Got kids? Then you’ve got laundry! Here are 10 easy steps to save time and energy while keeping your clan clean.
Step 1 – Everyone’s a Basket Case
Get a laundry basket for each person’s bedroom, plus one for each bathroom. Use a Sharpie or other permanent marker to write each person’s name on their own basket. If you wish, make decorative tags or have children create their own.
Step 2 – “Back Away from My Towel!”
Buy two special new towels and facecloths for each family member. Choose a unique color for each person, and make it one they love. Then, take a quick trip to your local fabric store or department store sewing section and get a pack of iron-on letters for less than $5. Customize the new towel sets with names or initials of each family member. No more using a new towel every day because they can’t know which one is theirs!
Step 3 – Pick a Day, Any Day
Decide which day(s) are laundry days. If your day off is Sunday, for instance, you might make Sunday your family’s laundry day. If there’s too much laundry to do in just one day, pick two days – say, Wednesday and Sunday.
Step 4 – Share the Plan with Your Clan
Communicate. At dinner one evening, explain to everyone that you have set up a new laundry routine for the family. Explain that each family member now has their own basket and is responsible to bring that basket to the laundry room on laundry day.
Advise that only the baskets in the laundry room on laundry day will be done. If your children are too young to carry their own baskets, let them know you are happy to help – but ensure they understand it’s still their responsibility. The goal is to get kids into a routine of feeling responsible for their own laundry. As they get older, this will make the transition to self-laundering much easier. Ask if anyone has questions. Now give each person their special new towel set to put in the bathroom, and their new laundry basket to put in their bedroom.
Step 5 – Use It or Lose It
On laundry day, remind everyone to put their dirty towels in the bathroom basket, and tell them their own baskets need to be in the laundry room by a certain time. Ask younger children if they need help carrying their baskets. Let everyone know the consequence of not bringing their laundry for cleaning is they won’t have favorite jeans, Ts, gym uniforms, sports gear or enough socks and underwear to get them through the week. Collect baskets from the bathrooms yourself (for now).
Step 6 – Do Your Dirties
Wash, dry and fold only the baskets that are brought to you and the bathroom baskets. Bathroom baskets should contain only personalized towels. If other items are present, find out why correct the problem. This is a very important step! Remember that human beings learn from consequences. If a child doesn’t have gym clothes and can’t participate, they’ll remember to bring their basket next week. If a teen doesn’t have a favorite pair of jeans to wear out with friends, they might want them badly enough to ask for your help laundering them (in this event, drop everything and teach them how!).
Step 7 – It’s a Sort-It Affair
Sort laundry into three piles: 1 – bleach; 2 – reds / items that run; 3 – everything else. Try to avoid purchasing items that need dry cleaning hand-laundering, but if you have them, introduce a fourth pile. Line up the empty baskets so you can refill them with clean clothes.
Wash and dry each load normally. Reduce or eliminate wrinkles by folding each load immediately as it comes out of the drier. As you fold, place items directly into the owner’s basket. If items need to be hung, place them on hangers before putting them in the owner’s basket.
Step 8 – “That’ll Be Delivery, Please”
When all the laundry is clean, folded and in baskets, tell everyone their baskets are ready for pick-up. Each person is responsible to return their own basket to their own room and put their own clothes away. Assist younger children, but don’t completely do it for them. Before bed, check each bedroom to ensure clothes have been put away.
Step 9 – File Lost & Lonely Socks
Don’t waste time trying to find a sock’s mate if it doesn’t come out of the dryer at the same time. Keep a “lost and lonely socks” box. Simply toss the odd-socks-out into the box. One day when everyone’s watching a movie, bring out the box and have a contest for who can find the most matches.
Step 10 – Be Consistent!
Follow the routine every week until it becomes second-nature to everyone. As children grow older and more independent, gradually introduce more responsibility. For instance, have a child help you fold a load now and then, or ask them to switch a load from the washer to the dryer, or have them sort their own basket into the three piles. Teach each child different steps as they’re ready to learn. If you follow this routine, by the time a child is 11 or 12 you should be able to give them responsibility for seeing an entire load through the cycle.
Be sure to reward your family’s participation with praise and encouragement every step of the way.
You’ll not only save time on laundry. You’ll reduce your stress and get your children and teens on the road to doing their wash independently.