Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Climb Climb up Laundry Mountain

Remember the old Sunday school song 'Climb Climb up Sunshine Mountain Heavenly Breezes blow'? On washing day which is every day at this house except for Sunday, I change the words and sing 'Climb Climb up laundry mountain I wish the breeze would blow'! It would be wonderful to see the sheets flapping in the wind but they don't. The coastal breeze does reach us late in the day but to catch the breeze to dry the washing on the line super fast we would need to relocate the clothesline - to the driveway at the front of the house - not a good idea!

And as much as I am sentimental about my faithful friend the Hills Hoist, I am not prepared to have it on the side patio either! But the washing does dry eventually. This is Australia and we have sunshine! We also receive rain - lots of it at certain times of year in the region where I live but rain or shine the laundry is always with us. It has to be sorted, washed, pegged out (or hung on clothes horses inside on wet days) brought in again, folded and returned to drawers and wardrobes ensuring that the right socks are returned to the right person - providing we can find matching pairs!

So here is my plan for laundry management for a family of nine people. Some of the discoveries I have made are recent 'why didn't I think of this years ago' implementations.

1. Accept that laundry will always be with you and choose to keep it as a priority household task. Clothes before cobwebs!

In times of extra stress or just in the busy seasons of family life such as when a new baby arrives, I can let other tasks go (such as polishing or washing windows) but laundry and meals are essential to living. If I can keep on top of these we can keep on living and I am not burdened by trying to have a 'home beautiful'. Clean clothes, meals on time and a reasonably clean, tidy and ordered home will suffice. And when laundry tasks need to be prioritized when the rainwater tanks are running low, everyday clothes, towels and sheets are given priority over party dresses and picnic blankets!

2. Give every member of the family their own linen hamper.

This has been one of the best home organization tips I have ever implemented. Even my husband and I have separate linen hampers in the walk in wardrobe. I have found the old fashioned plastic hampers to be the best. Calico lined baskets for children are not the best idea - sooner or later a forgetful child tosses in a wet towel or clothes and sets up their personal science experiment in the bottom of the basket - to grow mould! I also have a separate hamper for bedlinen and a 'wet towel' tub located near to the bathroom.

Baby boy has a calico lined hamper next to his change table but I am in charge of what goes into it. I need to keep an eye on his brother's linen hamper - this is the scene that greeted me today.

My laundry basket runneth over!

3. Enlist the help of your children

If you have children and they can dress themselves they can assist with laundry! Over the years we have had various rosters but it all started to fall apart when they began working part time on the dairy farm next door. Not only did they have extra dirty work clothes that needed washing but they were away from home at the very time of day when washing needed to be put on and pegged out or brought in from the line. So now rather than allocate days when they are on laundry I have divided up the clothes that belong to our family and given individuals areas of responsibility. This is also when I started to use the term 'pegging out' as I used to be heard calling out 'Okay, who is meant to be hanging today?' !!!

I am the Laundry Manageress and decree what is to go into the machine. The separate basket system is a great asset - I know for sure that one of the boys must have a load go onto tomorrow. He is younger and needs more reminders but he will load the machine, turn it on and peg it out - I have shown him how to do this but he still needs instruction. I am still training him and hope he becomes as reliable as his older brother.

The homeschool graduate now 18 and still living at home does all his own laundry. He has his own routine and generally does his washing on the weekend when we are away at ice skating lessons. How did I manage to persuade a teenager to do his own laundry? Well we made a deal - when we gave up the roster that wasn't working and causing too many arguments that he was part of, I put it to him that he just had to be responsible for his own laundry. He agreed on the spot! He even does his own bedlinen which is a great help to me. As the manager of my home I keep one eye on the line - if rain is threatening and my son is not home I fetch in his laundry and expect the other children to do likewise - to look out for ways in which they can be helpful and kind to one another.

His sister age 15 - is responsible for her own laundry and is also assigned her father's clothes, bedlinen and towels. She is very responsible and also prefers the new system rather than the alternating days roster which just became too complicated with children swapping days because of work/study commitments or missing their day because it happened to pour down when their turn came around.

As younger children grow in stature and maturity they are assigned more responsibility and the pressure is taken off the older ones as there are more people to carry the load. Once upon a time, I believed it was all my responsibility as the mother but my husband wanted his children to be taught how to work and to share in the running of the household, especially as we grew in number. So we start teaching them when they are little and are eager to help out. The twins cannot reach the clothesline yet but there are lots of ways in which they can help - they can match socks, deliver clothes to the right rooms and pick up dropped pegs at the clothesline.

Her sister age 13 looks after her own clothes and her twin sisters. I put more time into assisting her and have recently been showing her the value of folding in at the line. This shakes off pollen and the occasional spider - I once brought in a very venomous funnel web spider into the house in a basket of washing. You should have heard me scream when I spotted it sitting on top of the towels I had tossed into the basket which was dropped in an instant. I am now much more vigilant to check towels and try to avoid leaving washing out on the line overnight.

4. If you have time, fold in at the line. I have been trialling this in recent weeks because the mountain range of laundry which was being dumped on the sofa each evening was becoming quite depressing and there was nowhere to sit! I was the chief folder and found this task was defining our evenings. Now warmer days are here, the extra time spent at the line in the late afternoon, removing clothes and folding them before placing them in the basket is proving to be a wise investment. Clothes are less creased and because we peg them out in sections - dad's clothes are all together, baby boy's clothes (my responsibility) are all together they are brought in all together. Apart from a separate load for whites and denims most of our washing is put on in 'people groups.'

5. Consider the colour and type of clothes you choose for your littlies. When I had just two little girls I had to return to England to attend my father's funeral. During my stay I made sure I made a trip to the department store Marks and Spencer which always used to be known for quality - in clothing, home wares and food (It's one of the few things I miss about England!) I was looking for beautiful little girls' poplin dresses and found two - one in white, one in lemon with smocking on the bodice. The same dress came in 'French' navy. If I was buying the same dresses today for my twins believe me I would have chosen the navy! The twins have now inherited the dresses but they are for special occasion wear only! I also look out for hard wearing fabrics that will wash well and not pill or fade after a few washes. I'm now applying the same rule to towels and tablecloths opting for green and earthy brown shades for towels and tablecloths. As much as I love the idea of fluffy white towels and pristine white damask tablecloths I'm washing in cold water these days and have opted for the practical over the pretty. Or better still I look out for clothes and linen that are both durable and beautiful. Anyone know where in Australia you can purchase 'oilskin' tablecloths like they have in England?

Baby boy's clothes drying in the sun will be folded in at the line

Ready to be returned to their storage basket which sits under his change table.

Other stuff you might be interested to know

1. We have two washing machines. The old top loader (a Maytag) which uses a lot more water is used infrequently for doona covers/blankets or when we are on washing overload after days of rain. We had found it could not cope with the poor water pressure and wanting to have a more water/energy efficient machine, purchased a front loader (a Bosch). I was amazed at how much cleaner the clothes are when they are washed in a front loader and it does have a 15 minute cycle which is great for towels or lightly soiled clothes. Although it uses a lot less water we did make the mistake of not buying a bigger capacity machine. If I did not have the other machine as back-up we would struggle to cope with the amount of washing our household generates. I've also found the filters are prone to blocking and the rubber door seal perishes easily and needs replacing annually. So far no problems with the electronics after 3 years of continuous use.

2. I make my own laundry liquid (ingredients are grated sunlight soap, borax and washing soda) which has saved me a small fortune over the past year but I am going to discontinue using borax as an ingredient as we are reusing the grey water from the machine on the garden where fruit trees are located. I had not considered this when making up my liquid. Some people substitute bicarbonate of soda for the borax but I might just try a measure of an eco laundry liquid deemed safe for septic systems and grey water reuse. If you make your own laundry liquid and reuse your grey water I would be interested to know what you use in place of borax and how it performs.

3. I iron in the hallway! A strange place to set up the ironing board you might think but this is where the laundry storage cupboard is located and my son plays really good music most of the time - saves me searching for CD s and setting them up. I like to have music to listen to as I attend to this task. Sometimes he is not aware that I am at the ironing board until he hears me singing along to 'The Sound of Melodies' by Leeland or my favourite at the moment 'It's all because of Jesus I'm alive' (by Fee from the album 'We Shine'). If I am ironing a garment I pray for the person it belongs to - this means I pray for my husband daily as he needs a freshly ironed shirt for work each day. I also meditate on the many blessings of family life as I iron right next to my hall table where there are photo frames holding pictures of family , figurines and plaques to remind me of God's providence. Who would have thought ironing could bring you into the presence of God!

This cloth is my latest garage sale find, it came with matching napkins - all hand stitched and the complete set cost me two dollars. The iron was also two dollars from a garage sale! Even my ironing board came from a garage sale! When I iron tablecloths I pray for our family meal table that our fellowship around it will be a sweet blessing and a precious memory for our children when they are older. And when I iron my own clothes I pray for strong arms for the task, for my ministry of motherhood and for patience and perseverance - especially when the ironing pile doesn't seem to be getting any smaller!

A sneak peek at my latest project. The vintage wardrobe has had two coats so far of Dulux antique white USA - always a pot of this paint colour to be found in a shed here at this home. I'm preparing myself for painting the formal living room which is undergoing extensive renovations at the moment. Have to say I prefer painting wardrobes to ceilings - no strained neck muscles!
It was of course, formerly a dark timber veneer wardrobe and it dominated the hallway. It is really quite big - a monstrosity according to the rest of the family but I saw its potential. It is going to be my craft/homemakers cupboard. I hope to get it finished on the weekend.

So there it is - a post about how we do laundry. The children now think I have lost the plot - taking photos of the washing baskets, the clothesline and blogging about laundry! But I do hope this has been of help to someone and given you insight into how we are raising homemakers and responsible sons. This is what works for our family in this season of our life.

The mountain is sometimes moved but the baskets are rarely empty and soon refill. The clothesline is usually full and our days are busy but somehow we get through. Working together as a family, a little household organization and choosing to take pleasure in the domestic is how I climb, climb up laundry mountain and conquer it. (I still wish the breeze would blow!)

How do you move your laundry mountains?

With Love and Joy,

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Unknown said...

Hi Ann,
Your system sounds similar to ours.
Every bedroom has a laundry basket and we have assigned day for each, Fridays is for sheets and towels and Saturday sports gear when we get home. At the moment my 3 oldest take turns at being on the laundry for a week. We have found this works better than the daily schedule we used to have, as it allows time for days out when washing isn't done or rain holding things up. We fold at the line unless it's raining, and then it is easy to put clothes away. If one of the little ones wet the bed they take their sheets to the laundry, and the laundry person remakes the bed when they are dry.
I too love antique white USA and I am sure our whole house will soon sport this colour!

American Home said...

Dear Friend,
Such a wonderful post. I have 6 children so I understand the mountain of laundry. You have a gift with words and I have missed being able to visit your blog lately. I hope all is well with you and that you are enjoying the season. I have added your blog to my list of favorite places to visit on my home page. You can view it when you visit the American Home.
God bless you my friend.

Renata said...

Thanks for the tips - I actually don't mind doing laundry, but know that it's important for the kids to learn how to as well, so Zai is now in charge of the first load of the day (I usually have 2 or 3 loads each day except Thurday (our homeschool day out) & Sunday). I've also been trialing folding at the line & have found it works really well as long as it isn't too windy or cold - otherwise the evening is my folding time. I've been trying to do the ironing as it comes as well, which makes for a more relaxing ironing experience (although that was my special time for watching a dvd) - I hate piles of clothes around however, so it's worth it!
Our water also goes out on the grass, but I haven't pondered the ingredients of my homemade powder - will have to try the bicarb. I do on occasion buy the eco store powder because I like it. If I use normal powder, I only use the eco store scoop amount - I've had no trouble getting the clothes clean with this smaller amount!
Sorry long comment
Hope you have a lovely weekend - it's raining here today which means my dryer will be getting a workout!
God bless you
PS I love that tablecloth & you've done a wonderful job on the cupboard. Any tips for painting - I've bought the paint for the boys room, but haven't braved painting it yet - I've never painted before!

Farming On Faith said...

I really enjoyed reading your post.
I don't know anything about using the grey water~??

I do know that my plumber who installed our septic system said that Borax was one of the safest thing for a septic systems. Have you heard otherwise?

A Bite of Country Cupcakes said...

I have left a comment twice.....Where are my comments going??? Comment craziness:)

Ann at eightacresofeden said...

I don't know Kylie - this is the first comment that arrived in my box. I checked my spam folder just in case but nothing there. Maybe they will turn up sooner or later. Please send some of your water north - we really need to fill our tanks soon or I will have mammoth mountains!

Camille said...

What a practical post Ann! Well done for taking the time to lay it all out so simply here! I'm sure it will be a blessing to many to learn how you scale your laundry mountains! :)

We are a family of my story is a little different than yours ~ We haven't got the volume you do.

BUT...some things are similar. One way being that it is "never" all done! :)

I keep all the bins for collecting dirty laundry in the laundry room. I am blessed with a large laundry/mud room, so it can all be accomodated there. I have a darks bin, a whites bin and a socks bin. The wet towels are draped over the laundry sink until they are washed. The bed linens go into the wash as soon as they are stipped off the beds as I have only one set of linens per bed. One other thing I do is have "outside clothes" and inside clothes. It saves IMMENSELY on the laundry that needs doing...what a blessing!

Thanks for asking us what we do. It's been an enjoyable visit here today.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Niki said...

Once again an insightful & family based post. I love perusing all the blogs out there, but I always come back to yours for true family centred realness & commonsense. A blog filled with the real of everyday happy family life.
Love to you all, Niki

Christy said...

Hi Anne
I have another system I've just worked out - i have a separate coloured washing basket for each room (girls room/babies room/parents room) which i put all the clean folded clothes in straight from the line. Makes it much easier sorting! Thanks for detailing how you deal with this mountainous task!

Jen said...

Thank you for sharing how you do laundry. I may implement some of your ideas when we move house.

Right now in this house my laundry is also the bathroom so clothes get sorted from each bedroom basket into one of 3 baskets, lights, darks or handwash. I am taking care of all the stages in our household of 6 but I can see that I need to "share" this job around.

Also our yard has too many trees to be a good place for clothes to dry well. I use the dryer a lot even though NSW has nice drying weather.

We will be moving soon and hopefully I can set up a similar system to yourself with a proper laundry.

Best wishes
Jen in NSW

melanie said...

Enjoyed reading this post ~ What a sweet blog you have!
Just came over from Farming on Faith after Carrie posted about the lovely magazine you sent her.
We have six children and my hubby is a farmer, so I often climb Mt. Washmore. We just moved into a new house, so still getting routines established. I would love to hang wash outside, but a busy gravel road and some pungent animal odors would not leave it clean or sweet.
Especially love your ironing time of praying and singing ~ I used to listen to an audio Bible while I ironed, but haven't done a bit of ironing yet in the new house :o

God bless you and your family!

Bel said...

I also have a large family. We have only one basket in the bathroom, and each morning I call "last call for washing" and the children scramble to bring me their dirty clothes, pyjamas, sheets, towels etc. I sort the dirty laundry into piles and begin washing. I have normally had a load on from the night before, set with the timer to finish around the time I wake up. So I put in the next load, and hang the first. Our older daughters take turns to bring in the dry laundry, sort it into piles, fold the linen and put it away, etc. All the children fold their own clothes and put them away, and we all help the little ones hang up their 'town' clothes on hangers. We iron before we go out, and have linens etc which need no ironing as it isn't a favourite task of mine at all! Each child knows how to operate the washer and dryer, and when something beeps, if my hands are full I will get them to put the next load in. They often hang washing by my side too. I loved your laundry post - the similarities and differences to our routines!


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