Advice from Mom: Laundry & My Numbering System

by Rae Osenbaugh


I once heard that the problem with laundry was that people kept changing clothes...if you remember your history, in the olden days (before I was born) people wore the same clothes all week--the women wore aprons and just changed their aprons instead of their dress. Sometimes I wish we could go back to those kind of days without all our fancy machines, but then reality sets in--usually in the form of a teenage daughter demanding that her sister stop doing laundry when it was the first girl's turn.

A family with nine children (mine, for example) does a lot of laundry. Sometimes it seems like the washer & dryer are going 24 hours a day...but, I'm not the one doing it. In our house, by the time a child gets to be 10 or 11 she is doing her own laundry. It teaches them to be self-sufficient and saves me a lot of time, too.

I have a poster above the washing machine with a schedule for the washer. Monday is John's day, Tuesday is Erin's, Wednesday is Shannon's, etc. Friday is listed as FCFS (that stands for first come, first serve), because there's always someone wanting to do some last minute laundry before the week-end. If someone wants to use the laundry area on someone else's day, they must ask the first person so see if the washer is available. I do the younger girls' laundry along with my husband's and my own. I try to do it between everyone else's....but sometimes even I get reminded that I was supposed to ask if someone was planning on doing her laundry first.

When the girls were younger (we had 6 girls before John came along) we often passed clothes down from older to younger. I had a system of dots to keep track of which girl has that dress this year....I made dots on the neck label: one dot for the oldest girl, two dots for the second, etc. This way as they outgrow an item of clothing and pass it down to the next girl, all I had to do was add a dot on the label. I even use the dot system to identify their first baby outfits that I've saved.

The numbers evolved to a system of counting heads (to make sure I still had everyone with me). It proved most helpful one night when we had a minor car accident. I was busy getting the baby out of the carseat, and the older girls were helping the younger ones. Immediately I had them "count off": they started out with the oldest saying "one," the second one called out "two," and so on until they got to five (we only had six at the time). This way I knew they were all ok and it was faster than checking each one myself.

Another use of numbers to identify children is to write their number on the bottom of a dinner plate, bowl, etc. This way I can tell who didn't do their dishes...I also avoid washing a lot of extra glasses. They seem to go through three or four times the drinking glasses in the summertime....Girls number one, two, and three have since moved out on their own, but when they do come back to visit, they still have a plate that's just their own!

Have a great day! Rae


I am the mother of nine children, ages five through twenty-five. I have 8 girls and one boy. We live in central Nebraska. I have homeschooled most of the children at one time or another. I presently have three teen-age girls doing homeschool (our local elementary school is very community oriented, whereas the jr high and high school here are overly large and my girls prefer to do their lessons at home. We only have six at home right now, but grandchildren are starting to come along (2 so far) so the house stays full and noisy...we also have one daughter who went to West Virginia to be a nanny--she loves it there.

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