Thursday, March 8, 2012

Happy Homemaking Series…

Christmas ShepherdsThis might seem like a strange topic series to have on a food blog, but trust me--it is important! One of the running jokes in the real food blogging world is about the state of blogger’s kitchens and rest of their homes. People make comments such as, “Why do bloggers show gorgeous close up photos of their dishes? So you won’t see the mountains of dishes covering the counters and spilling out of the sink!” And the dishes! Any from scratch, real-foodie worth her or his salt bemoans the overwhelming dishes that choke the kitchen. One of the very real issues that stand in the way of starting a real food journey is the fear that one simply does not have enough time when the household work is already overwhelming. It can be done, I have ten children whom I homeschool and I maintain this blog and do a little freelance writing and I have always managed to cook from scratch. I want to pass on the hard fought skills I have learned along the way and I hope that any of you who have some mad skills would be willing to share, as well.
This series will be a four part series taking place every Thursday. This week I am discussing laundry schedules, next week it will be bathroom cleaning schedules, the third week is managing meal planning, and the fourth week will be all about managing food pets and their various care and feeding schedules.
Because this week is all about laundry schedules, I’ll start by sharing mine:
  • Mondays: Wash diapers. Sort the Reds (reds, pinks, oranges), Whites (white or mostly whites) and Blues (blues, greys, blacks, purples but not jeans). Want to find out more about cloth diapers? See my post HERE.
  • Tuesdays: Wash reds, whites, and blues. Sort the Greens (green, yellow, browns), Jeans, and Towels (mine are all white).
  • Wednesdays: Wash Greens, Jeans and Towels.
  • Thursdays: Wash kitchen laundry. I keep a hamper in the kitchen and all the sponges, dishtowels, rags, hand towels, cloth napkins and things like this all go in there. We don’t use paper towels at all and keep paper napkins around for things like oiling the butcher block and cutting boards.
  • Fridays: Wash diapers and sheets.

Why does this system work for us? I have a few criteria for how my laundry schedule has to work.

  1. The laundry must be sorted the night before so it can be started immediately in the morning. This means Mondays needs to be something that does not require any sorting.
  2. I don’t like to wash things that need hot water on the same day as another category that needs hot water; yes, I do break that rule on Fridays. This is because I have twelve people in my family and that is a lot of showers and a lot of clothes to wash. I used to diapers on Saturdays but I decided I needed a two day break and so I would rather use a lot of water on Fridays than do any wash on Saturdays.
  3. I only wash kitchen laundry on Thursdays because it is folding intensive and I hate folding. With a passion. Like, wait for it in a dark alley kind of hate. I dread it coming out of the wash because then I will have to fold it.
  4. Like colors need to be washed with like colors because there is nothing that rubs me the wrong way like ruined clothes.
  5. I have schedules with, no joke, little colored squares on them. I tell the kids, “These are the colors we are washing tomorrow! Put them in the buckets in the hallway!” and the kids can do it. The two year old can do it. My schedule has to be one that is easily maintained in a large household which means we all need to know what we are washing. This also means no one gets to hog the washer with emergency clothes if they failed to sort. Plan ahead if you need that special shirt for the barn dance. Or you can hand wash it in the sink.

You need a laundry schedule. If you wake up each day and wash whatever no one has enough of, then you are never caught up. No one ever knows what they have to wash, no one ever knows what they have to wear and you never hear the end of it. It can also be a boon when it comes to things like ironing. When ironing in the morning, do all the dress shirts of that color from the previous day. In my house, this means Wednesdays I can iron the blue and white dress shirts and Thursdays the greens. But better yet, I pull the shirts out of the dryer immediately and hang them up then they don’t need to be ironed. Honestly though, I am seldom that good.

A few helpful hints for laundry:

  • Save money by washing on cold. Diapers, sheets, kitchen laundry and towels get hot water and nothing else.
  • Deal with ring around the collar by squirting some diluted Dr. Bronner’s soap and rub it in with a nail brush. I rub it on when I sort, toss it in the bucket and wash in the morning but test a spot first! This works with lots of different stains. I’ve yet to have trouble but that is no guarantee of future results.
  • For very bad organic stains, soak the garment in diluted Oxy-bleach (I use Country Save) and warm water over night. Works wonders and no chlorine bleach needed!
  • For diapers, get the stink out by washing carefully. I rinse them in the clothes washer on cold with no soap and wash on whitest whites with a small amount of soap and use a second rinse cycle. I also hang them out every chance I can get. Rinsing is the key to clean laundry. In the 18 years since I started cloth diapers, I have never bleached them. Never. I have opened the door and found that they did not smell fresh and put my schedule off for a bit by running them through a cold rinse, whitest whites wash and two rinses with no soap. That does the trick.
  • Save money by hanging clothes. In the summer, only jeans and towels get machine dried. In the winter, I have a folding laundry rack for as much as it will hold and set it in front of the furnace. I also vent my dryer inside to a specially designed bucket of water to keep the heat inside. This actually makes the basement nice and warm and helps dry the things that are on the rack.
  • I have a list over the dryer of things that are not to be dried in the dryer. Ever. These include: bras, tights, pantyhose, cloth menstrual pads and all skirts. Most of these get washed in zipper bags and I tell the kids that I can sort them out if they are switching laundry. Violate this rule, and you will be stuck on laundry duty by yourself for a week. I tell them it is for practice but really it is revenge.
  • Schedule a monthly sock-a-thon. Dump out all those socks and offer a prize to whoever gets the most pairs. No helpers yet? You get the prize! Also, see a sock two or three times with no mate? It gets cut up into a rag.
  • Lastly, find time in your schedule to fold daily. Yes, it stinks. Do it anyway. If your kids are over four, make them put away everything they can reach and assign one older child to help younger children by hanging clothes. I fold clothes while the kids read aloud to me in the afternoon and I spread them over the table. Each pile at each kid’s place. Fail to put it away, fail to eat. No screaming, no threats, I just cheerfully move the pile and tell them, “Not yet, darling. I still see your pile!” Hunger is a fantastic motivator.

So how to set up your schedule?

Think about the things you want to accomplish and take a look at my own list to develop yours. Then set your categories and your days. Start right away by jumping in on your laundry schedule as if you were already on track. Don’t look backward, look forward! Then just keep going forward.

What about really massive amounts of laundry?

You probably own too much. Here’s our maximum amounts: no more than a week's worth of anything, i.e., seven short sleeves, seven long sleeves. The only exceptions are dress clothes and socks and underwear. for dress clothes, they are allowed two complete sets based on weather. You’ll need extra socks and underwear for younger children, I shoot for ten. I keep a bag marked for charity and when kids grow into clothes and I see that they have extra, I either put in the storage bins in the garage or in that charity bag. The next charity that calls, gets the bag.
So, are you ready to start a laundry schedule? If so, tell me what it is going to be!

Linking up to Pennywise Platter and Simple Lives!


  1. I loved your line about taking care of food pets! I like to say that my kefir grains are like my pets. I am not an animal person so they are a good substitute for me. :)

    I don't have a laundry schedule, but I don't need one because it's just my husband and me right now so we don't generate much laundry. As long as I do a couple of loads a week I'm fine. Laundry for twelve people - wow!

    I'm looking forward to the rest of your series! I struggle with some of the non-food aspects of homemaking.

    1. Ohh, food pets! I have a food zoo!

  2. How timely! I have seven kiddos and have been doing the "washing what ever is in the pile" kine of schedule :-) I had just made up a schedule this past week. I just haven't implemented it yet! That is my biggest short coming, implementing. I make all sorts of lists and plans. They look great on paper! Ha, ha! Thankfully I've been getting better at putting things into real life, thank you for the encouragement.


  3. Oh man. I feel so convicted. Now I need a laundry schedule too. I might steal yours. I love that you only do diapers once a week. That is me too, though I constantly hear it has to be done every 2-3 days.

  4. Katrina5/25/2012

    I wish my stash was big enough to only wash once a week. Mon and Thurs are diaper days here.

    I am now inspired for the sorting - I have a bunch of 5 gallon buckets and never thought about using them to sort laundry.

    Our (my) biggest issue is getting the dang laundry put away. It seems like we live out of laundry baskets most of the time.

    1. Putting it away is, admittedly, the hardest part. Really hard!

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