Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Landry AKA Mount Everest

Mary left an interesting comment on my blog asking for advice on laundry. Oodles and oodles of laundry - the kind of laundry only a large family, especially one with lots of young kids, can generate.

Here is the crux of Mary's problem:

I am a homeschooling mom of 5 little children all under 7 years old....

So, anyway, my question is: do you have a set number of pants/shirts (not including Sunday best clothes) but every day clothes. Do you have the kids in uniforms? With all the changes of the seasons, we have such a huge amount of shorts/t-shirts/pants/shorts
/sweaters etc…the list could go on.

Do you have any type of system that works for you?

I know of another mom who has ONLY 5 OUTFITS-per child per season-hung on hangers-1 per day. They wear them stains and all.

I am a bit on the fence about this….well it is tempting to get rid of most of the kids’ clothes to just have 5! But I do like to see my children dressed nicely without all those stains(if I can help it).

Overwhelmed with the laundry loads, I figured I would ask you and I can’t wait to hear what you (or others) have to say about this deal.

Thanks in advance!!!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to your family!!!

God Bless you,


Here, at last, is my promised answer to you Mary.

I have tried a variety of systems. I have tried only having a specific number of outfits per child per season as your friend does - but there is a set back to this as insinuated with the " stains and all" comment. So I tried doing that with back ups put aside in my closet, or in a storage closet, but then when you need them they smell like, well stale laundry.

I have also struggled, as you do, with the feast or famine of donations. Because one can never be sure when the next drought might strike - you never like to say no to an offer of clothing. And then some seasons you get an overload of say, size six and absolutely no size eights so there is the temptation to hoard against the future. But I have learned to go with the ebb and flow of the donations and to not keep things that I do not believe I can use within one year of receiving - trusting to the Lord to provide when the need occurs.

I have a few ideas I can share with you - some I am currently using and some I am no longer using but might work for you, and at least one I am doing that you might not want to try until your children are older.

I will start with the one thing I am currently doing but your children are probably not old enough to do yet. Once my children are tall enough to reach the back of the washer and dryer and so the dials - I begin to teach them how to do their own laundry. They learn to sort their clothes and they learn how to use the machines. Each bedroom has their own laundry day with one day of the week free from laundry. They also learn what happens if they miss their assigned laundry day - no clean clothes!

Is not a perfect system but it works fairly well and when I notice the washer has finished and throw a child's clothes into the dryer for them - I am rewarded with a large smile and a huge thank you.

However, something your children can start to learn with you when they get ready for bed each evening is how to sort their clothes. I have used a white basket hamper for the lights with a darker one for darks.

To deal with the challenge of the change of seasons, I have begun purchasing the huge zip lock bags. I like that you can see through them and that they seem to be quite durable. When the season begins to change I keep them near the laundry area and as we make our way through the laundry the bags are slowly filled. I assign a bag to each room, but one for each teen. In other word the three boys rooming together get one bag and the two little girls get one bag but the two teens bunking together - each get one. They have more clothes and the individual articles are larger in size as well. When the bag is full I put them away in the corresponding bedroom's large closet. We have been so blessed with awesome closets in this house.

A suggestion I have not implemented but hope to soon, is to use baskets of different colours to indicate whether the laundry in the laundry room is fresh or waiting to be washed.

One disadvantage to the system I use of teaching the children to be independent with the laundry is that we sometimes experience a back up or over flow in the laundry area. And others waiting their turn for the facilities do not always know what has been washed and what hasn't. If the child before them is not around to clarify the situation we can end up with dirty clothes mixed with clean. This can be compounded by the general laundry, such towels, being left in the laundry area so I am hoping to be able to budget for some colour co-ordinated baskets soon.

My intention is to use a light coloured hamper for clean clothes and a dark one for dirty in hopes of preventing some of this confusion.

Now as to the number of articles of clothing, I do try to keep it somewhat limited but not as strictly as I once did. If I can't fit all of the clothing for one child in one large dresser and their alloted closet space, I know we have gone overboard. I have one drawer assigned for good clothes per child in his or her dresser. I also keep some good clothes separate in my closet for the younger children so that I know for sure that they have a good out fit for Sundays. When I have a special occasion coming up I do this for some of the older children as well. (Not the teens though) This removes some of the stress when preparing for the special occasion.

As I mentioned when I described how the older children learn to do their own laundry, each bedroom has their laundry day. This is something you could try to implement, it helps me a lot although on occasion we can get thrown off by being away on someones laundry day, that free days helps and when I know ahead we will be away, we try to squeeze a small extra load in ahead of the missed day.

I hope that some of these ideas help you Mary. I pray that one day soon you are able to tame your Mount Everest. Please, if any other readers have some ideas or solutions that have helped you - please feel free to share them with Mary and I in the comment section.
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