Back to School Challenge: Getting Ahead of the Laundry Monster (and staying ahead!)

You’ve seen them already, haven’t you? The back to school commercials? Seems like just the other day the kids were getting out for the summer. You’ve probably gotten your kids’ supply lists. You may be anticipating tax-free weekend. Regardless of how you feel about it, the fact remains that summer is ending and school is coming. (Sigh.)

Off topic…I do believe summers lasted longer when I was younger. That may not be entirely true (though I don’t think we started back to school until after Labor Day), but we made our own entertainment and stayed outside until after dark. We were outside from morning until night – no sleeping late, no lazing around inside where it was air conditioned (if you were lucky – I was not). I loved those long summer days, playing with my cousins, running barefoot up a dirt road (for real), and it was glorious when you were finally old enough to drive Papa’s tractor and pull the rest of the cousins behind you in a trailer. Spending time with my grandparents. Working in the garden. Cutting grass with a non-motorized lawn mower. (Hey, I didn’t realize it was work then; I just thought it was a cool contraption.)

The fact remains: school is just around the corner, whether it’s for little ones, high schoolers, teachers, or college students. Even if the actual fact of going back to school doesn’t affect you, now is as good a time as any to get a couple of projects tackled, don’t you think?  I hear from people most often that they have trouble with the following: keeping up with the laundry; planning and preparing meals; keeping a handle on the papers/mail that make it into the house; and general clutter control. So, since that’s four things, we’re going to address one each week for the next four weeks. That way, by the time school starts back for you and yours (or not), you’ll be organized and ready for whatever that brings. 🙂

I have addressed the laundry situation a few times. I know some of you have gotten control of your laundry and stayed on top of it. Some of you had it handled for a while, but it’s starting to take over again and you’re spending whole days catching up with the “laundry monster.” Some of you are new to Living Simply and weren’t following when we first addressed laundry. So I am going to just copy and paste the original post today, along with some pictures to show you what the “laundry monster” looks like.

Laundry Pile

This was originally posted on January 7, 2013.

So we’re just going to jump right in and start paving the way to an organized, well-run household. Having talked to many women over the past few years about what household chore most often overwhelms them, I have learned that laundry is a problem for many people. In fact, there are people whose laundry pile could be measured and it would be taller than they are. They could get lost in the laundry pile and not be found for days. Did you know that there are people who don’t do their laundry for weeks at a time? That spend entire weekends “catching up” with the laundry monster and not enjoying their days off? Well, I am here to help you not only catch up with him (the laundry monster has to be male, after all), but to kick him in his rear end and defeat him once and for all. You will not miss him! At all.

Now, I have had a laundry schedule for many years. When I was working and then homeschooling, I did one type (not necessarily one load) of laundry each day. It was whites (towels, underwear, socks) on Mondays; towels, dark socks and underwear on Tuesdays; darks (jeans, t-shirts, sweats) on Wednesday, delicates (generally, things that don’t go in the dryer) on Thursday, and sheets on Friday. I also usually washed another load dark clothes on Fridays because my husband (and now my son) have “work clothes” that their coworkers probably appreciate being washed before they wear them again. Just saying that their work clothes tend to be a little stinky.

A SIDE NOTE: Now that Boy Child moved out (though he’s back as of today), I discovered that 80% of my laundry was his. Apparently, he changes clothes multiple times a day. Therefore, he will now be responsible for his own laundry. So the paragraph below does not necessarily apply to him.

I do everyone’s laundry in my house. My kids are certainly old enough to do theirs and they do know how. If not, there are instructions printed and laminated and taped on top of the washer. In case I am unable to fulfill my task as laundry goddess, someone else can do it. I don’t do all the laundry because I’m oh so nice, but because I don’t want to run the washer and dryer for small loads if everyone does their own. I also use my clothesline instead of dryer whenever weather permits. I really, really love the smell of line-dried sheets. 🙂

This week I “took one for the team” and didn’t do laundry all week. On Saturday, I dumped my hamper into the middle of my bedroom floor. I had both my kids dump their hampers onto the pile. Oh. My. Gosh. The pile was HUGE! And there are only four of us in this house. I can’t imagine if there were more. It overwhelmed me and I was only doing it for the experiment. So that I could help you. You’re welcome. :)

So. I looked at this laundry pile. I took pictures of it. I stood in awe of it. I saw the laundry monster lurking in there and I said, “Oh, no. I don’t think so. Out!” Can I get an “Amen!”?

If this is you…if the laundry monster lives in your house…please serve him his eviction notice. He will be out by Saturday. If you are not on a schedule for your laundry and there is a huge pile of it just waiting on you, let me show you how to show him the door. (If you are on a laundry schedule, God bless you and keep up the good work!)

There are several ways to conquer your laundry pile, but the first step for any of them is to put all your laundry in one place…one pile. One big old giant pile. Gather the laundry from wherever it may be in your house and bring it all together in one place. Everyone throw it all on there. Then look at it. How do you feel? Overwhelmed? Frustrated? Anxious? Don’t be. Like everything else we’ll do, we’ll take it one step at a time. I know you’ll see it and want to get the whole thing out of the way. Today. But then you’ll be so tired, you won’t be good for anything else. The key here is to establish a workable schedule and then stick to it. If not, the laundry monster will move back in when you aren’t looking. He’s very, very sneaky.

Here’s what I want you to do.

Monday: Put all your laundry in the pile in a place where it can hang out for the week. Take a picture of it. We will not judge. We’ll just applaud your awesomeness at the end of the week when there is no pile. Sort the laundry into smaller piles – however your mama taught you to sort. We all have things we wash together and things we don’t; my sorting may not be the same as yours. Then pick a pile, any pile. Start with the smallest or the largest – whichever pile you think you can get through today or whichever pile you happen to need the most at the moment. Take that pile, walk to the washer and get to washing. You may have more than one load from your pile but only wash one pile per day. Yes, that’s right. One pile per day. Ignore the other piles. Step around them if you must. You are going to wash, dry, fold and put away one pile today.

Tuesday – Friday (or Saturday) – Wash, dry, fold and put away another pile. One pile per day. You may want to document your diminishing piles with photos. And share them with us at the end of the week. Please. We love before and after pictures. Love.

ANOTHER NOTE: If you are not home during the day, you can start a load of laundry before you leave for the day and finish it after you return (don’t do this if there are things that will fade on to other things), or you can run the washer at night and throw the load in the dryer (or on the line) first thing in the morning and let it dry while you are getting ready to head out. Do NOT leave your dryer going if no one is going to be home. The goal is to completely finish one pile per day. Any “new’ dirty laundry goes to the hamper if you’ve already washed the pile it would go in. (On? Whatever.)

When the last pile is gone, take a picture of the spot where it all started. Wow! Don’t you feel a great sense of accomplishment? Do you feel the urge to sing the “Hallelujah Chorus”? Go right ahead. We’ll sing with you.

Then…take pen and paper in hand. On the top of the paper write “Laundry Schedule.” Write down what type/load of laundry you are going to do on each day. Post it where you can see it. (You can get all fancy like me and type up a laundry schedule.) Then – and here’s the kicker – do what it says. It will do you no good if you don’t stick with it. But if you do, you will not have a giant pile of laundry waiting for you on Saturday mornings. So you can sleep in without feeling guilty! Post your “before” picture with it. That should keep you motivated! You don’t want to go there again.

At our house, there is a laundry hamper in each bedroom. Also, I have a small laundry basket for everyone in the house. When the laundry is done and folded, I hand each family member his or her basket and have them put their laundry away. Then they can put whatever is needed for the next day’s laundry in the basket and return it to the laundry room (or laundry closet, if you’re like me).

We are going to talk a lot about scheduling this week. You will be amazed at how great you feel with a schedule or routine. Amazed. I promise. Now…get to washing and have a great day!

Blessings,

Lynne

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