How to screw up the laundry at home

How to screw up the laundry at home, a comprehensive guide.

how to screw up laundryOK so maybe this isn’t an all-inclusive, super secret handbook on how to screw up the laundry system at your house, but it might be a good substitute until someone decides to write that book.  It won’t be me though, I’m the girl still working on last month’s laundry pile-up.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

So how does it go down in your house, the laundry?  Does one adult bear the whole burden of the household (and man, sometimes it feels like a burden), or is there a fair amount of shared responsibility?  I think laundry can be one of the stickier points in the early years of marriage, right along with who’s responsible for the dinner dishes (hint: not me).  I’m super curious how it all breaks down in your house.  If you’re in college, I’m a little jealous of your small laundry pile, but not even sort of envious of your quarter-hoarding-for-the-washing-machines-babysitting-laundry-for-6-hours-at-a-time-if-you-leave-the-laundry-room-someone-will-take-your-laundry-out-and-put-it-on-the-dirty-floor stage of laundry life.

That’s just messed up.

how to screw up the laundry

If you’re a parent, let’s have a moment of silence, shall we?  A quiet remembrance of our pre-baby laundry lives, the likes of which we may never see again.  Those were the glory days, the salad days (name that movie), the pre-diarrhea-up-the-back-of-the-onesie, barf down your shirt, new MAC lipstick artistically colored on your favorite white top days.  There’s no how-to guide handed out with the kid to tell you exactly what chemical warfare you need to wage on those white onesies to get the brown out.

Kid laundry is no joke, but I’ve always been lucky enough to have a washing machine in our home with small babies.  Those laundry years can be rough on a person’s psyche, and I genuinely don’t know how people do it without a machine in house.  If this is you, or has ever been you, I’m holding my hand over my heart in green diarrhea stained onesie solidarity.  I feel that pain.

screw up the laundry

In our house things have gone in starts and stops.  The stages of life change so fluidly it’s hard to know who’s a kid anymore and who’s a 13-year-old, emancipated from the likes of any parent future, past, or present.  NOT NAMING NAMES.

Here’s a basic breakdown of our cycle of laundry life, aka

How to screw up the laundry at home:

  • Newlywed phase: it’s so adorable we’re sharing laundry!
  • Not as newlywed: wash your own damned clothes.
  • Early parenting years: is there any clean laundry in the house?  none?  okay cool, no one will notice if I go to a lunch meeting in my old black business suit with breast-milk leaking down the front and a white spit up stain covering the whole of my right shoulder.  the baby somehow exploded some nuclear green poop on my white shirt?  the breast-milk stain will wash it out.  ish.
  • Elementary school parenting years: WHERE IS THE CLEAN SOCCER JERSEY?!  YOU’RE WEARING THE RED ONE TODAY, WHY IS IT STILL MUDDY?  WHAT DO YOU MEAN WE ONLY HAVE ONE GOOD PAIR OF SOCCER SOCKS?  Never mind, just roll around in the dirt the first few minutes of play; no one will ever know you weren’t clean to start with.
  • Late Elementary: It’s time to have the talk.  Your father and I have been meaning to share some really important life information with you.  It might feel scary at first, but we’re trying to protect you in the long run.  Know that we love you, and no question is a wrong one.  Now.  You MUST separate the whites from the darks.  No matter what.  You can always call, no matter what time of night, no questions asked, and we will help.  Do NOT wash your whites and darks in the same load. 
  • Junior High years: When was the last time you wore clean underwear?  Never mind, no, I don’t want to know.  How many days has it been since your last shower?  And you brushed your teeth, oh, sometime last week?  So the laundry situation, it’s, uh.  Are ANY of the clothes on your floor wearable?  DO YOUR LAUNDRY OR YOU’RE GROUNDED.

After that it’s into high school (please see above re: junior high) and then straight into the college years.  My personal evolution of laundry was pretty screwed up.  I never really learned how to do it, I just started washing my own stuff in 4th grade so I’d have something clean to wear.  I became less and less picky as the years waned on, and somehow in my mid-thirties I’m finally worried about separating colors and air drying my jeans.

Still, when my 8-year-old offered to do the laundry while I was packing for Europe, I totally took him up on it, and wore my blue-y, greige, used-to-be-nude-bra all over France.

p.s. bonus points if you get the Gleaming the Cube reference.

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Hello there! I'm Allison Czarnecki, founder + editor of Petit Elefant, a blog all about style on a budget for every part of your life: style / home / travel / family. I do a lot of how-to beauty + style tutorials, travel posts, easy recipes, home remodel projects, and cool DIY crafts you totally want to try. I'm super happily married (to a hot Polish immigrant) and am the mother of two kids, a daughter and son, all of whom are featured here on the regular. We live in the country but we're a little bit rock + roll. Welcome!


  1. Necole @seriouslysassymama :

    I wash all the clothes except for the Mr. He does his own laundry because there is just not enough time with three girls. I will do his laundry if I am feeling giving. All of my girls, even the 4 year old have to put their own clothes away. They even hang up their own stuff. It helps me out alot, and they make a few dollars a week in allowance.

  2. Jenny :

    Ha! You are funny! And it’s funny because it’s true! I used to hate front loader washers and I just bought a top loader and now I’m only halfway through my pregnancy and too fat to get the clothes out of the washer!!!!! So. Thank you for reminding me we need to address the laundry situation at my home ASAP.

  3. HollyAplus :

    I protect the laundry washing process with ferocity. I’m not sure why but I really love doing it. Maybe it’s choosing the laundry liquid and cycle. Maybe I’m a control freak?

    The kids (5,8,9) do their own folding and putting away.

  4. Tracy :

    I have learned MUCH about laundry from No longer do I face Mt. Washmore.

    Here’s my trick in a nutshell. I do 1 load of laundry a day. And sometimes, I actually have to go hunting for laundry (eee!!), which means that our sheets and bathmats actually get washed regularly. It’s truly miraculous. And, 1 load of laundry doesn’t seem so daunting to wash, transfer and put away, all in the same day. (sometimes I run the wash overnight and transfer to the dryer in the morning).

    I’ve learned that my DS, early elementary, can get all his clothes washed together once a week. This summer it’s Mondays because Tuesday is his “must wear camp t-shirt” day. Because almost all of his clothes are hand-me-downs or purchased resale, they’ve been washed before = no bleeding. And I run the first couple washes of truly new items with the grown-up separated loads.

    I do all the sorting, but anyone in the house can do the transferring/folding. We each put away our own laundry.

    It’s a pretty decent system. It’s been working for years now, so I’m not about to screw with it! Hope my experience helps someone out there – I know what a challenge laundry can be!!

  5. Donna :

    I used to enjoy the satisfaction of doing the laundry and seeing the beautiful piles of folded clothes. And then I started working outside the home. Now the kids do their laundry and it has been quite freeing!

  6. Patti :

    For most of my Married life and through the early child years I was a very luck lady as my husband did all the laundry & folding…. he even ironed his own shirts until he discovered the dry cleaner would do it for him lol…. now after 23 years, and a grown daughter, it is every man for himself…. we all do our own laundry, folding and put away, even our own towels… although my husband still is in charge of all those kitchen towels that get used…. I can usually do my laundry once a week… 2 loads only because I was all my jeans and towels together as they take longer to dry…. but it works for us… I do on occasion help my daughter get her laundry done…. my only complaint? why cant kids take things off without turning them inside out??? come to think about it I think my father asked me that same question when i was young!

    • Allison :

      Patti, it’s the inside out socks and jeans that get me! I spend half my life turning things right side in!

  7. 2wellsmade5 :

    WOW… First I read the blog and am in this same boat. Only I have 5 kids ranging in age 12,9,6,3 and my laundry is like death, a dark black gloomy knife in my side. So, my boat of laundry is like the Titanic! Then I started reading the comments and read the one about TheFlylady, I need to go to that site ASAP! My two older children separate and can wash however, if you want clothes washed for only one cycle, they aren’t the ones to trust. My husband seems to think there is this hot, scantily class fairy woman who washes, dries, folds and puts away his clothing. Of course after she collects them on the floor. Men! I recently broke my foot, my inlaws came by and took like 6 loads of laundry to the laundry mat. A nice as it seems, awwww…they came back to me in 6 baskets, all random. Towels, childrens clothes, dish rags, mens, womens and everything else all mixed up! Well, with 6 baskets, 7 people and beds….i basically had to refold all of it and locate whos was whoms and then deliver it, all while riding my knee scooter! Fun times! Oh, how I wish for laundry purposes, I was The Duggers. You know, 5 industrial sized washers and dryers and a live in mom to do it! On a side note, I love , love the blue and orange anchor shirt that is in your laundry pile. Do tell…where can I get a clean one of those. Good article and very very relatable!

    • Indigo Chase :

      I hate it when other people fold my laundry. I have The System. It allows you to jam as many clothes as is humanly possible into itty bitty spaces and have them still come out wearable. Other peoples’ folding is a distant second so I have to go re-fold their stuff if they ‘help’. And I’m not coughOCDcough. Which makes me THE folder of all clothing in this house. But, heck, I’d much rather fold clothes than wash dishes any day. Bring it on.

      • Allison :

        Me too! I hate dishes with a passion, but I love folding warm, clean laundry.

    • Allison :

      I’m one of 8 kids, and let me tell you, laundry was a never-ending huge ginormous pile we had to sort through to find anything. I don’t know how you do it with 5 kids!

  8. Laura :

    Allison, you are so funny! I only really learned how to do laundry before going to college. Growing up, there was always some laundry-related drama in my house. Now my dad does it, since he and my mom can’t agree on how to do it correctly. Unfortunately, everyone has to be a little careful with him because he tends to shrink clothes. Yikes!

  9. Indigo Chase :

    I wash all the dang laundry. I have six kids. Three of them are out and doing their own wash, luckily. Still, the ‘baby’ makes up for that by being EXTRA filthy. I needed a dump truck and a HAZMAT suit to shovel out his room recently. It’s already on the track toward being the city dump again. Really. There are vultures circling our house. Waiting.

  10. Heather Gaither :

    Laundry and I are mortal enemies. I try to ignore it, and it tries to devour me. I’ve only lost one kid to the Laundry Monster, I think it was near the orphaned sock pile. I’m beginning to think nudists have stumbled on to something…

  11. Amanda :

    Boy, can I relate! This was exactly what I needed to read today–something relatable, with a dash of humor, and plenty of Petit Elefant hilarity. :)

    DecorStyleFood on both Pinterest and Twitter

    • Allison :

      Thanks Amanda! ;)