Now that we have covered sorting, but before we get to washing, I would like to talk about laundry helpers.
I would say it is safe to assume that most of the laundry in your house is handled by you, beginning to end, if you are the female head of the household. I have been doing the laundry in our house, mostly because the division of household chores runs pretty much to the indoor/outdoor, since we were first married. At first it was because I just liked the way I did it, as he is not as much of a perfectionist (or not at all). I preferred to not let clothes be ruined for the sake of experimentation. Then when we had babies and I was at home, it was my job. His job was at an office, and still is, and my job is at home. I know there are women out there who would argue this point with me, but I am hopelessly old-fashioned and I leave the "his" chores at home to a brief honey-do list which can be accomplished on a Saturday morning, usually those requiring his upper body strength, and whatever putzing he chooses to do on his own.
Anyway, about the laundry helper. We all have different situations at home, and your household system of doing laundry, i.e. geography, is very personal to you and your house. But chances are, unless you have a cleaning lady who does your laundry for you, you could use a helper.
I have a laundry room in the basement. It's nothing fancy (or even finished), but it allows me the space to do laundry as I prefer. However, until I build myself a family closet (my dream), we shed our clothing on the second floor in the bedrooms and the baths. That means someone has to transport the laundry down two flights of stairs to have it washed and dried and back up the stairs to be put back in our closets/drawers. Until about five years ago, I did that myself. It's good exercise, eh? I also carried the wet laundry from the basement to the outdoors on days when the weather permitted hanging on the line. Then, I developed a hernia requiring surgery, and a year later ruined the hernia repair and had surgery again. If that wasn't enough, two years ago I had a hysterectomy and pelvic reconstruction, and my doctor sternly warned me not to carry heavy laundry baskets ever again. He told me to put a small amount of laundry in a small basket or get someone else to carry it. Period, no exceptions. I'm pretty good about that now, and that's where my laundry helpers come in to the picture.
Such a cutie, age 5.
Even the smallest people in your house can be laundry helpers. Not to carry heavy baskets, obviously, but for many other little tasks that can make doing laundry easier for you. I have a husband and two very large sons at home to carry heavy baskets, but if you have only a husband and little people, leave the carrying to your husband or purchase some small baskets. Even if you have not had surgical hernia repair or pelvic reconstruction, you still need be kind to your body (I have been told by medical professionals that we -- women -- compensate for our upper body weakness by using our abdomens to lift heavy things, which can eventually cause too much stress).
Little people can be helpers in other ways. Every morning chose one little person (a different one each morning) to help gather up any wayward clothing that needs to find its way back to the hamper. Be specific when training. Don't tell him to find the dirty clothes in his room. Tell him to find any clothes that are under his bed, behind the door, in the closet, in the corner, on the furniture and bring them to the hamper. Eventually he'll get it and you won't have to be so specific (and then he'll turn 13 and will have to be retrained, but that's a post for a different day). Once he brings them to you, you can discern if they are truly dirty clothes and sort them. When he is old enough you can train him to sort. I mentioned that I have a three-hamper system so that my children can sort for themselves, but the oldest at home is 18 years old and he still is not completely reliable (nor is my 50-year-old husband), so keep that in mind when you set your expectations for your little people. Is doesn't hurt to ask, just don't expect perfection.
Little people can also help to collect hangars. We'll get to why you need hangars later, but anyone who can reach the closet rod can collect empty hangars.
The pit stop between floors.
Each time you go to the laundry area, decided whether or not a little person can help and bring that little person with you. If you homeschool, it's helpful to bring whomever is having the most wiggles at the moment. In my house it's usually Faith, unless I need some big guns to carry a basket. When you get to your laundry space, your little helper can take clothes out of the dryer, put clothes from the washer into the dryer, run for hangars, fetch clothes pins, clean out the lint filter and, of course, slam the doors closed -- whatever needs to be done that doesn't require much knowledge of laundry. Eventually your little person will be a big person and he, or she, will know how to do laundry. I did not train my two eldest children, and so I apologize in advance to their future spouses. Live, and learn.
"If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?" Milton Berle