Taming the Laundry Monster

Two adults. Six children. Clothing, bedding, and linen for all. It could add up to laundry chaos. It doesn’t because I’ve tamed the laundry monster. (Imagine me whispering that last part so as not to jinx myself…)

taming the laundry monsterHere are my top 3 tips for taming the laundry monster:

1. Tame the Laundry Monster by Limiting Clothing.

Seriously. Limit. It.

Think “Capsule Wardrobes for All”. Poke around on Pinterest for capsule wardrobe ideas if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

I saw a fellow homeschool mom blogger mention that she bought her toddler child 27 new shirts at the thrift store. I’m glad she found a deal (because there’s no shame to my thrifting game!) but that sounds to me like it could, just maybe, be too many shirts . (Although I’m enjoying imagining scenarios where a child could use that many shirts in a week..)

capsule wardrobeHow many articles of clothing does a child need?

Unfortunately, I can’t answer that for you. I can assure you that, here in the U.S., is mostly likely fewer than they currently possess.

A child needs some clothes to get dirty, a few items to wear to school (or otherwise in public), a few nicer items for church services, and a few truly special pieces (especially if you’re raising a Princess Daughter).

My children have between 10-15 outfits to choose from in their drawers, several dressier items hanging in their closets (“church clothes”), plus a few special items. In other words, enough clothing to survive a week and a bit, but not enough for us to ignore laundry day indefinitely.

Here’s a peek at our boys’ drawers (my apologies for the quality of these pictures. Now you know why I’m not a Home Blogger!):

no more laundry monster: limit clothes

That picture above is the middle drawer in the dresser and the picture below is the bottom drawer.

tame laundry monster: limit clothesWhich, means, yes, my boys share a dresser. Shirts on the left. Pants in the middle. PJ’s on the right. (Undies and onesies are in the top drawer but I didn’t take a picture, but trust me, they’re in there.)

And in case you’re thinking I’m hiding a bunch of stuff in their closet:

laundry monster: closet

I’m not. This is all of their dress shirts (except for a few nice sweaters which are in the drawer pictures.)

I’m not saying you need as few (or as many) articles of clothing for your children, but if you take any advice from this post, let it be this advice.

You don’t have to be “minimalist”, whatever that means to you. But you don’t have to be maximalist either. You don’t have to be prepared for every clothing eventuality. Don’t save every single article of clothing and pass it down to the next kid.(Example: if a shirt is stained beyond recognition, turn it into a dust rag, don’t save it in a bin for the next kid!)

And I know a lot of people think KonMari is weird, but the idea of only keeping things you love or that bring you joy just makes sense to me. When I started paring down my personal wardrobe to things that A)made me happy and B)felt comfortable, I had fewer clothes but I spent less time staring at my things wondering what to wear.

The same thing applies to kid clothes. If they hate that itchy sweater they’re not going to wear it. Even if cost a million dollars. If you don’t want them to wear cartoon character shirts out of the house, you’re going to need to limit how many of those they have available. Kid clothes are trickier because you and your kids both need to be happy with them. But it can be done.

folded clothes2. Tame the Laundry Monster by Creating a Routine

Based on anecdotal evidence, I’ve decided there are two kinds of laundry strategies for homemakers:

A. Do a little bit of laundry every day
B. Have one day a week to focus on laundry

Which one is correct?

Whichever one works for you. Seriously.

(OK, now that I think about it there’s a third option: C. Ignore it until everyone is out of clean clothes. I think we can all agree that doesn’t work.)

So you want to know which one works for me? Option B.

I do not enjoy having laundry sitting around, so I choose one day a week and we do it all: wash, dry, and put away.

Boom. No laundry sitting around in baskets waiting for me to get around to it. (Except for one day a week) And the day we do laundry isn’t JUST a laundry day. Schoolwork or other chores can be done while waiting for loads to finish. I’m thankful to live in a time and place where doing laundry doesn’t mean intense physical labor the way it has at other points and places in history.

Step 1 (limit clothing) means that we have to do laundry at least once a week. Step 2 means that I don’t find it burdensome and that the job actually gets done. Here’s where I’ll confess how this sometimes happens: I wash everything Thursday or Friday and then the kids help me sort and put away the next day. Which brings me to my next tip:

clothes hangers3. Tame the Laundry Monster by Equipping Your Kids to Help

My Dear Fellow Moms: kids can learn to start a load of laundry. They can learn to switch laundry from the washing machine to the dryer. And they can learn to put away their own things.

They may not learn to fold things or put them away exactly the way you do.

That last statement caused you to take a deep breath, didn’t it?

I get it. Because yeah, I fold my shirts the KonMari way. My dresses and skirts all hang in my closet facing the same direction. Socks are matched (although not folded the KonMari way. Because her way doesn’t work for me). Even my undies drawer is organized. (Again, I’m not sharing pictures because this is not that kind of blog. But I promise it’s true.)

Why do I organize my things that way? Because that is how I like my things.

You know what I don’t like? Folding the gargantuan amount of laundry a family of 8 creates.

So I don’t.

Each child old enough to put away her / his own clothes (although our boys haven’t quite gotten there yet) gets a basket of their own laundry at the end of laundry day. And then they put it away and return the empty basket to the laundry room. (I’m not sure why, but that last step has been tricky for a few of my kids…)

They might meticulously fold. Some sort by outfit types (play / church / sleep). And some dump everything into their drawers and play a rousing game of “Where’s my shirt?” Or “Honey, where are my…pants” (Lego movie shout out!) a few times a week. At which point I tell them they put their things away and they have to find them.

Now, I’ll admit, I’m still sorting the boys’ things and this is mostly because it doesn’t take that long (see point #1 again) and also because I still decide what they wear every day. (The iBoy has some input, but otherwise doesn’t care much about clothes; Pip cares not one bit whether he is clothed or not, but I digress.)

We do have a few rules: the floor does not count as “put away”, whether things are clean or dirty. Clean = put in the drawers, closets, or baskets provided for you. Dirty = put in hamper until next laundry day.

Towels left on floors will cause Mom to lose her mind and you may get an unwanted diatribe on the finer points of housekeeping. (Translation: We do not have daily maid service here and JUST HANG UP THE DOGGONE TOWELS, OK?!)

iron laundryMore Quick Ideas for Taming the Laundry Monster:

  • Bring back aprons! (And paint smocks and…you get the idea.)
  • Lower your standards as much as you can. For instance, towels that are hung properly after bath can be reused before washing. Certain articles of clothing can be worn more than once, as long as they aren’t stained or stinky (obviously, there are exceptions!).
  • Have your children change out of their “nice” clothes when you’re back home and ready to play. Ditto for the adults. You’ll keep nice things nice longer that way.
  • Do not, I repeat, do not allow clothing that requires special, fussy care to even enter your home. “Dry Clean Only?” Ain’t nobody got time for that. Handwash in unicorn tears and lay flat to dry ONLY in a gentle breeze that crosses a Nordic fjord from the hours of 2-4 PM? No. Thank. You.
  • On the other hand, handwashing a few delicate things isn’t really that hard and will prolong their lives. The dryer is hard on certain articles of clothing so having a clothesline or rod in your laundry room can be helpful.
  • Iron when you need to, not when you’re doing the rest of the laundry work. Because unless you have like, six pristine pieces hanging in your closet, they’re just going to get wrinkled again anyway. Iron twice? I don’t even want to do it once!
  • Make your laundry room inviting, so you’ll want to go in there. OK, it doesn’t exactly work for me. But hey, it couldn’t hurt, right?

clothes closet

What Taming the Laundry Monster Means for Me

One: it means that the only time the laundry is truly overwhelming is after something crazy, like a week of church camp (which means we all come home with bags full of dirty clothing, bedding, and swim stuff).
Two: it means that I don’t have to buy unnecessary items of clothing and then care for or store those items.
Three: it means I don’t really think about the laundry all that often which means I can use my brain cells on other things.
Four: it means I’m not constantly trying a new system or wondering if there’s a better way to do this. We’ve found what works for us.
Five: it means I’m teaching my kiddos how to care for their own things and they won’t go off to college and shrink all their sweaters the first time they go to the laundromat.

Have you tamed the laundry monster in your home? What’s your best laundry advice?

taming the laundry monster tips

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