Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Taming the Beast!

Whenever we return home from a trip, there is the inevitable mountain of laundry to tackle.  And this current mountain of dirty clothes was especially challenging as it was from a weekend of being one with nature ... one with dirt, one with tree bark, one with campfire ash, one with s'mores.  I make a habit when traveling of packing a large plastic bag (a kitchen trash bag works well) for all the dirty clothes to go in.  This helps the kids from intermingling their clean clothes with their filthy clothes ... as if a quick look or smell wouldn't make that perfectly clear!  It was certainly helpful this weekend because it also helped to contain the smell of camp smoke from permeating the van and house.  Why is it that a smell so earthy like a campfire can smell so good when you're sitting their sipping your cocoa, but give it 24-hours and it is pure stench?  I invited the kids yesterday to smell what they smelled like before their showers and they each stuck their noses in the laundry basket ... but only for a moment!  Whew!

But even if we are not returning from a trip, just a regular week in the Kellum house accumulates a lot of dirty socks, shirts and pants!  I guess that comes with the territory of having a large family.  If you think about it (which I try not to do because it might depress me!) in one given day we will dirty 12 socks, 6 undies, 6 shorts or pants, 6 shirts and perhaps a leotard or two.  And that's if no one changes their clothes part way through the day!  Ta-dah!  One load of laundry!  In light of this I have a few tricks that make my weekly laundry labors a little less work.

For one thing, I do laundry several times a week.  There is NO WAY I would want to see what we could stockpile in an entire week.  (See the above list and multiply by seven!)  Instead, I am in the habit of doing three loads at the first of the week, typically Monday, a small load of odds and ends on Wednesday and then three loads again on Friday.  In this way, I usually am not doing laundry on the weekend and I can usually keep my big laundry days to just three loads:  whites/lights, colors and jeans/towels.  My "odds and ends" laundry day is when I toss in bathroom towels, kitchen items (we use cloth napkins) and any really stinky clothing items that have penetrated the hamper.  Another perk to doing laundry frequently is that I don't end up with an overpowering pile of socks to match (according to our previous equation = 84 singles) and seeing as they are all white (!!) this can be quite a time saver.

A second laundry tip I would share is recruiting any help you can get ... from within your house, that is.  We'd all love to have a laundress, but that probably isn't going to happen!  Brett is a great help around the house, especially with laundry.  In fact, he tackled much of this week's Mt. Everest of stinkiness and I enjoyed a laundry-free Monday!  But, I have also learned to get the kids to help, too.  On Monday and Friday mornings, if time allows, I send the kids upstairs to sort laundry.  It is an easy task for them and it is easy for me to re-sort a few items if Lydia is helping. :)  The kids are also solely responsible for putting away their own clothes after school.  I fold the laundry and make nice piles on my bed of all their items (piles of their pants, socks, shirts, etc.)  The kids then come in after school and put their piles away.  I will be honest with you that sometimes those nice, clean, fresh clothes get CRAMMED in their dresser drawers.  Part of me cares ... but the other part of me who isn't putting away piles of clothes just lets it go!  On days when the kids are home, I invite (require) them to join me in the folding of clothes.  It is a great teachable moment for them to learn how to fold shirts and pants and how to match socks.  And someday I figure they will be well-trained and ready to do it on their own!

Having little people means having big stains on some of our clothes.  I try to not let stained clothes sit too long.  I typically try to spray the offending spots with a pre-treatment spray (I like Oxi-Clean) and then launder it soon.  Another practice I have in getting really grimy clothes clean is letting things soak.  Our washing machine has a setting that fills the tank, agitates and then lets it sit.  You can do this on your own by setting yourself a timer and lifting the lid after the clothes have agitated a bit and then let it run the cycle as usual.  By using a pre-treatment spray as well, I almost never have stains that persist.  I check the clothes before I dry (the heat will set the stain) and if the stain is still there, I try washing them again the same way as before.  If that doesn't work, that outfit gets sent to the rags ... or they can wear it again the next time we plan on getting filthy.

Here are a few snapshots from our post-camping laundry yesterday:
Proof we enjoyed camping ... and we wanted to take a little bit home with us!
In this picture you can see that we apparently didn't have napkins on our trip :)  I especially like how dirty Lydia's bottom was ... she had no problem just plopping down anywhere!  Norah also had some good brown spots on her back ... I'm not sure how that happened.  I wasn't sure how well these would come out as they had sat for about 12-hours letting those stains really take hold.  Now for the results:

Not too shabby!  Norah's shirt shows almost no evidence of dirt - definitely nothing that will stop her from wearing it again.  As for Lydia's onesie, there is still some residual stain, but it has certainly be saved from the rag bin.

Now you might ask, "Do you have any tips on ironing?" to which I would reply with this little story:  Aaron (age 6) walks into the living room to find me with a large contraption, a pile of fabric and a little gizmo that's hissing and steaming.  He asks in a bewildered voice, "What are you doing?!" To which I reply nonchalantly, "Oh, I'm just ironing these curtains."  Aaron responds, "Is that a new thingy?"  "No... " I say, "Mommy just doesn't use it much."  And hasn't used it much since!  Be assured, however, that we don't all walk around in rumpled clothes - I am very careful to check labels when shopping and if something requires ironing, back on the rack it goes!  I have also found that I can frequently steam rumpleness out of clothes by tossing them in the drier with a damp towel.  Also, if I catch clothes fresh out of the drier I can shake them out and hang them right away, oftentimes avoiding the need to iron.

I hope these few little laundry tidbits will help you out.  Or at least remind you that laundry is here to stay but with just a few tricks up your sleeve, it doesn't have to ruin your day.  I would love to hear and share any of your laundry-tips.  Leave me a comment and I'll post any ideas you have for the rest of us.

1 comment:

  1. Ahem, I do laundry once a week. Right now, it's not too bad because there is less clothing- tshirts, shorts and almost no socks. But I have managed to buy silly socks for lots of us. Also, Rebekah gets white & purple socks, while Caleb's are gray & white. That helps separating them. My kids put away their clothes too- at least the older ones anyway. AND, if your clothes are still clean, you wear them MORE than one day. That is a rule my mom used, and is so helpful. So really, I have less clothes to wash that way. I wear my shorts/ jeans two or three days in a week. My Sunday dress goes back in the closet unless I spilled something on it. So there you go... my two cents for free. :-D


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