Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

Create a laundry routine that works

10 tips for a no-stress laundry routine

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I have joked that as a mom my life revolves around food and clothes. But it seems so very true. I spend lots of time making food, shopping for food, washing clothes, folding clothes, making sure everyone has clothes that fit, cleaning out outgrown clothes and so on. It is a cycle that repeats time and again. So I’m all for figuring out ways to make these jobs easier. Through the years, we have nailed down a laundry routine that works well for our family of four.

When it comes to routines, the simpler the better. Just like our family has other routines in place to make life easier, laundry needs some sort of routine as well. While I can often just stick with how I’ve been doing things for years, my husband has a great mind for being efficient and coming up with better ways to do things. He gave me some suggestions for the laundry, and I gave them a try. Between his suggestions and my own, we now have a laundry routine in place that keeps the laundry from getting out of control.

1. Buy multiple laundry baskets.

One of the best ways we’ve streamlined laundry is by having multiple laundry baskets. I keep two of them side-by-side in the laundry room for my kids to use. They use one for their darks (clothes) and one for their whites (mainly towels and wash cloths). Their bedrooms are right beside the laundry room, so they can easily take their clothes in there after changing or bathing. (And we have worked through some phases where they left dirty clothes on their floors and had consequences as a result.)

Because my husband and I get dressed in our closet and ready in our own bathroom, which is away from the laundry room, I have two additional baskets for us. I keep one in our closet for darks and one in our bathroom closet for whites.

The goal is to have the baskets where they are needed and organized so the laundry is pre-sorted ahead of time. I love these 19-inch square Sterilite laundry baskets. They hold one load of laundry, so I can easily tell when it’s time to put in a load to wash. I keep five baskets total. That gives me an extra basket in play for transporting laundry to fold while still having the other baskets in place to collect dirty laundry.

2. Keep laundry supplies handy.

I love storing things where I need to use them. The laundry room is no exception. I have front loader machines, so I have storage drawers underneath them. When I had top loaders, I had a shelf above the washer and dryer for supplies. Of course you need laundry soap and fabric softener, if you use it.

I like Tide Pods 4-in-1 with Febreze. To make my life even easier, I have them set up as a subscription through Amazon, so I get two containers every four months. It’s the cycle that works for my family and I don’t even have to worry about running out of laundry detergent.

But, I keep more than detergent and fabric softener in the laundry room. I also have a pair of scissors for errant threads or tag clipping in the laundry room. I also store a spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide beneath my washing machine. Peroxide is the BEST for removing blood stains. Spray (or pour) some onto blood spots. Let it set until the fizzing stops. Add a bit more to see if it starts fizzing again. If it doesn’t, then you’re good to go. If it does, then just repeat.

I also keep a bottle of Dawn Powerwash dish soap in my laundry room. While I’ve been using Dawn dish soap to remove laundry stains for a few years now, my mom suggested I try the Dawn Powerwash a few months ago. It is totally worth it! With regular Dawn, I would pour some on the stain and then add water and scrub. With the Dawn Powerwash, I spray it on the stain and usually it’s good to go. If it’s a set-in stain, then sometimes I use a denture toothbrush I picked up at Dollar Tree to scrub it a bit. But I almost never have to do that. Game changer! This works even on stains that you washed and dried because you missed them the first time around.

3. Hang up your clothes as you take them out of the dryer.

If I’m touching clothes to take them out of the dryer, then I might as well hang them up while my hands are on them. I have a pole in my laundry room where I keep hangers and then hang clothes to finish drying. Most of the time, I dry them about 75% of the way and then let them air dry the rest of the way. But either way, hanging them up as they come out of the dryer works best. You’re not moving them as much. They don’t usually wrinkle. And they are ready to go to your closet.

Do I ever leave clothes hanging in the laundry room for a couple of days? Yes. It happens, but it’s easy enough to move them to closets at least before you start your next load!

And in order to have the needed hangers in the laundry room, I have an area in my closet where we put empty hangers when we take clothes off of them. So when I am ready to wash, I grab the stack of empty hangers to go to the laundry room. My son doesn’t have most of his clothes hanging up, but my daughter has many hanging up now and she’s been working on getting her empty hangers into the laundry room as well.

4. Buy the same color of towels and wash cloths.

A few years ago, I made the switch to all white towels and wash cloths. I’m so glad I did. Now there is no sorting towels to wash. I don’t have to worry about white towels getting dingy or dark ones getting faded. Everything is white, so it all goes into the same load together with some bleach. Easy, peasy!

If you prefer dark towels and wash cloths, then go for it. I literally asked for white towels for Christmas a few years ago. But you could also make the switch gradually (unless you have the budget to go out and buy new towels all at once). I’ve also ordered them on Black Friday or other times there are good sales going on. You can use your old towels for household chores and cleaning or donate them to a local animal rescue center.

5. Get your family involved.

I know some families have each kiddo responsible for their own laundry, but I don’t like that system for us. First, I want to be in control of the laundry room to avoid piles forming because someone is busy. Second, my youngest is only 8 and not yet ready to be fully responsible for his clothes. Third, I spend hard-earned money on clothes, and I don’t want to see them get messed up by being washed improperly or not pre-treated when they need to be.

Instead, we use a family teamwork approach to laundry. I generally am the one who does the washing and drying (not always). But I usually host a “laundry party” once a week where we all hang out on my bed and fold clothes and/or towels then put them away. Now that my kids are both older, I no longer put away their clothes. They are responsible for transporting them to their room and expected to put them away in their drawers or hang in their closets.

Over the summer, my daughter was interested in doing laundry, so she wrote out directions for how to wash clothes and left it in the laundry room to refer to. A list of directions is a great idea for kids learning how to do laundry. We used a small canvas from the Dollar Tree to put our instructions on, so it’s sturdy enough not to get easily crinkled.

6. Wash as needed instead of on a schedule.

My grandma washed clothes every Monday and ironed every Tuesday. I have tried having certain days scheduled for laundry, but it just hasn’t worked as well for me. So our laundry routine is more when laundry needs washed, we wash it. If I see the baskets are full, then I know it’s time to do a load. My husband does that, too, and my daughter has a couple of times as well.

It just works easier for our family and puts less pressure on me to make sure I get laundry done on a certain schedule in the midst of everything else I juggle. Some weeks I do multiple loads in one day and other weeks, I spread the loads out over a few days. It just depends on the day, the amount of laundry and what else I have going on.

7. Keep a small basket for pretreats and/or delicates.

One of the problems I needed to address with our laundry routine was what to do with clothes that needed pre-treated or washed on delicate. Previously, I would put them on the floor beside the laundry basket. But that was bugging me. It looked messy and often resulted in those clothes getting thrown into the basket and washed with everything else.

A few months ago, I bought a small plastic basket. I put it on top of the washing machine and instructed my family to use it for items needing pre-treated or washed separately. It’s been great. I’ve used it for some dark dish towels. My daughter has put some of her lighter colored shirts in there. I’ve even pulled clothes out of the dryer, found a stain I had missed and toss them in the basket to hit them with Dawn Powerwash before I re-wash them.

8. Set a timer on your phone to remember your laundry.

My washer and dryer both have signals that can sound when they finish. However, I get distracted with work and mom stuff. If I set an alarm on my phone, though, I don’t forget to switch out laundry. The alarm helps me remember to hang up clothes from the dryer before they get wrinkled. I’m a big fan of using alarms to keep myself on task!

9. Have enough clothes to last 5 to 7 days.

I don’t like the feeling of scrambling around to get clothes washed and dried so one of us has what we need for the next day. Though I usually do laundry a couple of times a week, having enough clothes for each of us to get through five to seven days helps keep the laundry scramble from happening.

For example, I noticed a couple of months ago that my daughter seemed to always be running out of clean leggings, even though I hadn’t changed up my laundry routine. Then it hit me. Three days a week, she was wearing two pairs of leggings per day thanks to working out at the gym. I bought an additional three-pack of her favorite black leggings, and our problem was solved.

10. Fold clean laundry on your bed.

This sounds like an odd laundry routine tip, but it helps us. Let me explain. I used to fold laundry in my living room. Sometimes I watched a show while I folded (I still do that!). Then I put the laundry back in the basket, and it sat in my living room for a couple of days.

Now, I fold my laundry on my bed. I need my bed every night, so I have to put the laundry away in order to sleep. I do have my kids put away their own laundry and will tell them it’s on my bed. We also lie across my bed to pray and read together before bed, so the laundry has to be put away for that to happen.

Even if it isn’t your bed, folding your laundry somewhere that you need to keep cleaned off to use works as a motivator to make sure the clean laundry actually gets put away!

Meal planning made easy

7 Ways to make meal planning easier, faster and more practical for your family

Every single day my family needs to eat. And they insist on three meals a day plus sometimes snacks as well. It can be a lot. The biggest challenge for me is figuring out what to make. By the end of the day, I’m tired and usually my brain is on overload. That’s where meal planning comes to the rescue.

Through the years, I’ve tried different strategies for meal planning. Unfortunately some of them made me feel like a failure. Others just didn’t work. And still others took too much time that I didn’t have. For the last few years, my simple meal planning strategy has worked well for my family.

During these last few months of being at home and only picking up groceries once a week, I’ve had to be even more intentional with meal planning. It keeps my family fed and me sane!

Decide how often you’re going to the grocery store

The first step for meal planning is deciding how often you’re going to the grocery store. Whether you go once a week, three times a week or once every other week is going to make a difference in what you buy.

In general, I go once a week. Sometimes I end up with a trip in between there, but my goal is once a week. That’s been even more true during this year of social isolation when I’m only doing grocery pick-up. I’ve found that knowing I can’t just pop into the grocery store and pick up a forgotten ingredient or a fresh ingredient makes a difference in my planning.

While I know not everyone is staying out of the grocery store in person like I am, keeping trips to a minimum and not having to go back over and over for forgotten ingredients just makes life easier!

Keep a running grocery list

Being able to pick up everything you need during your grocery shopping trip is also key for effective meal planning. While my grocery list includes items for specific meals I have planned, it also includes everyday items that we go through like milk, bread, yogurt, eggs, cheese, fresh fruit, etc.

My favorite way to keep a grocery list is through using an app called Our Groceries. It is connected to our Alexa, so as I’m working in the kitchen, I can tell Alexa to add items to my grocery list. The list is also shared on both my phone and my husband’s. Pre-pandemic there were times one of us added items to the grocery list while the other was in the store shopping!

My mom uses a different strategy for her grocery list by adding items to her grocery cart for pick-up. That also works as does pen and paper, which is what I did before we started using the Our Groceries app.

Think practically about what you will make

When I first started meal planning, I’d come up with all sorts of ideas. I listed recipes new to us. I planned on cooking every night of the week even though I wasn’t doing that before I began meal planning. I had high hopes, I guess.

The reality is I don’t cook every night. Some nights I need something easy to make like frozen pizza, canned soup or grilled cheese. It may be a busy day or a crummy health day. So I learned to plan a few meals to cook each week and also to plan a few meals that don’t take as much effort. You just have to be practical about what your family actually does.

Make a list

Write down what you are planning to make over the next week (or two or however long you go in between grocery store trips). Add the ingredients to your running grocery list so you are prepared.

Be sure to go through the ingredients you have already for inspiration of what to make and use. Try also to plan items using similar fresh ingredients in the same week. For example, I often do tacos for dinner one night and salads within a day or two since both use fresh lettuce. Or I utilize the ground beef with chili one night and sloppy joes within a day or two.

Also add meal ideas that you always have on hand to your list. For my family this includes things like frozen pizza, chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, frozen or homemade waffles and homemade pancakes.

Decide what list format works for you

Perhaps my biggest meal planning secret is that I don’t plan meals for specific days. I tried doing that and it never worked well. So now I make a list and have found three ways that work well.

This is how simple my list looks.

Prior to the pandemic, I made a list that was divided in two with meals that I had ingredients for and those that required ingredients to be bought fresh. For example, if I planned tacos, I might need to buy lettuce. Or if I had my daughter’s favorite slow cooker potato soup on the list, I might need to buy a loaf of fresh french bread.

Now that I can’t stop by the store for just a few fresh ingredients, I make one big list of meals I have ingredients for. In my head, I know which of those meals have ingredients that need to be used sooner than later, but I don’t break up the list any more.

You can also add a section for meal ideas that you always have on hand. Again, nowadays, I just put it all on one big list. So part of my meal planning list doesn’t usually change. But seeing those ideas of other things we have helps me when I’m deciding what to make for dinner.

Add details if you want

You can get more detailed with your list if that helps you. You can add side dish items along beside your main dish or even in a separate section. I don’t usually do that simply because the main dish is the hardest one to pick! Once I know what it is, the sides fall into place.

You can also include recipe notes like a URL to a recipe or where you saw it. I have even printed out new recipes and kept with my list in the past. Now I have a drawer in my kitchen where I put the recipes instead.

Put the list where you’ll use it

I like having my list visible where I need it most: my kitchen. So I post my list on my fridge with a magnet. I usually have mine typed up (which is just easier for me and I can keep the recurring meals on there). I trim the paper down to the size of the list so it’s not a full sheet of paper and stick it on the fridge. As we have dinners, I mark off what I no longer have ingredients for.

The list works well because my family can also see it and put in their thoughts for dinner sometimes.

If it works better for you, keep the list on your phone. Or put it in a drawer. You could stick it in your pantry. I’ve even kept my list on Google Drive and shared it with my husband before. Find the spot that works best for you and your family and go with it!

The one cleaning secret that has helped me be more on top of things at home

No matter how much I clean and organize around my house, my efforts can seem to be in vain. I get the dishwasher unloaded and turn around to find dishes stacked in the sink. I finish putting away clean laundry and turn around to find the hamper already had dirty clothes in it again. Staying on top of household chores is a challenge!

Some people love to clean. I am not one of those people. Some people can’t stand one single thing out of place. I am not one of those people either. I’m somewhere in the middle these days where sometimes things get out of place and it can drive me crazy, but my house at least doesn’t look like it could featured on a documentary about packrats. (There have been times when my kids were younger that wasn’t always the case!)

I wish I would have inherited my mom’s love for cleaning. She enjoys it and she’s good at it. In spite of my tendency to be a slob, I learned some cleaning lessons from her while we were staying with my parents for a few months. I still apply those lessons, but I’ve also learned one secret to cleaning and household management that has helped me to stay on top of things.

I conquer small cleaning chores when they arise rather than put them off. I know. It doesn’t sound all that life-changing, but let me explain. I realized there are many times throughout my day that I encounter cleaning chores around my house that need dealt with and instead of just doing them, I put them off. Then they pile up and get out of hand.

I heard a similar tip somewhere and started paying attention to how long cleaning chores take. For example, in the 30 seconds while I’m swishing my mouthwash around, I can wipe down my bathroom sink and counter with a bleach wipe. In the 2-3 minutes while my frozen meal is heating up in the microwave, I can unload the dishwasher.

By itself, it doesn’t sound super life-changing, but just working on small cleaning chores as they come up and not putting them off has really made a difference for me. I realized how many small cleaning chores can easily pile up and become big issues that are overwhelming. (Hhmmm. Seems like there is an emotional/mental parallel there, too. But that’s for another day!)

Changing my habits to ask myself whether a cleaning chore can be done in two minutes or less has helped me stay on top of things. My house is far from perfect. There’s still some clutter. I’ll never get caught up on laundry or dishes, because that’s impossible. But my attitude shift is also helping me not let little cleaning chores get the best of me.

This morning, for example, I unloaded the dishwasher in the 2 minutes it took to heat up pancakes to go in my kids’ lunchboxes. I put away towels I had folded last night on my way to the office and only took maybe a minute to do so. I put away a few small items of clutter in my bedroom while I was swishing my mouthwash.

One small cleaning chore at a time is really so much more manageable. So what is going at your house right now that you can take care of in 2 minutes or less? Do it! You will feel better about it for having made the progress and feel motivated to find other small cleaning chores as you go!

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