Laundry is one of the most hated chores in my house. Not washing or drying it (because that part is easy), but the meticulous folding, separating and then the dreadful act of having to actually sort through the clothes and put them away. I would literally have three or four loads of laundry piled into baskets in our room before I would finally hunker down on my bed, surrounded by a mountain of clothes, to fold them. Then one day I sat in bed, staring at a basket of folded clothes and thought, “Why aren’t my kids putting away their own clothes?”
For awhile I always thought they were too young, but in reality Big Monster (my seven year old son) is old enough to start doing some simple chores by himself and his four year old sister, Little Monster, will do anything constructive if she has her brother to help her. Then, because I’m a huge control freak and obsessive about my how things are done, there was my fear that they wouldn’t do it “right” or they would make a bigger mess. I quickly realized though I would have to get over that in order to teach my children the importance of contributing to our family.
For our first attempt we just dived in. It went spectacularly well, better than any Mommy could ever have dreamt! They actually put their laundry away faster than if I had done it myself and I was so proud of my Monsters! However, our second attempt wasn’t quite as successful and I quickly learned that if my Monsters were going to tackle their first real chore together then they would need some real assistance. Here is what I’ve learned since then:
- Unfold: The first time I was set in my old ways and had already folded their laundry, but I found that it was an unnecessary step since they unfold them while digging around in the basket only to hang them up anyways.
- Hangers: Before going through the clothes each Monster first gathers some hangers, which we store in a special box so they don’t take up unnecessary space in our family closet.
- Putting Together Outfits: To put away their clothes they usually assemble outfits. They take one clean shirt and one clean pair of pants (or shorts or skirt) and hang them on the same hanger. This way when they do their morning routine charts and have to get dressed they aren’t spending unnecessary time putting together the perfect outfit. This also helps them be aware of what clothes they have available to wear. Big Monster used to constantly come running to me in the morning complaining that he didn’t have any long pants, making me stop what I was doing and dig out a pair of pants that were definitely hanging in the closet, but that his seven year old eyes couldn’t see. Now he knows he has pants because he hung them up.
- All the Clothes: The second attempt at laundry we did have a little meltdown because my daughter didn’t have a pair of bottoms to go with a shirt, so we had to explain it was ok as long as all the clothes were on hangers. So for Little Monster we are currently focusing on just making sure all the clothes get on hangers and into the closet. Since she doesn’t go to school we have extra time in the morning to focus on her outfits and she usually ends up changing into a princess dress at some point during the day anyway.
- Separate: During the day Big Monster is in school, so we let Little Monster do her laundry and then when Big Monster is done with his homework he puts away his. At the same time Little Monster is putting away her clothes she is basically sorting all their clothes for me! (The picture above was taken over winter break and that day I quickly learned that laundry shouldn’t be a joint chore!)
- Wait, These Aren’t Mine!: While they are putting away their laundry I have them set aside any clothes that aren’t theirs into a separate basket so I can fold them and put them away when they are done. A half full basket is much less daunting then a full one.
- Leftovers: They also fold and set aside their pajamas, socks and underwear so they can go into their proper drawers.
- Double Check & Finale: When all the clothes are finally on hangers I double check to make sure they didn’t forget any clothes in the basket. Then they take turns hanging up their outfits and putting away the rest of the clothes.
- The Dirt: Dirty clothes go into two hampers in our closet. One for colors and one for whites. Simple as that!
It seems like a lot of work when it’s written down, but because of this set up I can usually get some other housework or even breastfeed Mini Monster (our two month old) while they are doing their laundry. It gives me a few extra minutes that day (and what mom couldn’t use that?!).