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5 Easy Laundry Tips for Large Families

If managing your family’s laundry is causing you daily stress, worry not! Here are 5 tips to manage your whites, towels, and socks so you won’t feel washed out and--who knows!--you might even have loads of fun.

By
Cheryl Butler ,
April 8, 2018
Episode #475

image of woman doing laundry for a large family

As my family grew from one baby to eight in less than a decade, not only did my heart grow fuller but so did my daily “lucky-to-do” list. A simple task like pouring cereal for breakfast took 15 minutes instead of five. Getting my family dressed each morning was a mini Olympic event, and when bedtime finally did arrive each night (my reward after a 14-hour day) navigating my small tribe through our evening routine left me just enough energy to tackle the biggest culprit in my home—laundry!

My “lucky-to-do” list is a very special part of my life that helps keep me on track. This is a list that I keep noting everything I need or hope to accomplish each day/week, but the words “to do” can seem so discouraging and challenging so years ago I decided to change what I called my 1-mile list and added the word “lucky” in front of it.

I waited six years to have a family due to infertility so having a large family was truly a miracle for me. As exhausting and chaotic as my life has been the past 25 years, I still consider myself one of the luckiest and blessed people in the world because of the gift of my eight children. That said, I mastered many tricks of the motherhood trade when it came to having a positive outlook.

One of those was simply changing how I perceived my household chores. I would tell myself routinely “I’m so lucky I have three loads of dishes to wash every day.” “I’m so lucky I have two full carts of groceries to buy every week.” “I’m so lucky to have Legos and Barbie dolls scattered all over the house at the end of the day.” Well, you get the picture. I got pretty good at using this mindset to overcome the drudgery of cooking, cleaning, and listening to eight kids whine about this or that, but the one obstacle I just didn’t feel lucky about at all was the amount of laundry my family generated each day.

I may be a Pollyanna at heart, but even my best self-to-self pep talks couldn’t help me feel any remote joy in conquering this huge part of my life. In fact, there were many, many moments when the sheer volume of laundry I faced daily would bring me to tears! That was until I realized that keeping up with my family’s laundry didn’t have to be as daunting if I managed it properly.

If staying on top of your family’s laundry is causing you daily distress, worry not! Here are five tips to stay in control of your whites, towels, and socks so you won’t feel washed out and--who knows!--you might even have loads of fun.

5 Large Family Laundry Tips

  1. Organize a Routine
  2. Do It Daily
  3. Be Armed With the Proper Tools
  4. Put It Away Immediately
  5. Machine Care

Let’s explore each tip in more detail.

1. Organize a Routine

I’ve been (for the most part!) the happy mom of eight kids for 25 years now, yet I’m still asked the same question continuously—how do you keep your sanity? Truthfully, I’ve been too busy all these years to even question my lucidity, but if I had to give one quick answer it is and always will be routines! (Oh, and Pinot Grigio never hurts.)

I’ve shared my thoughts and tips on establishing routines for your family in previous episodes and because I am such a firm believer in the importance of implementing routines into your life, no matter how old your children are, I will always revert back to this strategy to improve any area you are struggling with, including getting a handle on your laundry.

Managing laundry is no different than any other function in your home (except that it multiplies faster than rabbits). Before you can have a well-maintained system in place, you need to plan and organize first. Assess the following areas:

  • Are you equipped with enough laundry baskets/hampers?
  • Is your laundry room functional?
  • Are you a sorter or do you combine it all?
  • What time of day can you best accommodate a load or two?
  • What part of laundry care is most challenging?
  • Where do you put your dried loads of laundry?
  • Does each family member take responsibility for putting their clothes away?

Take some time and think and jot down your thoughts on these or similar questions that best fit your scenario. In our large family, everyone has their own hamper and laundry basket. This simplifies each and every load that is washed. Because we color-code our towels, each child has their own sets of towels that he/she is responsible for as well.

My biggest challenge with laundry is not washing it, but getting it separated and put away once it came out of the drier. After living with small mountains of clean clothes in the laundry room for several years (yes, I didn’t get this all figured out right away either) and watching children, dogs and a spouse stampede all over my hours of hard work, I made the putting away of clean clothes the top priority in my family’s laundry routine.

Once you have a basic game plan, the rest of your laundry care will be much easier to manage.

2. Do It Daily

There are two schools of thought behind a great functioning laundry system:

  1. Designate one or two days a week to washing your clothes
  2. Do It Daily

Because I have a large family, choosing a couple days a week to hang out in my laundry room just wasn’t feasible, but I will tell you—I certainly tried to go that route. Logistics of managing a large family just didn’t allow me the flexibility to stick to assigned laundry days. I finally began to control our dirty laundry (rather than it having a hold on me) when I realized I needed to wash clothes daily.

When my kids were much younger, I maintained their dirty laundry myself so it was imperative that I wash daily. Although they all have their own laundry baskets and hampers now, as toddlers and pre-schoolers, I combined their clothes so as not to be wasteful. Back then I knew exactly who was wearing what!

Once my kids reached their tween years they learned to be responsible for their own laundry. Cruel, you think? In my humble parenting opinion, teaching our kids life skills like cooking basic meals, caring for their own belongings and tending to their laundry as soon as they are able is a gift that keeps on giving! I’ve happily demonstrated “Laundry 101” classes in our home for years now. This teaches young adults how to sort, launder, properly dry and store their clean wares. If I see a freshly washed pair of pants strewn on one of my young adult kid’s bedroom floors I don’t shudder and twitch like I would if it had been my hard-earned hours of clean laundering down the drain! And when they go off to college, they are totally self-sufficient in the world of campus living.

One of the key ingredients in all my routines has been rising before the rest of the family each morning to get a head start on the day. Even 15-20 minutes of alone time before everyone else gets up is enough to get your day (and your laundry) off to a great start. For nearly 20 years now, the first thing I do while waiting for my tea to brew is head to the laundry room and assess the situation. Most mornings there is always a load to be washed, so I have at it before the rest of the house begins to stir. My tweens and teens manage their own laundry now, but if I see they have started their wash and need it to be dried, I lend a helping hand.

I’m a night owl by nature, so I have always taken advantage of the late night hours when the rest of my family is quietly tucked away in their bedrooms catching Z’s. This is when I do my personal laundry or table linens and sheets. I can easily place a load in the wash, head to bed, and dry it first thing in the morning.

If you can maintain doing a couple of loads of laundry each day, you will probably learn as I did, that you’ll never go back to an assigned day or just doing it when the hamper is overflowing. And don’t forget to make sure to empty pockets, unbutton shirts, hook up bras, tie up strings, and for clothing rich in colors (or top-dyed like jeans), turn them inside out. This will help prevent color transfer and keep your clothes looking new.

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