Monday, February 25, 2008

Laundry Day

So, Kate, the Picklebum Mum is doing a series on organization...I go read her blog and then feel the need to write about the same you can blame her for this post.

Also, you can blame the fact that I truly don't mind doing laundry. I accept that I'm abnormal in that...but I also suspect that the enjoyability quotient of doing laundry is directly linked to the organization of the process...


First of all, I must issue the disclaimer that my mother is the Queen of Organization. She is concrete sequential and very on top of things. She taught me everything I know, and I don't begin to compare to how well she pulls everything off... She has 9 children (I am the oldest). She homeschooled the lot of us, taught us all how to keep a home and run a house, and all on a single school teacher's income. My mom is amazing.

Secondly, the question has been raised about whether having more (or less) clothing makes laundry easier or harder. My experience has been that when you have more clothing to wear, you will wear it, and procrastinate on the laundry, leading to the virtually insurmountable Mount Laundry...on the other hand, if you have fewer things, then you will do laundry more often, BUT, it will be easier each time you do it, because there will be less to do. So I hold to my basic less is better theory.

I will begin by discribing my Mother's brilliant plan of attack. This is not to suggest that you, gentle reader, need to do the same thing...just a discription of one way to keep on top of massive amounts of laundry without losing your mind!

With 10 people in the house, mom had about 15 loads per week, so it was very organized. Laundry was done on certain days (M/W/F when I was in high school). There were 4-5 loads per washday, so she got it started early. She always scheduled outside appointments (dentist, lessons, etc) for non-laundry days. On laundry day, she was home, and could keep things moving along... That is essential! You will not get 5 loads done in one day if you are gone!

1--All laundry baskets were collected in the basement bathroom (where the washer and drier were) and it got sorted into loads all across the floor. Loads were as follows:
a--whites (underwear, white socks, light/white linens--hot wash)
b--lights/delicates (paler colors that won't bleed, bras, nylons, dress clothes--warm wash)
c--darks (jeans, dark tops, most socks--cold wash)
d--medium (as needed--stuff that falls between 'light' and 'dark' if those loads are too big--cold wash)
e--dark linens (dark towels, sheets, etc--done once a week--hot wash)
f--dark & dirty (as needed--grubby jeans, work clothes, etc--cold wash, extra rinses)
g--diapers (when applicable--usually done on their own schedule, not with other laundry)
(I still sort this way, and it drives me nuts if a white t-shirt goes in with the whites instead of the lights...I have accepted that this is not really a life-or-death situation, so I do not complain to Hubby about it, but it does make me a little bit crazy!)
2--one load would get sorted straight into the washing machine...the first one was usually going by 9am.
3--every hour or 90 min during the day, she would go down and 'move the laundry.' Whenever weather permitted, she hung them out on the line; when it did not, she used the drier...
4--all clean laundry got dumped on her bed. She had one small clothes basket for each family member--our names were written in marker on the basket. As she folded, she would drop our items into our basket. (If you dont' care about folding, so much the easier!). I think this is about the simplest, easiest way to do it. If you prefer, use those square laundry baskets, and give each child a place where they can keep the basket and just use it as clean-clothes-storage rather than a a step, make happy kids...I don't see why we make life so complicated for ourselves anyway. (Mom always said 'handle paper once' and the same applies--the fewer steps in the process, the less it wears you out!)
5--mom delivered the baskets to our rooms, but each child was then responsible to put away their own clothing. She put away linens.

Some people, like my mom, prefer to assign laundry days and get it all done then. Some people just do one load per day (doing whichever load needs it most at the moment). I think either way works, so long as you pick something and stick to it--isn't that the definition of 'routine'? I think the method you pick should reflect your personality--does it bug you if something is 'never done'? Then do it all in one day and have it 'done' even for a few brief hours! Are you constantly on the go, needing to leave the house every day? Then the one-load-a-day may suit you much better.
I used to have a set day when I washed all our clothing, but once we got our own machine I stopped doing that. I only have 2-3 loads to wash per week (plus diapers every third day) so it is not hard to keep up with it. As we have more kids, I will probably assign days. Currently, I do something more like the one-load-a-day, although not every day. We also have the rule that if you grab the last pair of socks or undies or pants from your drawer, you tell mom and she makes sure to do that load today. Wolf (age 7) is REALLY good about this. He had to wear dirty socks one day because he'd neglected to tell me, and I hadn't done the wash...and now he never forgets. Anyway, it breaks down to about once a week for whites, once a week for darks, and one other load (light/dark/medium, depending what we wore that week!) Every few weeks I do a load with the sheets etc, but there are few enough of us still that towels and washcloths just go in with the undies/socks.

Picklebum Mum made a comment about clothespins (she's down under and refers to them as 'pegs'), so I thought I'd give my take on them.
I don't use pins on things like sheets or tablecloths that will stay up by themselves.
I do not leave pins on the line, but just drop them all in a little pocket apron that I made. (something like the one pictured which I found here on etsy.) I tried leaving them on the line, and found that it took longer for me to unclip then re-clip them each time, rather than just grabbing a handful out of my handy apron...
I pin items up in whatever order I pull them out of the basket--with the single exception of socks, which I pin in pairs, by the toe. As I am taking down the socks, I roll the tops together, then remove the pin, and they fall into the basket already folded!
I overlap my pinning--which saves time and pins. By that I mean that I start with a towel, one pin on each side...but then as I put up the next item (say, a t-shirt), I use the second towel pin as the first t-shirt pin. So the fabrics overlap an inch or two on the line, and one pin holds the edges of both items. It does not seem to affect drying time, and it makes pinning up and taking down go much faster.
I do not fold as I take down, though some people do...for me it's easier to just drop it off the line and then carry it in to fold it, but not everyone agrees.

As for ironing--well, I don't like the effort of waiting for the iron to heat up, getting out the board, etc just for one item. SO, for the most part we don't get things that need ironing. The one exception is Hubby's work shirts. I still dont' want to do the work for one or two shirts though, so I just hang the wrinkly stuff in the back corner of the closet until I have 5-6 things there. Then I iron them all at once. I have a routine for ironing them (learned from my costuming days); it takes about 30 min to get it done, and is a once-a-month kind of thing. I told Hubby from the beginning that I would do it that way, and that if he needed a certain thing for a certain day to let me know, but that if he didn't tell me, then he could either iron it himself or wear something else. He has not done any ironing that I am aware of, and has only asked me for a certain thing twice.

The best tip I can give on stain removal is to get to the stain immediately--before laundry day. My son has been known to eat half a meal shirtless because he ran to put his spilled-on shirt in the sink mid-meal. Most any stain will come out easily if treated before it gets a chance to set. If it's very fresh, wash with hot water; if it's not so fresh, soak in cold water.
Somebody, (I think it was America's Test Kitchen) did a test of about 15 different types/brands of stain removers. They got lots of white t-shirts, and made spots of 6 classic stains (tomato, wine, chocolate, mustard, etc), and then used a different product on each one. The winner by far was Oxy-clean. Yes, the brand name--I rarely buy brand name anything, but this is one that is worth it to me. Oxy-clean requires you to soak the stained item for 30+ minutes before washing it, so you do have to plan ahead, but the results are worth it. I have gotten out 'set-in' stains with it on several occasions. Second runner up was basically any type of squirt-and-scrub cleaner, with plain sprays being last. I throw a little oxy-clean in with my white loads to help keep whites bright, and I also throw in a little with a grungy load when I have one.
For grungy loads (or just to make your soap go farther) consider adding cheap salt to your wash. Salt will help open up the fibers of the fabric, which helps the water get in and the dirt get out. I know people who wash with only salt and they say it is very effective.

A few specific stain treatments:
  • For blood (or other biological matter stains): hydrogen peroxide--put it straight on the stain, without water, and let it fizz for a minute. Rinse and repeat until stain is gone.
  • For grease: Dawn brand dishsoap--get area damp, scrub in a tiny bit of Dawn, scrnub scrub scrub, rinse. Repeat as needed. (Works on oven hoods as well as clothing!)
  • If you do not have oxy-clean, or want a little extra 'muscle' on something, try using a little powdered detergent mixed with just a little water. Make a paste, and then use it to scrub the spot...This is the budget stain remover, and works as well as most of the fancy sprays or scrubbers.
  • If clothing is really dirty (ie, actually has a lot of dirt in it), do a cold rinse prior to washing. Yup, just like diapers.

Well, so there you have it--another novel from me about how to make your life better...or more organized...or something.



katef - said...

wow! You are the laundry queen!!! I have learnt so much just by reading this... not least of which that you call pegs 'pins' - and I thought I was up on all my US lingo! ;)
I like the apron idea... that would be perfect for me with three different spots to hang laundry. Sadly I can't hang anything without pegs/pins as we live in the windiest place on earth (well ok maybe not THE windiest place but it is windy) and without pegs all mt sheets end up in the paddock! I am proud to report though I have washed to the bottom of one laundry basket today - only three more to go! LOL

baby~amore' said...

excellent advice - I needed to read this - I am going to make a peg apron - to save my little monkey's stealing them and the peg basket on the line ripping my hair out.

Aurora said...

Great idea about the apron!

Jenni said...

I hate laundry, and with 6 people and diapers, I have a ton! You're the second person to recently advise getting each person his own basket. I may have to do so.

Washing is not the problem, it's the folding and putting away. If I can get the kids to be more proactive (and hubby?) that may help solve my problem.

Thanks for a great post.

River said...

I don't mind doing laundry either. I've had 4 children (all grown and gone now)and from day one I only ever had one laundry basket. We didn't have many clothes so things were worn more than once, with spots etc being sponged out if the rest of the garment was clean enough for another wear. Naturally underwear and socks were changed daily. Washing was done twice a week, Saturdays all the kids clothes were washed, dried, folded, school dresses and shirts were ironed. Mondays mine and hubby's clothes were washed and all sheets and towels. Things were folded as they came off the line. Living in Australia I had a Hills Hoist washing line so each child's clothes were hung on a separate side of the line (I know, a little obsessive) so sorting was already done.Folded clothes were put on to the end of each child's bed and they did their own putting away after school. As they got older each child was taught to use the machine and by high school they did their own laundry if they couldn't wait till the weekend for a particular item of clothing.

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