How I Revamped Our Laundry System

 Posted by on October 10, 2012  Add comments  Tagged with: , ,
Oct 102012

….and completely changed my life!

No really, I’m serious. I’m no longer at the mercy of the laundry mountain.

This all started last Monday (the 1st), when I went downstairs to start some laundry, and found that every inch of the laundry room floor was covered in piles and piles of dirty clothes, towels, sheets, and blankets. I usually wash sheets every week, and blankets and bedspreads/comforters every month, and all this just happened to coincide with our van seat blankets also needing to be washed (we have plastic AND blankets over the seats in our van, as well as carpet remnants over the existing carpet. If you have small children, you’ll understand why).

It was the perfect storm, so to speak.

I felt totally overwhelmed and defeated. I was just getting over a really bad respiratory infection, which had kept me in bed for several days, plus we’d been gone for 2 full weekends in a row, so not only was I tired, but also very behind on all my housework. I contemplated a good cry, but then I decided that instead of bawling about it, I was going to take control of the situation. It was a new month, and the perfect time to make a fresh start. I piled all the laundry in baskets (this is where having 7 laundry baskets really pays off), and I loaded the 3 which contained sheets and blankets into the van, along with my detergent, a small bag of toy cars and trains, and DJ. I plucked a clean sour cream container with lid out of the recycling bin, to hold all the quarters I was going to need, and off we went to the laundromat.

While DJ played with his cars, I changed out a $20 bill, and loaded all the bedding into the huge, commercial front loading washers. Then I sat and read a magazine while they churned away, and when they were done, I hauled all the wet, heavy bedding home, and hung everything over our backyard fence to dry.

After lunch with my husband, who was home for the afternoon, I washed DJ up and put him down for a nap. Then I loaded up the rest of the laundry, and back to the laundromat I went. There was a college-aged guy there, washing his ONE basket of clothes, and he gave me an incredulous look when I hauled all my overflowing baskets in, but I just smiled at him and went about my business.

By 2:30 that afternoon I was $31.25 poorer, but ALL of my laundry – 16 loads of it – was clean, though still wet. I took it all home, and hung as much on the clothesline as possible, and I machine-dried the rest in shifts (I set a timer, so I wouldn’t forget to switch loads).

When it was all dry, it took me about an hour to fold it all, while watching TV.

When I was done folding, I put our stuff away – but not the kids’ stuff because the next day, while the girls were at school, I investigated their dresser drawers. I reasoned that the clothes that consistently went through the laundry were the ones they liked best, and those left behind in their dresser drawers were the rejects. Sure enough, I found shirts in both girls’ drawers that I had seen them wear almost never, so into the consignment store box they went.

Then, with their dresser drawers completely empty, I went through all of their clean, folded clothing, and taking into consideration the outfits I see them wear most often, I put the following back into their drawers:

7 pairs of pants/jeans
7 long-sleeved shirts
2-3 sweaters or sweatshirts
3-4 pairs of winter pajamas (cold weather has officially arrived here)

In their closets, I left their fall jackets, and their heavy winter coats, plus hats, mittens, snowpants, and 5 dressy outfits for church/special occasions. I went through DJ’s dresser too, and removed anything he’d outgrown, but I left 10 outfits, and 5 pairs of pajamas for him, because he’s young enough that we still have occasional diaper leaks, and super messy days when he goes through more than one clothing change.

Now we have neat, orderly dresser drawers, and the kids have access to a limited amount of clothing.

All the outgrown and surplus clothing – almost 2 full garbage bags – was either handed down, consigned at my appointment last Saturday, or donated to the Humane Society’s secondhand store. I also went through all of our towels, because we had way too many (37! Ridiculous), and the problem is that whenever the girls can’t find their towel (almost always because they fail to hang it up), they just help themselves to a new one, because if we don’t constantly police them they conveniently “forget” the towel rules. Clearly, I need to limit the number of towels available to them.

Most of our towels were stained, threadbare, and in bad shape – I recognized some that were wedding gifts, and a couple from when I was in college! I know for a fact that all of them were 10 years old, or older, because I haven’t bought any new bath towels since we were married.

It was time to let them go. I kept about a half dozen for cleaning rags, and donated the rest to the Humane Society. They were so grateful because they’re always short on towels, which they need to line cages and dry off animals after baths, so I was very happy to make this much-needed donation. I then went to Target and bought new, fluffy, white bath towels –  2 each for my husband and DJ, and 4 each for myself and the girls, because we like to wrap our hair in towels after showering. I wanted all the towels to be the same color so they could be washed in the same load, and I wanted white because it can be bleached and scalded for sanitation purposes (this is why hotel sheets and towels are always white).

I labeled the shelves in the bathroom accordingly:

I’ve yet to find a household problem that can’t be solved, at least somewhat, with order and limits. And with all the laundry in the house now clean and organized, I devised a new laundry schedule, which I wrote on our big white board:

MONDAY – Sheets, towels, and other whites
THURSDAY – Towels, whites (again – because everyone swaps their used towels for fresh ones midweek), and blankets, if needed.
FRIDAY – Mom and Dad

On their laundry day, the girls take their clothes down to the laundry room, and when they get home from school they fold and put away their clean laundry. My husband hauls ours down on Friday, and helps fold on Friday night, and I take care of the rest. The best part is, weekends are laundry-free!

So far, this is working out so well – better than any other system I’ve ever tried. Right now, DJ’s laundry is clean, dry, and waiting to be folded. There are no overflowing hampers in bedrooms, no piles on the laundry room floor, and towels and dish rags never sit around for so long that they get musty and stinky, because they get washed twice a week. And I’m actually caught up!

I’m pretty sure I haven’t been caught up on laundry in 10 years. It feels pretty good.