4 Ways Any Parent Can Tackle a Never-Ending Mountain of Laundry
The laundry mountain: It’s the bane of my existence, and that of every other parent I know. Why is simply cleaning and putting away clothes such a monumental task? Simple. It’s the worst.
As I embark on motherhood with my fourth child, I’ve seriously started to question how I will overcome this parenting and home organization hurdle, and come out the other side with some semblance of a plan for the next 18 years (not including the “mom I’m home from college to do my laundry” years, of course).
Everyone who does laundry can point to some part of the process that they hate the most. For me it’s the clean, folded clothes that need to be put away in specific drawers and closets — but instead lie in wait on what has become my “laundry couch.” Compounding the laundry challenge is my ongoing battle to get more of my family involved in the process. Asking a 6-year-old to put away a basket of laundry is akin to getting a root canal, but we persist. Luckily my husband has taken on the thankless job of carting baskets up and down the stairs daily — given that I’ve had a plethora of injuries and pregnancies over the past 7 years, that has been an immense help.
Looking for more ways to make laundry easier with a family of six, I turn, as always, to my online parenting community and a few organizational influencers who always have advice to save us from ourselves. Here are some of their tips that I’m hoping will help me reclaim my couch for resting, not folding.
Determine why laundry is such a sore subject in the first place.
I once tried to cut my whole family’s wardrobes down to five items per type (such as five shorts, five shirts, etc.) after reading some minimalist, capsule wardrobe-style Instagram inspiration. While it worked for a while, it ended up causing a headache when one of my kids would go through multiple outfits that day and I didn’t keep up with their few backup pairs. But the occasional challenge doesn’t mean it’s not worth sticking with. According to home organizer Faith Roberson of Organize with Faith, “laundry is a lot when you have a lot.” She explains that the less you have, the less you have to manage, which frees up more time. “I’m not convinced the challenge is laundry but our perception of it.”
Professional organizer Katrina T. Green, of Bad Ass Home Life, agrees, adding that too much stuff creates a problem. In addition, she says accessibility is a factor for some, because making your way to a laundromat or apartment basement to do multiple loads of laundry can be challenging. “When you have your own washer/dryer, it’s a lot easier to combine it with different tasks you have that day,” she says, putting my now-not-so-big problem into perspective, since I am able to wash and dry in my house. Time to stop complaining.
Prevent a major laundry traffic jam.
Another reason experts think laundry is such a nightmare is that you have to be perfectly consistent or it gets backed up, causing a traffic jam at each stage (moving to the dryer, sorting, folding, putting away, and on and on). Pia Thompson, Home Organizer and “Joy Finder,” says that you are “practically punished” if you don’t do laundry all the time, because when you finally do get to it, you end up with the monumental task of washing all the loads at once. “It’s very tempting to put that clean pile of clothes down on top of that chair in your bedroom and slowly back out of the room!” While I consider myself an organized person, I’m not a laundry machine who is perfectly consistent with doing multiple loads per day, hence the back up when you multiply it by six people. I’m here for all the laundry hacks.
To really get ahold of this problem, creating a schedule for yourself and sticking to it, whether it’s one load per day or a whole half day to do everything, can keep you from falling behind.
Sort before you wash.
Thompson has a brilliant trick for sorting laundry. Do your sorting before the clothes ever make it to the laundry room. And even more, if you can teach your family to sort their items as they undress, you never have to worry about it on the other end of the process. For example, a three-section laundry bin in your kid’s room helps sorting “take care of itself,” Thompson suggests. The bins can be sorted by color, or tops, bottoms, and underwear/socks. “You can encourage them to treat it like a game, see how far back they can stand and still throw the clothing like a basketball into the hamper!” Hang on while I go shop for three-section hampers and round my kids up to try this right now. But the question remains, does my 2-year-old know a shirt from a pair of shorts? We shall see.
Do one load per day… completely.
You may have heard before about doing a load per day (it’s the whole, how do you eat an elephant metaphor… laundry style). But, define “do”? Doing a load of laundry shouldn’t stop at folding, our experts say, but rather moving them completely to their final destination, whether it’s a drawer, hanger, or closet. Vaishali Sahni, of Tiny and Tidy, says, “Doing the laundry as soon as we have a full load, is what works for our family. Since we’re a family of six, that usually means doing laundry five to six times per week. However, I only have to put away one load per day, which is much more manageable than dealing with five or six loads on a single day.”
Thompson adds that it’s time to accept this fact: “laundry isn’t done until it’s folded or hung up.” One side effect is that she explains warm clothes don’t hold wrinkles, so there’s a hidden benefit to putting them away quickly. She recommends passing the time folding while you are on the phone with an old friend.