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Laundry Strategies – How to Keep Up (Large or Small Family)

Learning a laundry system that works for you and your family can be difficult. I’m sharing the tips I use to keep my eleven children in clean, fresh clothes without the headache of baskets of clean clothes left sitting unfolded for days on end.

A woman buried in laundry sitting in front of a washer and dryer.

Whether I’m making my own homemade glass cleaner, whipping up cough remedies, or figuring out which medicinal herb to grow next, there never seems to be enough hours in the day to keep up on the “have-to-do” tasks.

But it’s these tasks that HAVE to get done, or the other fun projects like stripping and re-seasoning my cast iron pans will never happen!

Do you ever feel like you’re constantly buried in laundry? Trust me, with 13 people living under one roof I can definitely relate!

Laundry, much like getting three homemade meals on the table every day, had been a long-time battle for me until I discovered some basic systems that finally made everything “click”. (Watch my laundry strategies videos part 1 and part 2 below!)

Running a successful household, especially one of our size, requires quite a few systems that need to all flow together to make this homesteading lifestyle an enjoyable journey.

If you’ve missed any of my other posts in my Household Management Series, I encourage you to go check them out:

Too Many Clothes!

One of the biggest issues I see in households today is that many families have too many clothes!

We’re always so grateful when we get hand-me-downs because this can really help families save money. But we don’t always need to keep everything we’re given!

My biggest “laundry hack” is that we limit our children to about 3 or 4 play or work outfits. Two outfits that are town-worthy. One that’s nicer, which we call a “church outfit”, which works for any event that would require nicer clothing. and that’s it!

For my girls, I love having them in one-piece dresses! They tend to love being in a dress anyway, but I love them because it’s just one piece, there’s no part of the outfit to misplace, they’re easy to play in, they’re modest, and easy to potty-train in!

A woman holding a laundry basket.

Gather Laundry Every Day

It’s important to designate a family member who will go throughout the house and gather all dirty laundry every single day.

We keep a laundry basket in the children’s bathroom, a laundry basket in the adult’s bathroom, and a laundry basket near the kitchen since we use cloth napkins.

All the dirty laundry goes into those baskets.

This means there is a chore time every day where the dirty clothes actually make it from the bedrooms to the laundry basket.

Then the baskets go downstairs and get sorted so we’re aware of the laundry that needs to get done that day. To save time, a load gets started right then and there, before we’ve even had breakfast.

A woman sitting beside baskets of laundry in the laundry room, holding laundry detergent.

Wash Laundry Every Day

By having fewer clothes, this means you’ll need to do laundry more frequently. For our large family, this means doing laundry every day to keep up.

But what I’ve found by having fewer clothes is that it eliminates CLEAN clothes from making their way into the laundry baskets to be unnecessarily washed.

We also can’t build up a huge laundry pile because we don’t have enough clothes to just let them sit without getting washed and dried right away.

Now in order for laundry to get washed every day, that means it needs to be on someone’s schedule to actually head into the laundry room and START a load each morning.

If you start one load of laundry every single day, that will keep you at a baseline of keeping laundry moving.

Some days we may need to do two, or even three loads of laundry to actually get caught up. But by doing one load a day we never get too far behind.

As I mentioned before, a load of laundry gets started before breakfast, then right after we’re done eating breakfast, someone goes down to the washer and dryer and swaps the load.

A woman holding a laundry basket.

Label Your Baskets

It’s very important to keep all your sorting baskets labelled! These are the baskets where, once the big piles of laundry are brought to the laundry room, they get sorted into loads.

  • Towels – for all bathroom and kitchen towels
  • Darks – for black, brown, navy and red clothing
  • Colors – for bright clothing that doesn’t fit into the dark or light category
  • Lights – for whites, light grey and other lighter colors that might be too light for the colored load
  • Heavy – for jeans, pants and maybe jackets or heavy sweatshirts
  • Delicates – for, well, delicates, as well as any clothing I want to wash on a more delicate cycle (which includes most of my own clothing)

Washing Instructions

One of the most important things that I do when organizing my laundry routine is to write out specific instructions on how each type of clothing is to be washed.

I have taped a piece of paper directly to the top of the washer that includes washing instructions for each type of load (towels, darks, colors, lights, heavy items, and delicates) and instructions that correlate with the exact setting options for our washing machine.

What this allows for, is when mom isn’t able to do the laundry, or perhaps when the job is passed off to a capable child, there is no question about how something should be washed.

Because I know we’ll get asked, we use a Speed Queen washer and dryer. It’s what works best for our farm clothes! The laundry instructions for each load are as follows:

  1. Add laundry detergent
  2. Add clothing
  3. Chose below machine selections (based on load type)
  4. Tidy up laundry baskets
  5. NEVER leave clothing on the floor!

I also include instructions for each specific load:

  • Towels/Sheets – Warm – Off – Bulky
  • Darks – Warm – Extra Rinse – Normal
  • Heavy – Warm – Heavy Soil – Heavy Duty
  • Lights – Hot – Extra Rinse – Normal
  • Delicate – Cool – Off – Delicate
  • Rags – Hot – Heavy Soil – Normal

*Add OxiClean to rags, soiled sheets, and all really dirty clothing! Or use baking soda stain remover if needed.

Homesteading Hack: Borax makes a great laundry booster, helping to remove stains, brighten whites, and soften hard water. Try dissolving a teaspoon of borax in a quart of warm water and use it as a pre-soak for heavily soiled clothes.

Folding the Laundry

Back when my oldest children were little (about 4 or 5) and I had a toddler and a nursing baby, I often found that folding laundry was a difficult task. One that would frequently be undone by the toddler pulling the clothes to the floor!

So what worked really well for me was to get the older children involved in the folding.

I would take the laundry and dump it onto the couch to be folded. I’d pull up a chair right by and nurse the baby with the toddler sitting next to me practicing to sit still.

I’d then get a really engaging and funny children’s book and read to the older children who were folding.

I would continue to read as long as they’d continue to fold. Each time they got distracted or stopped folding I’d quietly stop reading and just wait for them to realize I was waiting for them to start folding again.

Now, this doesn’t mean the laundry was folded perfectly, but it did mean the laundry got sorted and at a stage they could be re-folded quickly and then put away.

But most importantly, this trained my children not just how to fold the clothing, but also how to sort and put away the laundry to finish the job completely.

Does Homemade Laundry Detergent Work?

One question I get asked a lot is if we use homemade laundry detergent. Full disclosure, I’ve used nearly every homemade laundry detergent recipe out there and have used them for years.

Truth be told, unless you add something like an oxygen booster, you’re not going to get a good solid clean on your laundry because these homemade laundry detergents aren’t actually detergents, they’re soap.

My green refill bottles of laundry detergent.

Truly Free (Formerly My Green Refills)

Because I like to use natural products (which is why I tried making my own laundry soap for years), I’ve had a difficult time finding a quality product that I was OK with without spending a lot of money.

A couple of options that we’ve found that work extremely well is to order bulk laundry detergent from Azure Standard. I like to buy either the 5lb bucket, or the big 25-50lb bags of laundry detergent.

However, what I’ve been using exclusively for the past four years is Truly Free. The ingredients are all amazing, the scents are essential oils (or unscented!), and I love how well they clean.

Clothes piled all over a living room with kids and a mom looking through them.

Bi-Annual Clothing Swap

I’ve been asked many times about our bi-annual clothing swap and what exactly this looks like. Maybe someday I’ll film the day this all happens, but it’s usually such a hectic day that having a camera to capture it all just makes it all the more dreadful!

All joking aside, doing this has saved our family thousands of dollars on clothing.

What I do is I organize all the clothing in bins by size and gender. Twice a year, we gather up all the clothing in the house, give it a good washing first, then transfer summer to winter and winter to summer clothing.

But before this season’s clothing is put back into a bin, it’s looked over, tried on and organized into the correct bin if it’s in good enough condition to be passed down to the next in line.

If it has holes or stains, it’s either tossed or repurposed as a rag. (The Basics of Sewing with Bernadette Banner is a good place to start if you want to sew or mend your clothes.)

I then make a list of all clothing items that need to be purchased and we start looking for them either at consignment or thrift stores, or good deals from department stores or online.

There are certain items that we don’t mind spending the money upfront to buy new because we know they will last through many children. Things like boots (we love Muck boots!) and jackets, for example.

Other items we’ll see if we can find used for a good deal!

What are your laundry strategies? Do you have any helpful tips? Hop on over to the YouTube video and leave us a comment to let us know!

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A man and wife smiling.

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