I'm fascinated to know how other people handle day to day household management. Laundry, meal planning, cleaning routines and the like can seem boring on the surface but most people have something to say about them. I also find it interesting to know what stresses people out about these chores and what solutions they've come up with. Maybe they've solved a challenge that I also have! If this topic also fascinates you there is a a recent episode of Friendlier about laundry and dishes plus Erica and I have done episodes about cleaning bathrooms and laundry although my laundry system has changed since then which gave me the idea for this post. Laundry, there's always laundry!
Our laundry set up
We have an old-school Sears brand washer and dryer which were gifted to Chris by his parents when he started his PhD many years ago. We love these things. We've had minor repairs on them over the years and during a repair the Sears rep told us that the new models of washers and dryers tend to last 5 to 7 years whereas these things will keep on going. What a practical gift that keeps on giving!
For laundry detergent we use the liquid detergent from Trader Joe's. It has a very light lavender scent that doesn't seem to make our clothes smell like anything which is what I prefer. I don't care for the heavy scents of most laundry detergents. We don't use fabric softener. For stains we have Oxiclean spray to apply directly and Oxiclean powder to use for soaking. I also use a splash of bleach on occasion for our cloth wipes and sometimes the boys' sheets. We use wool dryer balls in the dryer and I've been really happy with how well they work.
When Chris and I were both working full time Chris ended up doing most of the laundry. When Chris was doing the laundry the system was mostly single-stream meaning towels were washed with workout clothes with everyday clothes, etc. Everything was washed on cold so we didn't have problems with colors running but everything mixed together kind of stressed me out. I didn't complain, however, because I wasn't doing the laundry! But once I took over I implemented a new system. I like washing according to laundry type and I'm very particular about folding (I'm a fan of the KonMari folding technique).
First, I identified what laundry types we have and then designated a laundry basket per type (or most types). When I first established the system I clipped labels on to the three baskets that we have in our room to help Chris remember which was which. The cards have since fallen off but by then the system was established. Our current laundry types and how they are washed include:
+ Chris and Kelsey everyday clothes. This laundry basket lives in our closet. Washed cold, gentle cycle. Hang dry or dry on low heat.
+ Towels. Basket also lives in our closet. Washed hot, sometimes with a splash of bleach which I've found helps to eliminate that mildew towel smell (eww!). Dried on high heat.
+ Workout clothes. This basket lives under our bathroom counter. Washed cold, gentle. Hang dry or dry on low heat.
+ Cloth wipes. We use these for drying after using the bidet that we have in our bathroom. We have a small trashcan next to the toilet for the used wipes. Washed on hot with a splash of bleach. Dried on high heat.
+ Boys' clothes. They have a laundry basket in their closet. Washed cold, regular cycle. Dried on medium or high heat.
+ Maeve's clothes/blankets. Laundry basket in her room. Washed cold, gentle cycle. Dried on low heat.
+ Sheets. We usually strip the beds and wash the sheets right away so we don't have a designated basket for these although sometimes sheets will end up in the towels laundry basket.
+ Kitchen towels. We don't have a receptacle for these and we need one. What we end up doing is putting dirty kitchen towels on top of the dryer or throw them into the washer. A problem is that we have a tiny hall of a laundry room. I've thought of putting a small trash can or bucket on top of the dryer for dirty rags but haven't gotten around to actually buying one. Since there are usually only a few of these they get thrown in with the bath towel laundry.
With having a new baby and everyone home all. the. time. our laundry routines are different right now. So I'll describe my ideal laundry routine as well as what we're doing currently. Before Maeve and back when the boys when to school during the week (what a glorious time!) I would often do a load of laundry almost every day and rotate between types. So it would be workout clothes one day, the boys clothes another, etc. just depending on which laundry basket was fullest. I would try to see the load all the way through to being folded and put away but sometimes a couple days' worth of laundry would back up. Ideally I like to change the sheets on the beds once a week and I tended to do this on Mondays for whatever reason. I generally enjoy doing laundry and feeling on top of it.
When we do the boys' laundry we wash and fold all their clothes and then put away their clothes except for socks and underwear (usually...as mentioned everything is a bit off lately). Those we leave on each of their beds for them to put away. Soon I'd like to have them start to helping out more with laundry. My idea is for each of them to be a laundry helper one day per week. On their laundry day they would bring their laundry basket to the washing machine, put dirty clothes in the washer, put in the detergent, and start the washer. When the wash was done they would help move it to the dryer and then load it into a basket when it was dry and take it to our room. Eventually they will also help more with folding.
Even though our laundry routines are altered we're still doing pretty well with laundry. It's more likely now that a wash will include clothes plus towels or the boys' clothes plus our clothes whereas pre-Maeve I would wash them separately. As much as I like household chores done just so I'm happy that laundry is getting washed, folded, and put away. Chris is doing most of the laundry folding, often while I'm sitting and nursing, so I can't complain.
Something else we have to consider when doing laundry at our house is that we have "on peak" energy hours during which it's more expensive to use energy. Plus we have something called a demand manager that works in conjunction with our solar panels and manages how much energy we use at one time. Essentially this all means that if we try to dry clothes between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. (summer peak hours) the dryer could get shut off. Honestly it's really annoying and we probably should disable the demand manager. Some of you might ask why we don't line dry more clothes with all this hot, dry sunshine. We have been in routines before where we hung more clothes to dry but we aren't in that routine right now and implementing anything different feels kind of hard right now. I was really impressed to hear Sarah describe in her recent podcast episode about laundry and dishes that they don't have a dryer at all! So I know it's doable. Maybe we just need to try? We have several drying racks but maybe an actual clothesline would make it easier to hang clothes.
One laundry-related thing I would like to try is stripping our sheets and towels and maybe also workout clothes. Laundry stripping is a way to remove detergent residue that builds up in laundry over time. It seems to be a pandemic trend as I've seen several bathtubs full of sheets and grey water come through my Instagram feed. It sounds disgustingly satisfying!
That's what's happening with the laundry at our house. Do you have any laundry tips of challenges? Have you tried stripping laundry?