Step 1: Make less laundry.
I used to wear something for a couple hours or a day and throw it in my laundry hamper and the laundry fairy would come and next thing I knew those clothes were hanging in my room a few days later fresh, clean and ready to go. Then I went to college and the laundry fairy did not visit me anymore and I had to start taking my clothes home on weekends (just kidding, I only did that the first semester). I successfully learned how to do my own laundry but it still wasn't a big deal because it was just for one person. Getting married added more but it still wasn't overwhelming. I think somewhere in the baby days when there was so much laundry because of spit ups and diaper blowouts, I stopped deciding that something needed to be washed just because I'd worn it for a day. It never failed that I would put on something clean and then 20 minutes later it'd have spit up or baby food on it. I'd go through 2 or 3 outfits in one day, for myself AND the baby! So if I wore something for a couple hours late one evening and it miraculously didn't get dirty I'd lay it on a chair or hang it up and put it back on the next day until it got spit up on and then begin again. I got used to wearing something until it got dirty and actually needed to be washed. So now that I don't have diapers and spit up to deal with I can wear a shirt or jeans for two days with no problems. There are exceptions, of course, where something won't pass the smell test if it was summer and I was outside for longer than 5 minutes. Or if we've gone to Sonny's BBQ, even if somehow I was able to keep sauce off my lap it'd need to be washed so I don't smell like brisket the next day. Also any clothes that I workout in. Luckily, I don't work out very often.
My 8 year old has not gotten this memo. He tends to wear one thing to school and change out of that and into play clothes in the afternoon or decide he wants to dress up as Spiderman but then puts on new clothes instead of looking for the ones he took off earlier. Same for socks! Instead of looking for the socks he took off an hour ago, he goes right to his drawer where a new fresh pair are waiting for him and he doesn't have to look for them. I keep saying, 'One pair of socks per day, buddy.' I tell him it's fine to change out of his school uniform when he gets home but keep one shirt and pair of shorts out for a couple days until they get dirty and sweaty, which is pretty much every day if he goes outside to play. Lego building does not quite incur the amount of sweat needed for a wash. So I'm still trying to get him on board by telling him, "the fewer clothes you wear the fewer you will have to put away," since he HATES to put away his clothes.
Wearing stuff more than once is not just good for laundry, it's also good for your clothes. Now, not everyone has this luxury and where you work it's not an option to wear the same things 2 or 3 days in a row, but perhaps rotating outfits and pairing different tops and bottoms together can help reduce.
Step 2: Buy extra underwear and socks.
Some people have to do laundry often because they just run out of clean clothes to wear. So we buy an extra pack of underwear and socks for each family member. I think is a relatively small price to pay and I save money in the end by less loads of laundry and time saved. Each person has at least 12 pairs of underwear and socks. For school uniforms I make sure they have enough to go two weeks of school: 10 shirts and 5 pairs of shorts, 5 pairs of pants for winter. The shirts don't last more than one school day, but sometimes a pair of shorts or jeans can go two days. They have favorite pairs of shorts and keep wearing them until I put my foot down and make them put it in the laundry basket. I am also fortunate to receive handmedowns from friends. Our kids probably have too many clothes but they keep getting t-shirts from this camp, or that VBS or this special event, so they don't seem to ever run out of shirts.
Step 3: Get a good stain pre-treater.
Every day after I do laundry someone eats spaghetti. I don't know why this is but I think there are cosmic laundry forces against me. So in order to fight back I employ some Resolve/Spray N Wash or some liquid detergent and a bit of scrubbing. I'll get as much of the stain out and the rinse it and leave it on the washer.
Step 4: Rally the troops.
Our 10 and 8 year old are told it's laundry day and they bring all the baskets from the bedrooms and dump them in the kitchen floor. Then they sort them into piles of whites, darks, lights, towels/sheets, and jeans. Rarely is this done without bargaining and complaining and sometimes there are tears, but perhaps one day! A mom can hope right?!
After they have sorted I go back through and refine the piles and pull out white underwear stuck inside some jeans, and check pockets for loose toys, gum, or change (my tips). I also pull out the delicate items and sort into 'delicate darks' and 'delicate lights' as these go in a different cycle. An important step I take is to flip some clothes inside out like shirts with logos (especially iron-on) and fleecy items so they last longer.
Step 5: Wash, Dry, Sort, Repeat.
I usually do 6-8 loads of laundry on laundry day. Whites, Lights, Delicate lights, Darks, Delicate Darks, Sheets/Towels, Jeans and an extra load like a comforters or pillows or rugs that occasionally need to be washed. This week I'm washing the kids' backpacks so they can be put away. To streamline the sorting process, for clean laundry I have a basket for each person and an area to hang each person's hanging clothes. The laundry room is not too big so I can't spread out too much. I just stand in the middle and sort and hang.
Yes, I stood on my washer to take this.
Kids' clothes hung up on the left, adults' on the right.
Each load takes about 1 hour to wash and 1 hour to dry so if I do 6 loads it takes me about 7 hours from start to finish if I do them back to back (which is more efficient for me and the dryer). Obviously I'm not doing much once I throw it in so I can go back to playing with the kids or blogging or reading or whatever. When it's all done, baskets are delivered to the rooms and the children are not allowed to go out and play or have media time until it's all put away. As some heard this morning, Hubby does not have that same stipulation and so his basket may or may not get emptied, but with all the other wonderful things he does, this is of no concern to me.
What about you, do you do a load of laundry every day? What is your plan for tackling Mount Laundry?
Update: We are on day 7 after the laundry was done and had to break down and do a mid-week load due to a mysterious potty accident that happened while the babysitter was here. That also required an entire bathroom cleaning including the toilet, floors, walls, and cabinets just in case. So I went ahead and washed the shower curtain since I didn't quite know to what extent (other than the smell) the accident had spread to.
Also, the Hubby's basket made it from the laundry room to the dresser. Where it sits full of clean laundry today. Still. 9 days later.