Whether you have three kids or six kids or ten kids, chances are good you’ve landed here because you have loads and loads of laundry and you feel like dirty clothes are taking over your world. Okay, maybe your situation is not as extreme as mine once was. Back in the day when we had six kids under fifteen in a 1200 square foot house, our family’s laundry situation was a nightmare. With the help of my husband’s ingenuity and some zip ties, I came up with the best laundry system for large families or anyone who wants to get the dirty laundry under control.
Get Creative with your Best Laundry System Ever!
Whether you live in a small house or a big house, chances are good you don’t have room to spread laundry out all over the place or let it pile up. When I cam up with this laundry system, our situation was unique because we had a 250 square foot hallway in an already tight fit of a house. The laundry room itself barely had space for a washer, a dryer, and a built in cabinet we couldn’t remove.
The solution for us was to use that excess hallway space for laundry baskets. Your solution might be a little bit different. Maybe you need laundry baskets in each bathroom or maybe you just want one laundry basket in the laundry room and you aim to get that laundry done each way. The point here is – get creative!
Fix Your Laundry System to Work for Kids
Now. I’ve heard the argument that you don’t need to sort laundry any more- just throw it all in at once. And that might work for you. Until someone washes a new red shirt with someone else’s favorite white socks. Just saying. That being said, I’m all for cutting corners when it comes to household chores, so if you don’t need to sort laundry don’t bother. But if you need to sort laundry, you need to make sure that the laundry system you have in place works for everyone from smallest to tallest. Here’s how to answer the question “Do I need to sort my laundry?”.
Sorting Laundry Might Make Sense for You
If clothing weight matters. For some washers, the weight of the clothing pieces all needs to be equal. That means towels have to be washed with other towels and jeans have to be washed with other jeans or the washing machine gets itself all out of balance. If that applies to your home, then sorting laundry probably makes sense for you.
If you like your whites to stay white. Some people don’t mind a slightly dingy white for their socks, underwear and other unmentionables. Others like to bleach those puppies till they sparkle. If you are in the latter category, you definitely need to sort at least enough to separate all of the whites from all of the rest.
If you buy red clothing or any new clothing in bright colors. I have been telling my kids for years that laundry doesn’t need sorting until one of my boys went off for college and had to do his own laundry. The very first week he destroyed his favorite white sweatshirt because he washed it with a red t-shirt. It made him so sad, and not just a little bit mad at me. Mom messed up. I forgot to tell him that new clothes can bleed dye. As long as you wash all new clothing right away, its not a problem for you. But if there is any chance at all that someone’s new stuff is going to get mixed in with everything else – sorting is a good solution.
How to Sort Laundry
Here is another example of how there is no right way to do things. If you want to get all of your family members involved in sorting laundry, its a good idea to make signage. We came up with categories we wanted the kids to use when sorting laundry and made a sign for each category so that even the toddlers could help out with our laundry routine. Our laundry machine is very weight sensitive, so our categories might be more restrictive than yours. Here are the categories we came up with.
Laundry categories in our house would be brights (reds, purples, pinks, etc.), darks (navy, brown, black etc.), neutrals (grays, whites, tans, etc.), jeans (all jeans and heavy pants), towels, and miscellaneous.
Laundry Habits for Kids
- Make laundry a part of the morning routine. When you come to breakfast, bring your dirty laundry to the sorting are and put it where it goes.
- Make laundry easy. Use signs on your laundry baskets, keep the laundry detergent where your young tweens and teens can reach it if they do their own laundry, and have hangers, dryer sheets, and stain remover handy too.
- Divvy up the chore. Have one child responsible for putting laundry in the washer. Have another child responsible for moving laundry to the dryer. Have each child fold their own laundry or just carry it up to their room and dump it in the dresser drawers. Hey! At least it contains the mess!
Best Laundry System Supplies
In order to make your new laundry organization work, you will have to have some supplies. We had to make a few purchases. Here is what we bought.
Tall Laundry Hamper Baskets. These work well to hold group laundry in a centralized location.
Small Laundry Baskets. These work well in bedrooms or bathrooms for carrying laundry to the centralized location and to carry clean laundry back to where it belongs.
Sheet Protectors. These protect your signs from getting messed up from wet clothing. If you have a small laminator and laminating film, that works great too! If you use a laminator you will also need a hole punch.
Photo Paper. Print the signs in color to help your little ones figure it out without reading. Of course, this requires you to have a printer. If you don’t have a printer, get your signs printed at an office supply store instead.
Plastic Zip Ties. These will help you to attach the signs to the laundry baskets. If you have a cloth laundry sorter, you can use large safety pins to attach the signs.
How to Make Laundry Signs
- Take pictures of the various categories you came up with for sorting.
- Add the pictures to signs using Powerpoint or similar software.
- Add words for your older kids.
- Print the signs.
- Place each sign in a sheet protector or laminate it.
- Punch holes if laminated.
- Add zip ties to each hole and feed it through the holes in the laundry basket. Tighten.
Getting Laundry Folded
Are you sure you need to fold laundry? Maybe the only thing you need to fold is towels (so that they fit into the linen closet) and the clothing of adults (because we actually care if our stuff gets wrinkly or fits in our closet and dresser. In any case, a few minutes a day as a family can quickly get your clean laundry put back where it belongs. Sort, fold, and distribute laundry together after dinner each night or at another time where working together fits into your schedule. Everyone wears clothes, so everyone should help!
Read more Laundry Hacks for Kids!
Kimberly Listrud says
Wow! That is a great idea! Congratulations to your hubby for a great solution. Love the blog.
I love your system – especially with photos for the categories! I’ve been wanting to do something similar, but haven’t found space to put the baskets (small house here, too )
We have a small house too, very small. This is something I’ve been wanting to do but have no space (think 1100sft) so my dh purchased one of those multi hampers for the kids. It’s not as good as separate hampers because they are much smaller but it sort of works.
Thanks for sharing,
I understand that Linda! We have 1600 square feet, six kids like you, and 400 square feet is that stupid long hallway. The layout of this house does not maximize 1600 sq ft. But, we make it work. For this move, we prayed that the children and I would have a strong community of support and God has answered that prayer in spades. We are grateful.
This is fantastic! I’ve been wanting to do something similar at my house for a while, but it just keeps getting pushed to the side. I don’t have as much laundry as you do (only 4 kids), but I need something to organize better. Thanks for the motivation!!!
What a cool system!! It even looks nice!
What a great laundry system! We also have 6 kids and laundry can be a mess some weeks. I may have to go tackle our laundry room now, thanks for the motivation! Hope you have a great week!
Looks like a great system! I know laundry in our family of 10 is always an issue. Love when we have a system that works!
Really great idea;)
Lizzie TOS Crew
We have used a similar system using collapsible (tall dorm room) laundry baskets in each person’s closet. They fit easily under the hanging clothes. White basket is for white clothes, navy or black basket is for darks, and the red or yellow or other bright color is for the brights. My girls are of the age when they can be responsible for doing their own clothes….when they have enough for a load, it’s sorted and ready to wash. Sometimes they even work together combining their partial loads to get that favorite shirt washed. They are also responsible for moving the clothes to the dryer or hanging to dry (we have put extension shower rods in several doorways. That way they put the shirt or pants on a hanger and hang it up. Putting it away is then a matter of moving the dry clothes to their closets.
Jackie Ryan Masek says
Absolutely brilliant! I also loved that your hubby did this for the family. BTW, I live in SoCal, too. I saw your post on soyoucallyourselfahomeschooler.com and thought I’d say hi.
I have a post on soyoucallyourselfahomeschooler.com ?? I don’t remember guest posting for that sight. Hmmm.
I had done something like this at my house with limited ongoing success. I did funny signs for each category like Darth Vader for “The Dark Side” and a funny picture of a dog being washed for whites. The family got a kick out of them, and I also do several categories. We just couldn’t always spare the space with my son’s wheelchair, but when we could the sorting always required a re-sort. I had teens. Maybe that was the issue.
Try THIS for your laundry FOLDING system. We use it and it’s AWESOME! I might combine it with your laundry SORTING system and BOOM, my laundry time on the front end will be cut in half also. Now what to do with all my free time… 🙂
I wish I had room for this but I love the idea. I may be able to swing a variation of this soon! Great ideas!
What an AWESOME idea! I have 4 children, 13, 10, 3 & 2 years old. (most days its more like 3, 3, 3 & 3 years old lol) I had tried to set up a basket in front of the washing machine and told them to put their dirty clothes in the ONE basket. I mean, how difficult is that to do? Not at all, however thats where the laziness kicks in…… NOTHING ever made it into that basket. It’s just easier to spread all over the floor for Mom to pick up! WELL…..We are moving into our new house next weekend and there will be new rules set in place. I am SO glad I found this, what an excellent idea! I think it will be fun for them to do, and fun for the big kids to teach the littles the right way to help mom out big time! Heres to hoping this solution works out! I have faith! LOL! Thank you so much for sharing and I can’t wait to start in our new home with new organizatinal skills!
Wow now i need to try this, we have 2 kids 17 and 3 and my DH and me. But we live out in the country on a well so we do laundry morning and night. Plus i have a home daycare.
I wish i could do 4 loads a day. We had a water leak and stoped washing for a bit and now i have a mountain. With hormonal teen and a fashionista daughter i feel like i will do laundry for months before this. Now i think i will try this our bathroom is huge 14 x 15 but not well organized and woth a tub that could be my coffin.
Im praying this helps!
Cassie Hallstrom says
I have 5 young children and I definitely know what you are saying!!! I have struggled with laundry for a while and tried figuring out what works! I decided towels don’t need folded cause it doesn’t matter if they are wrinkled when you use them. I found a decorative laundry basket and throw all bath towels in there. (I still fold hand towels and wash clothes and put them in the cupboard so they fit). I was talking to my friends that also have a lot of kids and how they keep up on the laundry and stay organized without clothes all over the place. This is how they do it: •laundry room on the main floor so you can easily switch it throughout the day.
•dirty laundry baskets marked (like yours) in the laundry room or close by
•baskets for each kids clean laundry in a shelving system in or close to the laundry room; so you can easily throw their clothes in as they come out of the drier. (No folding, just sorting)
I have started renovating my laundry room to make this happen because most of the mess of my house is laundry whether clean or dirty. My kids will change in the laundry room and dirty laundry will be sorted as it comes off. I plan to hang a metal plumbing pipe out of the ceiling for hanging (clothes that can’t be dried and clothes that wrinkles can’t be shook out of*** look up melaleuca wrinkle spray) the clean clothes baskets will go on shelves under the folding counter (for my clothes/hubby’s) and for a baby changing counter. I’m very excited to get this all finished! Hope this gives you a little inspiration and helps you figure out a solution to folding (AND PUTTING AWAY)!