Simplify Your System and Teach Kids to Help With Laundry

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1. CHANGE INTO PLAY CLOTHES AFTER SCHOOL

This not a novel idea. Most people probably do this but I rebelled for a long time, believing two outfits a day would only create more work. Not so. I’ve found that I spend almost zero time fighting stains because she rarely gets a stain AT school and I’m not as concerned about treating stains on clothes that are purposed entirely for messy play. We don’t have a ton of play clothes but enough to get by. They are almost always second-hand (consignment) and/or really worn or a little small from last year’s school clothes. If the grape jelly from lunch doesn’t come out, I don’t sweat it.

2. FIND A LAUNDRY STORAGE SYSTEM THAT WORKS FOR EVERYONE

We use these over-the-door mesh hampers and these baskets.  We tried more aesthetically pleasing hampers with lids but it was too easy to treat the lid like a shelf.  We also color-coded the baskets by room by attaching ribbon.  Kids can easily return the baskets to the appropriate room and if a basket happens to stray to a strange location, we know where it belongs.

3. KEEP SORTING TO A MINIMUM

When I learned that adding vinegar to each wash cycle will prevent colors from bleeding, I mostly stopped sorting our loads by color (with much fear and trepidation, I might add) and started sorting by person. I realize only time will tell, but for now it’s working for us. Each person’s laundry is washed and dried separately, with the exception of jeans (all done in one load since they are a rougher texture), newer bright reds (all done in one load because I’m not that brave), white socks and undergarments (all done in one load). At our house, each person has a laundry basket for dirty clothes and a lingerie bag (the kind with a zipper).  We keep a separate basket in each bathroom for towels that need washing and another in the laundry room to toss kitchen towels and cleaning rags. We also keep separate baskets for white socks and undergarments. This almost completely eliminates the need for sorting, before AND after washing and drying. When it’s time to do a load, I can just grab the baskets and go.

4. CORRAL THE SOCKS

Each person uses a lingerie bag to hold soiled white socks. I can’t tell you how much time this saves every week. We wash and dry the socks in the bags, open the bags one at time, match and fold the contents, and then return the folded pairs to the zipped bag until they are safely deposited in the correct person’s drawer / basket.  This makes folding and matching much less overwhelming for small children. You just have to remember to return the empty bags to each person after putting the socks away.

Free Printable Chore and Laundry Chart 890

5. DELEGATE AGE-APPROPRIATE TASKS

Each load of laundry is broken down by task from start to finish and age-appropriate steps are delegated. You can DOWNLOAD our laundry worksheets here to figure out what makes sense for your family. Most loads I still complete from start to finish but each week there are a few loads I delegate partially or almost entirely. As it turns out, our kindergartener is quite capable! (See the last section for more on that.)

6. SIMPLIFY THE POST-DRYING ROUTINE

We hung an aluminum shower curtain rod within arm’s reach of the dryer. Restocking the rod with empty hangers from everyone’s closets is part of my weekly routine. Clothes are hung as soon as they come out of the dryer. We also have a small, portable aluminum towel rack that my six-year-old uses when she does her laundry. (Yes, she’s doing her own laundry, and thinks it’s actually kind of fun. Keep reading…)

The rest of the clothes are folded and placed in our ONE clean laundry basket.  Yes, you read that right. We just downsized to ONE basket available for transporting clean, dry laundry (and no, it is not the size of Iowa). This forces us to put away each load in a timely fashion and ensures that the basket is merely a means of transportation and not an extended stay motel.

7. MAKE A LAUNDRY SCHEDULE

At our house, each load is assigned to a day of the week. Occasionally circumstances dictate that we deviate from this, and there are always extra loads of things like beach towels, rugs, throws, duvets, etc., but this is how we schedule the essentials.

M: (1) bed linens (2) towels
T: white socks /undergarments
W: (1) daughter’s clothes (2) son’s clothes
TH: (1) jeans (2) khaki’s
F: my clothes
S: husband’s clothes

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8. COLOR-CODE THE WASHER AND DRYER FOR KIDS

Now before you grab a novel and cup of tea and curl up on the couch, let me be clear.  I still supervise!!! However, she’s learning to take responsibility for her clothes, learning how to operate the washer and dryer, and I’m learning how to let go a little.

The secret?

Stickers…and I don’t mean as a reward.

Since we wash each load once a week, I know with a fair amount of certainty the size of each load so I’ve color-coded the correct settings (load size, temperature, cycle, etc.) on our washer and dryer for three separate loads. So far, she’s only responsible for two (her clothes and bed linens).

PINK: her clothing
GREEN: bed linens
YELLOW: towels

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We’ve talked about the WHY behind each setting, but with this system, it’s SO easy for her to work independently.  When Wednesday rolls around, she drags her laundry basket to the laundry room, pulls her step stool up to the washer, turns all the dials to PINK, and pushes the start button. I still measure the detergent but she pours it in. Together, we check for stains and she treats each one with my supervision. Then she loads the washer, we set the kitchen timer, and she goes off to play. When the timer beeps, we check to make sure clothes are stain-free and she tosses them into the dryer, moves the step stool over, and turns all the dryer settings to PINK. When the timer buzzes again, she hangs or folds each item and puts it away. That first load took a bit of time to fold and put away but she gets more efficient with every load.  Having a specific place for each type of clothing is key. We keep socks/underwear in baskets on closet shelves, pajamas and play clothes folded in drawers, tights etc., in another drawer and school / church clothes on hangers.

So how about you? How do you simplify the laundry routine in your home? Any tips or tricks to share?

Linking To: A Bowl Full of Lemons and I Heart Organizing

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7 thoughts on “Simplify Your System and Teach Kids to Help With Laundry

  1. I love the color coding idea. I know this sounds funny, but I think I’ll do this for my spouse! He likes to help out, but tends to forget detailed instructions.
    Color coding would really help both of us. 🙂

  2. I have 4 children, ages 7 months (obviously not going to so her own laundry) to 7 years old!!! I’m constantly try ingot o think if things they can be doing for themselves! This helps tremendously!! Unfortunately, my husband and I have gotten used to doing EVERYTHING for them. Lately, I’ve realized that’s not helping them at all!! Thank you so much for this post, this is the first step for myself and children to be more responsible for their laundry!!!

  3. Wow! That is amazing! I would have never thought to teach my 11 year old son to do the laundry. But thanks to you he will have a new chore!!!!

  4. What a great post! — I found you through Bowl Full of Lemons.
    My kids are grown and in college. I taught them to do their own laundry when they were 6 and 9. I found you only have a short window of opportunity to teach your children these tasks when they still think it’s a “fun-grown-up” thing to do instead of a miserable chore!! -ha! NOTE: having done their own laundry for years, allowed their transition to college to be far smoother than their peers. College students are so overwhelmed by both academia and all if a sudden having to learn to do “life’s daily chores”.

    Each child had a “laundry station” in their closet. It included a small pail to unload anything that happened to be in their pockets and a mesh laundry bag with a drawstring closure that hung on a PVC pipe frame. I took a permanent marker and clearly marked each mesh bag at the “halfway mark”. They would put ALL dirty clothing in the mesh hamper (no sorting). When there was enough dirty clothes to reach the halfway mark, they would take the mesh bag off of the PVC pipe frame, pull the drawstring closure and put a new mesh bag on the frame (they rarely filled up more than one bag per week). Towels and washcloths were captured in a separate hamper in the bathroom. I only purchased white towels and I wash them myself with bleach.
    On washday, my kids would empty the entire contents of the mesh bag into the washer. I too, had stickers on the proper washer settings— everything was washed on cold settings. I had a premeasured cup for laundry detergent and a premeasured cup for distilled vinegar. I never worried about stains because EVERY wash routine included a soaking period. It was rare that the vinegar couldn’t handle every stain. Nor did I worry about colors bleeding; the vinegar took care of that as well.
    Drying was simplified too. ALL clothes were dried on cool settings. We hung EVERYTHING on hangers except for socks and underwear—no folding.
    As they grew older, their laundry needs changed. For example, my daughter would put her undergarments in separate mesh bags. My son would need to wash his football uniform separately, etc.
    Again, the biggest payoff was their transition to living on their own— it was seamless. And, they were thankful and proud of themselves.
    P.S. My son, who presently lives in a dorm, has told me he now uses an even larger mesh bag. When the bag is filled halfway, he puts the entire bag into the washer–WITHOUT emptying the bag. There’s plenty of room within the large mesh bag for the clothes to move around and get cleaned—same for the dryer — there is plenty of room in the mesh bag for the clothes to bounce around to get dry. It saves him time in the dorm’s laundry room; and no lost socks! WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT?!

  5. I LOVE the idea of hanging a shower curtain rod by the dryer! I’ve always thought it was such a waste of time to fold clothes that eventually get hung in the closet, but I didn’t know what else to do about them. Thank you SO much. I just added a shower curtain rod to my shopping list and I’m going to implement this wonderful idea ASAP!

  6. Thank you so much for posting this!! Just when I feel like giving up the laundry routine battle, I see this! Thanks again!

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