Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Laundry Logistics

I remember it well.
We brought home our third baby and the laundry seemed to quadruple overnight.

I was so naive.

Enter the fourth, fifth-seventh, and eighth- twelfth children and...
the laundry fiasco consumes my life.

Kids pile clothes in gender-specific baskets by the washer and dryer, teens not included (they do their own laundry). I wash clothes multiple times per day, dry, take them out of the dryer and put into a basket to be folded. Lots of times I bring the baskets to the living room and declare it a "folding party" and get all the kids to help fold clothes really quickly, which means I find girls jeans in the boys piles and boys pajamas mixed into the pink silky stuff. These piles get sorted by bedroom and I either put them away myself or delegate that to the kids, which results in multiple mornings of "moooommmmm.... I can't find jeannnnnssssss!!" when I know they are clean, but not put away correctly. This part makes me insane. When you have 3 boys in a 8-10 and they share a closet, you'd think it would be easier to find ONE pair of jeans that fit one of them. You would be wrong.

So... one day, I had asked the kids to clean their play room ONE TOO MANY TIMES which resulted in a version of "clean" that looked like this:

Clearly not okay.

I mean, I'm not the most organized person on the planet... (dear husband: stop laughing.)
but I had organized bins and labeled containers for everything to get put away in the right place. 
I had made this easy on them - they CHOOSE to be lazy and not do it the right way.

So... I did what any logical, calm, thinking person would do.

I totally flipped out and pulled EVERYLASTSINGLESTINKINGTOY out of the playroom into the entry and started bagging them up like garbage.

Uh huh. I do that too. Oh, you thought it was just you? Nope. I have the patent on freaking-out-mommy-ism.

Then I decided I was repossessing this room. They can't have it and not take care of it... space is at a MAJOR premium in this house and I'm not dealing with THAT kind of mess on the main level, right by the front door. Nope. Done.

So I went around and assessed the clothing situation. 
Again, for your viewing pleasure...

 I'm so not kidding. These were all taken in a matter of 10 minutes. This was not staged for some dramatic blog purpose. These are actual rooms/hallways/closets IN MY HOUSE! I can't physically stay on top of this mess. It's impossible for one person. Not possible. IMpossible. I have other things to do besides laundry... like cooking for 14 people multiple times a day. Sheesh.

So... my social worker and I were talking that day (not about laundry specifically) and she said "you know, your complaints are never about the kids, or about behaviors, or about the noise... it's always the mess. You need a helper."

Well, I thought about that... and since I'm a major introvert/private type person and the thought of having someone come help me clean up my house causes me to break out in hives with a rapid heart rate and breathing abnormalities... I decided instead that I'm TAKING MY HOUSE BACK, dadgummit!!

So... the logical conclusion was to move ALLLLLLLLLL those baskets of clothes into the play room, ahem... "kids closet"... and begin to sort, box up wrong sizes and wrong seasons, and put things into size order by child - not by number. I have a 6 year old who can wear the same size as our 4 year old, and two 7/8 year old boys who wear basically the same size except one has more trunk space than the other and therefore the same jeans don't work with both of them. 

More pictures:

I had found some shelves up in the attic that were previously in the closets and above the laundry area before my husband did his awesome built-in cubbies. I used those and had to buy one more long shelf and some brackets... which was not very much expense for the whole project.
Dremels are awesome. 

Level. Uh huh. Awesomeness.

Half of the room... bookshelf that still has toy-room remnants. That was quickly fixed.
View of the center of the room - windows. I added benches for shoe-application.

Right side of the room... boy's side.

 After I put up these shelves, I spent a day just admiring the cleanness of the room. No chaos, no piles of junk, no stepping on Legos... it was nice. The next morning... that came to an abrupt halt.

I brought ALLLLLLL the clothes to the room and bought every child-size hanger at the Everything's-a-dollar store. Every. Single. Hanger. 

I wish I had a better size comparison for this. Some sort of scale.

This pic is a little better. The red bin is a large storage rubbermaid tote.

 So, I started sorting. A pile for "out-of-season", a pile for "won't fit anyone next season" and a pile for "stained to embarrassing levels" and two piles of "keep-wearing now", one on the boys side of the room, the other on the girls side. This was fast. It was furious. It was decisive and cleansing.

After that was done, I started sorting the girl piles. One for the younger girls (who thankfully wear the same size) and one for the older girls (who also wear the same size). I sorted them into full outfits - skirt/leggings/top, pants/turtleneck/sweater, dress/leggings. I left some jeans by themselves and some tops by themselves for those days they want to choose an outfit for themselves. I put the outfits on the top hanging rod and the single items below. I sorted and folded pajama sets together. I put undies into two bins - 4T and 6X. I made a bin of socks and I put things I think they may grow into very quickly on the top shelf. DONE!

I moved to the boys clothes piles and did the same thing, except I didn't make "outfits". I sorted pants from tops, divided by size and type, and put everything on hangers. I have two small open dish pans for t-shirts, one for athletic pants, and one for dress pants that they ALWAYS try to wear to school. (That one went up high.)

I bought more dollar-store dish pans for shoes. They slide right in under the boys' clothes racks and I labeled them by person. I have yet to hear "I can't find my shoes" at 7:58 on a school day since.

Here are some mostly-complete version photos:

girl side taken at night... weird lighting.

Boy side - it was dark when I took this, too.

You can sort of see the bins in these last two pictures. The bins on the middle shelf above on the left are extra leggings and tights by size. On the bottom are dressy shoes, but those got moved up high and pajamas took those bottom two shelves. The undies are in the blue buckets. 

My next problem was that those french doors to this room... well, they don't exactly help me hide my new organizational heaven from those who come to visit and who might not understand the decor.

So... my friend Shauna reminded me of these french doors I had seen online covered with maps... and I just happened to have a giant stack of old National Geographic maps...
so I used a few of the less-popular ones and covered the windows! Now there's privacy, cute design, and I can shut the doors when we have company and not worry about them wondering why I have 9 kids worth of clothing in what used to be the office (that turned into the playroom).

The picture on the left, you can see bags...those are gone now. I was unpacking from our trip!  

Oh, and I left the TV in there...
so I can still use this room as a quiet retreat for a few littles if need be!

P.S - what happened to their toys? Well, the room I created in their bedrooms by removing all the clothes left nice cubbies and organized spaces to put crates of toys! Now the boys can sit in their bedroom and play legos or the girls can go build their doll house and play tea party in their bedrooms without bumping into each other and dragging the tiny parts all over the entry way and into the dining and living rooms. Amen.


  1. Way to go!!!! I'm so proud of you for making this change. It will simplify things so much! Yeah!!!

  2. I'm constantly changing something around here trying to find the best fit for our people and things. I don't even know how many times I've rearranged furniture and rooms since our foster baby joined us 3 months ago. Way to go on using your space creatively!

    I can only imagine how challenging this is! With 5 little ones, I can't seems to stay on top of the laundry. Besides being consistent and doing it AND PUTTING IT AWAY every day, the other most profound thing I have learned is that kids don't need many clothes. Because I HAVE to do laundry daily, it's not uncommon for something to be back in their closets the day after they wore it. My kids probably each have 8-10 complete outfits, but as I have pulled things out for them this winter, I'm only giving them each 5 complete outfits plus church clothes. I wish I didn't even have the extra, but we've collected some extra along the way. I'm realizing that just because it's been given, doesn't mean we have to use it all. My sanity is so much more important, and I'm realizing that only having the minimum available has greatly helped my sanity. I have no idea if you have more than you need or not, but if so, this is just a suggestion that might help all of you. One of our adopted kids especially struggles when she has more than she needs and simplifying her wardrobe has been a huge help for her.

  3. Love this blog! This is such an encouragement to me personally. I'm always looking for ways to simplify my life with my 3 little ones!

  4. Holy Hannah!!! You kicked that laundry's patootie, it's like I can hear angels singing haaaaaallelujah hallelujah hallelujah!

  5. Great job! I actually had a head spinning around, garbage bagging toys day yesterday too! Glad to know it's not just me.

  6. I only have three and can hardly keep up with the laundry. I love this.

  7. Ah. maze. Zing!! You are still my hero.

  8. Ah. maze. Zing!! You are still my hero.

  9. LOVE THIS!!!

    And yes....I totally have a corner on freaking out mommy too. People say that I must be so patient...umm....nope I am normal ;)

  10. It's these crazy organizing/building cool stuff posts that makes me think "I could totally have 12 kids" just because I would love to create such cool organizing systems :)

    1. Although I have to say (because you are my friend), the way those pics in the middle are lining up all checkerboard ... driving. me. mad.

      (Okay, I feel better now)

    2. Hahah! I feel the opposite for the same reason. I can't manage laundry for four people. :)

  11. I feel your pain! The clothes for the eleven of us are kept in our bathroom. We have one of those seventies era floor to ceiling linen cabinets that is 2 feet deep. My husband is extremely tall, so he gets the top shelf, etc. We use those fabric storage cubes. Our only clothes in the closets are for church. We keep the number of clothing items to a bare minimum. Even so, my washer also runs all day long. My neighbor wanted to come wash her comforters and I had to tell her she could do it when we were out of town for Thanksgiving. --Elaine

  12. love it! very similar to what we do in many ways except I don't have an extra closet room. Also, in just a few years your kiddos will all be able to do their own laundry and fold and put it away and it will amaze you - how much easier it will be! It looks like a great new system. I've figured out that half the secrets of large family mothering is figuring out systems that work. . . and then six months later revising the system. . . lol!

  13. You are a rock star for sure!!

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  15. I love this. It is hard for me with having laundry for 8... I can't imagine how chaotic it will be once we get up to 12-14. YIKES. Please do tell, what do you do with all the undies/socks pjs? I want to remove all dressers in kiddos rooms and hang every little thing because they have RUINED 4 dressers by stuffing them too much and cramming the dressers closed. I also HATE that the sock drawer and pants and shirt drawers are all mixed up so they can't find things when needed. I plan on getting everyone an ikea drawer that holds socks, shorts, pj and undies... then hanging all else. ( we only have 6 now so it will work for us as the 11 y.o share and so do my 6 & 3 year old. However I dont know that this will go well. I love the idea of a Duggar style/Jensen style family closet for the kids. However we live I too small a condo. Please share about the socks/undies/pj's/shorts. I'm looking for a solution. Thanks. Alida w5

  16. This post hit close to home. Laundry is kicking me in the hiney, and we 'only' have 7 kiddos. I so want to do a family closet. I think it would be just awesome. Gotta make this happen.


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