Less Laundry Please?

When my oldest child was in kindergarten, she desperately wanted to learn to do her own laundry.  I was resistant to the idea for a long time because I figured it would be more trouble than it was worth to teach her.  But as is often the case with my oldest child, her persistence finally wore me down, and I obliged her request.  (I have no idea where she gets that.)

The following Saturday morning, we got her clothes out of the hamper.  To teach her to sort them, I held up each article of clothing and asked her to guess whether it was light, dark, or white.  When she got it right, we jumped to our feet and did the “happy dance.”  We continued this game until the clothes were sorted.

Then I taught her how to load the washing machine with detergent, how to set the temperature control, and how to start the cycle.  Once the wash was going, we set the timer on our oven to help us remember to rotate the laundry from the washing machine to the dryer.  

This is how she managed to get the clothes out of the bottom of the washing machine and into the dryer!

Sorry for the blurry shot! This was taken long before every photo I snapped was done so with an eye towards sharing it on a blog!


Then we put the clothes away together.

For several months, our daughter enjoyed helping with the laundry.  And before I knew it, she was practically doing her own laundry by herself.  But then the luster wore off as is always the case with children and manual labor.

Unfortunately for her, though, I rather enjoyed the help, so Kory and I decided to implement the laundry as one of her required jobs around the house.  For the most part, she’s been doing her laundry by herself every Friday after school since then.  We don’t pay her to do her own laundry.  But if she wants to make some extra money, we will pay her to do laundry for other members of the family.  And I LOVE it when she is in the market for cash!

It’s really nice to have passed the baton to her where laundry is concerned.  In fact, it’s so nice, that her brother who is in kindergarten this year, is now attending laundry boot camp.  He’s in training now and still needs supervision, but our goal is to have him doing his laundry independently (including folding and hanging) by the beginning of next school year.

There are several benefits to requiring our kids to do their own laundry, the first and most obvious being that I no longer have to do it for them.  (Because, after all, it’s all about  me, right?)  But in addition to that, doing the laundry, or any other chore around the house for that matter, teaches our kids some valuable lessons.  Team work.  Responsibility.  And gratitude.  Just to name a few.  And we saw that first-hand last night.

After her shower, our daughter came downstairs wearing the same pajamas she’s been wearing since Friday night.  I really like this particular pair of pajamas because they are my favorite color.  Kelly green.  And they really compliment her beautiful green eyes.  So I told our daughter how much I liked her pajamas and how pretty I thought she looked in them.  And this is what she said:

“Yeah.  I like them too.  But the reason I’m wearing them every night this week is because I’ve decided to limit myself to only one pair of pajamas per week.  That way, I won’t have so much laundry to do!”

And I said:

“You should do the same thing with your towels!”

Rest assured.  If I were still doing my daughter’s laundry, by the end of the week, there would be seven pairs of pajamas and seven towels for me to wash.  (Along with at least one set of dirty clothing per day and, most likely, some clean items that had been thrown into the laundry basket because that was easier than hanging them up!  Yes, I know these shenanigans.  Much to the surprise of my children, I was a kid once too!)

But because my daughter is doing her laundry for herself, she now understands the amount of labor represented by each additional article of clothing she places into the hamper.  And wouldn’t you know it?  She’s conserving resources!  

That makes me smile.


14 thoughts on “Less Laundry Please?

  1. LOVE this story. It’s the reason I enjoy that book about the things every child should know along the way. I think it’s a GFI book I got during a parenting class I took with you and Kory. Anyhow, kids are SO much more capable than we give them credit, and teaching them to do things, while a lot of work for us, is so much more important than just equipping them with the skills to tackle the task at hand.

  2. Okay–we’re doing this. I do make my kids help fold the laundry. And with 5 kids that share a couple of rooms, they all don’t have their own hamper. So that might be a problem. I’ll think of something.

  3. I remember when she began doing the laundry and was quite impressed. The lessons she learned are even better than the fact she independently does this chore. I too wish there was less laundry…

  4. Thanks for sharing Jennifer. Reminds me once of a talk my Mom gave. Laundry is a life skill more than we realize. Had my Mom talk to our Scout troop for the Family Life MB once. She’s now retired, but been in Family and Consumer Sciences at the unversity level for many years (formerly Home Ec). She explained to the kids sorting, folding, organizing and ironing isn’t just part of sharing the family responsibilities, but a great way to learn for future, more complex challenges.

    • I agree with your mom! Chores are the backdrop for many great life lessons and we give gifts to our kids when we require them! Just this morning, my oldest was explaining to my firstborn son why he has so much more laundry to do than she does this weekend! I love it when my kids talk for me!

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