Timing Is Everything
True story: I refused to get pregnant until I had my own washer and dryer. I told my husband this while he was at sea for six months with the Navy and longing to come home and start a family. No at-home laundry facilities, no babies, I said. It wasn't long after that I dragged a friend with me to shop for my very own washer and dryer!
I had heard the story just enough times about my dad hauling a sloshing diaper pail to the laundromat when I was a baby. The idea of toting an overflowing basket of laundry and an infant to the Duds 'n Suds by myself while my husband was away was really a turn-off.
I now realize that demanding the washer and dryer preconception was a stroke of genius. In my oldest daughter's first couple weeks of life, the laundry doubled (at least!) and I can still remember sitting on my bed in a postpartum haze, pondering that eternal question all moms of newborns ask: How can someone with the weight of a bowling ball create This Much Laundry?
The answer of course, is simple: Babies, even when newborns, are messy. Blow-out diapers, spit-up, and baby food disasters don't just soil one piece of clothing—we're talking onesies, rompers, blankets, crib sheets, Mom's shirt, you name it!
Since having kids, I own a veritable laundry list of detergents, softeners, and stain removal products. And now that my children aren't babies, my laundry challenges are different. Mounds of dirty bibs and soiled rompers have been replaced by pizza-stained shirts, cuffs spotted with tempera paint, and jeans with mud on the knees. But it's not only my kids' stains that have changed; my laundry habits have changed too. I learned that to keep the mountain of clothes to a molehill, I needed to organize my laundry room and my schedule.
The key to controlling your wash load is establishing a schedule and sticking to it. Don't wait to do laundry until your husband is down to the silk Mickey Mouse boxers you got him for Valentine's Day, and the only thing your toddler has to wear is her costume from last Halloween!
Families generally come up with their own wash schedule by experience. Some moms like to wait until they have a few loads to wash, some do a load or more daily. Some run a load each night and dry it in the morning, and others like to do it all once. Experiment to find a system that works best for you.
Don't be afraid to enlist help—after all, you didn't dirty all of those clothes yourself! If your children are old enough, have them do wash with you. Post general washing and drying directions near your machines so everyone is clear on how to do the laundry. If kids aren't ready to operate the machines, they can fold and/or put away clothes. Even small children can help you sort clothing by color or type—have your toddler put all the socks in a pile, all the towels in a pile, and so on. If you're having trouble keeping everyone's laundry separate, try using different colored bins or baskets for each family member. Color coding also works well for towels, washcloths, and bed linens.