Monday, 18 May 2015

Where are my Undies? (Teaching my five Boys about Housework: Part two)

Reading Annabel Crabbe's recent article in WW reminded me of how I had promised to get back to you all about the great Laundry experiment.

That being the general disaster of Mt Washmore in my home. At. ALL. times.
It never ends.
Constant cries of "Where are my Undies?'

I mean it never ends in any house but can you imagine it here?
My washing pile is more like Mt Everest than Mt Washmore.  Except it is spread all over the house like a vast desert.....and me deliriously looking for that elusive Oasis.

The thing is there are a LOT of humans that live in this space.
And we wear clothes every single day. And then they need to be washed godddamn it.

And until last year it was me who did it all.
Until I cracked it.
Enough already.

Something had to give.
So, much like the way I gave up worrying about what my little kids ate for dinner (well more correctly it was giving up worrying about what they were NOT eating for dinner) I decided to give up doing their Laundry.

I came up with a plan.
I couldn't believe it had taken me SO long to work this out- but eventually I got there.

I gave the three eldest children (12, 14 & 16) their own designated Laundry basket in their bathroom.

The rules were read to them like this:
  • I no longer do any of your laundry. EVER.
  • If I find any of your clothes on the bathroom floor and NOT in the basket, you will find them IN THE BIN.
  • Don't ever tell me you can't find your clothes or ask me where anything is. From now on it is your responsibility.
  • If you are about not being smelly, then you can wash your clothes.
    If you want to find them, then fold them & put them in your wardrobe.
After the rules we had a lesson in how to turn on the machine, separating colours & whites etc etc.

Here we are 5 months after the beginning of the new Laundry system & I can tell you it is an UNBELIEVABLE success.
I can't believe I didn't do it before.
My boys know to NEVER complain to me about not being able to find socks or underwear because they know it is their responsibility & they wouldn't DARE ask me now "Where are my Undies?".
And more than anything they have worked out the hard way HOW big a job it is to fit just their own laundry into a day.
It is only through making them do it that they can see that it was just not viable for me to be doing EVERYONE's in between all the other things that have to be done.

And for me- well yes it is hard seeing the baskets full & wondering when they intend to do some washing. But ultimately I will do them no favours at all in life if I always do those things for them silently in the background.
Resolving their problems for them is not teaching them anything at all.
Guiding them in how they work out their problems independently is what I see as my job.

Just like seeing them lose a race or feel the sting of disappointment at a lower than expected mark for something they worked hard on- working out how to do the mundane jobs of normal every day life is a part of teaching them how to be a balanced & functioning member of society.
The good bits come with the mundane. 

I run a small business and I work very hard at that along with my primary job as a caregiver to many.
I do a lot of the jobs that a traditional stay at home mum does. But I think it is a big mistake to assume that along with that comes an assumption that I do everything for everyone.
I most certainly don't. And nor should I.
Mr Abbott did you neglect to notice that the clock has ticked over several times from 1953 and that we are now in 2015?
I would feel like a total failure if I raised children who thought that it was someone else's job to do their laundry (amongst many other chores).
More over it is the teaching of gratitude & an awareness of hard work in our every day life that I feel is important to impart.
And despite Mr Abbott's declarations that women all over Australia are at home washing and ironing happily- I in fact want my children to know that there are COUNTLESS things I would rather do with my time before I do their laundry.
And as for the Iron- well that is safe in my husbands hands. The Iron and I are not acquainted.

I call this project a success in every way.
It has taught my lads a fundamental lesson in awareness & gratitude and if that is what they take away from this,  then I am happy that the baskets are overflowing.


  1. Oh I love this so very much Ruth! My eldest boy is almost 5 and he has a list of his chores each week and with some gentle reminding he is quite good at doing them. I am with you all the way on teaching kids to be responsible and to contribute and to learn to do things for themselves. Plus I hate housework, so there is that too. haha.
    Happy Monday to you! x

  2. GOOD ON YOU. This is a gift to them as much as it is to yourself.

  3. yes there I TOTALLY hate housework too!

  4. ironchefshellie18 May 2015 at 13:08

    Amazing and inspiring. I loved reading this Ruth!

  5. Great post Ruth...and I love that song! What a great find x

  6. I couldn't agree more! Both my kids looked their own washing from about that age too, tho' they told me 'none of their friends have to do their own washing' at the beginning (it was about a decade ago), it quickly became the norm and accepted, even if it was only done only when all the undies and socks ran out! :-)

  7. This is GREAT, especially the separate laundry basket concept! I've actually pinned your photo to remind me to introduce the concept when my boys are a teeny bit older. One rule I do adhere by though is that I never answer questions beginning with 'where are my' or 'where is my'.

  8. Thank you Ruth...I have been feeling totally overwhelmed with this myself and becoming somebody screechy which doesn't sit well with me. It is TIME...


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