There are many excellent reasons to simplify. I expect my reasons to develop over time, but the most immediate reason for me was…laundry. Several years ago I had my sons bring all the laundry down to the basement one day and it was a literal mountain.
That was one of the times that both threw me into despair and also caused me to want change and simplify.
A Season for Change
There are times in our lives when we can act on our desires for change. There are times in our lives when we are just too tired or busy – or both! On that day when the laundry was literally towering next to me in the basement, I was overwhelmed, but I didn’t really know what to do about it. I had two young children, a baby and I was most likely very sleep deprived. I was also cloth diapering! I was in a season where I was just doing the next thing that I thought needed to be done.
It’s not until this past year, when my youngest son entered a full day pre-K program, that the desire for change and the time and energy to invest in change aligned. I’ve worked part-time since my youngest was born and really enjoyed our “mommy days” as he called them. When he entered school this past Fall, I noticed that I was spending a good chunk of my off days doing household work – particularly laundry!
When I dreamt about what I might be able to do with these several hours of available time – I thought about passions I had in the past, ways my heart had been tugged and places I thought about serving and volunteering my time. There hasn’t been time to act on these ideas, however, because taking care of laundry and other household tasks has been dominating my time off. That’s not the way I wanted to spend those extra hours.
So once again I faced that mountain of laundry – but this time I knew what I had to do.
3 Steps to Simplify Your Laundry Routine
1. Really look at the clothes and deal with them – I had to stop myself from just washing the clothes and mindlessly putting them back in the drawers. For the children’s clothes – If it was too small, it went in the donate pile. If it was too old or worn, it went in the scrap/recycle pile.
I’m teaching my children to do the same now. If they don’t like a piece of clothing, or know it is too small for them, I am asking them to put it in the donate bag (aka Trader Joe’s grocery bags – a decluttering staple around here!).
2. Reduce the amount of clothes. Only keep clothes that we enjoy wearing. I recently went through our clothes using the Konmari Method and significantly reduced the whole family’s clothes. I noticed that my middle son is not bent towards reducing his items – clothes or otherwise. He’s also my child that used to change clothes several times a day on a whim. I’ve made the decision to observe what his favorite pieces are and reduce some of his clothes without his permission. He hasn’t noticed. Having fewer clothes allows him to wash and wear clothes he loves rather than resorting to wearing whatever is clean.
3. Teach your children how to do their laundry. My two oldest sons now do their own laundry. This has been a process of figuring out the best system to put in place. I used to have one hamper for both of them but figured out that they each need their own hamper and their clothes need to be kept separate. Neither one of them is willing to wash each other’s clothes.
My oldest took to doing laundry quickly and has developed the habit to do his load of laundry on Sunday nights (folding and putting away is another thing). My middle son still needs to be reminded and he complains, but he’s getting the hang of it. The habit is forming. My youngest is too young to do laundry, but he’s great at putting his clothes in his laundry basket.
Reducing the amount of things to take care of, setting systems in place, and fostering independence in my children is ultimately making space in my schedule for pursuing other passions.
Missing sock mates are still the bane of my laundry existence, but it’s getting so much better now that we have less laundry!
How do you keep your laundry at bay? Any clever ideas for single socks – other than rags?
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Missing socks . . .
Where possible, I try to ensure they go into the washer together – my first wash every weekend is all the socks and underwear and anything else that needs the same temperature and fits in at the same time.
Then I pair them up as they come out and I hang them up. So when I go to put them away, they are already paired.
If I do find a stray one., I make sure it is separate from the others when hanging, so I can easily see it and reunite it with its pair if that one appears in the next wash.
Usually that’s enough, but if not, I keep any strays in an obvious place where I would never normally keep anything else. In my case, it’s the window sill above where my drier is. I’m keen to keep that clear, so a stray sock really stands out. Then I know where it is, and I can reunite it when the other one gets through the system.
I don’t think I’ve ever lost a sock in the wash. If you think you have, are you sure you don’t really have two identical odd socks, each in a different place, waiting for its pair? Trying to keep them together in the first place, and having one specific and visible place for those that get separated are the keys for me.
Marjorie – good idea! I have a bin of socks missing it’s mate – you see it dumped out in the blog post! It is getting smaller as we reduce our clothes. I’ll have to try a hanging line of strays!
It was a matter of survival for my kids to learn to do their laundry at a pretty early age, since there are quite a few of them. I had to let go of perfection, obviously, but there’s a point at which it’s “the next big thing” at a certain age, a rite of passage. At the opposite extreme is students going off to college to have never done their own laundry and do not have any idea of the basic parts of the process. So I think it’s a win-win overall.
I love the reminder to not mindlessly do laundry. I am in the habit of this and then my children end up with all of these clothes sitting in their drawers and closets that don’t even fit. Thanks for your tips!
Thanks Marie. I agree – it took the mountain of laundry to get me to pay attention!
Wendi @ H2OBungalow says
Such usefull information here! Being mindful is much easier when your clued in to areas that need attention. I enjoyed your post. This is so important for small home dwellers too, since space is always at a premium!
Thank you for stopping by Wendy! I’m learning to be mindful in many areas of my life and it is helpful.
I have recently made two discoveries with laundry… 1)get rid of clothes we don’t wear 2)do one wash a day.. Wash.dry. Fold. Put away. Best change I ever made.
Totally agree with #1! I haven’t had success with a load a day. I do laundry the nights before my days off when they don’t get left in the washer for days!
Sarah Washburn says
Wonderful ideas … thanks for sharing. ~Sarah (visiting from Radical Femininity)
Thanks for coming by Sarah!
lydia purple says
hi, i just came over from nony… about socks. if you don’t need to be super frugal right now, throw out all the socks and buy new ones but be smart. one kind of socks for each person. (buy a pack of ten of the same color, but assign a different color to each family member…. like husband – black, boy 1 – grey, boy 2 – navy, …) this way each sock matches any other of that person, and if you find a stray sock, you know who it belongs to according to color).
if i could, i would make the whole family wear flip flops all summer long. no more socks!
Hi Lydia – we don’t have to be super frugal, but I don’t know if I’d be able to give up perfectly good (and matched) socks! I’ll keep that in mind for the future though! I’m with ya on the flip flops. Thanks for stopping by – I hope you stick around!
I hate laundry. Luckily, my husband started doing it since I used to wait until the very last minute and the pile was unmanageable before I would attempt to tackle it. I do agree that we need to clean out our closet and keep only the items we wear. Maybe that will make the laundry load a lot less daunting. Thanks for sharing. #ConfessionsLinkUp
It definitely has helped me – try it and let me know if it helps you (or your husband)
I have been folding the cuffs over on each pair of socks as I take them off, then put them in the dirty laundry basket already matched. When I put them in the washing machine, I separate them again. This guarantees they get washed and dried together, so don’t have a chance to go AWOL! It’s helped tremendously!!!!
That sounds like a good idea Pam! I’ll have to have my boys do that! Although I can just see myself getting confused about which are clean and which are dirty!?!?
At my in laws, whom I used to live with, they have a single drawer for everyone’s socks. We like going barefoot and having one place for all socks made it easier to find a pair when needed, and this was for 8 people, ranging from infant to retired, most in their 20s as my husband has two brothers that still live with parents with their girlfriends and the oldest now has two kids. After doing wash can just dump all socks in the drawer.
I now do something similar with my husband and our roommate, we have a sock drawer and I only buy two kinds of socks, white or black, and I make sure they are the same style, (crewcut, no labels or markings like a redline or grey toe) so any sock of the right color can match with the other. MUCH easier for sorting!
Such great ideas! I used to have a big container in the living room since the kids needed the socks downstairs but it got unsightly!
We have a gargantuan family of 11 — my husband, me, and our 9 children ranging in age from 15 to 1. Laundry is, as you can imagine, a challenge. We currently have a weird, blended system. I wash my clothes and my husband’s clothing (except for his dress up work clothes, which he handles.) I wash, dry, and fold. My big girls also do their clothing. Everything else gets dumped down the clothes chute by our 4 and 3 year olds, and the middle kids wash, dry, and fold everything. It isn’t a perfect system because the kids who fold (ages 10 and 9) don’t always know whose clothing is whose, so items end up in the wrong place. But it works pretty well.
We think we are FINALLY done having kids, so everything the baby outgrows is being donated. Well, my mom did make a couple of things for her that I’m saving, but mostly I’m not being emotional about baby clothes. I go through our kids’ drawers 3 or 4 times a year and weed out things that don’t fit — though many items just get stored in labeled tubs in our storage room until the next kid needs them. I have gotten really good about just getting rid of clothes I don’t like. I am not fond of ruffles for my little girls, for example, so all that goes.
Socks. Oh…socks. Mostly our kids go barefoot, thankfully. I have a tub where the kids put clean socks and I periodically work with them to pair them up, but it isn’t easy. And yes, I have my share of singletons. About once a year I go through my sock tub and throw away the singletons. I like the idea of one color for each person but with 11 people, we’d have to get to some odd colors :-). No, really, that wouldn’t work for us…
Oh Laraba! Your family sounds like such a great team! Thanks for sharing your very streamlined process. I can’t seem to throw out the singletons – I always think the mate will be in the next load…
I have to really gear myself up to throw out the singletons because they hide behind doors and under beds and sometimes I do find the mate just after I threw out the one in the sock tubs. Socks are just an ordeal. Like I said, the kids don’t wear them most days so that helps. (We homeschool, so they don’t have to show up at a school looking “put together” :-).)
One of the many benefits of homeschooling!
Life Breath Present says
This makes such perfect sense! For now, since Baby Boy is still pretty young and we’ll be adding an infant into the mix in the few months, my routine is simple, even if I do it all (mostly) alone. If the clothes needs washed, they need to be in the basket. I will wash, hang/dry, and fold/put away. Baby Boy will help gather random items around the house (towels, etc.) and put them in the washer. I imagine, as Baby Boy gets older and even more responsible, he’ll contribute more to the washing of his and Baby’s clothing! 🙂
It sounds like you have a natural born helper!
I’ve been sort of applying a loose Konmari Method (until I get my hands on the book) and it’s helping immensely. Laundry is the most difficult chore for me to stay on top of, too, and partly because I have so much clothing! Thank you for sharing your tips- I’ll be looking back at these as I clean up my tiny apartment!!
Hi Embee! I’m so glad you’ve found it helpful. It feels really good to weed out your wardrobe and wear everything in it! Let me know how it goes!
Jane @SustainMyCraftHabit says
These are quite thoughtful and helpful tips. With four kids including a messy baby, laundry is a full-time job. I found actually looking at the clothes the kids take off to see if they even need washing has helped a lot. And even if there’s just a small area that ice cream dropped on, I try to quickly hand-wash the spot.
Thank you for sharing at the #HomeMattersParty! Looking forward to seeing you back next week.
Thank you Jane. That’s a great tip about quickly hand washing a spot. I’ll definitely be back to the #HomeMattersParty!
Jamie @ Medium Sized Family says
I absolutely agree that you have to cut back on whatever clothes you can get away with! We are changing out seasonal clothes here, which gives me an opportunity to give away several outgrown and unloved pieces of clothing.
Yes Jamie! I agree. We need to switch out our clothes and we will definitely be making a donate pile.
Chelsea @ The Johnsons Plus Dog says
My mom taught me and my brother how to do our own laundry when we were young and looking back I’m so glad she did! She was teaching us responsibility, while giving herself a little break! Thanks for sharing at the #HomeMattersParty – hope to see you back next week!
Thanks Chelsea! Your mom sounds like a wise woman!
Love these, Angela! Even my toddlers love to help with laundry by grabbing their baskets from their rooms and tossing their clothes in the washer. We’re working on teaching them to fold, but that’s a little slower going 🙂
Thanks for linking up at The Alder Collective Link Party! Your posts have been pinned to the party board, and we hope to see you again next Tuesday at 8 EST!
What a great start Abby! They’ll be laundry experts before you know it!
I have learned a few tricks in the last 20 years doing laundry for my family of 15. Socks are still a problem but here are a few things that help us. Every sock gets marked with a Sharpie rubadub laundry marker as soon as it comes out of the package with the child’s initial or symbol. For instance, we have 3 kids whose names start with m so the oldest uses the letter M and the other 2 have a symbol such as a heart or star. When the socks are dirty they go in a zippered lingerie bag that has also been marked with their names or symbols. Each child has at least 2 bags. Don’t fill them more than half way or the socks won’t get clean. The laundry (including the lingerie bags) from each bedroom gets done together. When the clothes are clean they go back to the room they came from so they don’t get mixed up with everyone else’s to be folded and put away. This makes sorting socks much easier as each child’s are all contained in a bag. As for socks that are found in mysterious places later, we have the marking on the bottom to tell us who the guilty person is. (Sometimes it’s me.) Even with all that we will still find a sock occasionally who’s markings have faded or that never got marked in the first place. For those we have a sock basket that we go through a couple of times a year. These are always in danger of being turned into socks puppets. I hope this helps someone.
These are great tips! Thank you for sharing Barb! And sock puppets are always a good thing.
So, it’s been a year since anyone last commented on this, but I read your blog via a Facebook link today and ended up on this post. Right now, I still wash all the laundry, partly because I like to be in control of when the washer/dryer are available. However, I have a system that works very well that I thought I might share. The kids sort their dirty laundry into 4 hampers in our laundry room – one for darks, lights, whites, and towels. Each kid has their own color laundry basket in the laundry room, and my husband and I share a basket. I wash and dry laundry and immediately fold it into the appropriate laundry baskets. The kids will sometimes help out by switching the loads or folding the laundry. Ideally, every day, or at least once a week, the kids put away their own laundry and return the baskets to the laundry room in time for me to do the next load. I don’t mind the washing and drying, and this system makes the folding/sorting/putting away much simpler!
That sounds like a great system Karen. We don’t have a laundry room – just a washer/dryer in our basement that people tend to avoid (even me!). The older 2 boys have really embraced washing their clothes – folding and putting away – not so much! I actually enjoy the folding part so sometimes I’ll fold their clothes for them and have them put them away. Thanks for reading and commenting Karen!