The following post is by editor Kara Fleck.
During the month of April on Simple Kids, one of the topics we’re covering is caring for kids’ things and kids’ spaces. I thought that I would start with the area that seems to occupy the bulk of my homekeeping: the laundry.
Now, I am not an expert on laundry, by any means. But, I will confess that of all the household chores, doing the laundry is one that I actually don’t mind very much. There’s something to be said about the sense of accomplishment from treating a stain successfully or empty laundry baskets and dresser drawers full of clean clothing at the end of the day.
My laundry process has evolved over the years. I thought I would share how I care for my family’s clothes and then open up the comments to ask about your family’s laundry. Yes, I’m inviting you to air your dirty laundry on Simple Kids today!
One of the main areas where I’ve simplified the laundry process is with the amount and type of clothing that we own to begin with. Kids really don’t need that much. And, my kids certainly didn’t need as many clothes as I was filling their closets with when I started out on this parenting journey.
The Colors of the Day
I’ve mentioned before how we have a color of the day at our house. This makes sorting the laundry to clean pretty simple. My kids each have clothes – shirts and dresses - in the colors we use. We also have some wardrobe staples like jeans and khaki pants that go with everything. Add in a dressy outfit for each season, and I feel like we’re covered (literally, ha!).
Now, I’m not foolish enough to think that my kids are always going to go for this color of the day idea. But, I figure by the time they are old enough not to want to participate they will be old enough to be doing their own laundry – and that will be even simpler for me!
The Clothes We Wear
Most of our clothing is either second-hand or handmade. I do buy the occasional new item, but only when I know it will be an investment: something of high quality that I will be able to be pass down to more than one child (either through my daughters or my nephews).
I tend to stay away from logos and cartoon characters, sticking with simple patterns and solid colors. I do this because characters can date clothing, losing their appeal for the child I intend to hand them down to, and also because I’m not really crazy about the idea of my children being walking commercials for TV shows or companies.
I also strive to make sure the clothes we own are easy to care for. Unless it is a hand-made wool piece, I don’t want to spend a lot of time on hand-washing. Dry cleaning isn’t an option for us. So, easy-care fabrics are key.
In the book Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Childrenby Sharifa Oppenheimer, she talks about what her dream children’s clothing line would be like:
“washable all cotton, wool, and silk blended knits, in a rainbow palette of gorgeous solid colors, so everything matched with everything.”
Keeping clothing choices basic makes makes it easier to get the children dressed each day. It also makes it simple for my oldest child to get herself dressed.
Laundry Soap: My Evolution
When I was first on my own, I purchased the laundry soap that my mom always used when I was growing up. Later, as a wife on a strict budget, I purchased whatever I could buy for the cheapest with coupons and sales.
Making Laundry Soap
Eventually, as my family became more convicted about becoming debt-free, thanks to Soulemama’s how-to I started making my own laundry soap to save money. I still do this during months our budget is extra tight or when we run out of our current laundry soap (more on that in a bit).
Now, I realize that this one is perhaps baffling at first glance. After all, what could be simpler than just picking up a bottle of detergent at the store, right? Well, yes, that is simpler. Unless …
Unless your life situation resembles what mine did at the time: with 2 kids in cloth diapers, running out of detergent after realizing that the very last clean prefold had just been used was a major cause of stress.
It was much simpler to keep the ingredients on hand to make our own laundry soap rather than risk having to tackle the logistics of an emergency trip to the store to pick up detergent with 3 small children in tow (2 of whom are wearing their only clean diapers).
One day while surfing the internet, I came across the blog of this woman named Tsh* who talked about using soap nuts. I did a little research and was intrigued and eventually placed an order, feeling just a little bit skeptical.
To my surprise and delight, soap nuts were a gentle and effective way to get the laundry done. We’ve been using them ever since and I’ve been pleased with how they work.
What are soap nuts? They are a natural dried fruit (not actually a nut) that have natural cleaning properties. Soap nuts are now my main laundry soap. They are organic and free of harsh chemicals, something that is becoming more and more important to me on my simple living journey. Soap nuts are simple, but effective.
*Please note: that Simple Mom link is from an old blog entry and that contest ended in 2009. However, come back to Simple Kids tomorrow and I just might have a surprise for you from our friends at Laundry Tree.
Treating Stains: Vinegar, this Mother’s Little Laundry Helper
My favorite treatment for stains on kids’ clothing is also pretty simple: I just keep a spray bottle of vinegar in my laundry room and spray it directly on any stains. Most of the stains my kids end up with are food related and I find that vinegar does a great job with this and doesn’t damage the clothes.
Now, it isn’t 100% effective on certain types of stains: I’ve not had much luck using it with grass stains, for example. But, for the majority of the stains my family’s clothing ends up with, vinegar is my go-to laundry room helper.
My Laundry Kit
The top photo is my laundry room. It is a humble space, and a working space, for sure. It is also a lot less cluttered than it used to be. Years ago I had all kinds of bottles and solutions for doing the laundry.
Today, I have a simple laundry kit that contains:
- a small amount of homemade detergent (for emergencies)
- Soap nuts
- a spray bottle of vinegar
- a small nail brush, in case I need to do some light scrubbing on a stain
- wool wash for hand-washing wool
- bags for the soap nuts
- scented oils (One of the things I missed about detergent was the scent. Scented oils are the cure for that).
- a tub of baking soda, used for cloth diapers (stored in a recycled plastic bucket)
Laundry is one of those areas where I do think that one family’s simple solution might very well be another family’s complication. This system is what works for me, but I’d love to hear about what works for you!
Can you believe I shared pictures of my family’s dirty laundry? Now it is your turn. Let’s talk: what is in your laundry kit? What is your favorite stain treatment? How do you care for your kids’ clothing?
Note: I’m not an expert, remember, so I am not confident in giving advice on using homemade laundry soaps or soap nuts with different types of washing machines and water. I only know it works with our machine and our type of water. I would definitely encourage you to do your own research.