Having eight people in one house means a lot of laundry! I am not an expert by any means but we have finally found a routine that works for our family. In the interest of making things easier for other families I thought I would share what has been working for our family.
The first rule in our home is that if you are capable of doing your own laundry you do so. That goes for my husband as well as our oldest daughter. They are both in charge of washing, drying, and putting away their own laundry. If I am feeling particularly gracious I will do my husband's laundry but for the most part he is in charge of his own clothes. Now before you think I am an evil wife you should know this was his idea and he is happy to take the load of at least one person's laundry off my shoulders. The key to this system working is to make sure they each have their own dirty laundry hamper in their rooms. Keeping their laundry separate at all times makes the process go much smoother for everyone.
I am in the process of teaching our youngest 5 children to be in charge of their laundry as well. This is different for each age and ability obviously. It all begins with our clean clothes sorting system. A while back I built these laundry basket hanging systems. I can not say enough wonderful things about this system!
Each hanging basket corresponds to a specific clothing size and child. The top basket is for mine and my husband's clothes. Then from the top working down we have baskets for each child based on their heights. The shorter the child the lower their basket. This means that if they need a clothing item and their clothes have not already been put away they can go to their basket and find their clothes on their own.
I am getting a bit ahead of myself though. You see the washer and dryer are right next to these baskets. When I pull laundry from the dryer the clothes are immediately sorted into the correct child's basket. No more mountain of laundry to sort through! I only touch each piece of laundry once to place it in the correct basket.
When each basket is full it is time to put it all away. Our 9 yr old daughter is completely in charge of putting away her laundry. I simply hand her her basket and she takes care of the rest. She is a bit too short to operate the machines but will soon be able to start washing and drying her laundry on her own as well.
Our 6 year old twins create the most laundry by far! There is something about this age that just makes laundry piles. It is too overwhelming for them to be in charge of sorting their laundry. I bring their laundry basket upstairs and sort their things into piles and they take the piles to their room and put them away on their own. I then inspect to make sure they put everything away as instructed and not piled on the floor.
Then I move on to our 5 year old son's laundry. He is 100% able to put away his own laundry but gets a bit distracted. I work with him to put away his laundry. He handles the items that go in the drawers while I hang his clothes up.
Last up we have our 3 year old daughter. She knows where her clothes are and gets herself dressed every morning. We have a similar arrangement as with the older children. I sort the clothes into piles and then she helps put them in the correct location while I supervise and help her.
So that covers the clean laundry routine but what about the dirty laundry? How in the world do you wash that many clothes and towels each week? My husband always does his laundry on Saturday night because his work week starts on Sunday night. I have set aside Sunday as our laundry catch-up day. I am usually woken up in the morning by our oldest daughter starting her laundry in an attempt to get to the machines before I do. After her clothes are done I spend the entire day making sure that the laundry is running continuously and that all clothes are washed and put away by the end of the day. Having that day set aside to making sure that the laundry is completely done each week takes a massive load off of my shoulders during the week. I do still attempt to keep up with the laundry here an there throughout the week but it is definitely hit or miss to say the least!
The one thing you will notice is that I do not fold or iron any clothes, not even my own. It is just not important to me. Our wardrobes consist of mainly play and gym clothes. If we by some fluke have a special even to go to those clothes are kept separate and handled according to their instructions.
Will this system work for everyone? Maybe not, it however works for us. My goal is to teach my children to be self sufficient and I am attempting to do so based on their abilities.
Do you have a laundry system that works for your large family? If so I would love to hear about it!