Small systems keep whole empires going so they can certainly save some sanity in our homes! During our craziest season with 3 school kids and a baby, cat dog chickens goats and a pony, plus renovations, sports and social life, I became a systems analyst. I made it my goal to work out little systems to save us from drowning. I endlessly tried stuff out and picked up gems from other mums too. In the end I found a lot of ways to get rid of the hot spots in our home and replace them with calm and simple systems.
I will be writing various mum-hacks posts but my focus in this article is on getting on top of the washing. On simplifying laundry and clothing. That is a big category in the house and does cause a lot of mess and stress so it is great category to focus on.
Best ever hacks for taming the laundry and clothing of your tribe.
Reduce reduce reduce: when families go on holiday they take only 10% of their clothing. And the result is 90% less clothing mess! Mysteriously, there is also less washing to do too! My theory is that when kids have more clothes they dump more in the washing rather than putting them away. So go hard and cull half the clothing in every drawer and every room. That would be hundreds less garments to ever deal with again. And you might actually get to put your feet up and read a book! At least a few pages. (Watch the Marie Kondo videos on Netflix for some serious minimising inspiration.)
Sort dirty clothes: have several hampers in the laundry for the family to dump their dirty clothes in. Label them. One for whites, one for light colours and one for dark colours. It is also brilliant to have one for uniforms (school/sport) so they don’t get lost in the system. It is so easy to put in a load of whichever basket is fullest if it is already sorted. Colour sorting does tend to magically sort the type of clothing into groups too which is better for washing.
Sort the clean laundry too! Two things will revolutionise your line-to-wardrobe process. 1. Get a little table near your line or dryer and fold immediately as you harvest your dry washing. You can avoid a thousand creases if you do this. Then take this nice neat pile to your laundry. 2. In the laundry, have tubs/boxes labelled for each person or each room. Put each persons things in their tub/tote. It is up to them to come and collect their box and put their clohtes away. And they will. When they run out of clean clothes! It’s handy to have a tub for bedding too, and one for kitchen. I have set up this tub/box system at every house I have lived in, either on a horizontal wall shelf or on a vertical shelf unit. One large family I know have wall mounted an IKEA Kallax in the laundry and each child has a cube space.
Keep uniforms (sport and school) separate from the rest of the washing. Have two tubs/totes labelled ‘Clean uniforms’ and ‘Dirty uniforms’. Easy to find by any family member. Major stress reducer every morning.
Socks simplified: buy a whole load of socks in same brand and colour and you will save a thousand hours each year on sock pairing. We have better things to do with our time! All my socks are black Bonds socks. All my daughters are white and in another brand. It saves us a lot of hassle. If you have 2 boys of similar age just buy them a stack in same brand, size, and colour, and they can share. So easy to manage.
Lots of kids? Try the Dot System: to simplify clothes sorting, mark oldest child’s socks and clothes with 1 dot. Use a laundry or permanent marker. The 2nd child gets 2 dots. 3rd child gets 3, etc. Handing down? Just add a dot! This system is popular worldwide.
Helping little kids with shoes – use dots! If you have small children and they tend to wear their shoes on the wrong feet put a dot on the inside of each shoe and tell them to put their shoes on with the dots facing each other. They love this little trick!
Peg hangers are seriously awesome. If you want to save a ton of money hang your washing instead of using a dryer. For ease of hanging the best investment you can make are peg hangers for all the small items. The best quality ones are the ones IKEA has. On these you can hang socks, underwear, baby clothes, flannels, kitchen wipes etc. The hangers can be taken indoors in a flash in bad weather. When the items are dry you can hold the hanger over your sorting surface and simply release all the items. TIP: use those long hooks for hanging planters to hang them under your patio.
Stain remover. An all around cleaning product is a spray bottle filled with with 80% vinegar, a dash of dish detergent and some water. This also works brilliantly on removing armpit smell and deoderant build up.
Get rid of the towel nightmare. You know that nightmare? Towels everywhere. On the floor, on beds, in the car, piles of used ones in the bathroom, and so many going through the wash. Yet never a clean one when you step out of the shower?! Solution: each person has a colour and only two towels in their colour. One for using, one for the wash. Make a rule that everyone sticks to their own colour. Enforce the rule during adjustment phase! I also have extra towels for sleepover guests in a separate (secret) place! Keep beach/pool towels (1 per person plus a couple for guests) in a separate place too so no one uses them for the shower!
The linen cupboard nightmare. If you would like a linen cupboard that is a breeze to keep tidy then consider that it is actually quite fine to have only two sets of bed linen per bed. One on the bed and a spare set in the cupboard. WHOAH. Imagine how tidy the linen cupboard could be. The way to do this is get everything out in a big pile and Marie Kondo your linen. If needed strip the beds and remake them when you are done. Choose only the ones you love (favour those with high cotton content for comfort and long life). Take a deep breath and put the rest in a bag to donate. Set yourself free and never have a messy linen cupboard again. And don’t buy any more unless absolutely needed. P.S. try out keeping your stack of folded pillow cases in a shoe box, they are a perfect fit.
For tidy and organised rooms make sure every bedroom and bathroom has its own small laundry hamper (and a rubbish bin too). The kids need to empty their hamper into the laundry each week if they want their clothes washed.
Even toddlers can help with the washing! If you get peg hangers and washing racks even your toddlers can reach and hang up the smaller items of washing. They love it! Praise their efforts – they will become very good at it in time. Ever since my kids were around 3 I have had them help with the washing.
Teens can do their own washing! At some point when kids become teens, especially if they are not helping out willingly with the family washing, it is time to stop doing their washing and let them do it themselves. At first it may pile up into a mountain. Do not rescue them. They will wash them when they run out of clothes or their friends tell them they stink. Also: you can give them a particular day in the week they can use the machine to avoid traffic jams in the laundry. It is a basic life skill. Don’t deny them the chance to master it. We can help them out as a blessing when they have exams or a crazy week.
I hope you enjoy these hacks I learned over the last decades. They reduced mess and housework significantly, and so many stressful moments (‘where are my socks for sport?’) were gone. Our routines ran much more smoothly. That meant our home felt less like surviving in a noisy machine and more like a homely haven. Yay!!!