taming the beast

My home skills have been very slow to evolve, despite the fact that I’ve had domestic independence for twenty years.  The tasks that make my list of “High Dislike” include cooking (very unfortunate for my family), emptying the dishwasher, weeding, and cleaning grimy glass shower doors.  But there is one constant task that reaches the defcom level of "Simply Despise": the laundry.  

Now you may think this is because I have six people churning through several outfits a day, but you are wrong.  My laundry woes date back to the newlywed era when I finally had to take some responsibility to keep the two of us out of dirty wrinkly clothes so that we could both keep our professional lives intact.   I asked around a lot about this particular topic (some might call it complained constantly), and I vividly recall begging an unsuspecting older woman in my bible study to help me solve my laundry conundrum, as if I could tap into some special magical powers to get the piles processed without dominating my life.

Things devolved as kids were added to the point that I was pretty grumpy about any mention of laundry, and the kids were pretty grateful when their favorite nightgown happened to show up in their drawer.   This summer we started what I optimistically dubbed the “Laundry Sing-Along”, which involved a weekly gathering of clean laundry into one big pile – more like a mountain really, inevitably becoming a mosh pit for the kids – and singing together as we all sorted and folded each person’s clothes into enormous bins.  Success rate: moderate but grueling.

I am happy to report a complete revolution has overthrown the laundry dictatorship, and I want to tell you how (because I know you are simply dying to see more pictures of my unkempt laundry).  I devote this solution in its entirety to a woman I would aspire to clean shower doors for indefinitely out of sheer gratitude for her suggestions:  Debbie Pittman.  She is a hilarious blogger/mom of many/organizational consultant/laundry mastermind who not only wrote about her approach for her 11 kids (yup, eleven!), but spent valuable personal time emailing me back and forth on how I, too, could tame the laundry beast.

I will let you read the eloquent details here, but her main points are:

• Do a load every single day
• Put away your load every single day

• Every. Single. Day.

I know, I know, it seems so simple.  But somehow it’s taken me 20 years to get to this solution. So, just for kicks, here are my cute little baskets from the dollar store, tagged with the strategic title “Team Roberts,” along with nicknames and pictures for my non-readers.  The kids are responsible for taking the baskets and putting everything away in their proper drawers.  Even at 2, 4, 7, and 9, they are perfectly capable of taking this one for the team.  Dad was alarmed at their small size, but it’s helped me know that I’ve gotten behind if my mini-baskets are brimming.  Call it portion size for the laundry, if you will.  So take that, you beast you.


  1. LOVE love LOVE the bins w/ photos. Will definitely use that one. Can't imagine laundry for 6!! The game changer for us has been to sort our laundry as it comes off. When the basket for that type of wash is full, that is the basket we wash that day.
    Tried washing the girls clothes together and it took twice as long to fold/hang. Their clothes go straight to the washer when their individual hamper is full. Still not easy. Still not fun. Somewhat satisfying knowing there's a plan of attack. The community (aka. every dirty item goes here) hampers are gone - w/ the clean white/beige carpet. ;-)
    Can't believe you do laundry for 6! Two washers and dryers are in order for your house I believe.

  2. Well, well, Kristin (...eyeing my scummy shower doors)...I must admit I was worried when I saw the size of your laundry bins - although, to be honest, with 11 kids, everything that's not industrial-sized looks small to me.

    But, I'm so proud of you! are you feeling real Proverbs 31-ish? :)

    And the link puts you in my BFF category!

  3. I love that you put photos on your bins, what a great idea!

  4. great post.don't you wish there were some sort of manual that comes along with the wedding ring? It took me years to fine tune our system also but I shudder when I think of all the time I wasted trying to figure out how to get it all done. (now I don't do any laundry, the kids do...that's how great our system works!)

  5. Awesome post!! I enjoyed reading about how you solved your laundry woes!! I LOVE your baskets with pictures! Makes me want to run right over to my Dollar Store! :) And I totally agree with everything you said about my friend, Debbie Pittman! She's the bomb! :) I'm not nearly as witty, clever, or adorable as Debbie -- but come drop by my blog some time anyway! :) And, BTW, I LOVE your blog! Welcome to bloggy world!

  6. every night i fold and put away all of the laundry. no sleep till the laundry sleeps. i read that tip about 5 years ago and since its implementation have never sang the laundry blues, reds, whites, or lights. i consider it my own personal "no laundry left behind" initiative and it has had FAR more success than the nation wide educational policy which i stole the name from...

    that coupled with the fact that once a marshall turns 10 they go to NYC on a trip with their parents AND they are taught how to do their own laundry and take over their own washing, drying, and folding (and they don't sleep till their basket is empty either). they all choose their own scent of fabric softener and that makes it all "exciting" to them. it also means that in a BUSY BUSY season for them, i can be all sweet and offer to do a load or fold a load for them and they think i am the BESTEST MOM EVER.

    i am no mom of eleven, but i do have some tricks up my sleeve as well!

  7. Lea, do you think it would work just as well as NYC if I just took my kids to Fuzions....or someplace a little closer (and less expensive..)?

    I love the idea of 'marking' out their maturity by a reward - and then some laundry responsibility.
    You are so smart, Lea! Your children are lucky-duckys. Do they know that? :)

  8. This is marvelous! I share your admiration of Debbie. She's some lady!

    I've always loved doing laundry and had a nice, workable system for years. Now that I've turned over a lot of that responsibility to the teenagers, it's not quite as smooth. But I'm hopeful! Thanks for inspiring me to fine-tune our system a bit more.