Thursday, December 9, 2010

Secrets from the Family Closet

As you can imagine, doing laundry for seven people can be cumbersome.  Over the years I've developed some coping strategies and I'll share them, maybe some of them will work for you.  (Sorry to disappoint those of you who thought this posting was going to be about deep, dark family secrets.  Laundry secrets are not quite as exciting.)

No Laundry Day
I used to do laundry once a week.  (Like before we had kids.)  And then it was twice a week.  And then every other day.  Finally I gave up on Laundry Day.  Every Day Is Laundry Day in this house.  But you know what?  If you do a couple loads each day, you can keep on top of it and then it doesn't get overwhelming.  

Ok, to be perfectly honest, I am good at getting the laundry washed, dried and brought upstairs.  What I am NOT good at is getting it put away.  I used to assign a laundry basket to each family member and would put each person's clean clothing into their basket.  And then the baskets would sit on my bedroom floor.  For days.  I'd never get around to putting away the laundry.  Which is part of the reason for the family closet.  Now that all the kid clothing is in the same room, I can just shelve it and be done.  No stepping over baskets, no nagging kids to put away laundry.  So far, so good. (But this is only Day 4 of the Family Closet.)

No Sorting
When I was growing up we had a clothes chute, which was an exciting and fascinating concept to me at the time.  But now when I think about it, I think of all the clothes getting mixed together and know that translates into someone spending a lot of time sorting clothing into different piles prior to washing.  

We sort the clothing by color when it goes into the hamper.  It takes approximately 3 seconds to sort clothing as you are throwing it into the hamper and takes approximately forever for ME to sort it otherwise.

No Folding
This is probably my biggest time saver.  We don't fold our clothing.  Shocking, right?  I used to fold clothing.  But if my children were trying to find a particular item in their drawers, they'd unfold the clothing and then just shove the leftovers back in the drawer because they lacked the coordination to refold.  (As they got older I discovered that it wasn't just coordination that was lacking, it was that just didn't care if their clothing was folded or not.)  So eventually I just gave up.  What do I do instead?  I stack the clothing one on top of another.  This way the kids can sort of "page through" their shirts, pants to find the one they are looking for.  The clothing pile remains intact, they locate the item they are looking for and I'm happy because the clothing remains flat and tidy instead of disheveled and wrinkled.  Are there exceptions?  Sure.  My husband and I still have our clothing folded.  And I have started folding my oldest daughter's jeans because now she is so tall now that her jeans take up too much space (lengthwise) when they are stacked.

No Ironing
I use Downy Wrinkle Releaser on almost all of our wrinkled clothing.  A few squirts, a few tugs of the fabric and it's "good enough".  Exceptions?  My husband's work shirts, dress clothes for the kids (we're talking holiday clothing) and any item of mine that looks like it needs ironed after using the Dony.  But 99% of kid clothing remains un-ironed at all times.

The Dot-Method
I read about this years ago in a parenting magazine and it has been a fantastic help over the years.  We use permanent marker to mark each child's clothing to identify which child it belongs to.  My oldest gets one dot, my second oldest gets two dots, and so on.  It's genius because as you hand clothing down you just need to add another dot to the clothing tag (or collar or waistband).  As soon as a new item of clothing comes into our house, it is the responsibility of the owner (assuming he/she is old enough) to dot his/her clothing and then when the laundry is clean I just have to look at the collar or waistband to know where to shelve the item.  This may not be necessary for some families but because four of my children are so close in age, many times their clothing is very similar in size and sometimes I have two kids wearing the same size at the same time.  With a glance I can easily tell which items belong to which kid and can shelve them accordingly.


I have written about Sock-Locks before but I really need to write again about how much of a time-saver they are.  Each person in our family has been assigned a specific colored Sock-Lock.  When you take off dirty socks, just thread the socks through the teeth, put them in the hamper and then wash and dry as you would anything else.  Then when you are sorting through clean laundry, just toss each person's socks into his/her bin and you save hours by not having to match socks together.  Does each person in my house use Sock-Locks every time?  No.  But if most of the people use them most of the time, then the system works well enough for my liking.

If you have any laundry tips please leave them in the Comments.  I'm always looking for ways to streamline my household!


Christina Siegel said...

I love this post as I am in such a similar situation with eight persons to cater for. I have an extra disadvantage as I have no dryer at the moment and have to hang it out the "Irish way".
I use the box system by age as everyone is a year apart everyone gets there own box but I think I will use the dot system in future this is a great idea.
For socks I just buy tons of ones the same color we must have hundreds of navy blue ones for school. Every time I see them I buy them.
I like to be the only one using the washing machine as I find so often it can go wrong if left to others. My husband hasn't done laundry since we met!

Christina Siegel said...

correction their own box!

Auntie J said...

I use sock bags for my kids...I went out and bought two lingerie bags for each kid, labeled them with each child's initial, and they throw all their dirty socks into the sock bag. I just wash the bag, socks and all, and the kids have to fold their own socks when the bags come out of the dryer. It works great...unless we go on vacation and there's no sock bag for the kids to use. Each kid gets two because sometimes I don't get to the laundry in time to get the full sock bags washed and dried in the same day.

Anonymous said...

In my family each child was given diaper pins in one color and kids pinned their socks in pairs before throwing them down the chute. The pins are styled like safety pins but much bigger.

Kate Koreto said...

It is just me and my sister, but my Dad still can't tell our clothes apart, and that dot idea is genius!

Anonymous said...

I find the simplest way to deal with socks is the fold-over method. Since I was a kid I've been doing this ('twas just a natural thing for me, idk). I have 'instructed' each person in the house to fold over just the top of the sock before tossing. For example if you have kids with those elastic topped socks, they fold over just that portion allowing the sock to wash and dry but still stay intact. TADA! Never sort again

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