Kids. Laundry. Ten people. Tons of laundry.
And really, the oldest four were doing their own, but we were a disorganized, haphazard, catch-as-catch-can laundry crew.
I asked for advice on the Preschoolers and Peace Facebook page and immediately my dear, wise, seasoned mom-of-nine-friend Cathi responded, telling me that everyone but Mighty Joe (brain-injured five-year-old) could be doing their own laundry.
And then she sent me this email which I then sent to my kids:
By now, you've probably realized that you were born into a FOM (Family of Many). We've been doing this a few years now, and we've discovered some things that have kept us all as sane as a family of this many can be, and it's time to share one of the big ones with you: LAUNDRY.
It's one of the inescapable facts of life that we have to take care of the clothes we own, and it's another inescapable fact that I've been called on to initiate you into this lifelong project, so here goes!
You will have your own hamper from the moment you are born. You don't have to start doing your own laundry right away, but it won't be long. Until you are a little older, you'll be partnered with an older sister or brother who will be responsible for handling your laundry as well as her/his own, and as soon as you are able, probably around 3 or 4, you'll be helping. You can carry laundry, fold your shirts and pjs, and put them in your drawers.
When you turn 6, we'll celebrate with more than just a cake! This is the time you'll begin actually doing your own laundry. We have a step-stool in the laundry room so that you'll be able to load, add soap, and even start the washer for yourself. Then you'll learn to move things to the dryer and get it running. All these things will be done under the watchful eyes of your mentor and your mother and father, but you'll increasingly handle them for the next year or two. By the time you're 8 and a little taller, you will be ready to be responsible for your own. Enjoy, because within 2-3 years, YOU'LL be the mentor and you'll have a little one to teach!
Like I said, you'll have your own hamper. If you share a room, there will be more than one hamper in the room, but you're to use only yours (unless you and your roomie work out a system to have one for lights and one for darks. This works best if your roomie is also your mentor or mentee LOL). You'll be assigned a day for your laundry each week. If you don't have enough for a full load of lights and a full load of darks, and you aren't in any hurry for clean clothes, you don't HAVE to do laundry that day. But if you don't, or if you forget that it's your day and it doesn't get done, your options are limited. You can do your laundry on another day, but only after checking with the one(s) assigned to that day and working around THEIR plans. You will also need to check with me to make sure I'm not planning to use the day for towels, sheets, or other communal laundry.
When your laundry is dry, you are responsible for taking it out of the laundry room and getting it put away and getting the baskets returned. No living out of laundry baskets. If your clothes are left in the dryer or left in a basket in the laundry room, they will be removed and you might have to go on a scavenger hunt to find them and pay a ransom to the person who did your work for you!
If two of you are scheduled for the same laundry day each week, it's up to the two of you to work out a plan for getting it all done the same day. This doesn't have to be the same plan each week; just get together the night before and agree on the plan for the next day. Make sure all laundry is back in your room by bedtime so tomorrow's lucky person can start without dealing with yours first.
If you've chosen to negotiate with someone else in the family to do your laundry on their day and you leave your clothes in the washer, please be aware that no one else is responsible if your treasured wool sweater is put in a hot dryer. If there's something that must be saved from the dryer, that's on YOU.
Example: Your day is Tuesday. But you got busy on Tuesday and forgot to do your clothes. So Tuesday night, realizing your favorite jeans won't be ready for Thursday co-op, you ask big sis, whose day is Wednesday, if you can use the washer Wednesday morning. Sure, she says, I won't be doing mine until after lunch. So you get yours going at 10 on Wednesday morning. Sis goes in at 1, ready to start her clothes, but yours are still in the washer. She puts them in the dryer and starts hers. You come in at 2, looking for your clothes and find that your near-new cashmere sweater now fits baby sister. Ooops. Please do not blame your sister for this: she should not have to assess, item by item, what can go in the dryer if you've left your stuff in the washer on her day.
A couple of housekeeping notes: if you notice that we are running low on detergent, stain remover, fabric softener, bleach, etc., please take the initiative to note it on the bulletin board or send me a text. And please, empty the lint filter before each new dryer load. This just takes a few minutes and can save clothes, electric bills, and repair costs (and possibly a fire).
Finally ... living together in a large family, as you will find out, gives us lots of opportunities to give and receive grace. Yes, we are going to make mistakes with laundry--ourselves and others'--but the value of a piece of clothing relative to the value of showing forbearance and forgiveness is miniscule. Let's use these opportunities to show each other the grace we will need to show the world. Christlikeness begins in the laundry room ;-)