Here's the undeniable truth in life: Laundry is wonderful when it smells like it's been line-dried and is folded in our drawers. Getting control over your laundry when you're pregnant, or exhausted from taking care of the new baby, makes the achievement of this laundry Nirvana a little more than slightly challenging.
Keep in mind, the amount of time you spend on laundry each week will depend on how many people live in your house and the kind of work or activities they do. "If you don't have a large family, you can do laundry once a week," says Linda Cobb, the Queen of Clean®. Larger families and busier schedules may call for you to do the laundry more often. That way, you're managing fewer loads at a time.
Your Hamper-to-Closet Strategy
Here's a six-step plan to get dirty clothes clean and organized.
1. Get a laundry basket for each person in the house, even the new baby. Each basket should be in an easy-to-get-to spot so there are no excuses about missing the basket.
2. At laundry time, walk from room to room collecting laundry in a separate basket. As you're walking to the laundry room, pick up baby socks or kids pajama bottoms embedded in the couch or under your front hall rug. The more often you do the laundry, the lighter the basket will be.
3. Sort all of the clothes into a three-bin basket (whites, darks, baby clothes). Bins without tops make the sorting job easier. Encourage older children, starting from age 3, to sort their own clothes. Most children can't ignore the dare: "Who can get it in the bin first?"
4. Start your wash in the morning before you get ready for the day. This is key for working moms and working moms-to-be. That way, when you get home from work, you can pop your clothes in the dryer. (If work or life gets in the way, and damp clothes sit in the washer long enough to develop that distinctive, nasty wet-clothes-in-the-washer-too-long smell, add a cup or two of white vinegar to the machine and rinse and spin them again.)
5. Ideally, drying and folding clothes should be the twins that are never separated. Folding and putting away clothes should take you no longer than 15 minutes—especially if you do a load more than once a week. When the crying baby prevents you from getting dry clothes folded, "Throw in a damp towel with clothes that are dry, and let dryer spin," says Cobb. "It will release the wrinkles."
6. Encourage older children to fold and put away their own clothes by designating bins in the laundry room for them. When clothes are dry, put clothes in the bin of the person it belongs to. This will teach your children responsibility, and gives them the freedom to put away their clothes on their own schedule.
TIP: Clothes that need to be dry-cleaned should go in a separate bag so they don't end up in the wash. (Look for dry cleaners that use carbon dioxide instead of perchloroethylene in their processing.)
Get Kids to Help
If you thought that laundry was a major chore before having kids, look out, writes Christine Beaudry, veteran mom and launderer. In her article, Get Laundry Under Control, she voices the universal amazement of parents:
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!But kids grow, and both Beaudry and Cobb encourage you to get your kids involved. You can do it! Kids actually enjoy helping you if you can make it fun, but they'll need some training:
1. Each child should have his own laundry basket. To get them not to throw their socks to the side of the bin, put up a toy basketball hoop over it and have them "shoot" their clothes in.
2. Buy a step stool so kids can help put the clothes in the wash. Start the morning with a call to arms: "Who wants to help Mommy put the clothes in the wash?" Showing them how laundry is done, allowing them to measure out detergent, and encouraging them to help gives children a sense of responsibility.
3. If your child is old enough, let her carry the laundry basket of clean clothes back to her room, then help her fold them—or better, let her fold and put the clothes away herself.
4. For children out of diapers: Give them each a different color of underwear, says Cobb. That way, it's easier to sort out their clothes.