When I first got married, laundry was my favorite chore.
I know, I know–crazy, right?
But you see–back then, it was just my and hubby’s clothes that I had to wash. I loved pulling each load out of the warm dryer, folding (and even–shock!–ironing!) them, and it didn’t take long at all to tuck them inside their proper drawers and hang them in the closet because there was really such little laundry to do in the first place.
Fast forward nine years: I’ve discovered that laundry for 5 people is way more work than laundry for 2!
For the past several years, laundry has been my arch nemesis. I would catch up; then I’d fall behind. Over and over again.
During the busiest of seasons a Mount Laundry will cover our entire closet floor!
Until…I discovered this wonderful shelf on Craigslist. (You know we actually furnished our house via Craigslist, right?)
The funny part is that I didn’t pay attention to the shelf’s dimension’s in the listing. I envisioned it as being much, much smaller. (We’re talking 1/3 to 1/4 of the height that it turned out to be!)
We needed a corner shelf for our half bathroom, and I thought it would be perfect.
When the seller brought this shelf to his front door, my eyes must have opened really wide because he immediately said: “Is this not what you were expecting?”
“Well, no,” I stammered. “But, um, I can make it work.”
But there was no way that huge shelf was going to fit in my bathroom. It towered above me. I have never measured it, but I imagine it’s at least six feet tall!
And then it hit me one day: This Craigslist shelf could totally revolutionize my laundry routine!
Check out my revolutionized laundry routine:
1. I keep one family dirty clothes’ hamper in our bedroom closet.
This hamper is divided into four sections–one section for darks, one for lights, one for whites and one for hand washables or delicate items.
I got my divided hamper at Wal-Mart, but it is very similar to this one.
My mentor/life coach, Holly, recommended I start using a family clothes hamper, and it has been a lifesaver!
Before, I was using several different baskets, and they just took up way too much space and were always overflowing.
2. I do one load of laundry each day.
I have always liked the one-load-per-day method, but I still easily got behind before because I realized I was fitting way too much laundry into the machine because my baskets were too big!
Then, I would get behind on folding because there was just too much to fold in a short sitting.
Each of the divided bags is big enough for a full load, but it doesn’t hold so much that it will be too much to fold.
Our laundry room is located upstairs, in between our bedrooms, so I try to start a load before we all come downstairs.
When I hear the washing machine stop, I will run back upstairs to throw the load in the dryer (or hang things on my drying rack).
Later in the day, usually around the time I take our 1 1/2-year-old upstairs for her nap, I will sit down for a few minutes to fold.
3. As I am folding, I place each girl’s clothes in her own fabric box.
I assigned each girl a color, and the older two girls–age 5 1/2 and 3 1/2–know their colors.
When I finish folding, I do not usually put the clothes away right away. (I usually do not have that much concentrated time!).
4. I place the boxes on the Craigslist tower shelf.
I assigned each girl a shelf, and her colored box always goes in the same spot.
I purposely placed the older two girls’ boxes within their reach, and I placed my 1 1/2-year-old’s where I can reach it (because there is no need for her to do so right now).
Here is where the fun part comes in…
5. I put the contents of each box away–in my spare time.
Each box is so small that it only takes a few seconds to a minute to put away the contents. With this method, I can literally put away their laundry in different short bouts throughout the day.
Another HUGE advantage is that the kids are able to put their own laundry away! At this point, they mostly still ask me before they do it, but I am hoping one day they will just take the initiative and do it!
When I ask the girls to put their clothes away, they simply grab their own box and go at it!
What about the adult laundry?
I place mine and my husband’s clothes in a separate basket. I keep this larger basket in our closet or bedroom (or hallway, near the laundry room) with our clean clothes.
Yes, these take longer to put away, but it’s still a much simpler system than when I was placing all 5 of our clothes in that one basket!
This method of laundry:
1. Maximizes my time.
2. Simplifies my life.
3. Teaches responsibility (to my children!).
That Craigslist find? It wasn’t what I thought it would be, but it was one of my best discoveries ever.
Not sure you’ll be able to find a shelf like this on Craigslist? You can also check yard sales, consignment stores or thrift stores. Or, I think something like this shelf or even this one would work.
Do you love or hate laundry? What are your tips for how to revolutionize your laundry routine?
Need more laundry help?
Check out Taming the Laundry Monster by Angi Schneider. In Angi’s own words:
“If you are regularly overwhelmed and frustrated with laundry, there’s hope. This book will help you think through your schedule and systems and develop a plan that is unique for your unique family.”
Disclosure: I have included affiliate links in this post.
Are you a homemaker in need of help?!
This system totally works….I already do it everyday (with the exception of the time I do my laundry–in Canada, it’s substantially cheaper to use energy at off times-so after 7pm–that’s why it’s important the loads be small enough to put away-cause it’s bedtime for me when it’s finally done)
Anyways-I feel like I have found a partner in crime by reading your blog–I have 3 girls who are 19 months, just turned 4ys and just turned 6yrs. My hubby is a teacher and I left my job 6 years ago to stay home with my kids. It’s difficult but worth it. I budget everything….food IS expensive-especially organic so I also make everything from scratch. Except bread-I buy that is already made!
It sounds like we have SO much in common! Where do you live in Canada? We spent a semester in Vancouver, BC (Burnaby) 5 years ago–loved it!
Our girls are 20 months, 3 1/2 (4 in October) and will turn 6 in June–so super close to yours!
I need to try the night laundry thing because I recently read that it’s supposed to be cheaper at night here, too.
Thanks for writing! Nice to “meet” you, Michelle! 🙂
I live in Northern Ontario. And yes, nice to “meet” you 🙂
Erin, do you have any idea what the maker of this shelf is or where else to find it? I’min a similar situation! Thanks!
I don’t, Emily. 🙁 But at the bottom of the post I link to a couple from Amazon that I think could work. I think just about any tower shelf would do!
I have simplified my laundry burden by setting aside laundry for 2 days a week. Friday and Monday. Then I do 3 loads each day. And weekdays and weekends are organized and we have the clothes we love to wear. And I’m never feeling overwhelmed with chores. My house stays relatively clean because I have house rules about putting it up if you take it out and dishes are loaded in dishwasher by each person and started every morning and unloaded before dinner is fixed. I love a clean house and I want my family to be vested in it also.
Sounds like you have a great system worked out!
Luckily we have closet space. We have separate hampers for whites, colors, darks, and sheets/towels in those. I do 2 loads per day 3 days a week, none on weekends. I taught my kids early to do their own. They each have their own day. If you don’t put them together to wash then you don’t have to sort them out afterwards. When I had four kids at home that was huge! I also stands at the dryer and fold as I remove them so whatever is carried to a room is ready to put away. Never has been my favorite chore but we are usually on top of it like this.
Sounds like you have a great system!
How old were your kids when they started doing their own?
I LOVE your blog! I was almost in tears reading your ‘staying at home with your kids when you can barely afford it’ post…I haven’t had a job in going on 4yrs and have 3 LO’s under 4 but that post and everything I’ve read of yours so far is such a blessing and encouragement to me. I don’t have much family support about staying home except from my hubby, my mother and a couple close friends. So you really touch me right where I’m at and knowing there really are other moms like me out there with the same vision and mission has helped me get through hard days better.
I do have comments regarding the laundry too! 🙂 I was an only child so I was doing my own laundry by about 12 and my mom was raised by a single mom so we’re a pretty self-sufficient bunch, and I had the same sentiment when I was newly wed about the laundry. Now….not so much, I really do wish I was better at laundry and it kills me when my hubby ends up doing his own because having a newborn, a toddler and a preschooler ties me up so much and exhuasts me that I can hardly keep us in clean clothes. But I know this is just a season and I hope to someday soon have our own place again and go back to doing laundry about the way you do. I just don’t have a handy shelf like that yet, but thanks for the idea and honesty so us others that are in the same boat have hope! God bless!
It’s nice to “meet” you, Rebekah! It sounds like we have a lot in common! I remember the newborn+toddler+preschool days all together being so hard, but we seem to be in a new season with a toddler and 2 preschooler now, and my 5-year-old can actually change and dress the 1-year-old!
I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who liked laundry during the newlywed season! 🙂
For my family of four, I keep it simple by keeping the kids’ laundry separate from the adults’ laundry and from there I DON’T SEPARATE MY LAUNDRY. The kids’ laundry is done once or twice a week, the adults’ is done once a week, and diaper laundry gets rinsed as soon as it’s off the bum and I wash it once a week. All shirts are hung, so no wasting time folding and stuffing drawers and constantly straightening drawers! 3 or 4 loads of laundry a week? No prob! Diaper laundry only gets folded as I use it unless I feel like it. 🙂
To keep my dirty diapers from stinking I rinse and dry them all at the end of each day, since I’m only part-time CDing. That’s why I only wash them once a week and how I keep them from going rancid. 😛
Since I only have one kid in diapers now, I mostly only wash dipes once/week, too!
Sounds like a good system for you! Yeah–I don’t fold dipes much anymore either! LOL
Wow, this is still a ton of work. In our house, everyone helps, which makes all tasks so much easier. My kids are 6 & 7 and they are more than capable of hanging up most of their own laundry. My husband helps put his away and usually prefers to do his own load once per week on the weekends, separately from the kids’ clothes. I’m amazed at women who take on the entire burden of domestic duties on their own, especially with many children in the home. I used to do it before I remarried and it was exhausting! It was actually my husband who suggested teaching the kids to take on some chores and responsibilities and I’m very grateful for that. They earn money for doing the dishes, which makes cooking so much more enjoyable for me and they clean their rooms and put away their own clothing and toys as part of their daily routine. It also gives the kids a sense of pride and accomplishment to have responsibilities. I highly recommend it!
Sounds like you have a great system! My hubby hates laundry. LOL We love how this system is teaching our girls how to put away their own clothes, and, hopefully, when they are a bit older (they are 1,3 and 5 now), they will be tall enough to hang things and can even wash and dry on their own!
We are a family of 5. Monday is laundry day, I do 4 -5+ loads throughout the day, the bigger kids help switch loads, I fold and the kids put away their own away. If I cant get it all done on Monday I finish up Tuesday. Once complete we don’t do laundry again till next Monday. Works for us! I cant stand the stress of having never ending laundry to do.
It sounds like you have a good system worked out!
Laundry is my NEMESIS! I easily do 10 loads a week, for the 7 of us. I do the kids clothes together, adult laundry, towels/bedding, and diapers (we have 2 in diapers). I can get it clean but struggle to get it folded and put away. I have recently decided to pay my 7 and 5 year old to fold. They have really taken over, and I have let “my way” of folding go.
Went and picked up 3 fabric boxes today and am going to give it a shot! I seem to be forever buried in laundry. I’m not worried about the shelf thing, I think it will work just fine without it. Heres to no more laundry piles lol.
My four children are older (11, 12, 14, 16) so this method works best for us: I wash/dry a load a night. I take the freshly dried items to the kitchen and place each persons clothes on the back of their chair. They are then called into grab their laundry and go to their rooms to fold/hang up their clothes. 😉 I LOVE having older children!
Cool idea! I cannot seem to get the hang of daily laundry… I do think in part it’s because my house is three stories – the bedrooms on the top, the laundry in the basement and living in the middle. To do even one load is maddening and hauling it up and down a pain. Plus, with my four kids, our life is chaotic- 2-3 days out of the house, then a day at home. I find what works best for me is to aim for laundry every other day, with a “fallback” of every third day. If I can start and push through most of the laundry the first day, fold and put it away the second, then reset after, I’m doing well. If life gets in the way and it goes 3 days I’m still ok. It’s when it goes beyond that that I start to get in trouble (which is where I’m at right now – started laundry Saturday, put away half Monday, still haven’t put the rest away today AND I need to start the new loads too).
One of my tricks: I don’t sort kid clothes before washing. We wash everything on cold, so no need to separate darks and lights most of the time. This way, I can gather up their whole bin when I have a spare minute and get it going quickly.
I bet you’re not too far from having the kids put all their own clothes away. My boys are 6 and 4 and they put all their own laundry away. I usually fold while they’re in the bath at night, so after they have PJs on, they run back and forth from laundry room to their room, carrying socks, pants, shirts, underwear… one trip at a time. Gets out those remaining wiggles before bedtime!
Our system is a little different, but I really like it so I’ll share. 🙂
My kids are 6, 4, 2 next month and due this summer.
Our bedroom is by the kitchen/laundry and their room is upstairs.
We do laundry 2 days a week so it’s not “constant!” And there is a laundry basket for dirty clothes in each closet (3). Mon AM the kids bring their basket down and we dump all three baskets and they sort darks, brights and whites back into the three baskets. We run the loads through the AM while we do school and then have a folding party after naptime on my bed. The 6 year old folds hers and the 2 yr olds. The 4 year old handles his own and I’m back to folding just me and dear husbands. Score! Though I’ll be adding newborn to my list again soon. 🙂
Then we take one basket of kids clothes upstairs and I help them out it away. Done.
Thursday laundry is more towels/sheets/kitchen laundry and they fold hand towels and washcloths. These things never go in a dirty basket, I just collect and take straight to the machine.
Systems are awesome!! And I love having 5 days “off” from laundry. 🙂
I just wanted to say that I LOVE your $15 craigslist find….
Also, I am truly blessed…because I have a hubby who does most of the laundry. God bless that man for being more particular about the wash than I am…
May your wash be done smoothly, and in record time!
Sounds like an awesome system! I love the different colored fabric boxes for each child. Laundry, and dishes lol, are the 2 chores I have always struggled with the most. Not because it’s hard or that I really dislike doing them but because they seem to multiply out of NOWHERE!!!! lol I used to do a load, or 2 or 3, a day but still it never seemed done. Then, I’d get fed up and discouraged and get way behind til I had mountains upon mountains of laundry just taunting me! Did I mention we are a family of 7? I have 5 children ages 15,13,11,2, and 5 months PLUS a husband who works 2 jobs. One of those jobs require uniforms for which I am responsible to keep clean. I easily do 8-10 loads of laundry each week, but I do believe we finally found a system that works AND helps me not to lost my sanity! Part of my problem before was my older children not putting their dirty clothes in the hamper, even though I have one in the rooms, 2 in the bathroom, etc they just couldn’t seem to do it. Drove me insane! So, our system now goes like this. On Monday and Thursday evenings they know they are to clean their rooms and place ALL dirty laundry in their basket and put outside their bedroom door. The following day, Tuesday and Fridays are my “wash” day. I will wash, dry, and place back in the basket their clean clothes but it is their responsibility to fold, hang and put away. This still leaves me with 2 little ones and a husband that I have to fold and put away but it’s much less that doing it all for 7 and amazingly it works! The best thing is that I know I only have to do laundry 2 days a week except for the occassional extra load, so I don’t feel like I’m losing myself to Mt. Laundry and my washing machine is not constantly going! I have finally conquered the MOUNTAIN OF DREAD!!!!!! LOL
Laundry is actually one chore that I mostly enjoy, but I still can get behind and overwhelmed easily. The only part I dislike is putting them all away. After I fold, I put them in baskets based on room they are going to (my three boys share a room). I have two baskets for the boys’ room – a dresser basket, and a closet basket because I hate walking back and forth. Eventually I will split them up by kid, like you do , so they can put their own clothes away. We are a family of six, kids ages 7, 5, 4 & 1. I try to get all the clothes washed after church on Sundays and then I usually fold on Monday afternoon while all the kids are in quiet time/nap. I set myself up in front of a good tv show or something on Netflix 🙂 In the winter I usually have about 5-6 loads/week and then a diaper load and maybe sheets/towels. Now that it is summer it has slimmed down to 2-3 loads, yay for less bulk! I will occasionally run a load at some other point in the week if I need something cleaned right away, but I never fold that load until I do the rest. We have enough space in the laundry room that I can leave the clean clothes in there until I am ready to fold and it doesn’t bother me. I find I am more efficient if I fold them all at the same time rather than spread out over the week. One thing I do to cut time is to do a pre-sort of the clothes I am folding. It may seem like it will add time, but it somehow makes the job go faster for me. So, I will sit on the couch with the coffee table in front of me. I have designated “spots” around me on the table and couch, for each type of clothes. They go in the same spots every time. I sort all my baskets into: boy’s pants, boy’s shirts, boy’s pj’s, baby girl clothes (her’s are so little I just put them together), my clothes, husbands clothes, husband’s white undershirts (there are a lot of these), large towels/sheets, and odds & ends (socks, underwear, small towels, etc.). I then take each pile and sort them individually, always leaving the odds & ends to last because i don’t like folding socks 🙂 Like I said, it sounds like more work, but once I got it down I was able to fold my laundry in half the time. Sorry this is so long! I love your blog by the way 🙂
Just now reading this, but here is my system! I love doing laundry, so it’s not a big deal, but we have a lot, and I don’t want to spend my life doing laundry. We have one big hamper and I take it downstairs every other day and sort it immediately into four categories, clothes, towels, jeans, and bedding. I do one load from each category, fold it as soon as it comes out of the dryer, and put it into bins. One bin for each person, in the living room. As soon as each person comes home from school or work, he or she is required to put their bin away. It’s part of their chores. Since I only do laundry three times a week, it takes less time, and I usually only have to do the four loads. In summer I have them put it away as soon as it is folded. I just put some movie on Netflix and fold away. Also in summer I often have to do two loads of clothes instead of one, but it’s no big deal!
It’s great to see everyone’s ideas on the laundry battle 🙂 I use to love it as well. I try to do the kids laundry on separate days than my husband and mine. I’m a crafter, so I’ve labeled my then 3yr old and 5 yr drawers with vinyl. Although my 3 yr old couldn’t read, my five year old caught on really quickly. I went over the system with my 3 yr old and within a few days she caught on too. My 5 yr old would help her from time to time, but for the most part she caught on. I’ve got to look into finding one of those shelves. It would make it easier for them to just take their own bin to put up their clothes.
This is pretty similar to my system. I have four laundry hampers- each has a photo taped to the side. Jeans for darks, socks for white/lights, towels, and a school uniform.
For our individual baskets we have 31 gifts bags. They have one called the large utility tote, and they are amazing!!! My kids are 12, 10, 9, and 6, so our clothes are getting bigger, but I can still fit anything I wash into their basket.
We each have our own print, which thankfully they have tons of prints to choose from.
I “try” to have the kids get their laundry bag three times a a week and put their clothes away. Some weeks that works… Others….. 🙂
That’s so smart! Wish I had thought of that when my boys were little. Now it is back to just my hubby and me and laundry is no big deal again. You are so creative!
It dawned on me recently why laundry wasn’t a challenge in my newlywed days–it was just the two of us!
I am so extremely greatfull to have a washing machine. Growing up ,handwash was the way to go,and to this day i am totally loving having a washing machine. I do a load every evening ,hang it up in the morning fold it or iron it right after lunch.
No dyer,dishwasher or vacum in this house.
Wow!! I am so grateful too.