Like most households, we seem to have a lot of laundry to process every week. Thankfully the situation is a little better than it was a year ago, when I noticed that the kids always just assumed that their clothes and pajamas were dirty and tossed them into the laundry every day - whether they were actually dirty or not. I was doing so much laundry. So in January, I began, quite simply, to teach them that when their PJs go on at the end of the day, they look at their clothes to see if they're dirty: If so, the clothes obviously go into the laundry basket; if not, they get hung on hooks for the next day (or on the back of the chair, in Lizzie's case).
Teaching that simple habit has helped a surprising amount...and it also resulted in clothes being dealt with appropriately every day instead of accumulating on the bedroom or bathroom floors.
But still, they're very active kids and there's still a lot of laundry.
I'm decent enough at getting the laundry into the washing machine and dryer on a consistent schedule. The trouble lies in the baskets of clean, unfolded laundry that seem to accumulate at an astonishing rate. I hate folding laundry and putting it away. Sometimes Geoff takes over some of the folding, but the final problem remains the same: putting it away so that we don't have to live out of laundry baskets.
Very recently I began something new with the boys. They've been helping out more around the house in the past number of months, and I thought they might now be capable of another task: dealing with their clean laundry. I added a laundry basket to their bedroom so that they now each have their own laundry basket, rather than sharing one. When their basket is full enough for a load, they bring it downstairs and I run it through the washer and dryer. Then, on the same day, it gets folded and put away...not by me but by them. I sat with them for almost an hour the first time as they went through their baskets of clean clothes and I taught them how to fold each piece so that it fits their shelves. They now know the 'proper' (read: my) way of folding every type of their laundry and they do it beautifully.
After folding their laundry that first time, I had them carry their baskets upstairs and into their room and I taught them the method to my madness in putting away their clothes: Short sleeve shirts in one pile; long sleeve shirts in another; PJs; pants; sweats; and underwear and socks into baskets; etc etc. They learned to put the clothing into place folded side out so that it's easier to grab the desired item when the time comes. And I showed them how to take items out of the piles so that the ones surrounding it don't fall over and make a big mess. Every step I took in teaching them these skills felt like a little load off my shoulders.
They were actually rather proud of their accomplishment that first time and they should be - they did a great job. Matthew (who had more laundry to fold than Seth) commented that he was surprised by how much laundry he had produced and said that maybe he should be checking a little more carefully at the end of the day to see whether his clothes might be worn again. Hmm...
Today will be the third time that we will do their laundry and I will coach them through the whole process again. Maybe next time, too. But I can see the day coming soon when they'll be on their own once the clothes come out of the dryer...and eventually, when they're a bit taller, they'll manage the washing machine and dryer, too. Lizzie is not ready for this quite process yet, but that's ok - I can see that day coming, too, maybe a year from now.
I am determined that my kids will someday be adults for whom household tasks such as cooking and cleaning and tidying and laundry and money management won't be an overwhelming or new idea because they'll have been doing it for years. I think this is a big part of my job as a parent, to equip them for managing the day-to-day aspects of their lives as adults.
I figure that by coaching them through laundry folding for a few weeks, I'm teaching them to fish, rather than catching all of the fish for them.
And it lightens my load (no pun intended) just enough to bring a small sigh of relief!