I do not like laundry. To me it is one of those necessary evils. I need clean laundry and I'm not independently wealthy so I have to do my own laundry.
I also like to wear clean clothes so I'm in a bad habit of wear once and wash. This isn't necessarily recommended but it's been my MO for many years.
A Bit of Laundry History
Let's look on the bright side. At least it's not the time consuming task it was in the Edwardian era, the Victorian era, the Prairie Home, Regency times, and basically any time before 1900. Phew!
Every Monday women spent the entire day in the scullery, or wherever scrubbing the very skin off the backs of their hands as they worked to clean the family's weekly laundry load. And let's not mention that the coming day, Tuesday, was ironing day! It was torturous. I've read that many women hated it so much they would do all they could to send the laundry out to be done.
During the 19th and the early part of the 20th century Monday was known as washday or Blue Monday. Without the benefit of a washing machine, running water, hot water and ‘stain lifters’, this meant time consuming duties such as lugging and boiling the water for the wash and making your own starch and bluing for whiter whites and sometimes even your own soap! Laundry day was an all day chore!
Even Isabella Beeton in her Household Managment book circa 1861 for English housewives lists the duties for doing laundry as those of the ‘laundry-maid’ not the housewife.
For American housewives Catherine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe call laundry “the most trying part of domestic labor” in their treatise ~Principles of Domestic Science
Today's Laundry Tale
These days we have it easy!
We can just dump our dirty clothing in the washing machine and come back an hour (or less) later to a nice clean load. How fabulous! What a treat!
But still it seems to be drudgery work.
Maybe it's because it's never ending. Maybe because laundry is one of those things that can get out of hand quickly and there really is no place to go but to the washing machine. If you forget to cook you can go out to eat or buy ready made somewhere. If you forgot to clean you can call a maid service to come do it for you or truthfully you can go awhile without anyone really noticing. But forget the laundry?!! It's just not done to haul it off somewhere to have it all washed and folded and hung up for you…or is it and I'm missing out? Nevermind! You would notice right away.
So let's take a look at how we might streamline this area of our lives to make it a bit easier to manage.
First off I have to note that today people tend to have a bit more clothing than families in times past so if you feel the urge, purge! Or at least pass on. Or store it nicely for that younger child or future baby.
Step by step Laundry Tasks
To start getting a handle on your laundry you need to organize the way you do the things pertaining to your family laundry.
- First take stock of the number of people in your family and how often you will need to do the laundry to keep on top of it.
We have a family of three so I do…
- 1 load of whites a week
- 1 load of towels
- 1 load of bedding
- 1 small load of bathroom (toilet) cleaning cloths (I'm squeemish like that)
- 1 small load of regular cleaning cloths
- 1 small load of kitchen dishcloths
- 2 loads of dark/color clothing
- 1 load of husband's work clothes
- my daughter does her own clothes but I wash her whites with ours
Yes folks that's 9 loads. Things aren't that perfect. Sometimes my husband needs to wash some of his work laundry after a particularly dirty day. Or my daughter might skip a week, and let her laundry build up too much. Things happen. We are human.
Also I realize I'm a bit particular. I MUST, MUST, MUST wash the toilet cleaning cloths by themselves. No ifs, ands, or buts. Same with the kitchen linens. AND I make sure to never do the toilet clothes right before the kitchen. I'll space some stuff in between just in case..something that has to be washed on hot. Is that too much? Tell me what you think in the comments.
Next Pick when you will do the laundry
After you've thought about (and maybe even made a list) of which laundry loads you want to do weekly it's time to work out when you will do which loads.
For my small family of three I wash laundry five days a week. This is not set in stone and actually may be a little off. I often wash cleaning cloths on Saturday after cleaning the house
Here is my weekly list.
Tuesday: whites, daughter washes her stuff
Wednesday: regular clothing
Thursday: bedding, husband's work clothes
Friday: kitchen linens, more darks
Saturday: cleaning cloths, toilet cleaning cloths,
Note: If you do your laundry at certain times of day it may lower your power bill. Think morning and early evening. Give it a try for a month. For me it is easiest to do one load in the morning and one to two in the evening.
Then you need to decide where you will collect and sort the laundry
If I had my dream set up I would have a large laundry room with granite counters and tons of storage. There would be designated bins for each type of laundry along one wall. And upper cabinets with doors to enclose everything I don't want out. Well I don't have that.
I am blessed to have a laundry room at all but it is very tiny and we did a little DIY in it to help me keep things organized.
- a basket under the kitchen sink for dish towels
- a hamper in our daughter's room
- a hamper in the master bedroom
- and two small buckets for cloths in the laundry room (Ikea is great for this)
Organizing the Laundry
So now make sure your laundry area is clean and organized. How can clean laundry come out of a dirty place?
Start by wiping down your washer and dryer. Clean the lint repository. Get rid of trash and empty bottles that are cluttering your area. Organize your stain removing items. Organize your detergent and any bleaches and stain removers you use. Your dryer sheets. etc.
Have a rod and hangers nearby or right above the washer and dryer where you can put clothing that will need to be hung on hangers to dry.
Actual Washing of the Laundry
Next it's time to wash. Sort clothing or other and apply stain removers as needed. Load your detergent as your washer is filling with water. Or if you use a front loader as I do load the clothing and then add the detergents to their appropriate little dispensers. Use the appropriate amount of detergent according to directions and not more. You could just serve to irritate you family's skin.
Set your timer for the washer. If you don't know how long your washing machine takes to wash a load of clothes now is the time to take notes.
Jot down the time you put the laundry in and note the time it finishes so you can jot down the time it is done. The first time you do this you will of course have to be nearby to note this.
Transfer the laundry to dryer (don't forget to turn it on) and start another load if you have more laundry to do.
Also note how long your laundry takes to dry. If possible use the setting that senses when the clothing is dry.
Once the laundry is dry take it out of the dryer and to the place where you will fold or hang for being put away. A friend uses her dining table. I use the ironing board or our bed. I'm still finding the best place. I really dislike the putting away of the laundry and have to use tricks such as setting a timer and seeing how fast I can do it. Ick!
When you're done remove the lint from the lint trap in your dryer. Put away any carrying baskets. Close the doors to your machine. Now dust your hands off. You're done!
Organizing Laundry for a Large Family
As I mentioned I have a small family so our laundry, while not fun, is very manageable by me. But what about if you're dealing with a larger family? How do you make laundry work for a larger family? Well lucky for you this kind of stuff interests me so I've done some research for you.
- Teach your children to do. Start with having them help you fold. Keeping buildngin on the skills until they can do a load by themselves. Then make them completely in charge of their own laundry. And finally have them help younger siblings once they have things well in hand.
- Hampers in each room? Or one big set up in the laundry room? Most large families prefer the hamper in each room method. It's what we use too. Read how to work laundry for a large family with a hamper in each room.
More Laundry Resources
Sheri Graham talks about how she organizes the laundry.
Taming the Laundry Monster. An ebook.