First, a word on the tools. We have a low end, normal capacity washer and dryer, and I use a clothesline to air dry cloth diapers, sheets, and kitchen rags, weather permitting. We find that Tide Free works better than cheaper detergents, so I splurge on that. For kid stains, I throw Clorox 2 in with every kid load. I soak tough stains in OxyClean. My best stain treater, however, is the sun. It’s amazing how well it bleaches stains out!
With a large-ish family of young kids, I find that I need two designated laundry days a week. (I’ve tried Anna’s load-every-day method, and I find that I’m not as good about folding and putting away.) On each of my laundry days (currently Tues/Fri because our activity days are Mon/Thurs), I do a load each of whites and medium/darks, and I alternate sheets, towels, cold delicates, and my husband’s permanent press work clothes as needed. I try to stay home on my two laundry days and start early in the morning, cycling the loads through the washer and drier in between normal household tasks. I dump the baskets of clean laundry on my bed, as it forces me to have them put away before I can go to bed! If I don’t get a chance to sit down and fold for half an hour during the day, I’ll sit and talk to my husband while I do it before bed.
I actually enjoy laundry because it’s so easy to multi-task while doing it. If the kids are occupied when I dump off a load, I might sit and fold for a few minutes, then I finish it up during the little girls’ naptime. I sort as things are folded, making piles for each person across my bed. The big kids can help me with basic folding, and they usually put away their clothes and the towels for me. I put away the grown-up and baby clothes. I save phone dates for laundry afternoons—usually I’ve folded, sorted, and put away all the clothes by the end of the conversation.
We only buy top-of-the-line permanent press work clothes for my husband, and if I pull them out of the dryer and put them on hangers right away, they don’t have to be ironed. If I put away the rest of our clothes within a few hours, they don’t get too wrinkly, either. I loathe ironing and only do it a couple times a year.
I try to make a habit of washing a load of dishrags, kitchen towels, bibs, and cloth napkins every other night after cleaning up the kitchen, at the same time that I’m running the dishwasher. It’s a small load, but it’s easy to throw them up on the clothesline in the morning, and it keeps my kitchen linens from getting musty. (On alternating nights, I wash our cloth diapers.)
Because I limit most laundry to two designated days, I don’t feel guilt or pressure to do it on the other days, when we’re more likely to be out and about or have other household tasks. Of course, when there’s an emergency stain or blowout or something, I’ll find some similar dirty clothes (always in abundance around here) and run an unscheduled load right away.
Who knew we could wax so eloquently on laundry?! =)