Sunday, January 16, 2011

Laundry for a Large Family - Why Fold what You Can Hang?

Does folding mountains of laundry seem like your life's work?
When you die will your head stone say,
"She conquered Mt. Laundry More?"
If so you are not alone.

If you are at all like me, folding is not one of your greatest pleasures in this world.

I had a visitor stop in the other day looking for ideas for managing laundry with a big family and I got to thinking about how we have managed over the years.

Today I will tell you my laundry story. First we will begin with the Folding years.
When I had a large laundry room I had two sets of garage shelves (Okay this will keep your laundry room out of decorating magazines...) One set for clean and one set for dirty. And a bar above the washer for hanging an occasional white shirt.

Each family member gets a clean basket on one set of shelves.
The other shelf set had labeled baskets for sorting dirty clothes. Viola, no more dirty clothes on the floor.

"Keep it simple silly."

This was my over achiever sorting phase.
Bright Whites, Whites, Yellow, Light Blue Gray Green together, Dark and Jeans together and finally Reds. Whew. What was I thinking. Yes, I was doing the laundry for all 9 of us then and had the colors to separate down that far, but really.
I had this silly idea the clothes would look better. Okay, I can't even remember if they did. The point is, I was washing for children that were growing faster than I could get the clothes folded and put away...

Now for what we will call the non-folding years.

I am not promising there will be no folding, just a whole lot less.
All you need is a whole bunch of hangers.
I use baby hangers for my kids until their clothes get way too big.
I have less hanger breakage this way and less distress calls for help.
Oh, you say your closets are small. My kids closets are small too. It's alright.
I recommend adding a double hang closet bar.
It's the best money you'll spend for this cause.
(I re-purposed a small bakers rack to make space for toys off to the side.)

I hang everything I can possibly hang on a hanger.
I hang shirts first and when the space is full I fold pants and put them in the dresser.
I keep a drawer for undies and a drawer for socks.
And I try really hard to buy the same kind of socks each time so that I can just toss the ones with holes and keep adding to the stash. No more sorting socks. I have a cluster of boys in close sizes and yes, their socks are community. If you do not have drawers you could use bins for socks and undies. When I buy underwear for the boys I buy a different style for each boy and stay with that type. Nuff said about shorts.

"My motto is why fold what you can hang."

I lay all of the shirts from the batch in a pile and then add the hangers.

Oh, and I almost forgot.
I try really hard to keep the families laundry separated by the rooms that they live in as it transitions through the laundry.
(And make the big ones wash their own where ever possible.
I sort my own laundry in our bathroom away from the kids clothes to save me time and hassle.
All you need is a system of 3 to 4 divisions.
Check out my vertical Laundry Sorter.

photo source (can be purchased for 60.00)

Why should kids on the other end of the house have their stuff mixed with the little kids stuff?
Someone has to separate it again if it gets mixed together.
Have you ever tried to make matches from a jumble of 9 people's socks?
It is enough to make a grown woman cry.

Seasonal Clothing and things to grow into are another issue.
Bankers boxes are a great friend. Don't look too closely at mine. Sadly mine have been moved more times than I can count. They need to be replaced and I need more of them.
Bankers Boxes can be purchased at an office supply for the best price. Big Box stores carry them, but they are not as inexpensive.
For best efficiency label the box on one end with the summer contents and on the other with the winter contents.
Turn the label needed forward for the season. I like them because I can stack them to the ceiling. I use them for fabric and clothing storage in other places around the house also.

Keep it Simple
The most important thing you can do is establish a system that has as few steps to it as possible.
If you make it hard you will set yourself up to fail.
Keep it simple and you will succeed.

I hope this helps someone out there.

I made a laundry sorter, check out my post.


  1. This is great, thanks for the great ideas. We really need to get second racks, do you just measure and then buy them at home depo? I love the thought of hanging everything. That sounds like it would safe a ton of time.


    Hi Angela,

    Here is a double hang closet bar over at
    Or here is another at



  3. Thanks for stopping by my blog and becoming a follower.
    Hanging stuff is a great idea, and one that I use with only four of us. We are fortunate to have a laundry room upstairs near our bedrooms, and I added a hanging rod in there. Almost everything comes straight from the dryer onto a hanger (hubby and I share laundry as we both work outside our home.) Then we grab all youngest son's stuff and it goes in his closet, then oldest son's etc. I
    'm off to see more of your blog. Have a great day!

  4. Interestingly enough, I do this with my clothes. I hang almost everything. My husband has less hanging space, due to a plastic drawer unit he uses for socks and underwear and keys and such. I use plastic baskets on shelves above my lower hanging rack. In our bedroom we have a laundry sorter with 3 bags--Whites, Lights and Darks. Our older children, who share a room, each have their own laundry hamper (everything goes in together, no sorting) Our younger children share a hamper and theirs all goes in together, again, no sorting. The kids' school uniforms and Sunday clothes are hung, everything else is folded. The older kids fold their own, I fold for the younger kids. I will often "roll" the baby's clothes in matching outfits and will occasionally roll my 4 yr old's clothes into outfits, to. He doesn't always want to wear the "outfits," though.
    Cheryl, I need you to come over and help me get ORGANIZED! You are AMAZING! My bigger hassle is with toys! They are EVERYWHERE! Not to mention the other JUNK my kids don't want to get rid of. I think we are all addicted to paper! For whatever reason we just can't seem to throw it away if it's on paper! lol
    I need to check out some more of your blog!

  5. Laundry is an Albatross for sure! And paper? Good heavens.

  6. You are amazing! Wow, I envy your organizational skills. I don't even know where to start. The closets are all full of storage so I try to cram everything in their drawers. I will have to try some of your methods.

  7. Andrea,

    Only one problem. I have not yet found a way to get the work to do itself. :o)
    Setting up the system does not help me when I do not do the work to maintain it.
    I try, but I am guilty at times of not keeping it up.


  8. I totally agree hanging is much nicer than folding. I do not have a dryer and put everything on a clothes drying rack straight out of the washer. So every thing that can go on a hanger get put on one out of the washer then gets placed on the drying rack then taken directly to the closet when dry. Much easier and cheaper than handling it multiple times.

  9. Mary, you are quite right. I got to go to an organizing lecture series given by Marie Ricks. One of the things she stressed to us again and again is to pick something up and handle it once. She called it pick it up don't pass it up. Whenever you can reduce the number of steps required to get a job done it is better. Our energy is limited and messes/work can be unlimited.

    Thanks so much for stopping by. :o)

  10. Hi there! I also am a mom to many and I love all your great ideas! Laundry is the ongoing trial of my life (well that and dishes). I definetly love your fantastic ideas! I'm hooked on hanging! (and your newest follower)