I have tried all kinds of methods to stay on top of laundry. I do about six loads of laundry a week and what works best for us is to do it all at once, usually on Saturday mornings. Occasionally, I’ll get a head start and do a couple loads on Friday night. With doing it in one big chunk, the biggest factor in getting it done in one day – or, ideally, in one morning – is to change out loads as soon as they’re finished.
So, when I start a load, I pull my cell phone out of my pocket and set a timer. If I wait to walk into the kitchen to set a timer there, I forget almost every time, and three hours later, the clothes in the washer are starting to smell musty and the clothes in the dryer are beyond wrinkled. Ugh. (learn from my mistakes…..). The other nice thing about using my phone is that I almost always have it with me, so no matter where I am when the timer goes off, I hear it.
Doing this is the difference between getting all six loads of laundry done in less than five hours and spreading the process out over the course of the next two days. And the nerd in me can’t get enough of that sense of satisfaction that it’s 1PM on Saturday and all our clothes are clean (and sometimes even folded and put away!)
If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can make your timer sing a great song to you when the load is finished. If we’re going to do laundry and have things beeping at us, you might as well make it fun, right?
I am one of those people that follow clothes label instructions. Not to the letter for each, individual garment, but generally speaking, I group my loads of laundry by washing instructions. For instance, we have a number of items that shouldn’t be washed with fabric softener, including our performance wear, my husband’s socks and my Norwex cleaning clothes. I call it the “Under Armour” load, because the majority of it is our Under Armour apparel. Truthfully, it’s the “No Fabric Softener” load. But who wants to yell down the stairs, “I’m putting the ‘No Fabric Softener’ load in the wash. Do you have anything else that needs to be added to it?” Me either. So ‘Under Armour’ it is. And there are about six more loads with similar stories. (Side note: This post is NOT sponsored by Under Armour, but you’d never guess that by the number of times their name appears. Free marketing for them, I guess.)
It got to the point where I could barely remember the variables for each load. In our house, laundry is mostly my responsibility, but my husband will often graciously pitch in and check a few loads off of my to-do list. He told me once that there have been many times when he would think to start a load of laundry, but couldn’t remember washing and drying instructions.
I went straight from that conversation to our computer and created a spreadsheet with washing and drying instructions for each load. As many times as I’ve done our laundry, I am amazed at how often I reference this sheet – hanging above our washer – for instructions.
*These are not Pinterest-approved photos. Those who are more creative and decoratively-inclined than I am would put it in a cute frame and hang other cuteness on the wall. I recognize that there’s nothing cute about this. It’s all about purpose.
Remembering each load’s specifications is one less thing I have to commit to memory. And, my amazing husband uses it frequently as well! Get the printable here and let me know how it’s helpful to you.
In working to maximize each day, I’ve found that the biggest factor in achieving that goal is capturing what I call lost time. By lost, I mean those blocks of time between things where you’re either standing around waiting for something or where you’ve allotted more time for something than you need, so end up just finding something to fill that time. When these times are and their length is different for each person, but we all have them. Capturing those times and making the most of them can be the difference between a super productive day and a day when you go to bed feeling insurmountably behind.
For me, my biggest chunk of “Lost Time” is my lunch hour. I have one hour for lunch each day, and because I only work five minutes from my house, I am able to go home each day for lunch. Thankfully, it doesn’t take me fifty minutes to each my lunch, so I capture that time and try to get as much piddly stuff done as I can. Here is a sample of what my lunch hour looks like:
1-1:05 PM Drive home
1:05-1:10 PM Wipe down bathroom sink, tidy up bedroom, make bed (if not done earlier that morning), put away clean clothes, etc.
1:10-1:15 Pick out daughter’s clothes and pack day care bag for next day
1:15-1:35 Put away clean dishes, put dirty breakfast dishes in dishwasher, wash bottles, wipe down kitchen counters, fill water bottles, take out recycling
1:35-1:40 Pick up and sort mail
1:40-1:55 EAT LUNCH! (Sometimes I multi-task and respond to emails while I’m eating)
1:55-2 PM Drive back to work
There are a number of tricks that really help to maximize lost time.
1. Identify it! This may be the hardest step for some people. We all feel like we’re going full speed every minute of every day. Finding this time requires being objective and critically examining how we spend our time each day. It may be helpful to keep track each day of what you do. Once you start tracking these things, you may see little gaps emerge.
2. Make a conscious decision to seize it. Almost every day when I come home for lunch, I can hear my couch saying ‘Come lay down on me. I’m sooo cozy.’. But I know that if I take the next 35 minutes to get a bunch of small tasks crossed off my list, my evening will go so much smoother, and if I’m really lucky, I’ll have even more time to relax on that couch later – and my husband and daughter will probably join me! That being said, there are days when I listen to that voice and just relax. We all need that once in a while too.
3. Focus on the little tasks. Notice that I don’t do anything that takes a long time. Putting away clean dishes is the biggest job I’ll do over my lunch hour. The point is to get as much of the “clutter-y” type tasks (those little to-do’s that just seem to clutter up your to-do lists) out of the way.
4. Be efficient. There’s a reason that I do those things in the order that I do. Our bedroom and bathroom are on one end of the house. I start on that end and make my way to the other end. This minimizes extra trips.
5. Match the frequency of the chunks of lost time with the occurrence of the task. You’ll notice that most of the things that I do over my lunch hour are daily chores. That’s because I have that chunk of time each day. If you have one hour every Tuesday between two kids’ events, fill that time with something that you need to do each week such as grocery shopping or running errands.
It is amazing to me how much difference it makes if I am able to get things done over my lunch hour. When I walk through the door each night, I don’t see dishes piled up in the sink or have to walk around the basket of folded clothes on the floor to get to where my two favorite people are playing. I walk over to them and get big squeezes, and I am able to enjoy it and not be distracted by all the little things that need to get done before I can cook them supper. I get all that stuff done earlier in the day so that I can spend my time doing what I love most – enjoying my family and soaking up the time I have with them.
A few weeks after Elida was born, and we were in a breastfeeding groove, I decided to start pumping to build up a reserve supply. I pumped once in the morning and once in the afternoon between her feedings. Building up a supply meant coming up with a freezing and storage system. I read somewhere that it was best to freeze the milk in 2-4 ounce increments, so I poured 3 ounces of milk in a breast milk storage bag and set it upright in our freezer. I went to Target and bought this storage bin for the frozen milk. After three days of this, I realized that setting the bags upright in our freezer made all of the milk freeze in the bottom, which wasn’t conducive to storage. Then I had a light bulb moment and decided that if I laid the bag down on a flat service, the milk would freeze flat.
The width of the bag fit perfectly in the storage container and it was a perfect plan for about a week. That’s when I realized how little I could fit in the container. I had no concept of how much space the milk would take and how little could be stored in the container. (I only got about 6-8 bags in the container).
I needed something that was the same width as the container where the bags could stand up, but something that could store quite a bit more. Enter second light bulb moment concerning breast milk storage – The door of the deep freezer works perfectly! It was the perfect size, and when I needed to thaw milk, I could just grab from the front, which was the oldest. I put the most recent bags in the back and it was a good cycle.
Once I went back to work and started pumping more than I was nursing, I was freezing breast milk every day. Each day, when I came home from work, I combined the milk that was pumped into bigger bottles to take to day care the next day.Whatever surplus there was went in a separate (usually smaller) bottle. Once that surplus reached a “freezable quantity”, I would pull out a bag, label it and lay it flat in our freezer. I found that the Sharpie Ultra Fine Tip pens worked best on the bag labels, so I kept one in the storage bag box.
My favorite thing about this process was that it didn’t take any more time to do it this way than it would if I wouldn’t have been so intentional and organized with it. I only gained time and space. That’s my ideal situation!
*I’ve reached the point where I’m now using the reserves that I had stored in the deep freezer. At it’s highest point, three shelves were filled with milk, which was a lot, but didn’t seem like it because it all fit so nicely in the freezer door.
*The storage container didn’t go completely to waste. It ended up being the perfect container to take a week’s worth of breast milk to and from our day care provider (when I was giving her frozen bags instead of thawed milk in bottles). Once we got to solid food, it was ideal for storing pureed food pouches.