The 4-Day Laundry Plan (How to use cloth diapers and have a job without losing your mind)
January 13, 2015 28 Comments
Welcome to the January 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting:
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories, tips, and tricks on tackling household chores. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
I have an eight-month-old daughter who wears cloth diapers all day and night. I have a full-time job outside the home. I’m a naturally chilly person, so I wear layers of clothes, including two to four pairs of socks, every day in the winter. I use cloth handkerchiefs, cloth personal wipes, and cloth menstrual pads. I hang-dry almost all my laundry instead of using the dryer. How the heck do I get all that laundry done?!?
I worked out a good system when my first child was a baby, and I’ve been working my way toward getting back onto that system; with the addition of a few more diapers to our stash, it’s finally starting to work really smoothly. Here are the key components of my laundry routine.
Divide and delegate.
I don’t have to do all the laundry in the house. My partner Daniel launders his own clothes, the household linens (towels, sheets, blankets, cloth napkins), and the cleaning rags; he tries to get his laundry done during the day while he’s working from home. Our ten-year-old son Nicholas launders his own clothes every Thursday after school. That means I’m only responsible for baby Lydia’s and my own cloth items, and I usually have access to the washing machine when I’m ready to use it in the late evening.
It also means that I have to let go of control over how the guys do their share of the laundry. They both prefer to use the dryer for most items, which bothers me when I think about the electric bill that I am paying…but when I compare those few dollars a month to the “cost” of having to do all that laundry myself, or even just the hassle of having their stuff always crowding the clotheslines I’m trying to use, it’s not so bad. Also, this way I don’t have to listen to any griping about how I folded their stuff the “wrong” way!
Hang laundry indoors.
This is crucial to my success: In winter, most of the hours I’m at home are hours when it’s dark outside, so using an outdoor clothesline would be really difficult. Also, if my laundry was hanging outdoors, I’d have to rely on Daniel to rescue it when the wind whips up or the rain starts falling. Although I survived two years of hanging laundry on a covered balcony–where at least the rain didn’t fall directly on it, and it usually didn’t blow away–indoor clotheslines are really the best option for people who are out of the house all day. Mine are in the basement, next to our laundry machines.
Wear some things more than once before washing.
Sweaters, jeans, and other outer garments usually don’t get all that dirty in one day’s wear. (My job is an office job, very neat and tidy aside from the occasional Liquid Paper misadventure.) At the end of the day, I put some of my clothes in the laundry basket but drape the rest over the bedroom chair to air out for later re-wearing. This reduces the total volume of laundry.
Lydia does get a complete clean outfit every day, more often if she gets messy. Her clothes are so small, they don’t make much difference in the laundry volume.
Follow the Four-Day Plan!
The key to this plan is that I run one load of laundry through one machine every night. It’s a doable amount of work instead of a huge, time-consuming chore to be done all in one day–a day that easily could get delayed and delayed, as other things fill my schedule! If I stick to the four-day plan almost all the time, I’m able to take a night off every once in a while (when we don’t have a full load in the designated category) without falling behind.
- Take the big wetbag full of used diapers and cloth baby-wipes out of the diaper pail. Make sure that Lydia’s diaper has been changed recently, and collect any used diapers from the diaper bags, so that the maximum possible number of diapers will get clean. Put diapers and wetbag in the washing machine and start pre-soak cycle with cold water. Go do something else for at least 20 minutes.
- Add detergent and baking soda to washing machine, and start wash cycle with hot water. (This step can be done while holding the baby.) Go do something else for at least 40 minutes.
- Hang up diapers and wetbag to dry.
- Sort contents of my laundry bag (in master bedroom closet) and the basket in Lydia’s changing room, and fill my laundry basket (the one I carry around the house) with dark-colored clothes. Put baby socks, bibs, nursing pads, hankies, and other small items in a zippered mesh bag. Collect cloth wipes, and any cloth pads, from both bathrooms in another zippered mesh bag. Put these mesh bags and the dirty clothes in the washing machine on a cold wash cycle with detergent.
- Take light-colored clothes off clothesline, fold, and stack in laundry basket, sorting them according to where they will be stored. Go up to the first floor and put away Lydia’s things in her changing room. Go up to the second floor and put away my things in the master bedroom and cloth wipes in the bathroom. Go back to first floor and listen at top of stairs–is the washing machine done yet? If not, do something else until it’s done.
- Hang dark clothes to dry, in categories: socks over here, shirts over there, cloth wipes on the drying rack…. This will make the items easier to sort when taking them down.
- Take diapers, cloth baby-wipes, and nursing pads off the clothesline and put them in the dryer on no-heat cycle to fluff them for better absorbency. (When life is going smoothly, this is the only time I use the dryer.) Go do something else for at least 20 minutes.
- Empty dryer and put the things away.
- Sort laundry, as on Day 2, to collect a basket of light-colored clothes, plus small items in mesh bags. Put them in the washing machine on a cold wash cycle with detergent and baking soda. (Baking soda is supposed to brighten whites. I think it works…and it also helps things smell fresh, and it doesn’t cost much.)
- Take dark clothes off clothesline, fold, and put away.
- Hang light clothes to dry.
Since Lydia was born, I have always managed to have clean diapers when we need them, but sometimes that’s been more confusing than I’d like: I’ve often had to wash again on Day 4, and we’ve often run out of dry diapers on Day 2 and had to put the clean-but-damp ones in a heated dry cycle. We had 36 diapers, which didn’t seem to be quite enough to keep Lydia comfortable for 4 days, and I certainly don’t want to make her wear a wet diaper any longer than she wants to, since that encourages rashes and discourages her from being aware of wetness (important for toilet-training).
Therefore, my only Christmas present to my daughter was a nice new big wetbag containing 8 new cloth diapers! I had fun indulging my desire to sample some of the “fancy” diapers instead of just more of the same kind we already had, spending a few dollars extra because this was a gift. At 7 months old, she was delighted to get a bag of fluffy things to throw around. I figured I might as well start now teaching her to appreciate practical gifts. 🙂 After all, other people gave her plenty of toys and books and other “fun” stuff.
It takes time. It just does.
Hanging up a load of laundry takes about 10 minutes longer than throwing it into the dryer. I’m used to it. It can be a pleasant experience, doing simple work that produces visible results. (One reason I like having diapers and wipes in a variety of colors is that it makes them more fun to arrange on the line!) Handling cold damp things while standing in the chilly basement is refreshing in the summer, and in the winter it becomes a nice excuse to relax with a hot drink afterward.
While I may be a cloth-diapering supermama, I must admit that I often get through my daily laundry (and bottle-washing and actual hands-on parenting) only by staying up ridiculously late. I’m not perfect, and I tend to relax for a while now and then whether I mean to or not, and I like to stay up late–I just don’t like to get up early! Life is still a balancing act, even with this schedule, but having the structure definitely works for me.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- Seven Tips for Decluttering with Your Clutterbug — Do you have a child with hoarder tendencies? Help them declutter before the Legos and stuffed animals take over your home. Charlie of Three Blind Wives, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, offers some expert advice.
- Chores, Chores, Chores — Life Breath Present talks about how her family divides chores, and how Baby Boy joins in to keep their home clean and running smoothly.
- Of Toddlers & Housework — Holly at Leaves of Lavender talks about some of the ways she lets her not-quite-3-year-old son help out around the house.
- Whistling While We Work: On Kids and Chores — Dionna at Code Name: Mama realized recently that she often feel resentful when she carries more than her share of the household load. And so several weeks ago, she brought a laundry basket upstairs and had the kids start folding. Thus began a regular series of household responsibilities for her kids.
- The 4-Day Laundry Plan — Becca at The Earthling’s Handbook line-dries all of her laundry,
including cloth diapers, and stays sane while also working full-time outside the home. She’s sharing her tips!
- Chores Don’t Have To Be Drudgery —
Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses how she gets the whole family motivated in the daily care and maintenance of maintaining a home. After all, chores do not have to be drudgery.
- Morning Chores and Weekly Chores —
Kellie at Our Mindful Life can get anything done, so long as she gets her morning chores – and her weekly chores – done!
- A place for everything and everything in its place — Make it easy to tidy up by having just enough stuff for the space you have. Lauren at Hobo Mama talks about this goal in her own home and gives tips on how to achieve it in yours.
- Cleaning With Essential Oils — What essential oils could add a boost to your cleaning routine? That Mama Gretchen has a round up of what you might like to consider!
- Montessori-Inspired Sweeping Activities — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how her children helped keep their house clean and shares ideas for Montessori-inspired sweeping activities.
- 9 Natural Cleaning Recipes for New Mamas — Dionna of Code Name: Mama, guest posting at Mama & Baby Love, shares recipes for safer, natural homemade cleaners that
parents can make with ingredients they trust. Leave a comment on the post for a chance to win a copy of Homemade Cleaners – a book packed with tons of natural cleaner recipes!