Laundry in a household our size can quickly become an uncontrollable monster that threatens to consume everyone in its path. Learning to tame this monster has taken time. Here are a few of the methods I use to keep things under control:
1. Place a laundry bag or basket in each bedroom, and teach family members the necessity of putting the laundry in the bag or basket. I had to get serious about this. Dirty laundry under beds, in closets, etc. is not acceptable. The children paid me a quarter for every clothing article I picked up. With one child that didn't even work, so he had to make five trips to the basement laundry room for every clothing article left out. After 25 trips on two different occasions he was pretty much cured.
2. As a part of daily chores assign one person in each room to take the dirty laundry to the laundry room and sort it. I have four containers in the basement. One is for white socks and underwear, one for jeans, one for dark clothing, and one for light clothing. Even our seven year old is a proficient laundry sorter remembering to even check pockets.
3. Teach children to re-hang things like Sunday shirts or pants if they've only been worn a short time and are not truly dirty. If everyone in our house put all the clothing worn on Sunday in the hamper, it would be like having to wash 18 shirts, 18 pairs of pants, and 36 socks all from one day's wear. It simply isn't necessary. Re-wear clothes that are not dirty!
4. Assign older children to be responsible for changing sheets once a week. We have four bedrooms and two teenagers. They each have an assigned day to change sheets in one of those bedrooms each week. They wash them, dry them, and put them back on the beds.
5. Assign folding tasks as chore responsibilities. At our house, Amber (age 7) folds all the washcloths and rags and puts the away. Michael (age 9) folds the underwear and the hand towels. Cory (age 10) folds the towels. Alex (age 12) folds the socks.
6. Each child puts away his own laundry. I fold our laundry on our large dining room table. I prefer to fold our shirts and jeans myself just so they don't come out of the drawers looking wrinkled. I make piles for each person in the house arranging them from oldest to youngest. I call the kids when I'm done folding laundry for the day, and they all come get their pile and put it away. We have a two story house, and I would have to make numerous trips to get it all put away.
7. Eliminate ironing. I have never liked ironing. I refuse to spend hours at the ironing board. I look at the tag and if it is material that wrinkles, I simply don't buy it. If I accidentally leave a load of shirts in the dryer too long, I throw in a damp towel and run the dryer for about ten minutes to shake the wrinkles out. I hang a large number of our shirts on hangers so they won't get wrinkled.
8. Wash two loads a day. As a general rule, I wash two loads a day except on Sunday. Usually this keeps things pretty well washed up and it doesn't become an overwhelming task that way.
9. Label shirts, pants, etc. with initials of who they belong to. With a permanent marker, I write the initials of each person on the tags of their clothing. I have so many boys close to the same size, that I often fail to remember which shirt belongs to whom. Labeling saves me time trying to figure it out each time I fold.
10. Buy everyone different styles of socks. I tried marking socks with permanent marker, but it just eventually wears off and is hard to read. Folding the socks and returning them to the right dresser was a huge frustration. I tried just having them wear whatever socks ended up in their drawers, but that just upset things because some had special socks and hated to have someone else wear them. I finally found distinctly different socks for everyone. Now one boy has ankle socks with red heels and toes. Another has ankle socks with gray heels and toes. Another has long socks with gray heels and toes. And another has long socks with black heels and toes. Now I can just glance at a sock and tell you whose it is.