Sunday, October 03, 2010

Dirty Laundry

Dirty laundry was my nemesis.  We were archenemies, formed before the beginning of the day and lasting well into the night.  Not allowing one another an inch of space and always colliding at the most inopportune times.  With 8 of us in our home, dirty laundry is created from the dust (quite literally) and appears miraculously at any moment of any day and in any size and style.

The battle has gone on for 28 years now, since I know that dirty laundry attacked even before I really knew it existed and continued to plague me growing up and then in high school, college, early married life, and now.

But the battle will be won!!

There are so many parts of having a large family that need, no, they require a system, a way of doing things, a great organization to them.  It’s not that I’m a super organized person.  In fact coming to my house unannounced today would definitely give you a very clear indication that that’s not true.  But God’s given us 6 little blessings and with the joy of their upbringing He’s also given us a responsibility to them. 

A responsibility to love them, to care for them, to provide for their needs, to educate them, to spend time with them, to feed and clothe them, to play with them, to keep them safe, and yes, to wash all their dirty laundry too.

Being the impatient and busy mom that I can be at times, laundry often has gotten the better of me and we’ve lived from basket to basket, frequently running laundry at midnight to be sure there’s clean socks for the next day and saying “those pants didn’t get so dirty” (which there is absolutely nothing wrong with ) and sending the kids off to play in yesterday’s pants while the laundry once again made its spinning magic in the machine.

As God has added children, responsibility, and more dirty socks to our family, He has also slowly showed us ways that we can do things like tackle the dirty laundry beast without taking unnecessary time away from the joyful parts of parenthood and doing it more efficiently and really just easier so that I no longer have a hate/hate relationship with the evil dirty laundry monster.  Instead it is love/hate because I am so grateful for the way that things work SO easily that each and every morning I am blessed by clean laundry and clothes that the kids can wear for whatever adventures the day may hold!

Today we have a closet.  Just one, really, but it has taken over what used to be half of the office.  It’s one long wall of the office and is right off of our laundry room.  Having the right tools and space to manage a large family are absolutely helpful, but  not 100% necessary.  I love our oversized front loaders which do twice as much laundry at a time as our old washer and dryer, but this ‘system’ has been in place since before we replaced our washer and dryer.  And it began to take shape before the laundry monster kicked Michael out of half of the office. 

It originally took shape in the closet in Kristopher and Brianna’s room.  There are so many ways for this to work for different families with different space and resources, so be creative in seeing if it’s something that might help you slay the dirty laundry dragon in your own home.

For us, it originally meant that we invested in extra laundry baskets (the great $5 variety, a total of $15) and an extra rod and brackets for the closet in one bedroom (about $15).  We took everything out of the bedroom that wasn’t for sleeping, and put all of the kids’ dressers into that one room.  We put ALL of the kids’ clothes in the one bedroom!  Two kids’ clothes went up and two kids’ clothes went down in the closet.  This was when we were just about to have Lynae, and her clothes did stay separate for a while.

Having all 4 of the older kids’ clothes in the same room meant that as I did the laundry, it all went to ONE place.  Then, once a week, I’d hang the clothes that needed hanging, fold the ones that needed folding, and everything would be a fresh start for the next week.  I later added in the hanging plastic or canvas baskets which allows 6 or 7 days worth of clothes to be put out so things are prepared for the coming week.   This way when I put away clothes, I also set them up for the coming week and I only have to go into the room and grab out 6 little outfits the night before in order to set them on the coffee table and have them ready to go the next morning!

Now that our family and dirty laundry monster have expanded, our needs grew and we had to adjust as well.  The dirty laundry monster hasn’t repossessed our time or energy, or our entire household, again, though.  Instead, we’ve grown our system and ‘traded up’ into taking over part of the office.  An added benefit to having the clothes outside of the bedroom areas is that I now can tackle the beast at times when the kids are sleeping, which makes things even better since all our kids are so little and need more supervision than most other larger families. 

I would actually consider swapping out MY clothes in MY closet for the kids’ clothes and having all of theirs in the larger master bedroom closet, splitting up Michael’s and mine into different kids’ rooms in order to be able to tackle all their laundry when they’re sleeping and only having to do our adult laundry sort and folding when the kids are awake.  Yes, it would take more planning as far as having our own clothes out and ready the night before each time, but it’s another solution we’ve considered before determining that our office would be the best solution.

Six little dressers in a row… six sections of hanging clothes… and six hanging baskets each with six days of clothes ready to go in them.  That’s how we’ve tackled the laundry beast!  Dirty laundry goes from the (oversized) hamper to the washer and dryer, and into the office where it waits (out of sight and out of the way) until I can tackle the job, sort, fold, and lay out clothes for the week!

In order to help just a bit, I also often quickly grab out all the shirts and things that will get wrinkled and lay them flat on a table in the office after washing each load so that I’m not having to iron (who are we kidding here?  REWASH…) anything that won’t straighten out by hanging.  We also have added a shelf above the hanging rods that hold large plastic bins.  Clothes that the kids outgrow, or things that I’ve bought in the next size up (on clearance sales which is the absolute best way to buy clothes—next to garage sales and hand-me-downs, maybe) are all sorted, labeled, and in the top of the ‘closet’ ready and waiting.

What did we do with the now-empty closets in the kids’ rooms?  In the winter, I hang the more summery shirts that fit the kids at the end of the season in one closet.  In the summer the jackets and long sleeves go in there.  This way they’re still accessible in an unseasonably warm or cool day, but they’re not in the middle of our everyday clothes.  I also use the closets for storage of things that might have been in the office previously that might have been ‘offset’ by our closet moving there.  If necessary, bi-fold door locks are available to keep the kids from being able to open the doors and get into anything that I may not want them tackling.

There it is, the dirty laundry monster and how we, as a family of 8 and growing, overcome it on a daily and weekly basis.  God gives us blessings and responsibility, and it’s up to us to find the tools and organization to make it work in the best way possible so that we can accomplish the goals that He has for us and to make the best use of our time and resources!

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*I know several other ‘real life’ friends that also do similar things, and it is affectionately called a “Duggar Closet” based on the large family who I understand has something similar… but I’ve never actually followed that family or seen their shows, so I have no idea how it may be similar or different.  I am just sharing the way that we have adapted to the needs of our family and children in one of the very practical ways that I believe make the days go so much smoother (and more fun!) than ways we’ve operated in the past.*


  1. I have 2 kids- so laundry is a breeze. I get my 18 year old son and husband to put away all their own laundry. But I grew in a family of 9. We all put our dirty clothes in the cabinet under the sink in the main bathroom so my Mom only went to one location to get laundry. After a load she would make piles for each of us. Now that I am a Mom- I wished I would have helped her more! Your system is great.

  2. I have a big family too. laundry is in piled in my room and the door stays shut. I hate it I think I will have to try what you have done thanks for the idea

  3. Love it! Thanks for sharing your creativity. You know, I was thinking over this post and how I have prayed over and over again that the Lord will help me to become a better organized person. And about every two years he gives me another child. And really, I AM superbly more organized than I ever was before becoming a parent. Though my house is not always 'cleaner' for it.

  4. I wish I had the space to do something like this. I so need to do something. the girls clothes are always on the floor in their room, sophies clothes take over MY dresser which means mine are on the top of the dresser and the boys clothes are all over their rooms as they just tend to toss and dig to find what they want. PLEASE keep sharing your ideas for organisation.

  5. Wow~! That is a LOT of laundry, dressers, and hangers!
    I have 6 children and my sister has 11. We have both discovered the magic of fitting the laundry room for two sets of washers and dryers. My sister actually has a set upstairs and a set downstairs so the laundry doesn't have to travel far.
    I finally got my two stackable sets (found cheap on craigslist) set up 2 weeks before having to split the famil for a year (for leukemia treatments). But, next year, I am going to love my laundry room again!!

  6. Wow, that's amazing. I only have 3 kids, but I've recently been fretting over the neverending job of laundry! Maybe there is a better system for me, even though I don't have an office to take over... Thanks for the inspiration!

  7. This is just like the duggar closet, their show is God's answer to all the smut on TV nowadays :)
    We don't have TV in our house at all, but we do catch it on TLC's website and sometimes.