For those of us living where there is a change of seasons, the laundry pile just grew into a mountain overnight. Every year the first day the temperature hit 70 degrees my kids would start digging through storage like dogs burying a bone.

At one point in my life I had 22 loads of laundry each week. No. I’m not exaggerating. The mountain of dirty clothes children can produce in most families can be daunting to an already overworked mom.

My mom used to scold, “Just do two loads of laundry a day and you’ll keep up.” She was a single mother raising two children. The math worked for her. With a constantly growing family, the numbers were working against me. I had two choices: nail the laundry to the floor and call it carpet, or find an answer.

Here are some things that have worked for me. And not only for my family, as I’ve also enjoyed spending the day helping friends with large families conquer their mountains as well.

Next page: How to get started.

Step 1: Pull out all of your clothes and put them in one central pile. That includes clean, dirty, and everything hanging in the closet. Put dinner in the crockpot. This is going to take a full day, so choose a day you can devote to it. Put every article of clothing in that pile, preferably in your living room. That way you can’t shut the door on it. You’re committed to finishing the task.

Step 2: Sort into separate piles. Each family member gets his or her own pile. This is important.

Step 3: Inventory each family member’s pile. Here’s where it gets real. This is where you find your problem. I would find that one child would own 13 sweatshirts and two pairs of underwear, while another had all play clothes. Then there’s the kid who survived by stealing his brother’s underwear.

Next page: Purge and wash.

Step 4: Now’s the time for decisions. How many pairs of pajamas does a child need to get from one wash day to the next? How many school clothes, dress up clothes and play clothes are really necessary? This is where you find out how you can do five loads of laundry and someone still comes up without socks.

Throw away all stained, damaged clothes. That’s right, pitch them. Don’t put them in a bag with four decent outfits and give them to the lady at church with five kids. She’s drowning in the laundry worse than you are because of people who do that. For the record, poor people need nice clothes—not your garbage.

Step 5: The rule is you have to finish it today. If you have more than six loads of laundry on the floor, suck it up and go to the laundromat. Trust me. It’s worth it to catch up. Fold it and put it in baskets according to the room it goes to. Now put it all in the nice, empty drawers and closets.

Take a selfie with stacks of clean, folded laundry. Then call your girlfriend and make plans to help her conquer her mountain.

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