There are days when I think it would be SO much easier if I just did all the picking up and cleaning, table setting and clearing, and general chore duties around here myself. If I went that route, there would be the following advantages:
- It would be done.
- It would be done like I want it to be done.
- It would be done when I want it to be done.
- I can’t bark orders/nag incessantly at myself.
On the other hand, the following things occur to me that outweigh my desire to just get things done now, quickly, and well:
- My children are capable . . . often of MUCH more than I give them credit for.
- My children are growing up into adults who will eventually have to care for themselves.
- My children are here. Almost all the time. They make messes. Almost constantly. Those messes must be cleaned up. I have other things to do. Frankly, I have my own messes to clean up.
Which brings me to the matter at hand – Laundry. The never ending, monotonous cycle of sort, wash, dry, fold, put away, wear, get dirty, repeat. This was challenging enough to deal with when there were just two of us. It became exponentially more challenging during the crazy infant and toddler stages. Now days, it really shouldn’t be so bad. And yet, it is. And did I mention that I have other things to do?
At least twice during the summer, our clean laundry situation got so out of hand that my brilliant husband declared it a “Laundry Party!” We played loud music and gathered together around the mountains of laundry. He threw the kids their clothing as he got to it in the piles and told them to fold it. They did. My 5 year-old asked for guidance. We gave it. He executed with his best effort. It was AMAZING. We folded mountains of laundry in an hour or two and had it all put away. Have I mentioned that my husband is brilliant?
By the second time this happened, I realized a few things:
- My kids can actually fold their own clothes and put them away (the later part I already knew. They’ve been putting away some of their things, like socks, underwear, and PJs for a year or two). Now, the clothing is definitely not folded like I like it. Nothing is matched into outfits and placed neatly in a drawer. But things are folded AND put away . . . generally in the right area.
- I like things folded and put away. I like it more than I like things folded neatly and matched into outfits.
And so, we began a new laundry system at our house that has now been in place and operational for a few weeks. I LOVE it!
Here are the basics:
- Everyone got their own hamper. Before this, we used a community hamper in our upstairs hallway. I chose these hampers on Amazon because of their reviews. Our bedrooms are upstairs, our washer and dryer are in the basement, and two steep flights of stairs separate the two. I have a tremendous fear of someone falling down our stairs, so I’m fairly particular about what I ask the kiddos to carry up and down them. Based on the reviews, these bags can be dragged and take a beating. So far, I’m impressed. They’ve done great and the kids can manage them quite well. (I actually LOVE the way these bags are used at this blog, but that set-up just doesn’t work in our home at all.)
- I rearranged the sorting area in the basement to make it more kid-friendly. Before, we had those rolling-type sorting carts. They worked fine, but whenever I asked the kids to help put laundry in the washer, they had to practically stand on their heads to reach the stuff on the bottom, and they weren’t always successful. Plus, I just really didn’t like the way they looked or worked myself, and they were starting to break down and need replacing anyway. So, I ordered two sets of these bins from Amazon.
- I set up three containers (using bins we already had) in the laundry area – one for each child, and one for everything else.
- I got small bags at Ikea that the kids could put their folded laundry in to carry it back upstairs.
Here’s how it works:
- Each child has two laundry days each week, either Monday/Thursday or Tuesday/Friday.
- On their laundry day, laundry is one of their morning chores. They carry their hamper downstairs and sort their laundry.
- They take whatever is in the dryer and distribute to the bin for whomever it belongs to.
- They fold whatever is in their own bin.
- The move whatever is in the washer into the dryer and start the dryer.
- They choose either Lights or Darks, based on whichever laundry bin has the most laundry. I created magnets and put them on the washer and dryer with the instructions for operating them, but those really weren’t necessary after the first week of the new system.
- They put the detergent in (We make our own and it just goes in with the laundry itself, not into the compartment on our front loader. This was my son’s one disappointment with the new system . . . he really wanted to get to do something with the drawer) and start the washer accordingly. They use the delay function on the washer so that the laundry gets washed in the wee hours of the morning, so it can be ready and waiting for the next day.
- They take their clothes (and empty hamper) upstairs and put them away.
It takes all of 15-20 minutes. After the first week, they have really only had 3 or 4 days worth of clothing to fold and put away at a time, so it hasn’t felt like a terrible burden to them at all. A bonus is that they now really think about whether or not something should really go into the hamper for a wash. Before, anytime my daughter changed clothes (which could happen 2 or 3 times a day) it was just easier for her to toss stuff in the hamper rather than put things back in her drawer if they could be worn again. It’s fine now if she does that, but she bears the consequences, not me. And I can just fold laundry that’s in the bin for me whenever I’m down in that area of the house.
And now, since the kids are using the washer and dryer on THEIR laundry days, I’m more motivated than ever to get the rest of the laundry that needs to be taken care of done on MY laundry days, which are now Wednesday (If I have time. We have busy Wednesdays with our Classical Conversations Community), Saturday and Sunday. This might mean that I do 2 or 3 loads over the weekend, which is more than I would normally do on a weekend, but the whole system has been working so well that I truly do not mind at all.
And, while we’re on the subject of child labor, I think this method for “attacking” the bathrooms with your children, from Red and Honey, is BRILLIANT! I’m definitely trying this next!
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