There is one single thing that has helped me the most in the area of laundry control and expense. As a family of five, we produce a lot of laundry. Every day we wear five shirts, five pairs of pants or skirts, five pairs of socks, and five sets of underthings. This adds up fast, both finacially as well as in terms of time.
Washing clothes is one of the main sources of non-negotiable expense in our house. You can't eliminate it from the budget, but you can seriously cut down on the actual amount of expense.
So here's the tip: Make sure clothing is truly dirty before you wash it. Wear dresses, dress pants, work pants and shirts, and even play clothes twice or more before throwing them into the dirty clothes hamper. Lest you think I am crazy (or am a 'dirty' person) for saying this, I am not the only advocate of this method. Its proponents include Martha Stewart, Elisabeth Elliot, and most importantly to me, my mother.
When we lived with my mother, she would often help me catch up on the laundry pile. One life-changing day, she said, "Tami, your family has more laundry than any family I've ever seen. You wash more clothes than I've ever seen. Your children can wear their clothes- even play clothes- more than once!" My mother faithfully raised four children, so her words hold a lot of weight for me. This stopped me in my tracks. That night, I told the boys to lay their clothes that they had worn that day out for the next morning, instead of putting them in the hamper.
I've never gone back to my old habits.
This saves money in at least three ways:
-Your clothes will last much longer- too frequent washings causes fading, wearing, and misshapenness (not sure that's a word, but if it is, it means loss of shape). This is Martha Stewart's main point.
-You will save money in detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets.
-You will save electricity. The washer and dryer are our main energy outputs after the air conditioner/heater.
I don't have to convince any mother of the mental help cutting even one load will produce.
By the way, I hope it goes without saying that there are days that my kids get too dirty to re-wear their clothes. When we go out, I try to make sure they look nice and fresh. And Sophie, at twenty months, usually makes enough of a mess at meal time to earn a clean shirt. If the clothes get stained, wash them right away! If they smell, in the wash they go. And OF COURSE, this rule does not apply to underclothes!