Doing laundry today is easy with washing machines and dryers doing most of the work, that was once done manually. Today's challenges are no longer about where the laundry room is, but rather who has responsibility for doing the laundry.
- Who collects dirty laundry and takes it to the laundry room on laundry day?
- Who loads the laundry into the washing machine, and then the dryer?
- Who folds the laundry and puts the clean clothes away?
The amount of laundry grows with larger families. So do many other demands on a mother's time, as let's face it … it's almost always the mother that does the family laundry.
The question then is when can (should) other family members take responsibility for their own laundry. And the reason for this article is a discussion we had last night at a Styled Home Design event, held at Ethan Allen in North Andover, MA. While one mother started the discussion sharing that the thing she likes least at home is folding laundry, we quickly had five women in a heated discussion about ways to get other family members taking over some of the tasks associated with doing laundry.
Bringing Dirty Laundry To The Laundry Room
Doing laundry starts with collecting the dirty laundry, and most often that's found in the bedrooms and/or bathrooms. It's a pretty easy job, one that young children will enjoy doing when you can make it into a game, like this superhero and his mother.
You'll have to teach kids what's dirty and needs to get washed, from clothes that are still clean but lying on the floor. You can give them a small basket (with larger baskets, put a rope or some type of handle on it so they can pull it around) and make a game of filling up the basket with dirty laundry and bringing it to the laundry room.
Other ways to collect dirty laundry include:
- Giving each family member a laundry basket in their closet.
- Keeping laundry baskets in each bathroom, although it's easier for each child to have their own basket which you can do by buying different colors.
- Or if space is limited, store laundry baskets stacked on the dryer and pass them them out the night before laundry day. Make a rule that only laundry that's left in the laundry room before leaving for school/work the next morning, will get washed.
Meanwhile parents (Dad's can do laundry too) can strip the sheets off beds, collect towels and get the laundry process underway. In fact kids once the start middle school, are perfectly capable of taking on this responsibility for their own beds. You don't have to wait for your kids to go off to camp or college, to learn how to do this.
These chores are a great way to teach children responsibility for themselves, the things they own and about contributing to household chores. And the reality is, the sooner you start giving children responsibility, the easier it is to make them contributing members of the family.
Who Folds the Laundry & Who Puts it Away
Once the laundry is clean, you've got to put away and that usually includes folding things. But let's explore how much really needs to be folded? Underwear sits in a drawer and noone sees it, so do you really need to fold it? There's more reason to match socks although it's become fashionable to wear socks that don't match, maybe because kids are handling their own laundry … and if the kids don't care, should you?
There's an important message here. Just because you think it's important to fold everything neatly so it looks good when you wear it, that's your personal standard. It's no different than choosing to iron clothes or not. For me, folding things neatly takes a lot less time than ironing, which I only do when quilting. When I buy something that needs to be ironed, it goes in the pile of clothes to give away because there's no time in my life for ironing. Children in elementary school aren't old enough to make this decision. Once your children reach middle school, they should be able to decide if their clothes need folding … just like they influence which clothes you buy for them, and which ones they put on each day.
So here are ideas for sharing responsibility for folding clothes and putting them away. And you'll feel better with a routine for moving laundry in and out of the laundry room quickly, with time for things you'd rather do.
- Sort clean clothes into laundry baskets for each family member and …
- Return laundry baskets to bedrooms, leaving them on beds as a reminder that clothes need to be put away before bedtime.
- Bring all the laundry baskets to the family room and have a family party, folding clothes together while sharing the days activities.
- After dinner, have everyone put away their clean clothes and the first one done gets to pick a family activity afterwards.
And because you might not find colorful laundry baskets at your local Walmart or Lowe's, what I found worked best was to Google “colorful laundry baskets”. So I'm adding some of my favorite laundry baskets, and laundry room ideas to my Pinterest board … and you can add your favorites below (leave a link & I'll add to my laundry room board).
Want ideas to make your laundry room more efficient?
You can smile or laugh at my focus on this topic …
- Laundry Rooms & Organizing to Save Time
- Laundry Room Storage: Shelves, Cabinets or Drawers?
- 4 Laundry Room Ideas You Won't Want to Hide
- 10 Tips for Organizing Your Laundry Room
Wonderful article (thanks for sharing at http://fruitfulhearts.com/)! I love how you encourage mamas to get their children involved in helping with the laundry – little ones can do a lot more than we ask of them and you can easily make sorting laundry into a game. Great ideas!
Kathryn, Thanks for your feedback & loved your ideas about getting the adults in the family to all do their fair share of chores.
Great article Tina! I fear this when I have kids one day but I’m so happy my mom taught us when we were young. My parents were super busy with their business so it was our responsibility when we were in middle school and older to do our laundry. Each kid did their own and when my cousins from England lived with us for a while, they learned the same.
Susan, Your parents did a great job teaching you to take on age appropriate chores like your own laundry. Curious if you also got to turn the washing machine on?