Doing Laundry For Your Big Family: How To Get It Done
Laundry Day, schmaundry day.
When you have a large family, there is no such thing as “laundry day.” If I were to save just one day a week and try to do all of my family’s laundry, I would
A) not have enough hours in the day for all of those cycles to run,
B) flood my septic system with an over-abundance of gray water, and
C) still have to send kids places in dirty clothes because of practices, games, etc. that are more than once a week.
So, how do you get it done? As a mom of five and wife to a 6’8″ husband whose clothes are BIG, I am going to share with you my laundry strategy.
Tip #1 Do a little each day (or at least most days)
There is no way around this one, logistically. If you can get into the habit of starting a load right when you get up in the morning, when you walk in from work, or any other time when it can become part of your daily routine, then it doesn’t require as much thought or effort on your part. Spreading the laundry out throughout the week will keep it from becoming overwhelming.
Tip #2 Keep clothing loads separated by family member (Don’t mix Eli’s laundry with Audrey’s)
No overflowing dirty clothes bins in the laundry room for me, thank you very much. I think all that sorting might kill me. Doing it this way instead requires that each person have a basket or hamper in their own space for just their own dirty laundry. The nice thing about doing it this way is that it stays put out of sight until it is time to do that person’s laundry. It also saves time on the backend, preventing the need to sort out whose shirt is whose before putting it away. And it eliminates any disputes about who should be putting the clean laundry away. This leads me to Tip #3.
Tip #3 Do big kids’ laundry on the weekend (or whenever they have time in their schedule to play a large role in it)
By making sure to get the laundry process going for the capable big kids when they are home and can help or even take the lead, you are allowing them to learn and practice an important life skill while you are available to help. And almost as important, the big kids doing their own laundry helps lighten my…ahem…load.
Tip #4 Purchase towels and bed linens with the laundry in mind
At our house, all of our towels are white. This is counter-intuitive since kids are so dirty and oftentimes use a clean towel to wipe off their filth rather than using it to dry already clean body parts. It turns out though, white towels are pretty easy to maintain. I don’t bleach mine since I try to avoid bleach, but OxiClean or hydrogen peroxide every once in a while does the trick. The main point is that by having them all be the same color, whatever color you choose, it is easy to throw a load of them in all together whenever you notice it is needed rather than having to divide out white, from red, from light green, etc.
Tip #5 Put the laundry away as soon as it is done
This requires discipline on your part, but it is possibly the most important piece of advice here. There was definitely a time earlier in my marriage when I had the mindset that it was better to wait until all laundry for the day was done before putting it away. So I’d lay the clean stuff on my bed, or the dining room table, or in a basket. And more often than not, I’d get busy doing other things and either not ever get to putting it away, or it would be so late in the day when I finally had time that the task had become overwhelming because there were now multiple loads of clothes laying there. If you just do it right when it’s done, it only takes a couple minutes since it is only one load, you won’t have the clean clothes cluttering up your space, and you can check one thing off your to-do list!
*Bonus Tip* Be Flexible!
Your laundry routine will likely evolve as your family grows and passes through various stages, like cloth diapering, muddy and painted toddler clothes, rocks/treasures in pockets, constant grass stains, benzoyl peroxide bleached teenage clothes, sweaty athletic uniforms, the list goes on. In my family’s current season of life, we have a little of everything, so I hope you will find these tips helpful to you as well!