Families With Grace

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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!

Two laundry hacks you need to know!

How to easily get rid of difficult stains with products you probably already have

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Of course I did laundry before I had children. I even dealt with laundry stains before I had children. But, my laundry responsibilities — and amount — definitely increased when I had children. Discovering these two laundry hacks has made such a difference.

I’ve tried so many things for stains and uncovered what works absolutely the best so that my family’s clothes last longer and look better — no matter how messy we are! Even better, they’re easy-to-find, inexpensive products!

For any stains (even ones set in!)

In an ideal world, I’d notice and treat stains before I wash clothes. But, in reality I don’t always notice stains before I put the laundry in the washing machine. If it’s something big, I’ll usually ask my kids to leave it out separately so I can pretreat it.

Most of the time, though, I don’t notice the stain until the laundry has been washed and dried and I’m folding it. This is especially true for grease-based stains like from most dips my kids love (hello, honey mustard and ranch!). And if we go to the movies and get butter on our popcorn, I can guarantee there will be a few grease stains from that to contend with.

I’ve tried numerous things through the years. I tried various stain removers. I tried hand soap. And I tried laundry detergent. None of them worked so great, especially if the clothes had already been washed and dried.

For years I read about Dawn dish soap being best for getting rid of laundry stains. I bought the store brand equivalent and found that it didn’t seem to work any better than anything else I tried.

In my frustration, I finally decided to buy the brand name, original Dawn dish soap. I seriously doubted it would work, but I could at least use it for dishes.

I was astounded. It worked! And it really worked! If I catch stains ahead of time that I know won’t just wash out in a usual wash cycle, I pretreat with Dawn by putting a bit of Dawn dish soap directly on the stain.

Then I add a bit of water and rub it with my fingers and sometimes my fingernail. I wash it as usual, and it comes out clean. If I have a set-in stain, I do the exact same process with the exact same result!

For food stains, Dawn is by far my go-to to get clothes clean. It works so well that I keep a bottle in my laundry room.

For blood stains

This one isn’t as fun to talk about, but sometimes we get blood stains on our clothes as well. While I had dealt with them without much luck before (even Dawn doesn’t work so great on blood), I got a tip from a fellow mom when my daughter was in kindergarten.

The last week of school, my daughter fell on the playground and split her chin open. We had to rush her to the ER for stitches. Her clothes, including a brand-new shirt she was wearing for the first time, were covered in blood.

I figured I’d just have to toss the clothes out or use them for messy play clothes. There was no way I’d be able to get the blood stains out of her clothes. I was bemoaning this to a group of moms when they advised me to try hydrogen peroxide.

I had my doubts and concerns that the hydrogen peroxide would work like bleach and leave discolorations on her clothes, but I decided to try it because I didn’t have anything to lose. And it worked! It really worked.

For those stains, I ended up soaking her shirt and pants in a sink of hydrogen peroxide and water. Then I went back over the stains with peroxide where the spots still showed, because she really did have a lot of blood on them.

But, just a small amount works for smaller stains. Last week my son got a nose bleed. He had one of his favorite Spider-man shirts on. Of course, he got some blood on it. I squirted some hydrogen peroxide on the spots, rubbed them a bit, washed the shirt and it came clean. I do not mix the hydrogen peroxide with water.

That shirt is bright red and a poly blend and it looks just as good as it did when I bought it a couple of months ago. The hydrogen peroxide when applied to blood stains will fizz and foam up a bit. It pulls the blood stain right out.

I will also tell you that I didn’t treat his shirt until a day or two after it happened, so you don’t have to treat it right away for this to work. The one warning with this is that it doesn’t work as well if the clothes have been already washed and dried. Just like with Dawn, a little hydrogen peroxide goes a long way and will last you a long time! I know keep a spray bottle of it in my laundry room.

House cleaning tips from a slob

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When my house is a mess, I feel guilty. And when I feel guilty, I get grumpy. And when I get grumpy, I’m more inclined to snap at my family for small things. The other option is that I spiral into a pit of self-pity and sadness that I’m not better at cleaning my house. I feel more pressure than my husband to keep our house clean and more embarrassment when it isn’t. I interpret our messy house as my own personal failure.

You’d think that would make me an excellent housekeeper. But it doesn’t. Instead of doing something about it, many times I just beat myself up. I have had literally years at a time where I couldn’t do better for a variety of reasons and still berated myself over it.

However, I have recently learned some things, and as a reforming slob, I’m going to share them with you in case you aren’t one of those rare folks who love to clean. I don’t offer a detailed cleaning plan. I’ve tried those, and they stress me out and make me feel worse about all that I’m NOT doing. Instead, I’m offering real-life tips that have helped my family. 

In order to get where I’m coming from right now, you need to know where I’ve been. I grew up as the youngest of two children. I have one older brother. My mom has always loved to clean. (I know. It’s weird to me, too.) She comes from a long line of women who keep immaculate homes. When my grandma was younger, she would vacuum under her furniture weekly. Weekly. I’m talking under armchairs and recliners. Growing up, I had some chores to do around the house, but my mom did most of the cleaning. She was good at it, and she liked it. When I got married at age 20 in the middle of my college years, my husband and I worked together to clean our small college apartment. It wasn’t always straightened up, but we did an OK job cleaning the bathroom and kitchen and such. In our second apartment, we continued. Our biggest cleaning strategy was to do it all at once, usually on a Saturday morning.

When we moved into our first home, though, we went doubled in square feet. Cleaning certainly took more at that point, but we still did OK with cleaning everything at once. It got a bit more challenging because my chronic bladder condition flared for a couple of years straight and kept me from being able to be on my feet for long periods of time, but we made it work.

Ten years into our marriage, we had our first child. Suddenly spending two or three hours cleaning the whole house was almost impossible. I did well to keep myself clean, let alone the house. I didn’t have a great strategy. As time went on, we had a second child and I had more health issues that left me choosing between being able to take care of the kids or clean the house well. Since I had to keep the kids alive, I chose them. Between 2011 and 2017, I had three major surgeries, a minor one, a second baby, shingles and more. Cleaning? Ha!

Then last fall, we moved in with my parents. We had sold our house and were building a new one, but we had about six months in between the two and needed somewhere to stay. I’d just had another surgery. I decided to take the time to learn from my mom, the cleaning guru, while I was living with her. And I did learn a few things that have helped me tremendously. When I last lived with my parents, I was 18 or younger or only home on college breaks. I didn’t pay a bit of attention to how my mom managed her house cleaning. This time, though, I determined I would. I felt motivated because I was getting a fresh start that not everyone gets. I was moving into a new house that was starting clean, and I was determined to keep it that way.

I noticed a few things about my mom that helped me. Since we moved into our new house in April, I have managed so far to do a decent job. I’m not going to pretend that I’ve suddenly become the best housekeeper in the world or that I’m not still a bit of a slob. We still have boxes to unpack. We haven’t decorated much. We still have clutter, though we’ve done our best to purge and eliminate.

Employ the ABC method: Always Be Cleaning
One of my best tips from my mom is ABC — Always Be Cleaning. That might sound like a nightmare to you, because it certainly would have to the me of a couple years ago. But, hear me out. My mom’s strategy is to clean as she goes so there isn’t a big mess to deal with later. It sounds simple, and it really is. Like when she finishes washing dishes, she takes an extra 60 seconds and wipes down her kitchen sink. She brings in the mail and deals with it instead of tossing it on her countertop. She wipes down her bathroom counter with a cleaning wipe after she finishes getting ready. I’ve learned a lot of these tasks take a short amount of time. Seriously in 30 seconds, I can do a quick wipe of my bathroom countertop. I can unload the dishwasher in less than 5 minutes.

Keep cleaning supplies handy
If you’re going to always be cleaning, then you need cleaning supplies where you use them. My mom stores cleaning products under each bathroom sink and her kitchen sink. Moving into a two-story house, I knew myself and knew I’d either forget to bring cleaning supplies up or down the stairs or find it easy to procrastinate if they weren’t in easy reach. So I bought enough for each location. Each bathroom has wipes and toilet bowl cleaner. I do share Windex between them. The kitchen sink has wipes and vinegar. I have a separate vinegar bottle for upstairs. I know this doesn’t sound ground-breaking to many people, perhaps. But it has made a difference for me. For example, earlier this week I realized that I hadn’t yet cleaned the half bathroom downstairs and needed to. On my stop by there before going to pick up the kids from school, I cleaned the toilet in a minute. Later I wiped down the sink. And those are the biggest areas that need weekly cleaning in there, so it worked well. If the supplies were even just around the corner in the pantry (a few steps away!), I know I wouldn’t have done that. And, quite honestly, I probably STILL wouldn’t have done it even now a couple of days later.

Cleaning isn’t all or nothing
Previously I’ve had the idea that if I can’t clean everything then I don’t even want to start. However, I have been timing myself on doing tasks and realize that in a few minutes, I can accomplish a lot. And the things that need cleaned most don’t take all that long. I can spend five minutes cleaning my bathroom and feel much better afterward. Yes, it still needs to be deep cleaned and floors mopped and such, but every little step counts. Finding hours to devote to any one task is difficult. Being able to physically spend hours cleaning my house is basically impossible nowadays. I’ve changed my mindset from doing it all or nothing to doing what I can when I can. Now I almost see it as a challenge to see how much I can get done in a set amount of time like 15 minutes. And I’ve been shocked at how much I really CAN do quickly. (I also find more motivation to clean or straighten up if I have a time limit. I can endure cleaning for 5 to 30 minutes!)

Embrace the right cleaning products 
I struggled with keeping my stainless steel sink clean at my old house. It had hard water stains no matter what I did. I tried different cleaning products to no avail. I just figured because my fibro arms don’t handle scrubbing hard that I’d not be able to maintain a sparkling clean sink. Then we stayed with my parents. My mom cleans her sink pretty much daily when she’s cooking. They went on a trip and while I cleaned it regularly, I still didn’t clean it daily. It started to get a build-up. Within a day of her being home I realized it was sparkling again. So I had to ask. Her newest secret cleaning weapon? Vinegar. I was a bit dubious. Then I tried it. Seriously, I put some vinegar on a paper towel, wiped just a bit and the spots were gone. Gone! It blew my mind. So now vinegar is one of my go-to cleaners that makes life way easier. Even better is that it’s cheap and non-toxic. Who knew?! It’s the whole work smarter, not harder concept in action.

Enlist help
This one doesn’t come from my mom but from my own experiences. In the time of our marriage, my physical health has taken a hit many times. And with chronic health conditions, there are still times it takes a beating and I can’t do things. So I have learned to ask for help and be willing to accept it. My kids now have their own bathroom. They’re required to clean it once a week. They divide the tasks. I gave them a lesson on exactly what I want them to do. I handle some things for them like cleaning the mirror, because they have trouble reaching it, cleaning the floors and cleaning the bathtub. None of those things need done weekly. But weekly they have to clean the sink and counter, clean the toilet inside and out, take out the trash and check the supply of toilet paper. No, they don’t clean as well as I do, but I do check in on their progress and have had them redo things. And it still is helping both me and them! One of these days they’ll have their own bathrooms to clean.

I also ask my husband for assistance with tasks I usually do when I need to. And even though he may fold towels differently than I do or clean in a different way, it’s still perfectly fine. In the end, everything gets done and that’s the goal. I will say I have also learned when to ask for outside help. My mom and my mother-in-law have helped with cleaning our house during times I was recovering from surgery and such. I had a friend say to me that she could never let someone else clean her bathroom and trust them to do it right. I can only say that when it’s your only choice because you physically can’t do it, then you certainly gain perspective and appreciation.

Don’t procrastinate 
I’m not usually a procrastinator by nature, but I can be very good at overlooking things that need to be taken care of or put away. Very good! I try to make sure that I’m putting things away when I’m finished with them. But in that mindset, I’m also trying to make sure that each item in our house has a home. If I get derailed from putting something away immediately, then I make a conscious effort to take care of it next time I come across it.

Along with putting things away, I try not to procrastinate when it comes to dishes and laundry. There are ALWAYS dishes and laundry. But, I’ve worked to simplify as much as I can. I have arranged my kitchen around my dishwasher. So the things I use most often are stored right above the dishwasher or within a couple of steps. I can empty the dishwasher in five minutes or less and usually make myself do it the next time I am working in the kitchen (which is quite often with kids!). I’ve also worked to be practical. My kids take their lunch to school everyday. I have enough lunch containers for two days worth of cold lunches for both kids (You can find my favorite ones here!). That gives me two days to wash the containers in the dishwasher instead of by hand, which saves me time. If I throw in a day of hot lunch in their hot Thermos, then that helps even more. Each of them have three drink Thermoses for the same reason. I don’t have to hand wash lunch supplies daily. It makes me more efficient and less grumpy, so it works.

And then there’s laundry. While I’m not as fast as my mom who folds and puts her away immediately, I definitely make an effort to deal with it in the same day. At my old house, the washer and dryer were in the garage. In this house, they are on the second story in the middle of the bedrooms, so that really helps. We have also taken advantage of the laundry room and keep two laundry baskets for dirty things at all times: one for darks and one for whites. I can easily see when a basket is full and a load of laundry need to be thrown in. It helps keep me from getting as overwhelmed with load after load of laundry all at once. Another bonus is that I have a set amount of laundry baskets and I have to make sure to keep laundry folded and put away so we can use the baskets as needed. (I do keep a spare one, though. I’m not THAT good!)

My handy husband also hung me a nice bar in the laundry room so I can hang up clothes straight from the dryer. If I hang up the pants and shirts for my husband and me, shirts for my daughter and some shirts for my son right away then I don’t have as much work to do with folding either.

Give yourself grace 
This is my final tip. No matter what systems I have in place, no matter how much progress I’ve made, I’m not perfect and I’m not going to be. Life is going to get in the way. My health will flare for a week. My kids will get sick. Things happen. I have learned to not beat myself up if I get out of routine and don’t clean my bathroom this week. It doesn’t mean I’m never going to get back on track. I will, and I do. Can I say that in the past I was just a total slob and wasn’t doing my best? No way. I really was doing my best. There are some seasons of life where it’s easier to clean than others. Having babies and toddlers make cleaning a huge challenge. Going through physical and/or mental struggles makes cleaning a huge challenge. Doing the best you can? Then it’s enough. Don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect or having the perfect home!

Here’s the thing: I’m never going to transform into someone who loves cleaning. (At least I will be shocked if I do!) I won’t ever keep as spotless of a house as my grandma or my mom. But, that’s OK. I try to be realistic in my goals and work for what makes my family and me the happiest. We are all happier when we have clean dishes and clothes. We are all happier when there aren’t piles of papers all over the table we have to clean off every time we want to eat a meal. We are all happier to go into a bathroom that smells fresh and doesn’t have weeks of build-up. However, my family life isn’t going to dissolve into chaos if I let clean dishes sit in the dishwasher for 24 hours or a load of towels stay in the dryer for a couple of days. I do my best, but I also remember my priorities. I don’t want to be so busy taking care of my family that I don’t remember to enjoy my family.

Take my tips and see if you can put them to work for you. What other tips do you have that make cleaning easier? I’d love to hear from you!

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