Conquering the washing mountain

Posted July 29th, 2011 by Penny Wise

I still can't believe how quick and easy it is to clean our teeny house! Yesterday I cleaned the whole place from top to bottom - dusting, vaccuuming, bathroom, floors and kitchen - in an hour. HUGE change from the old place, which used to take me SIX hours - and the next day wouldn't even look as though I'd done it! Yes, there's a lot to be saud for having a small, clutter-free house. There's just one thing however which hadn't changed and was really getting me down - the neverending, ever-growing, all consuming mountain of washing. Honestly, it felt as though I didn't nothing else some days but washing, drying, folding and ironing. When I read the help request from Kim in this month's newsletter, it was as though I was reading about myself. That's one of the things I love about Simple Savings - no matter what the situation, no matter how big or small, there is always someone out there who has gone through or is going through the same. Nice to know you're not alone but surely it wasn't like this for EVERYONE, was it?

I had tried everything over the years - baskets with everyone's names on, expensive compartmented laundry sorter thingys - I even resorted to giant wheelie bins in the boys' rooms which they could wheel down and wash when full but nothing I did seemed to do the trick. Try as I may I was still chasing an endless washing trail. I was constantly gathering up washing from all over the place and doing several full loads a day but even so, nobody ever had the foggiest idea where their school or work uniforms were, especially on a Sunday night when I would realise in horror that they hadn't even made it as far as the washing machine! I may be the queen of disorganisation but even I could see I had to be doing something wrong. I just didn't know how to fix it.

And then I came across this tip, quite by accident and I'm not kidding, it has changed my life! It has freed up so much of my time over the past week you would not believe it. And I learned it from an 18 year old! It's this one:

Follow our system and your washing will be sorted

We are a family of seven, with five kids aged 18 (me), 16, 14, 11 and 8. This is what we do to keep on top of all our washing:

In the laundry there are baskets in the cupboard for each sort of washing - light washing, dark washing, light washing that needs to be ironed (like school shirts), dark washing that needs to be ironed, and wool/special items.

Everybody has their own space to hang towels in the bathroom. When they need to be washed they're thrown in the bath.

Mum or I wash and dry the washing, and the younger kids sort out who it belongs to and everyone folds and puts away their own. We have a list hanging on the inside of the cupboard door reminding everyone to put the clothes the right way out, empty the pockets and so on. Everyone sorting their washing into baskets saves time for Mum and me when we throw it in the machine.

We have set washing days and stick to them. For a family of our size it can be chaotic if we skip a day! Every Monday and Thursday the light and dark washing baskets are washed and as many towels from the bath that we can fit in are added. If it's nice weather outside it's hung outside, otherwise it's put in the dryer. Every Saturday the light washing that needs to be ironed is washed, because the 16 and 14 year old need their school shirts (they have two each which they wear for half a week each). Most Saturdays our old rags and cleaning cloths are washed too. Uniforms are washed on Saturdays only. Everyone is responsible for making sure their clothes are put in the washing on time. If you don't and find that you don't have the clothes you need on the right day - tough!

Mum never has to go into our rooms to collect our washing. The only exception is uniforms because they're needed every week but she got a bit sick of the girls not throwing them in the wash and having to go and find them so she started to charge $5 every time she needs to do it as an incentive to make sure the blouses go in the wash. That soon did the trick!

Now I know plenty of you will be reading this and think 'I do that anyway, or something similar! What's so astounding about that?' To which all I can say is, if you're like me (or obviously Kim too by the sound of it) sometimes you get so bogged down you can't see the wood for the trees. Different people do things differently and that's one of the great things about Simple Savings; so many fantastic ideas are shared and they are ALWAYS worth sharing, no matter how small. You can never assume that everybody knows or does the same things you do. I hope the lovely young Mary-Anne who contributed this hint reads my blog someday and realises how much she has helped me! As soon as I saw she came from a family of seven I thought 'Wow! If they can be organised with this system, so can I with almost half the number of people!' So the first thing I did was go up to the boys' rooms, bring down their wheelie bins and put them in the laundry. One bin is light coloured, the other black. Instantly they became my 'light' and 'dark' baskets. I also dragged the big cane basket out of the bathroom and put it next to the other two for putting dirty towels in. Once these three were in place there was just enough room for one more, smaller basket for 'special' items such as woollens. I then told the rest of the family that from now on, NO dirty washing is permitted to be left in bedrooms or bathrooms but is all to be brought and sorted into these bins. Furthermore, if anyone puts washing into any bin and sees that it is now full, they put it into the washing machine and turn it on. The boys, bless 'em took to this straight away! Their bedrooms are tidier, they know where their school and sports gear is at all times. Noel however refuses to use the new system and stubbornly leaves all his washing on the bathroom floor in an act of protest. I'm very tempted to just leave it there and let it mount up until he gives in!
The next change I made was with regard to the hideous number of towels my children use. When we first moved I stuck hooks up on the back of the bedoom and bathroom doors in an attempt to encourage them to hang up their towels after using. This failed miserably and they all ended up on the floor on a daily, wet and soggy basis. The thing is, the boys have a heated towel rail in their bathroom but I was too stingy to let them use it, thinking of the power bill. However I decided in this case to admit defeat and told the boys from now on they can use their towel rail and have nice, warm towels every day when they get out of the shower BUT - they HAVE to hang them on that rail and none are permitted on the floor. In addition, they have to be used three times before they are allowed to be put in the washing basket, not just thrown in the washing or on a floor after a single use. So far it's working and we are down to one load of washing a day - and sometimes every two days!
Now that the volume of washing was under control, I just had to work on the drying part. I confess, I have been using my dryer a LOT lately. At our old place on a hill we were exposed to winds from all directions and getting washing dry was never a problem - in fact the biggest problem was often just getting it to stay on the line without being blown into a paddock full of cows! But here in our new place we sit nestled under a big hill, my washing line is under cover and we get pretty much no breeze at all, day in, day out. Not that I'm complaining, I don't miss the wind at all but it certainly makes it harder to dry washing naturally. Over the past few months it has become easy just to get into a slack routine of transferring the washing straight from the machine into the dryer and worry about the power bill later. However my biggest concern with using the dryer is the effect on the environment and I realised now I had reduced the amount of washing so drastically, there was no excuse for me not to be able to get a single load dry using other methods. I don't have room in our house for the three large clothes racks I used to have at the old place but I find that I can dry most things on one small rack by the fire in 24 hours, especially with a little extra help from the tip 'Hang the washing! Dry it faster', which recommends hanging items on hangers and then hanging on the clothes horse to let the air circulate. I also really liked the tip 'Pin down those washing savings!' about pinning socks together to keep them in pairs but I didn't have any pins and to be honest didn't like my chances of the boys not leaving safety pins around where they could be trodden on or swallowed by the cat. However I liked the logic behind it so I came to a wee compromise. I purchased a little plastic washing carousel from the $2.00 shop and hung it up in the laundry. From now on all whenever it's too wet to hang washing outside, I simply peg any socks, undies and bras onto this helpful little gadget and they get dry in no time. Socks get pegged together and already I have really noticed the difference in the reduced amount of odd socks!
Such simple tips, yet they have made such a huge difference to our electricity bill, our water usage and most of all, my time. Thank you, thank you, thank you lovely members!

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