One thing I hadn’t prepared myself for when I became a parent was the amount of laundry that seem to appear from nowhere. Not to worry, I thought to myself, once I’m past that ‘baby vomit and pureed veg on everything’ stage there won’t be so much but seven years into parenthood it still hasn’t let up. Now the combination of ‘normal’ clothes, school uniform, sports kits, outdoor clothes and stuff for messy play, not to mention a second child, seems to make the pile bigger than ever.
Over the last few years I have done my best to develop a system to keep the work to a minimum and thought I share my top tips for taming the laundry:
Choose a good washing machine…
First things first, you need a decent machine. The choice of washing machines and the difference in cost is vast so shop around and read up on reviews and recommendations to ensure you get the best one.
…And a separate dryer
If space and funds allow a separate dryer will make a big difference to how quickly you can get the laundry done. I also find that they tend to function better and break down less than combined washer/dryers.
Choose clothes well
Some clothes are much more hassle to wash than others. I deliberately choose clothes, particularly for the boys, that I know can be washed and dried on a normal cycle and don’t need ironing. I also stick to brands I trust not to shrink or fray and that are good at keeping their colour. Interestingly this doesn’t seem to be an area where ‘you get what you pay for’ applies. I’ve found expensive brands seem to often wash very badly and require special care, probably even more than the bargain basement stuff. I think it’s the mid-range brands that really seem to win out here.
Downstairs laundry basket
Collecting up the laundry can often be a job in itself before you even get started so it’s important to get the whole family putting their clothes in a few specific places. We have a small basket that resides in our hall for those clothes that get discarded during the day and even a toddler can get into the habit of plonking bits in there as they go.
Pick your products
Much as advertisers would like to convince you otherwise you really don’t need a cupboard full of products to do the laundry. One colour friendly non-biological washing powder or liquid will do the job. I’ve found a supermarket own brand that I like and saves a few pennies too and I never bother with fabric softener which I honestly think is a bit of a con. The only other product I have is a pot of whitener/stain remover granules which I use occasionally to soak anything that is looking a bit dingy. It’s also worth remembering that a normal load of clothing rarely needs as much powder/liquid as the packaging recommends. You can scrimp a bit for lightly soiled loads, doing your bit for the environment and your wallet at the same time.
Does it really need washing?
With little kids we get in the habit of throwing everything into the laundry basket because they seem to just attract dirt within seconds of getting dressed but as they get older clothes can often be worn more than once. We tend to change into ‘home clothes’ usually joggers and t-shirts, after school. This has the benefit of keeping the boys school clothes clean and, because they are only in them for a few hours, the ‘home clothes’ can usually be reworn the next afternoon. Over the course of the week that adds up to quite lot less washing.
Have a laundry schedule
To stop the piles creeping up on me I have a simple weekly laundry schedule. It has varied over time as things change but at the moment looks like this:
- Monday – None
- Tuesday – Dark load
- Wednesday – Light load
- Thursday – None
- Friday – Dark load
- Saturday – Light load
- Sunday – Bedding
This means I rarely have to think about what needs washing when and I know things like uniforms are always ready for the day they are needed. Clean Mama has all sorts of resources to help to make your own washing and cleaning schedules.
Forget the iron
With the exception of Hubs’ work shirts virtually nothing gets ironed in my house and yet we still manage to look (fairly!) presentable. This is a huge time saver when you’re a busy working mum. I manage this by:
- Choosing clothes that won’t wrinkle too badly in the first place
- Taking clothes from the dryer and folding neatly while they are still warm
- Hanging clothes that can’t go in the dryer carefully on the airer to make sure they dry flat
Sort as you fold
Another big time saver is to sort your clothes into piles for each family member as you take them from the dryer and fold. That way they can be distributed between bedrooms easily and older children can quickly grab their own pile to put away.
So those are my laundry top tips, what do you do to keep the clothes mountain at bay?