Do you know what I've been doing ALL WEEK LONG while two sick kids have kept me in?
And as you know, I'm not so good at chores. I muddle my way through and tackle what's necessary when necessary. But laundry I actually don't mind at all.
I know a lot of people hate doing laundry. But I was realizing that I don't think it's that bad. Maybe it's because I have a system, and I really like systems.
Back before I had kids, I did all the laundry together, sorting only by color, just like my mom did. A mountain of dirties would become a mountain of cleans. I clearly remember the mountain of dirties in the corner of the laundry room growing up. When a load needed to be done, the pile was sifted through for the right colors. If I ever had a specific shirt that needed washing, I had to go digging for it. I also clearly remember my parents' bedroom floor literally heaped with clean laundry, and the major ordeal it was to sort it all, making twenty little stacks all over the place. I hated when I was on the folding and delivery rotation. It took FOREVER.
When I had babies, I started having to sort differently, since I used detergent for sensitive skin on their stuff. I noticed that my husbands tee-shirts weren't getting quite fresh enough with the gentle stuff. I also noticed that compared to him and the two kids, I had very little laundry to be done.
Thus was born my Sort First method. (See how I just gave it a name and capitalized it so that it looks official?) My system has gotten quite orderly and easy, and I love that. I recently told a friend with three little ones what I do, and she thought I was kind of a genius. So I thought I'd pass on my system.
My laundry is done in 4 segments and I have separate hampers for each: Kids, Husband, Mine, Towels/Linens.
The key is to Sort First. Nothing gets mixed. Keep it streamlined.
This is what I mean. I've sorted first by segment due to the separated hampers, but then I sort again, so as to make the folding and putting away very efficient. For the kids' laundry (the largest segment by far), I break it up into about 5 loads: Pants, Dark shirts, Light shirts, PJ's/sock/undies, Whites. My washing machine is old so it isn't very big, but I only do their laundry about once every two weeks. So I have full loads, or nearly full loads of each of these segments.
Here's why it's efficient. When I wash a load of only pants, I am doing the same motion for folding the entire stack. I end up with TWO piles. His and hers. Quick to fold, easy to put away.
When I do the shirts, I shake them and lay them flat in a big stack after drying. Then I put a big stack of hangars next to the pile, insert them all into the shirts in the stack, and hang them up all together. Easy.
PJ's, socks, and undies always get washed together. All things that really don't need folding. I just noticed I folded the PJ's in this photo, but that's because I had time. Remember, I've been home all week! Normally I don't. Just lay them in the drawer. And I HATE stray socks floating around in every load. No no no. So all socks (for that segment) go into the same load.
Level two of my sock corralling system is this. (Are you getting that I was really rubbed the wrong way by the disorganized laundry system I grew up with? Yeah. I'm aggressive about loner socks. I'm like a shepherd with a sheep gone astray. Wait, that's not me and socks. That's Jesus.)
I keep the loner socks in the cabinet next to the washer. After each load containing socks, I try to match up loners with the loners in the cabinet. If I ever find a loner sock in the house, I put it in the hamper whether its clean or not. That way, all loners eventually end up in the cabinet to find their pal. It works really well.
Incidentally, another thing I keep in the cabinet is a little dish to house all small things I collect from the bottom of the washing machine. Coins, Legos, etc. I put them all aside so that I can stay on task and I distribute the trinkets later.
My least favorite load is the whites, since this is the only load with all kinds of items in it. Because really, who buys much white clothing for kids? This is the only load I do where there are lots of little stacks afterwards. But it's only one load's worth, so it's not that painful.
I pre-sort my husband's laundry too: White tees, Dark shirts, Pants/Jeans, PJ's/socks/undies. He drycleans all work clothing. I do zero ironing (unless it's for a craft!).
I pre-sort my laundry in a similar way. Think about it. If you do a load of only PJ's, they all get folded the same way, become one stack, and get put away in one place. Doesn't that seem simple and less overwhelming? (Did I mention that I also kinda don't want to wash my pretties with boy things?? Am I alone here??)
Same with towels and linens. I do the same folding motion, repeated over and over, yielding one kind of thing going into one drawer or cabinet. You're getting the idea, I guess.
If you are constantly doing laundry all mixed together, your loads will be too small to do it this way at first. Sometimes I wait until I have a whole plastic tub full in the garage so that I can do it the Sort First way. I'd rather do 5 loads of laundry in a day than spread out over a week. But that's just me.
For some reason, my Sort First method is so much easier for me than spreading the entire floor or bed with 20 stacks of items that belong all over the house! That makes me crazy. If it doesn't make you crazy (and I expect it may not), then keep on keeping on with the sort-after method.
I'll just keep trying to minimize the chaos in my house with my methods.
Now if I only had a method for cleaning everything else... ;)