Oct 26, 2009
My husband began giving me withering looks when he discovered, in the wee hours of the morning, he didn't have any shirts appropriate for work. I started digging through the hamper for the jeans I wore the day before (you know, the ones with baby food splattered on them) because I couldn't find any clean clothes. And I began making my oldest wear her chocolate milk stained jammies two nights in a row because I couldn't otherwise seem to keep up with demand.
I won't say I have the laundry thing mastered. However, I have learned a few tricks that make the laundry pile easier to get through. Maybe some of my ideas will work for you, too:
* My best laundry tip is this: Instead of reserving one (or two or three) days a week for doing laundry, do laundry every day except the Sabbath. This keeps the laundry pile under control and makes the chore of cleaning clothes a lot easier. Through trial and error, figure out how many loads you must do each day; in my house, I only need to do one load of laundry, six days a week. Make it a habit, and it will soon become no big deal. Try hard not to skip a day, but if you do, make up for it the very next day.
* If you have room to store them in the laundry or bedroom areas, keep one laundry basket for every bedroom. As you pull things from the dryer or clothes line, sort them room by room into the laundry baskets. If you have time, fold as you sort. Then place the basket in the appropriate bedroom. Put the clothes away later, if necessary, or have the kids put away their own clothes.
* Get the kids involved. Even toddlers can help with the laundry by bringing you dirty clothes and pulling out all the socks, or all of daddy's shirts, or all their own undies, for folding by you. Preschoolers can begin to help with folding and putting clothes away so that by the time they are in grade school they can do this chore easily. (No, they won't fold everything - or perhaps anything - perfectly, but a few wrinkles never hurt anyone.)
* Treat stains before they go into the hamper. If I put Spray N Wash Stain Stick on clothes as they go into the hamper, by the time I do laundry, they usually wash out and I don't have to spend time soaking or otherwise pre-treating. This means I keep a stick wherever clothes might come off, including the bathroom and the kids' rooms.
* Wear clothes more than once. Truly, many clothes can be worn more than once without washing in between. Unless it's smelly or shows dirt, hang it up to wear another day.
* Buy fewer clothes. I know some women who literally buy their kids several wardrobes of clothes because they are always behind on laundry. If you do laundry every day, you don't need as many clothes, which saves you time and money.
* Save time and effort by hanging any items that go on hangers as you take them out of the dryer or off the clothesline. This means you'll need a stash of hangers nearby.
* Mark children's socks with the appropriate child's initials, using puffy fabric paint on the soles. This makes sorting a lot easier.
* Don't separate darks from lights. This may seem revolutionary to some, but I stopped doing separating darks from lights several years ago, and my family's clothes look just fine. If I'm washing new, dark clothes I think might bleed, I wash them separately once, with a cup of vinegar or salt in the wash water.
Mar 22, 2011
My first challenge came right away. I could not find the three necessary ingredients in my home town (which has a population of about 9,200). Since I currently do all my shopping in town, this was a pretty big draw back. However, the next time I was in a bigger town, I visited the local Wal-Mart superstore and found in the laundry aisle:
* 1 (12 oz.) box Borax: $2.98
I couldn't find washing soda, so I assumed the large box of baking soda in the laundry aisle was equivalent:
* 1 (4 lb.) box Arm & Hammer Baking Soda: $2.12
Once I got home and researched it, though, I discovered washing soda is much stronger and more caustic (harsh) than baking soda. Nonetheless, I decided to follow my recipe for detergent exactly, substituting baking soda for washing soda.
I also couldn't find the Fels-Naptha bar soap most people say is ideal for homemade laundry detergent, so I substituted with a type of soap a few websites recommended:
* 3 (3.1 oz. each) bars Ivory soap: $1.07
Total Cost: $6.17.
Putting it Together
I think the best way to store home made laundry soap is in an airtight plastic container. You can buy these at the Dollar Tree or you can reuse a container used to hold coffee or similar grocery items. (To remove smells from re-used containers, soak them in white vinegar overnight.) Then you can either re-use the measuring cup from an old box of laundry detergent or you can buy a kitchen measuring cup set at the Dollar Tree.
However, this was just an experiment for me, so I didn't want to make even a small investment in a container or scoop, so I reused the box and scoop from my store bought laundry detergent. Then I:
1. Measured 8 cups of baking soda and poured it into the box with a lid.
2. Measured 8 cups Borax and poured it into the box.
3. Grated the 3 bars of soap. You could use your food processor, but I just used a hand cheese grater. Then I poured the soap gratings into the box and stirred with a spoon. (If you have a secure, lidded container, you can just put the lid on and shake.)
This process took me just 3 minutes, with interruptions from my kids. When I was done, I had about half the amount of laundry soap I'd normally purchase at one time. I used all the ingredients purchased, except for a small amount of the Borax.
The Wash Test
You only need about 3 or 4 tablespoons of home made laundry detergent per large load. I didn't measure, but just sprinkled in a small amount. (For more about using small amounts of detergent, check out this post.)
I was pleased with how well the first load of clothes came out. They both looked and smelled clean. However, I noticed on my second and third loads that little bits of the grated Ivory soap had not dissolved during the washing and were sticking to the clothes. Perhaps this is because I wash almost everything in cold? Or perhaps it's because I used Ivory instead of Fels-Naptha? Either way, I had to pick the bits of soap off the clothes so they wouldn't ruin my dryer.
UPDATE 3/23/11: Yesterday, I tried a load of laundry with hot water and my home made laundry detergent and still found the soap shavings did not melt.
The bad new is, I saved very little. Normally, I pay $12.47 for a 14.4 lb. box of laundry detergent (Arm & Hammer brand). Since I made about half what I normally buy, the home made detergent would have to cost less than $6.24 a batch for it to save money. Therefore, I only saved $0.07. Although home made detergent isn't difficult or time consuming to make, it just isn't worth it for my family.
UPDATE 12/08/12: Because so many people told me repeatedly - even after reading this post - that homemade detergent is cheaper, and because a local store finally started carrying all the ingredients, I decided to price it out again. At our local Wal-Mart, washing soda is $3.24, Fels-Naptha is .97 cents, and Borax is $3.38. That's $7.55 total, more than when I originally made this post. A 14.4 lb. box of Arm & Hammer laundry detergent is still $12.47. It is now officially cheaper to buy my laundry detergent.
Apr 17, 2013
For expert advice, I turned to Martha Stewart, finding her tips matched all the other experts I read - and were actually sometimes more streamlined!
1. Martha tells us to first check the colorfastness of every piece of new clothing. This is usually done by reading the label, but you can also test a small area of fabric (preferably inside the garment - for example, on the seam) by dampening the fabric. Now blot the same area with a white piece of fabric. If any of the garment color transferred to the white cloth, you know the garment isn't colorfast and must be washed by itself. (Often, after several washes, such garments will become colorfast, so retest once in a while.)
2. Next, it's time to sort the laundry. Separate anything that needs handwashing or dry cleaning. Amongst the clothing that can be washed in a machine at home, separate darks and lights: White clothing and clothing in light colors such as pastels go in one pile. Black clothing or any clothes of dark color go in another pile.
3. While you're separating, Martha says to make sure zippers are zipped, drawstrings are tied, cuffs are unrolled, and pockets are emptied. If you see clothes that need mending, fix them before washing them because washing can make the problem worse.
|Courtesy admiller, freerangestock.com|
4. Now Martha says to pretreat stains. Most should go into a large bowl, bucket, clean sink to be treated with commercially made or homemade stain treatments.
5. Open the washing machine and pour in the detergent, Martha says. She also says powdered detergents are best if you have hard water, or the clothes have mud or clay soil on them; liquids are best for greasy stains. "Use the recommended amount," she says.
6. Add the clothes, says Martha, making sure they aren't packed in and that they are evenly distributed. Clothes need to move, so don't fill the machine more than it's capacity - about 3/4 full, she says.
7. Use the shortest wash time - unless the clothes are very dirty. Select the temperature: "Use hot water (120 degrees) to keep whites white and to clean very dirty colorfast clothes - in separate loads, of course. Warm water (90 degrees to 110 degrees) is good for most average loads. Cold water (below 85 degrees) is best for bright colors that are likely to fade and for delicates. Detergents are less effective in water below 65 degrees. Shrinkage is caused by heat -- either from the dryer or hot water in the washer. To avoid it, wash items in warm or cold water, and hang to dry."
8. Select a cycle. According to Martha, "regular" is good for sturdy clothes; "permanent press" is a bit easier on clothes; "delicates" is the most gentle.
9. Once the wash cycle is over, hang clothes to dry or put them in the dryer and select the appropriate setting. The "permanent press" setting reduces wrinkles because it cools down near the end of the cycle. "Air fluff" uses no heat and is best for fluffing pillows or for freshening up clean clothes that have been stored for a while.
|Courtesy of Keerat, FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
Now, there is nothing wrong with Martha's methods. But are they realistic for a busy mom? Maybe, maybe not, depending upon your life and your personality. So here are a few tips for streamlining things:
* Always read care labels before buying. Don't buy dry clean only clothing, clothes that must be washed by hand, or clothes that aren't colorfast. This will save tons of time and money. If you do end up with something that isn't colorfast (say, black jeans) wash them once in hot water, adding 1 cup of white vinegar to the water. This should make the item colorfast.
* Consider whether the clothes really need washing. Americans waste copious amounts of water, detergent, energy, and time washing clothes that don't need it. Pants, for example, can often be worn several times before washing; towels usually can go a week or so; clothes that your kids dump on the floor but don't wear can get hung right back up. Use the smell test!
* Don't sort lights and darks. I never do. Do our socks look slightly dingy? Eventually, yes, but it really doesn't matter to us. Of course, if you have a special white shirt (Really? A mom with a white shirt??), you should probably wash it separately. Don't rely on bleach to lighten it because bleach is really hard on fabric.
* Treat stains immediately. If you're at home, remove the clothing and wash it right away. Often this prevents the need to use strain treaters. If you're not at home, remove the clothing as soon as you get home and use a stain stick or spray on it. For really stubborn stains, soak in a bowl of OxiClean overnight.
* If you're clothes are coming out with detergent still on them, you may be overcrowding the load. Or,
|Courtesy of stockbroker/123RF Stock Photo|
* Don't run the washer unless you have a full load. For most families, this is no problem, because even if you want to wash a stained shirt right away, there is always laundry in somebody's hamper!
* Use cold water. It's much cheaper and does a fine job. An exception is if clothes are very dirty or need disinfecting. In such cases, use hot water.
* Use less detergent than the detergent-maker suggests. In many cases, laundry detergent isn't even needed! Use a very small amount unless you're washing very dirty clothes or clothes that need disinfecting.
* Hang as many clothes as possible, to save a lot of money.
* Always use the shortest drying cycle you can. If in doubt, go for a shorter amount of time - you can always add additional time later.
* Clean the lint screen in the dryer every time you use it. It saves energy and makes the dryer a safer appliance.
* If you use a dryer, you'll need some sort of fabric softener. The most wholesome and natural softener and anti-cling "product" is plain old white vinegar: 1/4 cup in the washing machine. Otherwise, I recommend Bounce Dryer Bars; they are much less troublesome than dryer sheets or fabric softener.
* To prevent wrinkles, remove clothes from the dryer as soon as it's done. I know it's not always possible, but make it a goal.
* Give line dried clothes a couple of good shakes before hanging and take the time to straighten cuffs, collars, etc.
* Fold or hang clothes right away to prevent wrinkles and the temptation to re-wash. Sometimes this seems like a monumental task, but it usually goes much faster than you think.
* Have your kids help! This is a life skill they need to know, and most kids enjoy helping if you start them early. Toddlers can do things like pull all the socks out of the laundry pile. As they get older, teach them to roll socks into a bundle, sort clothes by family member (they can at least pull out their own clothes), fold simple things like wash cloths, and put their clothes away. My 7 year old daughter can do all her laundry on her own except for the folding (which we are working on); best of all, she enjoys doing it!
And what about detergent? Well, you already know you need a lot less than you're probably using. And I know some people swear by their homemade laundry detergent. I, personally, have found it doesn't dissolve well in cold water and isn't money-saving in my region. (Read more here.) In most cases, powdered detergent is less expensive than liquid. I've tried all the cheap brands and found they all work about the same - so pick and choose your ingredients as you see fit.
How to Do Less Laundry
Get Out from Under the Laundry Pile
Air Drying Indoors
Mar 23, 2012
Today, I marked my calendar with a large star every other month. That star is there to remind me to consider whether or not my children should be doing more - or more complicated - chores.
Not only is this best for them (kids love hearing, "You're getting so big! I think you're big enough to..."), but it's good for me, too! Letting the children be responsible for a few additional chores really lightens my burden - which makes the whole family happier.
To help you decide what your child might be capable of doing, consider these ideas:
* Pick up small amounts of toys
* Put books away
* Sort the socks out of the laundry
* Wash their own hands and face
* Brush their teeth (a parent should brush them afterward, too)
* Put dirty clothes into the hamper
* Wipe up their own spills
* Help make bed
* Straighten throw pillows
* Bring his or her own dirty dishes to the kitchen counter
* All of the above (except they should be able to pick up more toys)
* Set the table
* Help put away groceries
* Help clean windows and mirrors
* Feed pet
* Vacuum and mop
* Get dressed with little or no assistance
6 to 8:
* All of the above, except he or she should be able to dress without any assistance (with the exception of zippers and buttons in the back, and perhaps shoe strings)
* Tidy his or her own room
* Put his or her own laundry away (after it's been folded by parent)
* Sort all the laundry
* Wipe down the sink and counters
* Put utensils and dishes in the dish washer
* Put utensils and dishes away
* Help prepare food
* Make simple foods (like a peanut butter sandwich) on his or her own
* Take out smaller trash bags
* Put laundry in the washer
* By 8, fold and put away laundry
* Do the dishes
* Clean the bathroom
* Do their own laundry
* Get up on his or her own, using an alarm clock
* Make bed without assistance
13 and up:
* Clean the refrigerator
* Make meals alone
* Create grocery lists
* Clean any room in the house
This is the age when most kids should finish learning how to take care of a home. By the time they are 18, your child should have the skills to start running his or her own household.
* Here's why: It gives them a sense of accomplishment and belonging, helps with self esteem, lets them learn life skills, teaches them responsibility, and helps them learn a biblical sense of servanthood.
Mar 16, 2010
"'If the lines aren't clear or are hard to see, it's easy to overdose and use too much detergent,' says Pat Slaven, a program leader in our Technical department who conducted the detergent testing. 'Plus, for all the products we tested, the line for a medium load—the most commonly done load—is less than a full cap, which makes it easier to use too much detergent.' The line for a maximum load is also typically less than a full cap."Not only does using too much laundry detergent mean you have to buy detergent more often, but according to CR, it can cause lint and soap deposits to develop inside the washing machine - which might cause mold and could restrict filters, resulting in mechanical failure. With high-efficiency washing machines, CR reports, using too much detergent can lead to over-long wash cycles and mechanical failure.
But is laundry detergent even necessary? According to MSN, the answer is usually no. In one reporter's unscientific tests, all her clothes came out just as clean without detergent as they did with detergent.
"Minor stains that I thought would come through unscathed actually washed out. A pair of fluffy cotton socks, which I wear around the house and patio as slippers, was pretty grimy when I put them in the washer. They came out looking exactly the same as they do when they’re washed with detergent.How can this work? Because modern washing machines clean primarily through their agitators, not through detergent.
The socks, which are three or four years old, always have a little gray on the bottom -- no amount of detergent or bleach gets it out. If anything, they actually look a little better than the last time I ran them through the washer.
Peeking into the machine during the wash cycle, I found that the water looked exactly as dirty as it does when I’ve added detergent, only without the suds. The rinse cycle ran clear as tap water."
I'm not quite ready to give up detergent for really dirty clothes (baby poop and caked on mud, for example), but I was already using only a few tablespoons of laundry detergent for most loads. So I tried this experiment myself and had similar results to the MSN reporter. Wow! Imagine the cost savings! And since laundry detergent is to blame for many rashes, eczema, and dry skin, there could be additional savings from using lotion and Cortizone-10.
Jul 14, 2016
Every summer, when I was a kid, my Dad and I flew to the state of his birth: Missouri. And every year, it felt like we were stepping into another world - a better world, with a slower pace, cousins to play with, ponds to fish, sweet tea to drink, and Grandma's house.
Grandma's house was a place to love. It wasn't fancy, mind you. But it had a huge, musty basement with a huge musty bed for my cousins and I to sleep in. Plus cows in the nearby pasture. Plus a pond and "crick" (creek). And my Grandma's clothesline.
I don't know why I was so fascinated by Grandma's clothesline - or, more specifically, watching her hang the laundry on it. It might have been as simple as the fact that I'd never seen anyone use a clothesline before. Or maybe it was the way Grandma hummed as she pulled pins from her clothespin apron and hung my summer shorts on the line. Suffice it to say, I have romantic memories of clotheslines. So one of the first things I've wanted to do on our new homestead is use one.
You already know this is a house with quirks. One of them is that there is a nice, existing clothesline with sturdy poles...but the previous owners planted blackberries on it. And then hung a string across the front porch to dry their laundry. This doesn't fit my romantic ideal for a clothesline, so eventually, the clothesline will get moved. (And then I want my hubby to build me a clothesline that looks just like this.)
Romantic notions aside, clotheslines are a super way to get outside more, conserve electricity, and save money. But since so few Americans use them anymore, the art of hanging clothes out to dry is nearly lost. Fortunately, I remember a few tips from Grandma.
1. Wipe down the line before every use. An old washcloth works well for this. Other homesteaders tell me cotton clotheslines are less likely to end up with gunk that won't wipe off.
2. Hate the stiffness of line dried fabrics? Add about 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the wash - ideally during the rinse cycle. This will make your dried clothes and towels feel softer.
3. Using too much laundry detergent can also make your clothes feel stiff. Try using less; the truth is, you probably routinely use too much.
4. Promptly remove laundry from the washer, to help prevent wrinkles.
5. Use decent clothespins. I quickly learned that cheap clothespins from the Dollar Tree or Walmart don't last long and sometimes have rough edges that snag fabric. It's worth spending a bit more to ensure you have smooth clothespins with strong springs that will last for many years. (Wood clothespins seem to last longer than plastic ones.)
6. Don't hang clothes in full sun, generally speaking. This will eventually fade your clothes and make fabrics wear more quickly. Instead, choose an area of open shade for your clothesline. That means not too close to trees, which can shed leaves, seeds, etc. on your clothes. Hanging clothes inside out may also help reduce fading. On the other hand, if your whites are looking dingy, a good hang in the sun will help brighten them.
7. Hang like items together. This saves a lot of time when it comes to folding and putting away. For example, instead of hanging a kitchen towel, then a shirt, then a sock, hang all the kitchen towels together, all the shirts together, all the socks together. Once everything is dry and you're taking items off the line, fold them as you put them back in the basket.
8. Hang an individual's items together. Make folding and putting away easier still by putting all of one family member's clothes on one part of the line.
9. Prevent ironing by hanging right. There are different schools of thought on this, but I like to hang shirts from the hem. Pants, too. This prevents more wrinkles, in my opinion. (Other people like to hang shirts right side up with clothespins on the armhole seam. Still others hang shirts first on a hanger, and then hook the hanger to the clothesline.)
10. Another way to prevent wrinkles: Before hanging, hold the item from one end and briskly snap it in the air.
11. Hang heavy items securely. For example, fold towels generously over the clothesline - even up to the halfway point - then use four clothespins to keep in place. They will take longer to dry, but they won't fall to the ground.
12. Save space by hanging small towels on one another. For example, hang one washcloth on the line, then use clothespins to attach another washcloth to the first, and so on.
13. I hear tell that a sock hanger saves time and space. I think you could use one for washcloths, too.
14. While taking items off the clothesline, shake. Sometimes a little bug lands on a piece of clothing, and this simple step prevents bringing it into the house.
|Courtesy of Ukko.de and Wikimedia Commons.|
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Mar 28, 2016
First, Why Do Whites Get Dingy or Yellow?
Turns out, there are lots of reason white fabrics turn dingy or yellow:
* Washing them with colors, which bleed in the wash.
* Storing them improperly, so they touch cardboard or wood.
* Stuff in the air, including smoke and grease.
* Overuse of chlorine bleach.
* Using too much laundry detergent or fabric softener.
* Drying the item too hot or too long in a clothes dryer.
How to Brighten Whites
|Washing soda can help whiten whites.|
Baking Soda - In a sink or bucket, stir together 1 cup of baking soda with 4 quarts of warm water. Once the soda is dissolved, add the fabric and soak for about 8 hours. Rinse and launder as usual.
Lemon Juice - This is really old school, but it works well. Fill a large pot (like a stock pot) with water and add two lemons, sliced (not just halved). Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. Add the fabric and let soak for about an hour. Rinse and launder as usual.
Vinegar & Borax - Use 1/2 cup each of white distilled vinegar and borax (found in the laundry aisle or on Amazon) in the washing machine.
Washing Soda - Fill a sink or bucket with 1 gallon hot water and add 1/2 cup washing soda (found in the laundry aisle or on Amazon; it is not the same thing as baking soda). Add the whites and soak for 15 minutes before laundering as usual.
|Bluing works as well today as it did way back when!|
Ammonia - Fill a sink with hot water and add 2 tablespoons ammonia. Soak for 15 minutes. Rinse in cool water and launder as usual. (This is the method I used on my valance; it worked like a charm!)
Chlorine Bleach - Pour up to 1/4 cup of bleach into a gallon of cool water. Soak for 5 minutes, then rinse and launder as usual. Use bleach only occasionally, as it can lead to yellowed whites.
Oxygen-based Bleach - (like OxiClean or Clorox 2) Fill a sink or bucket with warm water and add oxygen-based bleach, according to the manufacturer's directions. Allow to soak overnight, then launder as usual.
Jan 14, 2013
So last week, dryer bar now empty, I gave it a whirl.
How to Use Vinegar Instead of a Dyer Sheet or Clothes Softener
1. Fill the washing machine with clothes and add laundry detergent.
2. Measure 1/4 cup of white vinegar; pour the vinegar in the dispenser of the washing machine.
3. Wash and dry as usual.
It worked! the clothes were completely static free and didn't smell the least bit like vinegar. (That last part is very important in my household, because my husband loathes the smell of vinegar!)
Then I wondered: What if you don't have a washing machine with a dispenser that releases liquid toward the end of the cycle? What if you put the vinegar directly into the washing machine, along with the clothes and detergent? So I ran another load, pouring the vinegar over the clothes just before starting the machine. This, too, worked.
Next I wanted to know if using vinegar was more frugal than Bounce Dryer Bars. My local Wal-Mart carries four month dryer bars for $6.77. (You may be able to purchase bars that last up to 6 months.) I find the four month bar actually lasts me about five months - possibly because I hang some of our clothes to dry. Anyway, each dryer load costs .21 cents in Bounce Dryer Bar.
In my town, one gallon of Wal-Mart brand white vinegar is $2.82 - which means it costs just .04 cents per load to use.
So there's a definite savings here, assuming you can get a good deal on white vinegar - plus I like that vinegar is all natural and doesn't contain smelly perfumes. Try it!
Oct 7, 2011
Back in the days when doing household laundry was a tremendous, all day affair - often taking up most of the kitchen - simple dinners were mandatory. Bubble and Squeak became a favorite on laundry day, using up leftovers and requiring little cooking time. And while it's true the name reminds me of a Victorian laundry wringer doing it's job, I've always read the name refers to the sound the dish makes while cooking. For years, however, my Bubble and Squeak never squeaked. Then I began using fresh from the garden, home grown cabbage. Now I know why the dish got it's name!
Anyway, Bubble and Squeak is another of those highly adaptable, cheap, easy dinners. I generally use ground beef, but you can also use leftover meat of any kind, as well as leftover mashed potatoes. (When I'm in a hurry and don't have leftover potatoes, I use boxed, dehydrated potatoes.)
What You Need:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 small cabbage (or 1/2 of a large one), chopped
pinch of salt
freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon oregano or marjoram
3 cups hamburger
2 or 3 cups mashed potatoes
1 cup shredded cheddar or Co-Jack cheese
Large, oven proof skillet (cast iron is ideal!)
How to Do It:
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. If not using leftovers, cook the meat and prepare the mashed potatoes. Heat the oil in the oven proof skillet.
2. Add the onion to the skillet and saute until golden and soft. Add cabbage, salt, pepper, and oregano or marjoram. Reduce the heat and cook until the cabbage is wilted. This is when it will make it's infamous squeaking noise - if the cabbage is fresh enough.
3. Add the prepared meat and stir well, reheating the meat, if necessary.
4. Remove the skillet from the stove and sprinkle with a little cheese. Spread the potatoes over the top of the whole. Sprinkle again with cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes, or until heated through.
Jan 17, 2011
Back before their were automatic washers and dryers, people washed their clothes a lot less often. It was simply too much work to do the laundry more than once a week. This does not mean, however, they walked around in filthy clothes. So how did the housewife of old - who probably had more kids than you do and whose work and life was messier because of lack of modern conveniences - manage to wash so infrequently?
For one thing, everyone had just five different types of clothes:
* School or work clothes
* Play clothes
* Church or special occasion clothes
* Night clothes
The average middle class family might have two or three outfits in each category, tops. So, obviously, there were fewer clothes to launder.
But it was the way they wore these clothes that saved the most labor and money. Kids wore school clothes only to school. When they came home from school, they removed their school clothes and hung them to air out. Then they put on their play clothes. They often had only one set of "good" church clothes, and they were worn only while at church or on special occasions, like weddings. This outfit was washed infrequently. Nightgowns or pajamas were worn every night for a week before they were washed. Adults handled their wardrobe similarly.
In addition, women (and sometimes men) wore aprons while working.
Now, I'm not necessarily suggesting you and your family have such limited wardrobes (although cutting back on clothes is probably a great idea). And I'm not suggesting you weara clothes that are visibly dirty or smelly. But I am suggesting that we don't generally need to wash clothes that have been worn for only a few hours. To do so, frankly, shows how spoiled we are. What a waste of resources, time, energy, and money!
So here's my challenge for you this week: See how few clothes you can reasonably wash. Wear an apron while cooking - and perhaps even while housekeeping or doing garden chores. Change from good clothes into play clothes as soon as possible. Wear your nightclothes repeatedly.
I think you'll find your life is less stressful and more simple. And you'll be a better steward.
Let me know how it goes!
Oct 20, 2010
Kristina: What words of encouragement and advice would you give moms (like me!) who look around the house and are completely overwhelmed by the idea of getting it in order?
Mindy: First, a caveat: I’m going to answer this and the following questions with the assumption that most of your readers are married, with kids, and are the primary caretaker of the children. My apologies in advance to two-career couples, single moms, house-husbands, etc. No offense is intended, it’s just easier to write with this assumption rather than trying to cover all of the bases.
Okay, in answer to this question, allow me to rant for a moment…
First of all, take a deep breath, throw your guilt out of the window, and give yourself a big hug. No one knows how hard it is to be home with kids except those who have been there. The world puts so many expectations on young mothers these days, it’s just absurd: Mother your children AND get those kids into numerous activities so they will be well-rounded AND try to develop a side income/part time job to help with the family finances AND be an attractive, loving partner/sex goddess for your husband AND be sure to keep yourself up on current events AND make sure you eat healthfully and do regular workouts AND do your part volunteering at the church and school AND keep your home clean at all times AND make sure it’s decorated like in a magazine AND on and on.) The problem is that we always leave out one of the “ands”: AND do this all by yourself with no outside help whatsoever because your extended family lives far away and your neighbors all have full time jobs outside of the home and your spouse hasn’t got a clue how much time all of this stuff takes. In other words, are you kidding me? Somehow, we’ve kept all of the expectations that we used to have for young mothers back when there were support systems to help make that possible, and to all of those we’ve added tons more new expectations. The justification? Well, nowadays we have things like microwave ovens and automatic washers and dryers, so all of this household stuff should be faster and easier, right?
Wrong. For every new invention or development that was meant to help streamline our lives, I contend that man has done something to “compensate” so that the streamlining gets completely negated. For example:
- Microwaves allow us to cook faster, yes, but now there is an expectation that we should be able to whip up healthy meals night after night in record time without much effort or planning or hard work. Good grief. Microwave or not, feeding our families well is a huge, time-consuming undertaking that should never be underestimated.
- Washing and drying a load of laundry takes far less time for us than it ever did for our grandmothers. But guess what? We own about 10 or even 20 times more clothes than they did, because of our busy lives and various activities, we change those clothes far more often, and there are zillions of different fabrics and fabric-cleaning products for us to deal with. No wonder laundry still sucks up as much time as it ever did! We may do it faster, but we also have to do it far more often and with a greater variety of products/temperatures/handling.
- Caring for the lawn with a riding mower and a weed eater is far faster and easier than the way grandpa had to do it with his antiquated lawn tools. But guess what? Keeping our lawns tidy is no longer enough, especially now that we live in the suburbs. These days, we also have to weed, chip, shred, mulch, landscape, and more. Better garden as well, and make sure it’s organic. How about compost, are you doing your part to save the earth? For every advance in machinery, we heap on another load of expectations!
- In my mother’s day, many housewives didn’t have a car. Nowadays, of course, car-less-ness would be a rarity, which should make our lives easier and more convenient, saving us lots of time. But guess what? With readily-available transportation, we are now expected to ferry our kids and ourselves hither and yon, taking lessons, joining teams, volunteering, handling obligations, etc., all of which eats away at our time in humongous ways. Having our own cars hasn’t saved anything at all but has, instead, robbed us of much.
I could keep going, but you get my drift. The more things have changed, the more they’ve stayed the same—or even gotten worse—and yet somehow our mindsets have completely bought into all of these new myths.
So my primary word of encouragement is this: Recognize the myths that pervade in your household—in your own mind and in your husband’s—and claim them for the lies they are. Toss those myths, then toss the guilt as well. Your job is incredibly hard, especially in this day and age.
Next, embrace this truth: If your house has fallen apart, then you probably aren’t gifted at housekeeping. Some people can’t sing, some can’t dance, it just so happens that you can’t keep a house clean. You may know how to clean, you may be able to whip that place into shape like nobody’s business when you have to, but if it isn’t consistently clean then this is simply a talent that you lack. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s simply a fact, one that you need to acknowledge and accept if you’re going to move on and find other ways around the problem of a messy house. If your house has gotten the better of you, it’s not going to be fixed by wanting it more or trying harder. You’ve already done both for a long, long time. Instead, you need to do something completely different. You need a revolutionary approach.
- My single most important job is to love and respect my husband and be his helpmate, support system, encourager, and best friend.
- My second most important job is to be Christ to my children, keeping them safe and healthy and loved, and teaching and living in such a way that they see Him in me.
If you agree with the above, then every single decision you make about how and where you spend your time and effort on your home should be based on these two statements. Do you see “scrub toilets daily” anywhere in there? I don’t! If I look at these two truths and consider how they might relate to housekeeping in my home, here’s what I see:
1. I should talk to my husband about the various messes around here, find out which parts bother him the most, and focus on keeping those under control, simply as a demonstration of my love for him. I should also learn which little acts of cleaning please him the most/relieve stress for him the most, and try to do those whenever I can. In turn, to preserve my peace and sanity, I need to help him understand how very hard my job is, where my priorities as a wife and mother lie, and how he can better pitch in to help me keep things under control.
2. I should keep housekeeping in its proper perspective with regards to my children, remembering that kids need to live in a neat and orderly home that functions well, but that there are many other housekeeping chores that don’t fall under that umbrella that should probably be put aside for now. There will be time for alphabetizing the spices when they are grown and gone; right now, it is far more important that I aim most days for a minimum standard. That means my kids need to know that:
a. they can trust me to have a system that keeps me from losing important papers they bring home from school or groups
b. they will always have a neat, well-lit, comfortable place to do homework
c. there is a logical place to put the items they bring in and out of the house on a regular basis, such as backpacks, sporting equipment, etc.
d. when friends come over the house is clean ENOUGH that they don’t feel embarrassed by it.
Anything else beyond this standard is probably more than is needed at this stage of life.
3. I should allow myself to do the chores that please me and give me a sense of peace and control, but I need to think seriously about this and define exactly what those chores are and how much time I should be spending on them. Again, life comes in phases, and when there are small kids at home that’s by its very nature going to be a messier phase. Thus, I will define the chores that are most important to me, weed out all but a few, and not in any way feel guilty about the ones that get put aside for another phase when time isn’t at such a premium.
How does the above look when put into practice? It’s really a matter of choices. For example…
- If his pet peeve is to see a sink filled with dirty dishes, then I’ll choose loading the dishwasher (his preference) over sweeping the front walk (a chore I might do instead just because the broom was handy and I had a minute). If he wants a spot near the door where he can dump his things when he comes in and they won’t be disturbed, I’ll suggest that we rearrange the furniture so that he has a cabinet where he wants it, and I’ll make it a hard and fast rule with the kids that they don’t touch Daddy’s cabinet, ever. If he just wants to know that there will always be a clean t-shirt in his drawer when he gets dressed each morning, I’ll make the laundry choices that help that to happen—and if it’s too much trouble to do laundry that often I’ll go out and buy him more t-shirts so that I only have to worry about it once every few weeks!
With regards to my kids:
- I will make decisions about how I spend my housekeeping time based on the goal of having a home that is primarily neat and functional for their lives and mine, rather than one that looks impressive to the neighbors or could pass my mother-in-law’s white glove test. That means making sure that the homework area is kept clean and organized and inviting, even if I’d rather spend that time dusting the knick knacks and organizing the gift wrap. It means that I need to tackle the household paper issue once and for all so that I never lose an important note from the school again—even if that means I have to skip my big spring cleaning this year. It means that when it comes time for a new couch, I’ll choose the one with the pattern that best hides dirt and stains, even if I’d prefer one that’s light and monochromatic but would show every spot.
With regards to myself:
-For my own mental health, I’ll continue to do those household chores that I need done to keep me sane, even if my hubby or kids could care less. (Personally, how my family isn’t bothered by globs of food and puddles of water on the kitchen countertops is beyond me; if I didn’t wipe the counters clean at least once a day I’d go nuts.) But I won’t just jump in on autopilot and think I need to do all of those tasks that I’ve been told I “ought” to do. Says who? The only ought in my life when I have kids at home is that I ought to make sure our home is functional for my husband, my children, and myself, and that it is clean enough that it feels like a peaceful, pleasant place to be. Everything else is beside the point.
Okay, so this all sounds good in theory, but what should you do if you’ve already let things go too far? If your family is languishing amid disastrous mess and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get a handle on it, then it’s time to take drastic action. More than anyone, you need a House That Cleans Itself! Finding time to make that happen isn’t easy, but it’s worth it in the long run. Consider going into a sort of “hibernation” for a while, dropping outside responsibilities and extracurricular activities so that you can focus on getting your home back on track. OR maybe it’s time to put out a call for help. Give the book to a non-judgmental friend and ask if they would read it and then help guide you through the system, give you some accountability, and lovingly aid you as you problem-solve your way out of the disaster.
Perhaps it’s time to make some other changes as well, such as asking your spouse to carry more of the load, requiring more from your children, speaking to your doctor about any medical issues you may suspect that you have (depression, anemia, ADD, and many other conditions can contribute significantly to household mess), hiring someone to provide occasional cleaning help or child care, trading off with a friend, having a dumpster put in the front yard, or whatever else it takes to get your home under control.
Remember: Structure. Function. Peace. As a mom, these need to be your priorities and goals, not shiny granite or a sparkling oven or well-trimmed shrubbery. Those can wait until the kids are older. For now, your efforts should be all about creating structure, preserving function, and providing a sense of peace. As the kids grow, the specifics of how that’s done may change, but the goals should remain the same. For example, a toddler could care less about that giant pile of clean laundry waiting to be folded, but a preteen would rather die than have her friends see a pile of her father’s tighty whities on the living room couch. J
You know, being a good parent means that in many ways we must become selfless, and housekeeping is no exception. There are only so many hours in a day, so as a parent your job is to give highest priority to the chores that have the greatest impact on your family’s functionality and mental health. Everything else should be put at the bottom of the list—perhaps even delegated, postponed, or eliminated entirely.
Trust me, speaking as an empty-nester, the day will come much sooner than you think when there’s no one around to make those terrible messes except you and your spouse. So for now, while they’re still with you, throw out the “perfect” home that lives only in your imagination, focus on creating function and peace around you instead, and tell yourself that once the youngest heads off to college THEN you can be the housekeeper of your dreams. Hopefully, by then you’ll have learned that you’re never going to change but that it doesn’t matter because your house is now cleaning itself.
Watch for PART III of my interview with Mindy, where she offers specific advice about dealing with kids and husbands who are messies.
Oct 8, 2016
|As seen on our homestead.|
In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.
* Fall is hitting us hard, and it's a good time to reflect on our first months on this new homestead. I think we've accomplished an awful lot: Put in a new well (with hired help, and the work of the Mr., the kids, and me); dealt with a variety of plumbing issues; began unpacking; harvested and preserved from most of the orchard (some apple trees are still producing); started a modest winter garden; acquired a rabbit and a puppy; acquired chicks and built a brand new run for them; hauled some of the garbage that was left by the previous owners to the dump; cut brush back from some of the trails in the forest; painted one room - all since moving here in June. Now the Mr. is busy gathering wood for the winter; there's lots of dead wood in the forest, so at least it will be seasoned. We also think our little house is so well insulated, we won't need nearly as much firewood as we did on our suburban homestead. That's a blessing! (Unless Hubby starts a fire in the stove in early fall; then it feels like a curse because the house is to hot!)
* A Day in the Life of a Homesteader: Wake up to the puppy whimpering to get out of his crate (which protects him from cougars). Bleary eyed, walk puppy down our private road and let him maul me with love. Stagger back up the private road to grab a cup of tea before the kids get up. Wipe the mud off puppy, then walk inside to discover kids already up. Time for breakfast! But first, let the chickens out of their house. Let the puppy out to go potty again. Clean the mud off him. Breakfast, devotions, let puppy out and clean mud off him twice. Our read aloud (currently The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, which I strongly recommend), which is interrupted seemingly endless times by me telling the puppy "no!" Tell kids to get ready for school. Run a load of laundry out to the out building while the rain takes a break. Check to make sure puppy isn't trying to kill chickens. Run into the greenhouse to check plants. Water. Prune tomatoes. De-muddify puppy. Do homeschool with lots of me saying "no!" to the puppy. Clean house, with puppy chasing vacuum and mop. Declutter just-unpacked items, since there will be a party at the house this weekend. Let puppy out for the billionth time and clean the mud off him. Harvest veggies. Puppy. Do more laundry inbetween rain showers. Puppy. Blog. Puppy (!). Organize recently preserved foods. Puppy. Sit down (finally!) for a cup of tea. Puppy interrupts endlessly. Make dinner. Puppy. Serve and eat dinner while puppy interrupts as often as he can. Do dishes. Puppy! Vegetate with a book while saying "no!" to puppy. Make hubby's lunch. Puppy!! Get kids to brush and change. Puppy!!! Put puppy to bed (hurrah!). Put kids to bed. Put self to bed, exhausted. The end.
|The chicks are getting big!|
* So far this year, my family's birthday gifts have been free because I've earned gift cards through Swagbucks. I'm working toward making Christmas free, too! If you don't already belong to Swagbucks, but like the idea of free gifts, now is a great time to join. If you click this link, join Swagbucks, and complete one "gold survey" by Oct. 31st, Swagbucks will give you 400 points to get you off to a fantastic start! To learn more about Swagbucks, click here.
* Why Discipline Often Backfires with Kids. Interesting stuff!
* Your Birth Control Might Raise Your Depression Risk. It's full of risks, actually; this is just the latest "discovery."
* Natural Help for Gassy Tummies.
* Harvesting and Using Horseradish.
|The tomatoes in the greenhouse and really producing now, and the greens in my fall garden and starting to give us salads!|
|I never get tired of this view.|
See part one of the Christmas Countdown. Click here for part two.
Christmas Countdown Gift #12: Food in a Jar. Homemade gifts show you put time and energy and thought into the gift; plus, they are a good way to give more with less $. Check out my gifts in a jar ideas here.
Christmas Countdown Gift #13: Food. It's hard to miss the mark when you give away delicious food. Some ideas include cookies, cinnamon rolls, delish but easy bread, amazing cranberry bread, or even homemade sauerkraut!
World Vision to see what I'm taking about.
Christmas Countdown Gift #15: Books! Most books are excellent gifts, but today I'll stump for The Jesus Storybook Bible. This children's Bible is such a blessing on the whole family! It's entire focus on Jesus, and even the adults in the house may find themselves learning something. I recommend buying the book and the CDs.