I think one of the most dreaded words in a mom’s mind is laundry. I never particularly hated it, but I did have to admit it took a huge chunk of my life. Because it never ended. It was a continuous cycle of washing, drying, folding, and putting away. I had a huge laundry chair. It was like a mini sofa, and I usually had piles of clean laundry surrounded by little stacks of half-folded clothing. Thank goodness no one actually needed to sit in that chair. They’d be out of luck!
I hear a lot of women complaining about their own endless laundry cycles, and I get it. Totally. I never really minded the washing part, but after that it usually unraveled. I mean, I wish I had a dollar for every time I forgot the wet clothes in the washer. That would usually mean washing them again. Heck, sometimes I’d be so busy that I remembered to put them in the dryer, but would forget to start it! Typically, though, they lay dormant in the dryer for much of the week.
“Honey,” my husband would ask. “Have you seen my favorite shorts?”
I’d call out, “have you checked the dryer?”
Yep. The dryer. The land where clothing is forgotten. No problem, though. There was always more clothes to choose from in the abundant closets and drawers.
Ah, yes. The closets. God gave me girls, and with my first daughter I discovered I loved dressing them! I would stop on my lunch break to buy a new outfit, or I would frequent consignment sales for frilly, Sunday dresses. I would hang them neatly in a row. We could have a new dress for each church day of the season, and of course shoes to match! I loved little pajama sets, ruffle pants, and well, basically anything. I loved buying little girl clothing!
Now, here’s what rarely happened. The clothes getting put away in a timely manner. Never could get to it. One pile became two, and only when they were falling down would I rush to put stuff away. My daughters weren’t much help. Even when they did start getting old enough to help put clothes away, they were overwhelmed by the task. As overwhelmed as me. I had to hang the dresses for them, and their drawers were usually too packed for them to add anything to them.
Here are some laundry facts pertaining to children:
Children get dirty. They use their sleeves as napkins, they like playing in dirt and mud, and if they’re eating, it will end up on their clothes.
In fact, if you say, “be careful not to get that ______ on your shirt,” they will definitely get it on their shirt.
Children put clean laundry in the dirty laundry.
You ask, “how did this basket get so full so quick?!”
Easy answer. They put clean clothes in there. They put clothes they tried on for two seconds in there. They put clothes they didn’t want to put away in there. They change clothes frequently for no reason, and it all ends up in there. They don’t do laundry. They’re not mindful of what they put in there. You will probably find doll clothes, stuff that hasn’t fit in over a year, and clothes you were certain you got rid of in the dirty clothes basket.
You cannot keep up with children’s laundry. The moment you wash it all, they are in the process of dirtying more. So you never really finish.
Accept this and come along with me. Doing laundry with children is a bad deal, but I feel like I finally figured out how to make the best of it.
We downsized. The cluttered closets and overflowing drawers? We got rid of it. All of it. I had boxes and bags of favorite dresses I passed down through my daughters, but then I also bought more. It. Was. Too. Much. The majority of us have too much! We spend a fortune back-to-school shopping, and half of what we buy is so our children look good. For other people. It’s silly. Hey, I did it myself. I bought outfits that photographed well. I bought outfits that were for a single event, such as Easter, a wedding, or a party. So, not only did I waste money, but I also created a never-ending supply of clothes to get dirty. It’s a fact. The more clothes you have, the more laundry you do.
This is a picture of totes my children put their clothes in. It was hard to give up all the many, many cute outfits I had “invested” in, but we really had too much. And if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll admit your kids have too much also. We can’t really keep complaining about the problems we create. I mean, we can, but it’s much better to solve them instead.
I cut the girls’ wardrobes down to enough articles of clothing to last them about two weeks at the most. I also did this for myself. It was really hard, but if you take an inventory of your closet you’ll realize you only wear maybe 1/4 of it anyway.
If I had not worn it in six months, out it went.
If I still hadn’t lost enough baby weight to fit into my favorite jeans from high school, it was time to let them go.
Your children have favorites too.
“I want to wear the unicorn shirt!!”
I realized I couldn’t hold on to clothes I liked for my children. If they didn’t like it, I let it go.
Children are tough on clothes.
They outgrow them quickly.
I stopped breaking the bank for name brands. I stopped loading up on gorgeous dresses I would only let them wear for special occasions. If they couldn’t play in it, out it went. We downsized our clothing to what would fit in a suitcase a piece. And the pieces we selected were interchangeable, easily laundered, not elaborate, easily stored, and truly our favorites (downsized favorites).
Next, I changed the way I did laundry. This section may not settle well with some, and that’s ok. To each their own, but it’s a good idea sometimes to explore why we approach things the way we do. It’s interesting to see how modern society has led us to perform tasks. There are some things I began to rethink as my circumstances changed. It’s quite easy to throw everything in the hamper when your washer is two steps away, but take away that convenience and mindsets change.
When I was a missionary in the interior of South America I remember hand washing my clothes with a bar of soap in the river. And hey, I’m not telling anyone to pull out a washtub and scrub board, but I am suggesting you ask yourself how you might approach laundry if it wasn’t so convenient.
We found ourselves living a traveling lifestyle where we didn’t have a washer and dryer in our home anymore. We now had to make a trip to the laundry mat, and while sometimes it was just a short walk away, not being able to switch it out during a commercial break, or paying quarters upon quarters to do it made a difference. When doing laundry became less easy I gave myself permission to re-evaluate my definition of dirty.
If you wear a shirt to an office job in air conditioning for eight hours, is it dirty?
Hey, that’s up to you to answer. I’m just saying, if you reassessed your idea of what requires laundering, would it really, really be dirty?
Let’s say your children sit at home all day while it rains and don’t get any viewable stain on their clothing? Is it dirty?
Ok, you can’t budge me on the underwear issue. People in my house change their undies and wash their booties every day, but with that in mind, is a towel dirty after just one use? What about two? Or three? My laundry usually consists of more panties than anything.
Did your mom teach you to wash your linens every week? Did her mom teach her that? If you’re showering before bed and not sweating in your sheets, how dirty do they get? Are you wearing muddy cleats to bed? If your comforter never touches your body, is it dirty within the week too?
Do you do a sniff test of your husband’s shirt? If there’s no visible stains on the preschooler’s outfit, can’t she wear it again tomorrow? Who’s she trying to impress on the playground? Is there a societal rule that says a kid has to change outfits every day? Hey, I’m just asking. I will say, the best part about moving to a large city with no one around that you know is that you don’t really care what your kid wears to Walmart. Just saying.
If something makes you miserable or stressed out (like, laundry, per se), why not simplify the process?
And before you judge my stinky kids (wink, wink), who by the way, do not smell bad (or really bad, anyway), just realize you’ll also never hear me lamenting about laundry. True story.
The last thing I did was simplify my most dreaded part of the monster that is laundry. Folding. I stopped it, all together. Well, I still fold my own clothes, but I stopped trying to do things that others would only undo.
What happens when you put folded clothes in your child’s drawer? They sift through there and upend all your hard work, right? You leave a nice, tidy drawer that easily closes. They, on the other hand, leave a disheveled pile of wrinkled clothes crammed into a drawer, coming out the top of a now unclose-able drawer. Sound familiar?
So, I stopped folding clothes they would just pull out and not put back properly. Each child has one tote for shirts, one tote for shorts (pants in the winter), and one drawer for panties, socks, and limited pajamas.
I don’t match socks. It’s a pointless exercise. Kids don’t care if socks match; why should I?
I wash the clothes. I don’t separate colors from whites. Gasp!! Y’all, this is an outdated concept. Your grandma did whites alone so she could use really hot water to get the stains out, but the detergents and stain removers on the market today can work very efficiently in cold water. Unless you have a brand new, red article of clothing that is a material composition that bleeds, there’s no reason to separate into colors or temps. I wash everything in the same temp, all together. All my stains come out, all my clothes are clean and wonderful smelling, and are undamaged in the wash. We don’t have to wash anything on delicate, or dry clean, and this is because of the low maintenance lifestyle we have adopted. It’s ok if you don’t agree with my practices, but I thought I’d share so someone else can feel the freedom to loosen the reigns of laundry stress.
After washing and drying I will have each child bring me their totes into the living room. I will separate according to who’s whose, and toss the top or bottom into the appropriate tote. Then they take the totes back to the shelf in their room. This process makes it easy for them to put away their own clothes, pick out their own clothes, and since there’s not tons of clothing pressed together, it doesn’t get wrinkled. But what of it even if it did? Childhood isn’t about creases and designer labels, in my humble opinion. It’s about having fun and being loved! Less clothing and laundry makes life more fun and easy to love in our experience. No worries over what to wear, no concerns over what someone else will think, and no laundry chair. Thank goodness!
Currently, I do about three loads of laundry every two weeks for a family of five. And one load of that is my scrubs I wear to work at the hospital. That’s like, the only laundry I’m really particular about. Lol.
Of note, my children are 8, 6, and 3. This is what works now, but I’m sure it will change as we change. What I do know is that I refuse to stress about laundry. Life is simply too short! It’s like dusting. Sure, I could spend a lot of time doing it, but isn’t my time better spent with the people I love? I think so.
So, is it time to re-evaluate how you do laundry?