Laundry Tips

Laundry Folding Party

Laundry folding party!
A recent laundry folding party at the kitchen table

It's been quite a while since I blogged about laundry, so I wanted to share our current system (if I can even call it a system). I'm not a laundry genius -- I have plenty of other things I'd rather spend time doing! -- but we do manage to stay on top of the laundry.

I usually sort and wash laundry 1 day per week. Joshua suggested this system to me a few years ago. His words were something like, "I don't understand how laundry could be that big of a job. Just sort it, wash it, and put it away -- once a week. That sounds like a 2-hour job, max, not counting the time when the machines are doing all the work of washing and drying it for you."

I laughed! And used many words to explain why laundry was such a big job. And then I decided to try his idea.

At first it was hard for me to let the laundry pile get that big. A week's worth of dirty laundry for a family of 7 is quite a lot! But you know what? Wash day rolled around like clockwork and it all eventually got washed, and I found I was spending less time on the laundry than before and much less brain time thinking about the laundry.

Laundry waiting to be folded

We end up with 4-5 loads of clothes/socks/towels per week, plus extras like bedding. I am admittedly lazy about washing all the sheets and wait a month or more between washings for the kids' sheets. Channah is still in diapers, so I wash a couple loads of diapers per week as well.

I do still try to hang things to dry, but here in western Washington the weather doesn't always cooperate -- sometimes for months on end! If it gets warm enough in the summer, I hang some things outside on an indoor/outdoor drying rack similar to this drying rack which I purchased at Costco for $20 (normally $30) last year. In the colder winter months, I have been able to dry about 50-75% of our laundry indoors on that same rack. (When drying indoors instead of in the dryer, I wash a load every 2 days or whenever the last load is dry, but still sort and fold only once per week.)

Laundry folding party!

After washing and drying comes the hard part: getting it all folded and put away! Folding Day is usually the day after Wash Day, so that every last load is dry and ready to be folded.

And for that, we have to have a folding party! I make sure the kitchen table is really clean (and dry) and everyone has to help. We listen to Adventures in Odyssey or audio books from the library while we fold. Everyone folds their own laundry, with older ones helping with the younger ones, and younger ones also folding washcloths.

Playing with the clean bibs
Eliyahu put all the clean bibs on Channah before putting them away...

Being silly with the laundry
Another day, Eliyahu (8) tried on a bib and pretended to be a baby...

Yehoshua being silly
...while Yehoshua (9) made a "stink bomb" with his (clean!!) socks
and underwear and posed for a picture!

Of course, I have to be the "manager" who keeps everyone focused and make sure the job actually gets finished. Socks and underwear are the worst -- although I finally got smart and decided to try buying socks with designs or colors so it's easier for us to tell whose socks are whose. :)

This week's reward after the laundry folding party?

Playing outside

Playing outside in the beautiful, 80 degree (!!!) afternoon! Our weather this week has been perfect: sunny, clear, and highs in the upper 70's. The boys were thrilled that they could use squirt guns and play with the hose in the back yard. Unfortunately these kids all soaked their clothes before I dug out their swim suits, so when the day was done, I did an impromptu load of laundry with all the wet stuff.

The latest clothesline (and Washington weather woes!)

Kids hanging up laundry

I'm all about hanging my laundry outside to dry. Standing in the warm sunshine and pinning clothes or diapers to the line just makes me feel happy inside! :)

I've posted pictures of all my other clotheslines (house and apartment!), so I figured I'd share about the one I made here. This is our first summer in this rental house... if you could call what we've had so far this year a "summer"!

Yes, I am sad that sunny days are so few and far between here. It's a rainy 60 degrees here right now! Does it seem like I'm always complaining about the weather?! I'm excited about tomorrow's forecast of a partly-cloudy 70 degrees and have 2 loads of diapers waiting to be washed and hung out! :)

When the weather is nice, we just soak it up. You would too if June had a whopping 3 days where you saw the sun and didn't need sweatshirts! ;) I'm so glad I'm not stuck indoors or at work on the nice days. The kids and I get to head outside to the yard and play!


Our back yard...

When we moved out of our apartment, I untied my clothesline and brought it with me. I tied up new lines here: A small one across part of the deck and a short one up high for hangers. The rest of the clothes I've just been hanging over the deck railing. I can dry a couple loads at a time this way. This is so much more line-drying space than in our apartment! :)

My clothesline

So, today I will make myself a chai tea latte, toss the laundry in the dryer, and thaw a salmon to grill. I will enjoy this rainy, cold summer day in the Pacific Northwest!

Tibbe Line Giveaway This Week!

Tibbe Line on my clothesline

I love hanging my laundry outside to dry! :) A couple years ago I was contacted by Rose, the inventor of a gadget she calls the Tibbe Line. The Tibbe Line is a clothesline attachment that allows a lot of clothes to dry in a small area, on hangers. Rose sent me one to test, and it's so useful! I've been using mine for over 2 years now.

When I had a big clothes line at our house in Ohio, the Tibbe Line was handy for some things but not necessary for successful line drying. (The pictures in this post were taken back when I first got the Tibbe Line, in Ohio.)

Tibbe Line on my clothesline

However, about 6 months after I got the Tibbe Line, we left our house with a yard and big clothesline, and moved to an apartment here in Washington. Now that my clothesline space is a premium, the Tibbe Line substantially increases my line drying capabilities! You can see pictures of my apartment clothesline here.

I use the Tibbe Line all the time, so I asked Rose about hosting a giveaway. She graciously agreed, and is offering two Tibbe Line sets for me to give away here!

Check out Rose's video about the Tibbe Line, and if this interests you, scroll down to enter the giveaway! :)

To be entered in the giveaway, please log in and then leave a comment on this post saying you'd like to be entered. (No need to leave your email address in the comment, since I can see the one on your account.) The drawing is open today (Monday, August 16) through Friday, August 20, 2010. Two winners will be randomly selected and posted on Monday, August 23.

Full Disclosure, as always: I received a Tibbe Line in exchange for an ad on my sidebar in 2008. I have not and will not receive any other gain, financial or otherwise, from this Tibbe Line giveaway or sales. The opinions presented are completely my own. Happy Line Drying! :)

Any questions about the Tibbe Line? Ask me in a comment! :)

4 fun summer uses for our apartment balcony

Apartment balcony

I was thinking of all the ways we make use of our apartment balcony, and decided to take photos of a few things we do out there! I get frustrated at times (mostly due to the carpet under our dining room table and the many small children who dine here ;D), but there are some really great things about our apartment... like the beautiful sunny balcony surrounded by trees! I love it! :)

(Okay, those beautiful trees also shed... I'm constantly picking pine needles out of our carpet! Gotta love the PNW!)

Balcony Use #1: Clothesline

Apartment clothesline

Has anyone missed seeing pictures of my clothesline this year? Well, my apartment clothesline is back in full force... whenever the sun decides to come out. Hanging laundry in the sun is amazingly therapeutic for me and seeing the clothes drying in the sun makes me HAPPY! My balcony clothesline also shades our (non-air-conditioned) apartment from the summer sun and not using the dryer lowers the electric bill. But really? The real reason I put laundry out is because I LIKE TO.

Although... I will confess to feeling a little embarrased when our neighbors see me out there hanging stuff up! I'm probably just a little crazy when it comes to laundry outside.

Balcony Use #2: Kids + Play-Dough

Balcony play dough

My friend Melissa made some non-toxic scented play dough and gave us several jars. But remember the carpet under our dining room table? Well, I just spread out a big cardboard box (larger than the one pictured is best) and let the kids use play dough on the balcony. Any crumbs either dry up in the sun (haha, I wish!) and get swept away, or else get washed away in the rain (more likely this year!).

Balcony Use #3: Grill. Lots.

Our Weber Q

I know I talk about our Weber Q Grill waaaay to much. But how can I help it when Joshua grills yummy food for us multiple times each week, especially in the summer?! Grilling is another great thing on a hot day to help our non-air-conditioned house stay comfortable.

Now, here is where things do get a little tricky. Grilling while drying laundry can result in smoky laundry, and I'm not crazy enough to want my laundry smelling like it was dried in the fresh outside air right above our grill. And since I hang out lots of laundry and Joshua grills lots, it's sometimes a scrambling act to not combine the two. But I manage, because I'll do just about anything to be able to eat Joshua's grilled food AND hang out my laundry!! :)

Balcony Use #4: Water Gun Fights!

Squirt Gun Fight!

And my final creative use for our balcony is to let the boys go out there (and close the glass doors!) and have a squirt gun fight! :) This activity can be done rain or shine, hot or cold (according to the boys), and making them fill their own guns at the kitchen sink keeps them occupied even longer!

Maybe those of you who live in an apartment too will have even more ideas to share with me. I'd love to hear! :)

This also fits perfectly with Jessica's Frugal Fridays tip this week: Stay home more! :)

Apartment Clothesline

Balcony clothes line

Has anyone missed seeing my laundry this Spring? Somehow, moving my clothes rack out to the balcony for the day just isn't as satisfying (or as efficient!) as some clothes pins and good old-fashioned clothesline!

I knew I would miss my nice clothes line when we moved from our country-ish Ohio rental house to an apartment in a Seattle suburb!

Yesterday was another beautiful, perfect sunny day, and we ventured out to the balcony. Several yards of old clothesline and a scissors in hand, the boys helped me rig up a baby clothes line across the balcony (top picture) and a short line up high for my Tibbe line.

Each section of the Tibbe Line is a foot in length and holds 7 hangers. In just a yard of space, I can hang 21 large items! The Tibbe line, clothes line, and hangers are completely removable. The line is hung on two hooks that were already up there! How providential! :)

Our lease said nothing about laundry regulations, we're on the top floor, and there are many trees around, so I am hoping that my efforts remain unnoticed.

Since we are on the top floor (and no a/c!) not using the dryer this summer will really help keep our home cooler, along with saving some money!

Do any of you have experience with line-drying laundry in apartment complexes? Tips, ideas, and advice would be welcome! :)

4 Fun Summer Uses for our Apartment Balcony

Fresh-smelling washcloths and dish rags

From Jessica:

Do you have any tips for keeping your bathroom towels and washcloths from getting stinky? It's so humid where I live that it seems they get stinky after just one or two uses, and when I pile them up in a laundry basket to get enough to do a load then they get really stinky and still seem to have a bit of an off smell even after I wash them.

I wish that after this plea for help, I no longer had to deal with stinky dish cloths!

Every night before bed, I wring out my dish rag and hang it on the stove to dry. It's usually almost dry by morning, and then can be put in the dirty laundry basket (a great chore for Eliyahu!). I get a clean dish cloth out every morning.

I even got out some new dish rags that had been a wedding gift, so I'd be starting with fresh, clean rags.

I think perhaps part of my problem is our climate and how much humidity we have...

So I have just been using a little bit of bleach (maybe a tablespoon or so) in every other load of whites, and that keeps things smelling nice. I wish I could find something other than using bleach, but I had gotten tired of trying so desperately, only to pull wet cloths out of my washer and smell mildew on them!

Our bath towels survive all right because we use thinner towels and I hang them single-layer (not folded over) to dry after using... and with a smaller family, our bathroom isn't in constant use so it does dry out well enough despite not having an exhaust fan (we live in a rental).

Those of you who live in damp environments -- what do you do about wash cloths, dish rags, and towels? Do you use bleach in your laundry, or do you have some other trick? :)

The Forecast

The weather today: Mid-60's and sunny

The weather tomorrow: Mid-40's and rainy

My clothesline today:

My clothesline this afternoon...

Line-drying my laundry is about more than just fresh air and a lower electric bill.

The damp and chilly forecast for tomorrow was just the motivation I needed to get caught up on my laundry today. Four loads later, the end is in sight!! :)

Dryer balls

Dryer balls

Have any of you tried using dryer balls? Do you like them? Are they worth buying/using? (Side note: DO NOT order from the site I just linked to! They're way over-priced!)

As an alternative to fabric softener sheets, these plastic balls tumble around in the dryer with your clothes to soften them.

One advantage is that these dryer balls last "forever" and are therefore more frugal than purchasing dryer sheets. They are also much better for your dryer than fabric softener sheets, and are healthier for you than fabric softener.

A friend gave me a pack dryer balls, and I've used them a number of times now. I honestly can't tell a difference in the laundry afterwards! The friend who gave them to me said that she loves hers, and that the dryer balls make her laundry even softer than dryer sheets ever did.

I normally dry laundry in the dryer without any fabric softener sheets, which is healthier and simpler, anyway. My laundry doesn't get static from drying in the dryer, which I think is because we wear mostly 100% cotton fabrics. (That's just my theory!)

Of course, the real frugal thing to do is to line-dry your laundry. Regular readers here already know how much I love my clothesline!

For other frugal tips, visit Frugal Fridays! :)

Laundry in progress

Laundry on the couch...

Our house was overrun with laundry! I went around and took pictures of it all, for fun! Here is a load on the couch, waiting to be folded...

Laundry on the piano...

A tall stack of shirts on the piano... mostly new ones that I got at a recent thrift store sale.

Laundry on the floor...

Folded laundry from outside. I folded this while the boys were playing! :)

Laundry in the crib...

A load of diapers, tossed into Ruth's crib (she sleeps with me, anyway).

And, there was a load hanging on my clothesline, too!

After I took these pictures, I got busy and got it ALL taken care of. What a relief! Our house looks so much better now. :)

Want some more inspiration to stop procrastinating? Head over to Mrs. Byers' blog! :D

Your questions answered: Laundry detergents

Even though it's still cold here in our part of Ohio, I'm getting anxious to start using my outdoor clothesline again! :) Here are a couple of questions I received about laundry detergent:

Do you still make your detergent? I'm trying to be careful with money. I've been buying Purex, Xtra or Sun, but then I feel compelled to also use Arm and Hammer super washing soda. I don't know if I should just bite the bullet and buy expensive detergent. Could you tell me your opinion? I also wash in cold water. That's one reason I think I need an extra additive.

Yes, I do still make my own detergent, though I haven't made any since Ruth was born. I'm presently using some Arm and Hammer detergent that was given to us, and I also have some packets of Tide free samples to use.

In the past, I've used all of the brands you mentioned and liked them just fine! As far as needing an additive -- well, I think that depends on just how dirty your clothing is. Our laundry really does come clean without additives, though I occasionally use a little bleach on our whites (maybe once every 3 months or so).

I think sometimes we tend to want to add more soap, more boosters, more stuff to our washers because it makes us feel better, and not because it's necessary. I especially found this to be the case with me and my cloth diapers, which only need an amazingly tiny amount of detergent. :)

And, from personal experience, the Washing Soda can be rather harsh on fabrics. You're probably not sprinkling it directly on your laundry, but still be careful. :) I use is sparingly -- like I do with bleach. :)

Lori also emailed me asking:

I read your idea on just using borax and washing soda for your laundry soap. I have a question for you on how you made it since this is the first time I am venturing into the homemade soap field. Did you use boiling water to dissolve the powder or just regular water hot water? How have the long term results of this have been?
I did heat my water on the stove, since our hot tap water isn't extremely hot. Some people don't even dissolve their borax, grated bar soap, and washing soda before using -- they just sprinkle it in the washer. I haven't tried that myself, since I often use cold water for laundry.

I haven't done anything scientific, and I also haven't used exclusively homemade detergent for a long period of time, so I hesitate to comment on long-term results. I honestly think I like store-bought detergent better than my homemade, even if just for the scent. ;) I make my own detergent to save money. :)

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