NOTE: Before you read this post, or any other post, I want to clarify something. The most important thing in your relationship with your children has nothing to do with laundry, or tidiness, or how you manage toys. The most important thing is that you love them, and that they know it. For me, these other things were ways to keep my sanity so that I could more effectively love my children. I also have a sense that order helps children order themselves, and to that end, I share these things with you. God has fashioned each of us uniquely. Please make it your goal to seek to know God better; the better you know Him, the more able you will be to effectively love your children.
Love it or hate it, laundry never ends. Laundry can be really complicated--there are colors to sort so that you don't end up with bleached colors or white things that have turned pink; there are heavy duty loads and loads you have to be very careful with so they don't shrink; and then there is the job of folding and putting all of it away. So many steps! So many potential problems!
I can't solve everything frustrating about laundry, but I do want to share a few things that I have found helpful. I was a stay-at-home mom with five children, so some of the things I did won't work for everyone. For example, I started teaching my kids to use spray-n-wash on stains, and to fold cloth diapers starting when the first two were ages 3 and 5. By the time they were age ten or so, each of them was pretty much taking care of his or her own laundry.
Each family's situation will be slightly different, but there are some things that anyone can do to make this job simpler and easier!
Reduce the amount of laundry you're dealing with by doing what I recommend here. As much as possible, choose clothing that doesn't need special care, especially for the kids. This will make your life much easier!
Give every family member his or her own dirty clothes hamper, and when your children are very young, teach them to deposit clothes in it as they undress. It takes a little extra time and patience, and the occasional reminder, but you don't need to be bending down to pick up their laundry all the time.
Buy some kind of "color catcher" product. There are a couple of different brands, (and here is another) and you can even make your own ! These eliminate the need to sort by color! You can wash darks and lights at the same time, which saves a ton of time.
Buy (and regularly use) a washer-cleaning product (here, here, and here); again, there are several brands so find one that suits you. These help keep your washer from getting mildew-y and smelly. There are also special wipes you can buy to run along the rubber seals and plastic dispensers to remove any mildew that may have appeared; if you can't find the wipes, just use a cloth, but do this before using the washer cleaning product.
Decide whether you'd rather do all your laundry at once, or on a couple of different days. Because I had five children, I opted for different days; one day wasn't enough. Whichever you choose, determine to finish what you start; once you start a load, see it through to pulling it out of the dryer the same day, if at all possible. And avoid leaving clean, unfolded laundry in the basket and just grabbing what you need from it--I know it's tempting, but you'll be so much happier if you just get 'er done!
!Do laundry "by the hamper". In other words, when a family member's hamper is full, dump the whole thing in the washer, and wash it all on the "normal" or "casual" setting. No worries about sorting, because of your color catcher! Set the buzzer to go off when the wash is done, and keep it moving. When you hear the dryer buzz, pull out the laundry, fold it, and put it away.
If your kids are old enough, show them the routine and start having them do their own laundry. Or if you'd rather, when you've laundered their hamper, dump the clothes on their bed and have them fold and put it away.
The idea is to minimize the amount of laundry you have to deal with, streamline the process as much as possible, then just do it, completing the process as soon as you possibly can. Children are more than capable of sorting and matching socks and folding smaller items like washcloths when they are as young as 3 or 4. By the time they are teens there should be no excuse for them not doing their own laundry!
I hope this has been helpful for you! I'd love to hear from you--let me know if you have some tips of your own, or if you try using some of these!
Next up: the kitchen!