Hunny, you’re old enough now to do your own laundry

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There comes a time when pre-teens are old enough to do their own laundry.

For some reason, washing clothes had become an every-other-day task at our house. So early this year I started including the laundry in the boys’ regular chores. I figured if they are old enough to fold their clothes and place them in the drawers, they can certainly wash them too. After all, this is a life skill they will have to learn at some point.

I guess I was trying to prevent the ‘Fred situation’ in their college years.

“I wear ’em front. I wear ’em back. I go inside out. Then I go front and back.” –Fred (image from

My intention was to make laundry an easy and somewhat fun teachable moment.

Here’s the list of steps I used to guide them through the process:

10 simple steps for tweens to do laundry

1. Undo the babushkas!

Awkwardly, sometimes the clothing is removed all at ounce, forming what I call the ‘babushka effect’, aka Russian nesting dolls. The underwear is still inside the pants and the undershirt inside the T-shirt, intact, in the hamper. The combined layers will not wash properly. So the layers need to be separated.

2. Unroll socks

Balls of socks do not wash well, nor do they dry well. So it’s well worth it to unroll them before adding them to the washer.

3. Avoid overloading the washer

Yes, it’s easy to do only one load, but if the load is too big, the clothes will not wash properly and you’ll have to do it all over again. So in order to avoid cramming everything in one load, do two loads instead.

4. Add detergent

Although there’s nothing wrong with liquid or powder detergents and fabric softeners, I find that all-in-one pods are more practical, especially for beginners. However, when using liquid detergents, read and follow the instructions on the containers. Being able to follow directions is an essential life skill (e.g. following a recipe, assembling furniture, etc.).

5. Adjust the settings

Make sure the correct program is selected …a teachable moment for water usage. Smaller loads need less water obviously, so no need to select the ‘large load’ setting and risk wasting more water then is needed.

6. Press the ‘Start’ button

Very important!

7. Remember to dry the clothes

Once the cycle is done, place the clothes in the dryer.

8. Check the lint tray

Make sure the lint tray is empty. It’s there to trap the lint produced by the clothes as they dry. If the tray remains full, it forces the dryer to work harder and use more energy.
More energy = Longer drying time = More money spent = Bad for family budget!

9. Adjust the settings.

Make sure the correct program is selected for the amount of wet clothes to be dried.

10. Press ‘Start’.

If the weather is warmer, then save on energy by hanging clothes outside instead of using the dryer.

Laundry check-list

To further simplify things, I posted this checklist in the laundry room to help the boys remember the sequence of steps to follow:

The expectations

  • Does sorting matter? Nope. It’s not the end of the world if they don’t separate the whites from the colours.
  • What about the folding? Same idea here. Will the clothes be folded perfectly when placed in the drawers? Probably not. And that’s ok. They’re in the drawer, that’s all that matters. Task accomplished and confidence gained!
  • Keep it simple. The less they have to do to complete the task, the better. At this point the goal is to simply get the laundry done. After all, you want to make this a pleasant experience so that they want to do it on their own and be proud of themselves for doing it!
  • Remember “practice makes perfect”. They will improve their laundry technique as they get older.

Next week’s post?

“Hunny, you’re old enough now to clean the bathroom”

…for when this happens.


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