I’m the “mean mom” amongst the wee ones’ friends. They have chores that they do regularly, and I expect them to help me out when they’d otherwise be just hanging so that we can get out the door and to where we’re going sooner. We all work together to make this family function, and that means that I don’t make their work harder, nor do they make my work harder. Nowhere does this come more into play than with laundry. I have a few (ha!) laundry rules that make things run smoother around here.
Of course, we have an added bonus in our house that we line dry all our clothing for a variety of reasons. I do it partly because it’s greener, not to mention cheaper to not use the dryer. I am also allergic to fabric softener, so the sheets that keep static cling away in the dryer also now give me a headache. And wow do I notice the difference in how long clothing lasts when we line dry.
It’s a little more work than tossing everything into the dryer, but it isn’t much. That said, a few rules make not just the line drying but all the laundry work a whole lot better.
Top 10 Laundry Rules for Kids
#10 Everyone helps. I’m happy to do laundry when I’m home alone and everyone is at school. I’ll sort laundry, put it in the washer, hang it to dry, and sort it back to who owns what items. If you’re home, however, I expect you to help me unless you’re working on homework. I cook, I clean, I chauffeur, I pay bills, I arrange playdates, I fix things that are broken, I help with homework, and that barely scratches the surface. You can help with laundry.
#9 Put your laundry in your laundry basket. I can’t tell you how often I go into the wee ones’ room and find laundry strewn all over the floor of the closet and elsewhere. I don’t ask that you sort your laundry into separate lights and darks baskets. It’s not hard. Simply put the laundry into the basket. If it isn’t in the basket, I don’t have the time, energy, or patience to dig around your room to find the missing laundry. It simply won’t get done.
#8 Make sure the laundry in the basket is actually dirty. I learned this one the hard way. While the wee ones aren’t so sneaky as to put newly clean laundry back into the basket to avoid putting it away, they have been known to put worn for 20 minutes clothing and other items into their basket. PJs put on after a shower and worn overnight are not dirty the first time you wore them. Wear them again. Ditto with clothes you wore to church for an hour and then took off.
#7 Learn about the sniff test. Ok, so maybe this is a lesson that will backfire one day, but given the sheer volume of laundry I do for the wee ones, I implemented this one. To determine if clothing is dirty, hold it up and look at it from the front, back and side. Do you see any dirt? Yes? It’s dirty. No? Take a sniff. Does it smell dirty or does it smell like clean clothing? Distribute appropriately. The caveat, of course, is that underwear and socks are always dirty. Always.
#6 Don’t put clothing half inside out into the laundry basket. It’s really hard for clothing to get clean when it’s half inside out and half right side out. Ditto with it being all the way inside out. It’s not so easy to hang it on the drying racks either, for that matter. I know you can take your clothing off and have it right side out. And if you accidentally don’t, I know you know how to fix that. Again, I don’t have the time or patience to go through every item of clothing to fix it.
#5 On a related note, don’t put balled up socks into the laundry. I’m still trying to figure out what makes taking off socks so difficult. It isn’t, really. Pull them off. Annnnd done. Somehow, over 80% of the wee ones’ socks end up in a balled up mess. I’ve learned the hard way that they don’t get clean in the laundry this way, and I got tired of going through every sock and making sure they weren’t balled up. Now? If it’s balled up, it goes back into the basket, and I don’t wash it.
#4 For the love of Pete, remove any stickers before clothing goes in the laundry. There was a time that our chiropractor gave the wee ones stickers each week. And they could earn them at the library for finding a hidden stuffed animal whenever we visited. Then there were the stickers from the doctor, the bank, etc. You don’t want to know how many items of clothing got washed with stickers on them. As a PSA, there is no good way to remove sticker goo once it’s been through the wash. Too many items of clothing have now been ruined, and stickers hide everywhere. Remove all stickers before you remove your clothing. If you don’t, and it gets washed, you buy a new one.
#3 When you help hang items on the drying racks, lay them flat. The wee ones hate laundry. (Guess what, I hate it, too!) I deal with it, but they try to make it go as fast as possible. When they’re helping me hang laundry, they often will simply toss items on the rack, having them in piles over each other, adding wrinkles to the drying items and preventing them from drying effectively because there are too many layers of fabric all bunched together. There’s no reason I should have to go back and redo your work when I know you’re capable of it. It wastes my time and yours, so just do it right the first time. Or redo it until you’ve done it right.
#2 Let me know if you need something washed. I have a lot going on in my life, and I don’t do laundry daily. Sometimes I’ll let it pile up for a bit because I have other things that need to be done or just don’t feel like doing laundry. If you have a shirt you want to wear. If you are out of athletic shorts for gymnastics. If you are running low on underwear, tell me. Don’t expect me to read your mind. Don’t assume that you’ll magically have the clothes you want. I need a two day warning, which is reasonable given how many clothes you have. Most impressively? My husband has learned this lesson!
And the #1 rule of laundry?
#1 Put your own laundry away. Your clothes are your responsibility, just like your room is. You have a system for how you like your clothes to be arranged. I’ll sort laundry if you aren’t home, but I’ll put it by your bedroom door so that you know it’s ready to be put away. You are responsible for putting it where it needs to go. And do not – do.not. – walk over your clean laundry and pretend like it isn’t there.
The system works well for us. I feel like the wee ones are learning a modicum of responsibility, and I appreciate the help around the house. It means they know how to do laundry (except for putting soap in the washer – I still don’t trust them with that), which is an important skill as they grow older. I like how we all chip in where we can, when we can, without keeping score of who has done what for whom. This is just a part of it.
These laundry rules work for us. What are your rules at your house?