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In this post, you’ll learn the exact laundry system I figured out to the laundry overwhelm for a big family with several small children.
I used to be drowning in laundry. With 4 kids under 7, there were clothes everywhere all the time.
- Dressup play = clean clothes all over the bedroom floor.
- Outside play = wet, sandy, muddy clothes all over the mudroom floor.
- Potty training…I probably don’t need to elaborate on what potty training does for the laundry pile?
- Getting all 4 kids bathed even just once a week (which is probably not enough?) = smelly clothes all over the bathroom floor.
Blow-out-poop outfit changes for the baby… or he climbs up on the craft table and dumps paint on himself. Oops. Soiled baby clothes everywhere.
Socks. I forgot about socks. I’m convinced there is a magical land between my washer and dryer where all the single socks and tupperware lids are.
Needless to say, the laundry problem was out of control and I was so overwhelmed by laundry. For a long time, I figured it was inevitable. We had 4 small children, which meant lots of laundry. Which meant I was destined to spend my evenings binge-watching Netflix while folding laundry. #momlife
(Of course I would delay putting it away, and the 2 year old would come through and dump the whole basket of folded laundry out the next day…)
Finally, I got so fed up that I overhauled our whole laundry system!
- Where the kids kept their clothes
- How I sorted laundry
- When I did laundry
- How I put it away, etc.
Lo and behold… it worked.
I cut laundry time in half. At least. Maybe more.
Enter: Easy Peasy Laundry.
A 3 step system affectionately named after my sweet former first grade class who used to cheer “easy peasy lemon squeezy” to encourage themselves as they learned hard things. We can do hard things, mommas!
Easy Peasy Laundry has been life changing. (Is that too dramatic?)
I mean, I almost entirely eliminated laundry stress. I kid you not. I am basically NEVER overwhelmed by laundry anymore. (Unless I break my laundry system rules and it piles up. Or if everyone gets the stomach flu…)
In general, I spend probably 10 minutes a day doing laundry… and I don’t fold the kids’ clothes anymore.
Ha! Of course no system is perfect. And yes, kids do come with a lot of laundry. But, I’m going to share all my secrets so you can eliminate laundry overwhelm and reduce your laundry time… until you catch the stomach flu. Then, you’re on your own.
Laundry System Overview + Video
My goal is to help you go from totally overwhelmed by laundry to less than 1 active hour per week on laundry using the Easy Peasy Laundry Process.
There are only 3 steps.
- Sort by person – Give each person a basket in their room, and only wash 1 person’s clothes at a time. This will eliminate the late night folding sessions with 3 of one person’s shirts, 4 of another person’s pants, etc. This hack is especially time saving if your kids have matching clothes!!
- 1 load a day MAX – Put 1 load in the washer the night before and start it first thing when you wake up the next morning. Switch it 45 minutes later and you already have one load practically done by breakfast time!
- Fold the bare minimum – I don’t fold any underwear, match socks, or fold any kids clothes. My quick-sort-pile method is described in detail in step 5 below.
The rest of this post will give you a step by step process to get the Easy Peasy Laundry system set up for your family. Tweak the system as needed to work for you. Feel free to comment, email me or DM me on instagram with with questions!
Or, if videos are your more your style, here’s a quick video that explanation of the whole method.
Step 1: The Best Way to Sort Laundry is by Person
One of the HUGE time savers with Easy Peasy Laundry is there is no sorting… We are going to replace traditional laundry sorting methods (lights, whites, darks, brights, blah) with sorting by person.
You will need one basket for each person in your family + 2 extra baskets.
Each person in your home gets a basket in their room (or where-ever they change clothes). Sorting laundry by person is the fastest, most efficient way to separate clothes for washing.
The 2 extra baskets go in your laundry room, kitchen, hallway, etc…somewhere you can conveniently toss extra things throughout your week. Towels, cleaning rags, cloth napkins, wet stuffed animals that got left in the rain. Anything “extra.”
The less clothes that make it into the “extras” baskets, the better the method works. Each person’s dirty clothes should go in his/ her own individual baskets whenever possible.
I do pull out whites throughout the week – often, one of my extras basket has whites. When it’s full, I run a load of whites. It’s the only time I have a bunch of random stuff in one load. You can add hydrogen peroxide and/or washing soda (different from baking soda) to your load for whiter whites.
Nothing else needs to be separated by color, unless it’s brand new, in which case you should wash it alone once or twice to get all the dye out.
Our favorite laundry baskets:
I found Curver Knit ones at Homegoods a while back. They are cute, sturdy and the perfect size. Small enough for kids to carry, large enough to hold all your clothes. The Container Store and Amazon both sell them too! I love these blue ones!
We also like our basic square, sterilite baskets. They’re a tad bulkier for little kids to carry around, but doable!
Step 2: Pare down your kids’ clothes (and your own if you want)
Your kids don’t need that many clothes. And the more clothes they own, the higher the number of clothing items that will be randomly strewn about your house as they dig for their favorites they wear every day anyway.
If you’re wondering, “How do I reduce my laundry!?” paring down on clothing is one of the easiest ways to reduce laundry.
The fast way to figure out what clothes your kids don’t need/ want anymore is to just see what’s left on laundry day. Hint: That is the stuff they don’t like wearing anyway.
- Wash all their dirty clothes so they have everything fresh and clean to choose from
- Give child her own laundry basket right near dresser. Tell her to put anything she wears in there.
- Wait 7-10 days.
- When your child isn’t around, go look through their drawers and empty everything else into a giveaway bag (unless it’s stained, torn, gross, old, etc…)
- Don’t get rid of their favorite anything 🙂
If you do this when they’re around, the sweatshirt they haven’t worn in 15 weeks will probably become their favorite ever. So, I like to do it when they’re not around.
Of course, you can include them in the process: “Addie, I’ve been noticing you and I both have a lot of clothes we don’t need. I heard the school is taking donations of clothes that are nice and haven’t been worn that much. Let’s look through both our dressers/ closets and see if we have anything that’s nice that we don’t wear that we can give away to someone who needs it!”
(You can go first to model the attitude – it’s just stuff! Get rid of what you don’t use, love, or need. Your kids will learn this attitude from you over time.)
How many clothes do my kids need?
We generally aim for the following approximate amounts:
- 10 undies + sock pairs
- 2-3 pairs of pjs of varying warmth
- 7-10 tees or longsleeve shirts
- 7-10 shorts or pants
- 2-3 sweaters
- A warm, fleece, zipup type jacket
- A few dressy items. (Except my child that LOVES dresses has several in her size!)
- A pair each of: Flip flops, rain boots, casual dress shoes, running/ athletic shoes, and sometimes one other fun shoe depending on the child and season.
That is more than enough! Back in the day, kids had 1-2 pairs of play clothes (that got worn multiple days in a row, getting dirtier by the day) and 1-2 pairs of dress clothes. That is another option that will cut WAY back on your laundry. But, since it’s less culturally appropriate nowadays, your kids might be the only ones at school in dirty, stinky clothes.
One key to minimizing kids’ clothes is to get rid of the ones you don’t need ASAP. Give away, sell on Facebook marketplace or a kids’ resale shop. But don’t delay, or they will just pile up.
When we are gifted more than we need, I often keep a couple nice extra items up in a large box in each child’s closet. And then they get “new” clothes later in the season, which always feels fun!
Step 3: Set up simple kids drawers & explain the new system to them.
We have labeled cube storage for our little kids because I wanted them to learn how to put their own laundry away at a young age. It worked! The oldest 3 have learned around age 3, and loved helping out.
You don’t need cubes, though. You can use anything you have. A regular dresser, a set of plastic drawers in the closet, or cheap cubes like we have.
The keys to kids being able to put their own clothes away are:
- No folding required
- One thing in each spot.
Ours look like this:
Or you could do this:
Or these! My sister-in-law has a set of these for each child in her laundry room and keeps clothes except lesser worn dressy clothes in here! Brilliant, cheap, and small-space friendly.
You can provide visuals or not. The kids will learn where stuff goes QUICKLY with or without the labels.
Explain to your kids:
- From now on, this is your laundry basket and only yours. Your dirty clothes go in here, and nowhere else.
- When you are almost out of clothes, it’s time to do your laundry, and I’ll show you how.
Games to Teach Very Young Children How to Put Clothes Away
Game #1 – If your child is young, play a game to learn! Tell them you are going to hide their laundry in all the wrong places. Put some on the bathroom floor, the master bedroom floor, in their brother’s laundry basket, etc… And let them find it all and put it in their own basket.
Game #2 – You could also play a game where you take out one shirt at a time and ask if it’s laundry time yet? (They would answer “no” until there are only 1 or 2 shirts left.) Then you could make a big deal about it when there are only 2 shirts left. “Oh no!!! It’s laundry time! Bring your basket to the washing machine and I’ll show you how to do your own laundry.”
Step 4: When to do Laundry? Laundry Day vs. Load a Day
I have a strong preference for just doing everyone’s laundry as needed, and usually just one load a day start to finish. 2 loads at the most!
During the crazy charade that is our bedtime routine with 4 kids, I usually just kinda peek and see whose laundry needs to be done the most – whoever is almost out of clothes! Or a load of towels, or a load of extras.
Then, I load that laundry at night, but DON’T START IT.
First thing the next morning, I run the load start to finish. Then it’s done early in the day, and I have all day to put it away.
If the load that most needs to be done is a big kid’s load (and they can do their own laundry), then I’ll say something like, “Hey it looks like you’re almost out of clothes. Bring your laundry down when you wake up in the morning and we can wash it first thing.”
Step 5: Quick sort clean clothes into piles
Since each load is only one TYPE of thing, I take the load to the place where it belongs. Cleaning stuff to the kitchen, baby’s clothes to baby’s room, my clothes to my closet, etc…
Then, I pull out one item at a time and put it in piles. It’s really fast. Less than 2 minutes even if the load is giant.
Then, are you ready for how easy this is? I pick up the pile of clothes and put it in the appropriate drawer as described above.
If my child is over 2 or 3 years old, I include them if they are around. They love it! If they are 4+, I teach them how to do it by doing it with them several times, gradually having them do more and more alone. It’s fast and painless and they don’t mind!
Here’s what the drawer looks like when I’m done quick-sorting-and-putting-away the laundry:
I actually love Marie Kondo’s tidying principles! We “Kon-maried” our house years ago and never looked back. In general, we try to keep things that are useful or that we love. But when it comes to kids’ clothes, I’m 100% pragmatic.
They are going to empty drawers and dig for their favorites anyway. I want them to be laundry-independent at a young age and I don’t want to battle them on it. And I have a lot of kids! So, 2-minute-no-fold-quick-sort method it is.
Step 6: Sit back, relax, and do something fun with all your free time!
Revel in the time saved, my friend.
The combination of sorting dirty laundry by person, only doing 1 load per day, and skipping most of the folding will save you SO MUCH TIME. Not to mention getting your kids involved. Do not underestimate the power of easy-peasy-laundry.
If you try any version of this system, I’d love to hear about it! Tag me on instagram @rhythmsandgrace and use the hashtag #easypeasylaundry
A Few Bonus Laundry Tips + Resources
- Kid friendly laundry baskets: Curver Knit | Sterilte Square
- Best laundry detergent: This powder detergent comes in around 10-20 cents per load after shipping and tax, depending on how much you use, how big the load, your washing machine, etc. That’s the cheapest non-toxic laundry detergent I can find.
- In general, you need WAY less detergent than you think!! Your clothes may even get cleaner with less detergent. Just try it 🙂
- I try to treat stains sooner than later with some Dawn dish soap + warm water OR Arm & Hammer washing soda (different from baking soda). You can just dilute some in water and presoak the stain. Then toss it in the wash, good as new!
- Try a drink dispenser for liquid detergent if you buy HUGE detergent containers, but want your kids to be able to do their own laundry.
- Wool Dryer Balls = no more fabric softener OR dryer sheets! (Which are 2 of THE MOST toxic household products.) If you like scented laundry, grab some cheap essentials oils and put a few drops on each wool dryer ball. The scent will be there a while!
- Check Ewg.org rates all household products for health safety and environmental concern. You can go there and search for your product pretty easily. I can tell you, the Kirkland Free & Clear I used for a long time earned an F. The website explains why. Womp womp.
- The clothing labels I made.