family helped to create all the laundry. Cleaning all the dirty laundry should not fall on one person. Include your children in the laundry process. Teach them how to do their own laundry. Have them do the steps they’re capable of doing. Yes, you might need to teach them how to do it. Yes, it will pose challenges. Yes, as you’re teaching them it will take longer than if you do it all by yourself right away. But in the end, you’ll be so happy you took the time to teach them. And you take the burden of always doing all the laundry off of yourself!
Remember, the absolute best method for you to do laundry is the one that you help create and the one you can keep going!! You’ve got this!
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Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.