How to Manage Laundry in a Large Family

posted in: Large Family | 33

Some people consider laundry their nemesis. I mean, with ten kids at home it is never done. Ever. Consider this: even if I somehow managed to wash every item of clothing in our house, by the end of the day there would be: 12 shirts (more if some people wore layers), 12 pair of pants, 12 pair of undies and 24 socks. And that is a conservative estimate. My laundry will never be done, and honestly, I’m okay with that.

How to manage laundry in a large family

Thankfully I enjoy doing laundry and have an efficient system for getting it done. I find converting piles of clean laundry into neat little piles very cathartic. Here’s how I manage laundry in our large family.

1. Sorting Laundry: Keep it Simple.

Before I married Chuck, I did laundry once a week. I would throw all of my laundry into the washer and get it done in one efficient load. Once I was married, I did all the laundry on Fridays. Now? I do laundry all day every day. The secret to keeping it manageable is a sorting system that makes sense. I keep the sorting as simple as possible.

Our system is as follows:

How to manage laundry in a large family

1. Towels/washcloths, socks/undies and pajamas get washed together. 

2. Pants together.

3. Shirts together.

4. Work clothes together. 

Why do I use this system? It is easy for the kids to understand AND it is way faster to put away clothing that is sorted this way.

{ I will occasionally bleach a load of whites, but we are on a septic system and the bleach isn’t good for it, so I don’t use it on a regular basis.}

How to manage laundry in a large family-9080

{Be sure and keep a bin on top of your dryer to collect random junk from your kids’ (not your husband’s…never your husband’s) pockets.}

2. Pre-Treat Stains

I always check out shirts for stains before I wash them. I recently asked on my blog page about how to remove stubborn stains. Well just today I poured all free clear directly on a mustard stain that has been on Hezekiah’s khaki church pants for over a week. I tossed them in the washer and they came out perfectly clean! I didn’t take before and after pictures, because quite frankly I was thinking about laundry not blogging, so you’ll just have to trust me on this one.

3. Laundry Soap

First, a warning: when Tilly was about three she got into our laundry soap and ate a handful. Her lips got swollen, red and blistered. I had to call poison control for the chemical burns (yes, you read that right: chemical burns) on her lips. We were told to have her drink lots of milk (to dilute the soap) and watch her closely in case her throat began to swell. ACK…not my best day, so please keep your laundry soap out of the reach of your kids.

How to manage laundry in a large family-9087

If you have any concerns about sensitive skin all free clear is the soap for you! All free clear is the number one soap recommended by dermatologists and pediatricians for sensitive skin because of its hypoallergenic formula. It works in regular and HE machines. I personally love that it doesn’t have the strong perfume-y smell of a lot other brands. I can’t even walk down the laundry soap aisle of a store without getting an instant headache, so this is important to me.


4. Folding

Do you let the laundry add up? Or fold it as soon as it comes out of the dryer? I do both, depending on the items being washed.

Chuck’s work clothes are quick and easy to fold, and all go in the same place, so those are folded immediately. Same for a load of towels. I will fold them as soon as they come out of the dryer and put them away. For other clothes, it depends on my day’s schedule. I am of the theory that it is better to have clean (if unfolded) clothes than to have dirty clothes. A kid can always dig through a basket for clean laundry if necessary. 

I always fold shirts into small little bundles KonMari style. Why? This makes them completely compact and they take up less room on the shelf.

5. Putting Laundry Away

All of Avi’s laundry (except for socks and undies) fits on these two shelves! You can see her shirts on top and a small stack of leggings. On the middle shelf is a stack of skirts and dresses and then a stack of pants.  I have found open shelving to be a much more efficient way to store clothing than drawers.

If the kids are home, I have them put their own laundry away. If they are at school, I do it for them.

How to manage laundry in a large family-9139

I store Apollo’s clothes in a large tub that fits perfectly on his shelf. If I tried stack that many shirts, they would constantly topple over. Containing them in a bin keeps them easy to see and looking tidy.

So there you have it, the laundry practices in our large family. 


 How often do you do laundry? Do you love it or hate it? all free clear wants to hear your feedback – click here to take a quick 1-question survey!

Facebook Comments

33 Responses

  1. I’m glad you enjoy folding laundry but I don’t–I hate it. I wash the stuff and I put it in a massive pile on a table in the laundry room and some of it gets folded and some does not. I like the idea of bins for towels, bins for pants, bins for shirts, but I think my kids are too old to train. Maybe the grandkids, I should be so lucky, in a few years. But I do have one tip: getting them to put their socks in one of those net bags. I wash the whole bag of socks, then dry and dump them back into their drawers. You don’t even have to roll up the socks or fold them.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      I am very visual, so I really enjoy seeing the stacks of neatly folded clothing. I know lots of moms who don’t fold socks, but if I do that a certain child of mine will wear one toddler sock and one giant knee sock and think nothing of it. Doing that day after day means there are no matching socks for anyone else!

  2. I wash every day. There are three of us (one teenage girl, husband and myself) plus five pets in the house. Partly this is because our washing machine is small (we live in a city with water shortages) and partly because we AREN’T small ourselves so don’t get much in one load. I wash bedding and blankets a lot because 5 cats and dogs lay on them.I too, never run out of laundry to wash. I don’t own a dryer so all our clothes line dry and I stand under the line and fold each thing as I bring it in, to decrease wrinkles. I put them on our bed and my husband’s job is to put it away in our drawers.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      My daughter in NZ doesn’t use a dryer either. In summer I hang a ton of clothes off of our back deck to dry. Its too damp here to do that in the winter.

  3. My dream house would have a bathroom with a laundry room/giant wardrobe attached, so that clothes could go directly into the laundry room and then could be put away without leaving the area…also when you wanted to shower…your clothes would be right there in the attached room… no forgetting underwear and having to try to slink to your room without anyone seeing to get some. haha We had 10 people here over the winter and are now “down” to 6 again….we go up and down in number as oldest son and family join us for part of the year, and one of my brother in laws comes in and out. So laundry can get completely insane here when we are all living on top of each other (3 bedroom house, one bathroom). I don’t mind washing, drying, or folding, but I HATE putting away!

  4. We did the fa,ily closet thing when I had a houseful of littles, and it worked great for that season. It was in the laundry room, so I’d grab something out of the dryer, fold it, turn and put it away in one motion. I loved that it not only kept the laundry, clean and dirty, in one place, but it opened the closets up for to storage. Now that I have big kids, they all do their own. Love it!

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      The girls’ room is attached to the laundry room, so I’ve thought of doing something like this, but with a houseful of teens, walking around half-naked doesn’t seem like a great idea…

  5. I currently have Mt. Washmore at my house. Most of it is my 15 year-old daughters stuff that she puts in bags when she cleans her room. That’s all well and good when you take said bags OUT of the bedroom and wash the stuff in them. It’s not so great when those bags of dirty laundry end up being stacked in her closet. The place we are living at now has on-site laundry so we have to lug it all down the stairs and across the parking lot to the laundry room. Not convenient to say the least. With a new baby (7 weeks tomorrow!) the rest of us are doing laundry a couple of times a week just to stay on top of it. Thanks for the tip about the Free and Clear. That would be much easier than having to take 2 different jugs of laundry soap and having to separate baby clothes from everything else!

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Ooh, not good. Make that girl get rid of some clothes, or do it for her. LOL

  6. You amaze me! Laundry is definitely a monster in our house. I may have to try some of your tricks! 🙂

  7. I’m doing laundry for 9 and in addition to clothing, I have at least two sets a sheets to wash per day (darn leaky pull ups) and cloth diapers. And half my kids spend most of the day sitting in dirt now that the weather is nice. I’ve been making my own laundry detergent to help save money using the Fels/washing soda/borax combo. Can I ask how much it costs your family in laundry detergent per month? The homemade stuff is good enough, but I know our clothes could be cleaner. I just can’t stand the artificial smell of most laundry detergents. Bags of hand-me-downs washed in commercial detergent even make me sneeze.

    Also, is it easier to wash by clothing type instead of by room? I do laundry room by room so I don’t have to walk all over the house delivering things. But laundry day overwhelms my kids when I present them with a pile of clothes for them to put away…they often end up on the floor and back in the laundry without being washed. I might have to try your method. I can imagine it is easier for a six year old to think “put pajamas away” instead of “put shirts and pants in one drawer, pajamas and undies in the other.”

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      I’ve never added up the cost of laundry detergent (I mean, its a neccessity, its not like I can cut back on it). I will say the all free clear does an AMAZING job of getting the clothes clean. If I go through the effort of sorting/washing/drying/folding, we need clean clothes at the end.

  8. We do at least two loads a day everyday. I only sort dark, light, and special which is anything that needs treated differently. We sort into individual, color coded baskets and anyone over 5 folds and puts away their own laundry. I only put away mine, my husband’s, and the little kids laundry. The kids take turns sorting and whoever’s turn it is folds and puts away all the towels and other linens.

  9. Anna, I buy my laundry detergent in 50lb bags from Azure Standard. They go on sale twice a year for about $45. I go through 2-3 bags a year depending on how many diapers/ bedwetters I have at the time. All free&clear is my favorite store soap, but I only buy it if I forget to order the Country Save.

    • Ah, Kara, you’re the best! I don’t know why I forgot all about Country Save. That was my favorite until we moved here and I left Azure for awhile. I’m going to order some. I was just telling Ian that I needed a rental for us up there so we can visit easier.

  10. I do at least one load a day. Having two of my children leave made it so I wasn’t doing laundry all day everyday, just a load a day or so, and if we’re busy and I miss a day or two, no one is going naked. In that regard it’s been a bit of a relief.
    I loathe folding clothes, so when they’re dry they go in labeled laundry baskets that the kids and I dig through until we lose patience and finally put away.
    Laundry is an ongoing battle between my husband and I. I believe washed and dried is doing laundry, folding and putting away is a separate job. He believes it’s all one job and thus should be done immediately. I keep hoping he loses patience and takes over, but so far I’m out of luck 🙂 He’s just gotten good at ignoring things.
    I don’t sort. I’m terrible I know. I’m careful the first wash of brand new clothes, following that everything goes in. I separate clothes from sheets and towels and blankets but that’s as much sorting as I ever do.
    I’d rather clean a bathroom than fold laundry or do dishes by hand.
    So really I just need to be independently wealthy so I can hire a maid. ha!

  11. Prisscilla snodgrass

    We separate laundry by room. Each room of kids has a day. And we have a washer that holds three regular loads at a time. We intentionally didn’t build a laundry room because I would surely let it pile up and just shut the door. I hate visual clutter, so a pile of clean laundry in the middle of the living space requires immediate folding. And I wait longingly for summer when there are no socks to deal with.

  12. We’re a family of seven, and I do laundry every day for sure. I also find folding laundry relaxing and enjoy seeing all the neat stacks. But all of our drawers are total disasters! Sometimes folding seems completely futile because it all gets shoved into drawers in a giant mess. Sigh.

  13. I work at home. On my breaks, I will take wash out of the washer and throw it in the dryer. Except the dryers, both, are not working, so I have been hanging the wash on the line. Either way, clean laundry gets thrown on a table in the laundry area of my sun porch. If I don’t get it sorted, I pay my 10 yr old daughter to sort a week of laundry. It takes her 20 to 30 minutes to sort by girls, mom and dads, boys, socks and linens/towels. It’s worth $5 or $10 to not have to sort it myself. 🙂


    We don’t have a washer in our condo because we use our laundry room as an extra bedroom, but our complex has a Laundromat. I do laundry twice a week, usually five loads at a time. I can put all the laundry in the car and run it down there, put it in the washers, come back in 30 min. (or sit and read if I’m lucky), put it all in the dryers and have all 5 loads washed and dried in under 2 hrs. My kids put all the laundry away except for mine. My kids sometimes take a load down if we something washed in between. It’s actually easier and less time consuming this way, than it was when we had 2 sets of washers and dryers.

  15. Sharon firlds

    At the moment I am behind, but we usually do all of our laundry every day, except for Sunday. I have an 8ft table that we put the clothes on to fold. In the last few years as I have fewer kids at home and many health problems, the laundry gets piled up clean on the table.

  16. I really like how organic you are; some other “flawless Mom” would have pretty neat canvas bins , with pretty chevron pattern -decals/labels buts that not typical of every mom and I kinda like seeing the rawness in your home. It is such a confident booster to read about other moms living the struggle of raising kids and making the most of it. . anywho. Thanks for sharing your life

  17. We probably average a load a day. I’d love to have the space you have around your washer/dryer. Ours is in a closet. We just do laundry room by room, and we don’t have laundry baskets (only the hampers for dirty laundry) because I know if we did I’d just throw clean laundry in a basket and it would just pile up.

  18. I don’t mind doing laundry… as long as it doesn’t stack up too much. (I try to do it every day but sometimes I just don’t get around to it).

    I love your system with the bins – good thinking.

    Thanks for sharing (and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop).

    Wishing you a lovely weekend.

  19. That’s a lot of laundry! I do laundry every day but separate mine by colours, towels etc. Might have to give your system a try. Agree it might be easier for the children to understand and easier when sorting and putting things away. I often end up with a big pile at the end of the day. Found you on the #SHINEbloghop.

  20. Great tips! I’m stopping by from the IBN Promo group on FB. For my family of 6 I find that if I fold all of the laundry as it comes out of the dryer, I’m motivated to put it away much faster than if it’s in a big pile. That’s my trick for staying on top of the laundry pile. 🙂

  21. Well that was an easy survey! I would definitely try All & often do since we have a bunch of eczema and allergy kids at our house!

  22. My towels/washcloths get a pretty funky smell to them so I can’t wash them with other clothes! Any tips for how to make them not smelly?! Towels/washcloths are their own load lol but i’d love for them not to be!

  23. Thanks for your tips. I really like how you fold Apollo’s clothes and put them into a bin! We are going to be moving soon and I’m designing a family closet and I really want to try out that system for shirts! What washer and dryer do you have? I’d prefer to get a washer/dryer that’s more of a workhorse than to have one with a bunch of fancy settings. Do you recommend what you’re using now?

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      I am not even sure what washer and dryer we have now. We have been through *several* in the 12 years we lived in this house! We used to have a front loader (the delivery man said it was “the largest non-commercial washer on the market” but we had to have it repaired several times and finally replaced with a with a large “normal” machine.

  24. […] anyways while the rest of the family was gone mom asked me to catch up on the laundry. So of course, I did. But wow! Running a house for a week made me realize… it’s hard […]

  25. You are my new hero!

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Glad to hear it! LOL. Laundry is something of a specialty for me 🙂

Please share your thoughts!