The kids are out of socks again? Your favorite yoga pants spent the night wet in the washer, so they now reek of mildew? The clean laundry you so carefully folded two days ago (but left in the basket) has now been pawed through by every member of the household? If, at every waking moment of every day, you seem to have a significant amount of clothing that's in the midst of being (a) washed, (b) dried, (c) put away, or (d) stacked up in a teetering pile, it's time to streamline the process. Yes, having a lot of laundry to clean is part of the deal when you have a family. But many of us fall victim to just throwing everything in the hamper without thinking — which isn't the most efficient process for any household task. Here are some ways to lighten your load, both figuratively and literally:

1. Wash all of your family's laundry together. Many new parents still believe that baby's clothes must be washed separately in a special (and expensive) detergent. That's so last-generation! With all of the perfume- and dye-free detergent options out there, save yourself the sorting time and throw it all in the same load.

2. Enhance your space. Make a few small fixes to maximize efficiency in your laundry room. Hang a drying rack — which could be a salvaged wooden ladder or closet rod — to quickly hang clothes and keep your bathroom free of damp clutter. Rest a long piece of recycled shelving on top of your front-loading washer and dryer for folding space. If you still iron, a built-in ironing board that drops down from the wall is much handier than wrestling a full-size one. Hang an organizer rack over the back of the laundry room door to keep essentials organized, visible and at your fingertips without encroaching on usable workspace.

3. Store clothes where you wash them. If your laundry room can support it, consider adding shelves or stacking bins and keep the majority of your children's clothing there, to save yourself the time of transporting and putting everything away — especially if their rooms are on another floor.

4. Put away right away. Immediately move finished laundry from the dryer into the bedroom where most of it is going, so you can put it right into drawers and closets — rather than folding it first. You'll save yourself a step, but more important, you'll avoid the possibility of a full basket of laundry that everyone trips over and digs through for several days.

5. Picture efficiency. Clearly label (with words or pictures) your young children's drawers or closet bins so they easily see where their shirts, pants, pajamas and underwear go. This will help them put their own laundry away — and find their own clothes in the morning.

6. Cut down on your loads. Do you automatically throw everything in the wash the moment you take it off, whether it's dirty or not? Do your kids routinely use several washcloths and towels per week? Work with your family to cut down on this waste of time and resources. Examine items closely before assuming they need a wash, and give each person one towel and washcloth for the week. Set a goal of one load per person per week; after you've gotten used to it, you may be able to cut down even more.

7. Create little helpers. Kids can help separate lights from darks (if you still manage to do this!), sort clean laundry into piles for different family members, match socks and help put away clothes. It's easy to make this into a matching game or a beat-the-clock challenge!