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The Laundry Hack That Changed My Life

Photograph by Twenty20

Laundry is a necessary evil in life. Seriously, the worst. I’m always shocked at how many thousands of loads my family of four requires washed a week—especially considering most of us seem to wear the same three things on repeat.

I have to admit, there's a bit of a euphoric feeling when I throw a huge load of clothes that used to be covering my kid’s bedroom floor into the wash. When the washer notifies me that it has completed the task, I'm happy to move those clean clothes over to the dryer, leaving an empty washer to then fill and repeat this process.

For a brief but amazing period of time, all is right and tidy with my world. The clothes are off the floor. They are getting clean and I am the super productive woman who facilitated this. Then the dreaded buzz of the dryer sounds and everything goes to hell.

That’s when the real work begins. The sorting. The folding. The putting away. It’s awful and definitely one of my top three most dreaded tasks.

I’ll be honest, half the time, I just leave the clothes where they are and work out of the dryer for as long as possible, effectively avoiding the task completely. But sometimes I’m stupid enough to start that second load in the washer which requires me to bite the bullet and finish the job.

I can’t explain exactly why this final stage of laundry is so damn exhausting to me. I think it has to do with all the bending over, the folding of teeny, tiny clothing that gets lost in the big grown-up clothing and the missing socks. For the love of all that is holy, if I had a shot of vodka for every unpaired sock I found in each load of laundry, I’d be wasted—or dead.

Then, something miraculous happened.

Shortly after my second baby was born, I got fed up with losing her little socks and onesies in the crazy mess of everyone else’s laundry and started washing her baby clothes in a load all of its own. I quickly found that this was the way to go. I literally dumped her hamper into my washer, took the load out of the dryer and transferred it to her changing table where I could easily sort and fold clothes that I knew belonged in that general vicinity. Genius!

I may just be an evil genius.

I decided to take it one step further with my 7-year-old’s dirty clothes. I challenged him to help take over his laundry and told him that most 7-year-olds are not responsible enough to handle this chore, but I knew he was mature enough to tackle it. My passive-aggressive trick worked and he bought in.

He currently throws his dirty clothes into the washer and tosses a detergent pack in before he starts the machine. I transfer the clothes to the dryer (he’s not quite tall enough for this task). Then when he hears the dryer buzz, he unloads the entire thing to his bed. Since we have his drawers organized by type of clothing, he even puts them away.

Yes, that's the sound of angels singing you just heard.

Doing separate loads for each member of my family was truly life-changing. It made for a much easier process, fewer lost or mixed-up clothes and enabled my children to be able to help with a routine job that I hate. I may just be an evil genius.

Now, let me just add to my lovely laundry hack by answering a few FAQs:

Q: How do you sort laundry by color and washing cycle preference?

A: I don’t. At least, not for my kids. Nearly everything they wear is completely machine washable and dryable. I generally pre-wash new clothes for my kids so there is less risk of getting a brand-new red sock mixed in with a load of whites. Also, my kids don’t really own many white clothes (for obvious reasons).

Q. How do you make sure your kids' clothes are put away nicely and don’t get wrinkled?

A: I don’t. He does his best with folding and sometimes it is a bit more like “stuffing” but his drawers don’t end up looking any worse than they do after he rummages through them looking for his favorite "Star Wars" T-shirt. Yes, his clothes are sometimes a bit wrinkled, but he’s a kid.

As evidenced by the above answers, I'm not a Type-A mom. I don’t mind if someone does a job differently, as long as it gets done moderately well. I, personally, find it much more important that my kids are learning an important skill. And, best of all, I don’t have to do it anymore.

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