First, a disclaimer. Just because you are Mom does not mean you are also The Cleaning Lady. You should know that. They are two separate jobs. If you choose to take both of them on, that automatically makes you Supermom already. Because being a mom is a 24/7, full-time, year-round, never-ending job. Anything you do on top of it has to be done in the quantum time that occurs in short bursts between the real time when you are doing Mom Stuff like holding your teething screaming baby while also stopping your four year old from throwing Cheerios at said baby.
And quantum time, by the way, is imaginary. Or something. You are basically stealing time from another universe every time you accomplish something like laundry. Just putting the laundry in the washing machine is a Herculean effort that requires magical science fiction abilities.
Nonetheless, it seems that many moms insist on doing the laundry. I don’t know why. But there it is. So if you are one of those Superhero moms, let me help you be a little more super with these easy laundry hacks.
1. Never sort by color. Seriously, it’s a waste of time. You don’t need to wash colors separate from whites. Just wash everything in cold and it will come out fine. I’ve been doing it since college, when I discovered this truth because I didn’t have enough quarters to pay for separate loads of laundry. If you buy something bright red, wash it by itself a few times first, just to be safe.
2. Use the same detergent for everything. This may not be an issue for you, but if you are like me and use cloth diapers, then you need to get detergent that works for all your laundry. Never use any detergent that you can’t use on everything. If you want to use gentle detergent on your baby stuff, find a gentle detergent that works for all your laundry. Trust me on this. Otherwise at some point you’ll use the wrong detergent or mix a load and you’ll be sad. It’s so much easier when it doesn’t matter.
Do not use detergent that requires you add something like vinegar or Borax or tea tree oil. Really, just don’t. You’ll forget. Use detergent that works all by itself. I use Country Save, for what it’s worth. Safe for babies, cloth diapers, and effective on stinky man sweat.
3. Use the dryer. I know people who don’t use dryers. I am not one of them. I’m sure you’re not either, but just in case you are: now is the time to reconsider. I’m all about being eco-friendly and using cloth diapers and all, but I use the dryer. Hanging just takes too long. That’s all.
4. Don’t match socks. I learned this trick from my husband. Instead of trying to find the matches, just buy socks that are all the same color. Then all your socks will match. This will change your life. Really. Think about it. All those times when the dryer eats one of your socks? Will no longer matter.
5. Don’t fold laundry. I know — heresy. But really. Unless you care about your clothes being wrinkled, the reality is that probably, nobody cares. Also, buy clothes that are a cotton/polyester blend, and most of the time they won’t even wrinkle if left unfolded. If your spouse cares about wrinkled clothes, consider delegating the task of folding his own clothes. He’s a grownup. At the very least, only fold for the people who care. Which excludes the baby. Believe me, the baby does not care. And most baby clothes don’t wrinkle when left crumpled up in the drawer. Even if they did, no one will notice after they’re covered in drool and half-chewed bananas.
6. Sort when taking clothes out of the dryer. This is when you need a laundry sorter. Ideally you’ll need a laundry sorter with as many removable baskets as you have people in the house, plus one or two more, depending on how many different places the clean laundry needs to go. I need six baskets: one for me, one for Superdad, one for Supergirl, one for Superbaby, one for the bathroom, and one for the kitchen. As you take clothes out of the dryer, put them straight into the appropriate basket.
7. Have the kids put their own clothes away. This will really make you Supermom. This is also why the removable basket is so essential. Simply take the basket with that child’s clothes and put it in their room. I used to fold Supergirl’s clothes first, but then I realized that she was digging through her drawers and messing them up anyway so there was no point. Now I know it’s perfectly fine for her to just dump the basket of clothes into her drawer. The point is, she’s taking responsibility. She’s in charge of her own clothes. That’s awesome.
I’m not sure how young you can start doing this. They need to be able to open their dresser drawers. Definitely younger than five. Definitely older than one.
8. Put the rest of the clothes away right away. I used to leave them sitting in baskets for days. Then I’d just add more clean clothes to the basket as I washed more. Days stretched into weeks stretched into months, and finally I had so many clean clothes piled up that I couldn’t possibly put them away by myself ever, and my mother-in-law had to come and stay for a week to help me fold laundry.
I am not kidding. (That was the week I quit folding laundry.)
But if you do it fast, putting clothes away isn’t that bad. Just take each basket to the appropriate place and throw everything into the correct closet, drawer, or cupboard. It’s like pulling off a scab: do it fast and it won’t hurt too much.
9. Wash frequently. Not too frequently. I do not do laundry every day. Or even every other day. But a couple of times a week is essential. I have one really big basket for dirty clothes, and I try to wash before it starts overflowing. Because once you start filling a second basket, it’s all over. Dirty clothes could pile up forever too.
10. Get rid of clothes. This is probably the best hack ever. Not only are you shifting to a more minimalist, eco-friendly, non-consumerist lifestyle (so Supermom), but you’re making less work for yourself. You should go through your kids’ clothes at least a couple of times a year and your own clothes at least once a year.
For the kids, get rid of everything that’s too small. I don’t care if it still fits or not. (I once fit my daughter into a size “nine month” onesie. She was four years old. Baby clothes sizing makes no sense. But that’s beside the point. Just look at the tag and believe it. If it says 12 months and your baby is almost 2, get rid of the darn thing.) For you, get rid of everything you haven’t worn in the past year. (Unless you were pregnant in the past year, in which case you have every right to keep your skinny jeans and too-small sexy skirts for at least one more year to see if you’ll ever fit back into them. Because you might.)
And if you try all this and still can’t keep on top of the laundry, maybe you need a cleaning lady. Nothing wrong with that. Like I said, being a mom is more than enough of a job all by itself.