Defeating the Dirty Laundry Monster

I think we’ve all been there at one time or another. Whether it resulted from a vacation, a sickness, or possibly even just laziness. We come face to face with an hideous monstrous pile of dirty laundry and the task seems undefeatable. We put it off or just pick through and pull out a few items that we want to wear. Maybe the kids do the sniff test and decide it smells OK enough to wear again.

How do we handle this ever growing task and make it not seem so daunting? After finding the FlyLady I have started doing a load, sometimes two, a day. At first it seemed like I might never get this monster under control. By establishing my routines and with a little persistence I did eventually tame the beast.

Let’s face it even if you don’t have kids you will still have dirty laundry, unless maybe you live in a nudist camp. Even then I think you would still have some dirty laundry. When you have kids you are definitely gonna have dirty laundry. I mean you will have dirty clothes showing up to be washed that you didn’t even know your kids owned. When you move the couches or the beds you will almost certainly find dirty socks.

When you multiply the kids factor by 7 or 8 you will find that this supercharges the monster and it can quickly grow out of control. You need a plan of attack to get this monster under control and defeat it once and for all.

First you need to decide how you want to sort your clothes. I have a hamper in my bathroom for the whites. There are also separate hampers in the bedrooms for the little boys  the little girls. The older kids and I each have our own hampers in our rooms as well. We don’t really have space in our laundry room so this is what works for us. This may or may not work for your family. You may want to set up a laundry sorting area for lights, darks, and whites.

Next you need to decide on when you are going to wash clothes. Here each person is assigned a different day of the week. Mondays are for the little boys, Tuesdays are for DS14, Wednesdays are for the whites and the sheets, Thursdays are for Momma, and Fridays are for the little girls. The older kids wash on the weekends or whenever the washer and dryer are free. Sometimes, especially when a nasty bug hits, we do have extra loads to wash but for the most part we stick to this schedule.

Again this may not work for your family especially if you don’t have your own washer and dryer. You may not need to wash every day either. If your clothes are out of control you will want to wash at least one load a day until you get it under control. Make sure you dry, fold, and put away every load you wash or the clothes will end up back in the dirty pile before you know it.

While you are folding the clothes go ahead and get rid of things that your kids don’t really like to wear or things that don’t fit. Decide how many outfits they really need. My kids have 10-20 outfits for everyday wear. They also have a couple of nice outfits for church and special occasions. The younger kids have 7-10 play outfits as well. If you feel like you can’t part with that many maybe you can just put some in totes or boxes to swap out when some get a little worn. That way they will always have something ‘new’ or ‘fresh’ in their wardrobe.

Make your kids and other family members responsible for their dirty laundry! You shouldn’t have to fold clothes for anyone over 7 years old. They are more than capable of folding their own clothes. They are also capable of putting their clothes in the hamper, toting them to the washer, and loading/unloading the washer and dryer. Mommas do not need to wear themselves out doing things that others can help with.

Go ahead and teach them to put the clothes in the hampers right-side-out and that will save a lot of time later on. I don’t fix the clothes for them. Even the little boys know that if their clothes are not fixed right Momma will call them in to fix them before I hang them up or fold them.

The kids know that on Wednesdays we change our sheets. Each child has a second set of sheets to put on when they take off the dirty ones. The kids know to take the dirty sheets to the laundry room in the morning and one of the little girls will usually help the little boys to get their sheets off the bed. One of the girls will also gather up the bath rugs and dirty towels that may be hanging in the bathrooms as well as any wash rags lingering around.

I fill the detergent and softeners in the washer before the kids bring the clothes to load. I also place a dryer sheet in the dryer for them. When they load the washer they go ahead and start it. Then when the chime goes off they know to load the clothes into the dryer. No stinky, soured, or mildewed clothes allowed here.

I have shown them how to shake the clothes out before putting them in the dryer to help with the wrinkles. They can then start the dryer. Our laundry room happens to be right off the kitchen so they can leave their school work and swap out the clothes with little interruption and I am always right there to supervise.

When the dryer finishes they will grab a basket and unload them. They will also clean out the lint filter and throw away the lint. (Ok, sometimes they throw the lint at each other but it does eventually get thrown away.) The little boys take the basket to my bedroom, the girls take the basket to their room to work on after lunch, and DS14 leaves the basket in the kitchen.

I fold the little boys clothes, but they help with the whites for now. It is easier to show them how to fold wash rags and towels before we progress to shirts and shorts later on.They can match up their socks though. I hang up outfits for them, one shirt and one bottom per hanger, and then fold the rest of the clothes. They can put away most of their clothes except the ones that need hung up.

The little girls, 8 & 9, are pretty much independent now when it comes to folding and putting away their clothes.For DS14, I hang up his shirts and bottoms separately as he has a lot of trouble with the hangers but he is responsible for folding the rest of the clothes and putting them away. They all complete these tasks fairly well as they know that I will be checking them. I do not expect perfection just progress. The clothes are not going to look neat at first but as long as it looks like they gave it a good try then I’m satisfied.

This is a learning process and it does take patience to get these routines and habits developed so don’t give up. You will be teaching them important skills that they will need as adults. (I count this as ‘Life Skills’ in our homeschool.) Trust me I wished so many times that my ex husband would have put his stinky socks in the hamper instead of hiding them under the bed or sticking them in the drawer of his nightstand!

Well, I better finish up this post as I have a 3 year old asking for some turned over cake… aka Pineapple Upside-Down cake.

Note: In the summertime we use the clothesline which is also great practice for fine motor skills and can be a way to teach the kids how to save money, energy, and how to use natural resources. We have even made a mini lesson on this subject and researched various things from the benefits of air drying clothes to how to properly hang out clothes. Make it fun!

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