Mary Mary and Martha · My world · Simplicity

Laundry – the system

I mentioned in my first article, briefly, about laundry systems.  Today I plan to expand on that a bit more.    The USDA survey on the cost of raising a child estimated that parents spend roughly $575 per child per year on clothing.  As with most things of this nature I look at that number and think, “Wow, that seems a bit high.”  But if I was buying everything for the children new, and including foot wear that seems a possible number.   No matter how you look at it clothing is an expense.  Caring for you clothing to keep it looking nicer longer makes sense on every level.   When you have a large family having a system is imperative.  I can think of nothing more frustrating that trying to get three, four or five children out the door while looking of missing socks, the favorite sweater, or the ballet tights that are hiding somewhere in the house only to be discovered under the bed and very dirty.

A long time ago I read about space planning and functionality.    It might even have been in college, but be that as it may, a large family either plans its space for functionality, luck out and creates systems naturally or it fights the chaos that lack of planning creates.  Laundry is no exception.

I view the laundry process as starting when the clothing is taken off.    Clothing coming off a person falls into about 5 categories: it is going to be worn again before it is laundered, it is going into the regular wash, it needs to be hand wash or dry cleaned, it is stained and needs treated, it is exceptionally dirty.  This is the break down of the decision point of the laundry system:

It is going to be worn again: Jackets, coats, “church clothes”, basically anything lightly worn that doesn’t need laundered gets a quick look over for any missed spots and then gets hung up and put away.

It is going into the regular wash: This is the bulk of our clothing.  These cloths go into the hamper in the room they are taken off in.  When I have fewer children (my mom’s system) the laundry was take to a central  hamper in the laundry room.  Or it got left on the floor of the bedroom or bathroom.  This can work for bigger families, but I have found it easier to have hampers in dressing areas so that young children can drop their laundry into it themselves without having to leave the room.

It needs to be hand wash or dry cleaned: These items are mostly mine to start with, they have their own small hamper in the closet in my room.  When the children are wearing something special that needs hand washed or dry cleaned I will make sure that it gets separated.

It is stained and needs treated:  The best time to catch a stain is when it happens, the next best is when it is taken off.  If something has a stain my goal is to nab it right after it is taken off, take it to the laundry room, treat it with the appropriate stain remover and sort it for washing.  Sometimes I miss this and don’t catch it until it is gone into the wash.

It is exceptionally dirty: Every mother is experienced with this one.  I cringe to remember nights where one or more child was ill and vomit covered laundry dominated my life for the day, toilet training accidents,  “Mommy we were playing farm and I got to be the PIG!” – mud covered things can not go into the wash right off.  These items don’t even get sorted.  They just get dealt with.  Sometimes a bucket soak or sink rinse is called for, other times the soak cycle on the washer is needed.  On rare occasions I have looked at something and said, “this is not worth it, I would pay the cost to replace this item rather than wash it”, and out it goes.

Step Two:

Once items make it to the laundry room they are sorted into five baskets.  There is a small basket of kitchen laundry,  the laundry room is right next to the kitchen and I dislike having the dish clothes and such in with the other laundry.  There are also four tall hamper baskets that clothing is sorted into as it comes into the laundry room.  Darks, bath towels, lights and whites (bleach-able) clothing each have their own basket.  Things that need to go through the delicate cycle go into a small basket on the top of the dryer.  In part this system developed because no one hamper was quite big enough for the job and in part because of the system I used while living in an apartment building.  Presorting the laundry makes life that much easier for me.  

While the laundry is being sorted it is given a quick check to make sure there are no missed stains, rips that would be made worse in the wash.  Pockets are checked, zippers zipped, everything is turned right side out or inside out depending on the washing instructions.   One of the nice side effects to the multi-basket system is that it is very easy to see when we are falling behind on the laundry or on a certain aspect (bath towels is the winner here).  It is also a good reality check for the clothing glut issue.  If I can’t sort all the clothing into these baskets then we have accumulated too much.

When a load is ready to be started we pull it out from the hampers.  I try to check again for stains, open closures, turned pant legs, folded socks and the like.  You might have noticed that I have a lot of redundant checking in the system.  This is an example of “the plan” vrs. “the reality”.  In the plan everyone cleans out their pockets, turns out their clothing and let’s me know if there is a stain.  In reality, pens are stuck in pockets of jeans with underwear and socks tangled in the inside out pant legs and since I may not be the one checking for these things in one particular step it make sense for me to check on all the steps rather than deal with the mess afterwards.

 coming soon… Washing, drying, ironing and all that sort of thing

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