Thursday, April 10, 2008

Simply Lovely Laundry

The third corporal work of mercy: To clothe the naked.

Colleen at Footprints on the Fridge is hosting the Simply Lovely Laundry Fair this week, which has got me thinking about our system.

I concur with Elizabeth that every family will have a unique way of keeping the laundry beast under control. I can't wait to read what others do, though, because I'm sure to find at least one idea that will make our home run more smoothly.

It may sound drastic, but the ABSOLUTE BEST thing we ever did about laundry was to move the washer and dryer. We moved into our brand-new house 14 years ago, and lived with the w/d in the small mud room between the garage and kitchen. It seemed a logical spot, but hauling full hampers and baskets up and down the stairs was not fun, especially during pregnancy. Sorting dirty clothes took place on the floor, visible from (and sometimes spilling out into) the kitchen.

Our master bathroom is a generous size, with a double sink, shower, and separate soaker tub. We decided to put the washer in there next to the tub. Len was able to do the plumbing work, hooking into the pipes that were already there. He went for the simpler solution of having it drain directly into the tub (from above), so I do have to wash it out before taking a bath. This is no hardship, because I rarely justify the time or hot water to soak there (and it's too deep and slippery to bathe children in).

We considered upgrading to a stackable w/d, but decided instead to put the dryer into our (not huge, but adequate) walk-in closet, which is actually in the bathroom too. We hired an electrician to rewire for an outlet to support the dryer, and then moved it upstairs (remarkably light!). We had measured several times to make sure that the closet door could open without hitting the dryer, but had neglected to see if said door was WIDE ENOUGH to actually fit the dryer through (it was NOT). Yikes! The next day included a life skills lesson for the children as they helped Len take down the molding, cut the dry wall, take up some tile, install a new, wider door, and build a new threshold. ;-) It's probably a blessing that we didn't notice the discrepancy ahead of time, as that might have put off the project indefinitely.

So I've enjoyed nearly a decade of having the w/d right there in my bathroom. There is room next to the washer for dark and light bins (actually kitchen size trash cans in two colors), and the children are pretty well trained to sort their dirty clothes. As our family has grown, we have added another upstairs hamper, which I carry and sort as needed. The mop bucket in the mud room holds laundry from the main level (tablecloths, dishtowels, rags), but almost all of our dirty laundry is generated upstairs. I'm downstairs most of the day, but it's easy to switch or start loads in the morning, during a diaper change, or any time I visit my room. If there is a big pile on the floor (not often), at least it's not on the main level. This move has saved me so much time and energy, and made laundry no big deal. I really don't mind doing the 1-3 daily loads that we generate here. (And about big families: we can fill a load or two every day, so each person can get by with fewer clothes. I can wear my favorite shirt two or three times a week, because it gets through the laundry cycle so quickly!)

There's not much left to say about our system:

  • I sort, wash, and dry. I could (should?) train the children, but I don't mind this stage, and everything turns over more quickly if the clothes are mixed, rather than having each person wash his own loads.
  • Hanging clothes go on hangers as they are pulled from the dryer. I'm in the closet, after all!
  • I bought a timer from King Arthur Flour to hang around my neck since I can't hear the dryer buzz anymore. I use it only for those loads that contain potentially wrinkling clothes.
  • The other clean laundry is dumped on my bed to be sorted by a teen into the multiple baskets (one per person/room).
  • Inspired by my husband who must have taken over one postpartum, we don't fold much into the baskets. Those who like folded clothes take care of it in the putting away stage. This sounds awful, but it works fine for jeans, pjs, underwear, sweats, etc. My husband is neat and orderly, so it's hard to believe this was his idea, but after looking at the state of the drawers, it does seem like wasted effort to fold.
  • I match the socks, and have a little drawer to hold those waiting for mates. Sometimes I do get behind. I know some families with wonderful sock systems (all the same, or different stripes, etc.), and maybe one of these days I'll try one.

Laundry is a basic homemaking skill. It's one of those things that just MUST be done, sooner or later, and sooner is so much easier. Once you have a system that works for your situation, it can become part of the natural rythym of your life.

Attitude counts, too. I think it was Mother Teresa who said, "Everything done with love becomes a prayer."


Jessica said...

I have always wanted to have my washer and dryer upstairs! We live in military housing, however, and although we have a huuuuuge kitchen, out washer and dryer go in there also--no doors or anything; just right out in the open. It's the first thing you see from the dining room (ugh!) I hope one day; unless we have a one story house, to be able to have my washer and dryer upstairs.

Barbara said...

I grew up in military housing; some was beautiful, some was tiny. Is there any way to screen the w/d? Can you hang curtains from the ceiling? I suppose possible solutions must also be weighed against how long you'll be in that particular unit.

Lisa said...

This sounds like the perfect system for you and worth all the effort! Our w/d is in a closet in our master bedroom, which may seem weird, but actually works out perfectly for us. I wash, dry, and fold and then leave the folded clothes on MY bed, which forces me to have them put away (by the kids) before I go to bed at night. A little incentive is a good thing!

MaryM said...

Some very helpful hints - thanks.

Sue B. said...

I loved your post on the Laundry.

I am hosting the Loveliness of Spring Fair featuring Flowerpots over at my Attaining Virtue blog. So please send me links with posts and pictures of your spring flowers or send me an e-mail with your entry. Reflections on beauty and new life are encouraged and are also a personal need of the hostess.

The Fair begins tomorrow on April 16. So please let's celebrate the visit of our Holy Father with an April shower of flowers.

It is Colleen's birthday ( on April 16. So you can wish her a happy day as well.

God bless you!

Susan Brennan