Why are my kids' laundry habits so finicky?

Updated 4/10/2014 4:02 PM

My kids are so weird about their clothing.

We have three teenagers in the house; boy-girl twins who are seniors in high school, and a freshman son. Our oldest daughter is in college.


We have one clothes hamper for the kids, one for the adults. The adult clothes get washed about once a week, when the hamper demands it. The kids' clothes get washed once a day, when the hamper starts screaming from the weight.

That's one thing I don't understand. How can the kids fill up the hamper every day? It's one outfit for school, one outfit for bed, and the bed clothes can certainly be worn more than one day in a row, can't they?

The answer in our house is "No, they can't."

But that is an issue that is impossible to address. I don't think the kids are putting clean clothes in the hamper just to mess with me (although I would not put it past them), so I guess they are of the type that want their clothes washed after every wearing.

The boys do this with their sweatshirts, which I really don't understand. I could wear a sweatshirt for, oh, I don't know, ever without washing it unless I'm doing work outside or I spill salsa on it. It's not like my boys are Chilean coal miners; they aren't sweating through the hoodies. But every day I see sweatshirts from the boys being thrown in the wash, sometimes multiples.

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Why does this matter to me? Because I am the house's chief clothes washer. I am the one who gets the clothing from upstairs to laundry room, and I am the one who brings the clean clothes from laundry room to wherever, which is another part of the story.

You need to understand the process to understand how weird my kids are about their clothes.

Laundry is sorted for washing-- darks, whites and towels. When clothing is washed and dried, it is brought upstairs to a landing spot, which HAS to be the master bedroom. It can't be the boys' bedroom because my daughter does not want her clothing touching anything that touches the boys. It can't be her bedroom because we are not allowed in except under extreme circumstances.

Once the clothes are deposited on the master bedroom bed, my job is temporarily done, because I am not allowed to separate the clothes by child. Why not? Because I don't do the sorting correctly, that's why. Invariably, something that belongs to one child ends up in the stack of another child and for some reason this is a Big, Hairy Deal. Don't ask me why, because I do not know.

So each child enters the bedroom when alerted to the fact that they are ready for sorting, and each child picks out his or her clothing and takes them into their room to put away. Yet, somehow, there are always clothes left over. Socks, especially. They do not like to lay claim to socks.


What makes this all the more difficult is that our children hate when clothing needs to be sorted and put away. "Why do you have to do laundry now?" I am often asked. The answer, back when I would answer it, was always "When would you have me do it?" to which the reply was "I don't know but not now" to which I start gnawing on knuckles to make the frustration go away.

AND YET!, when a day goes by for some reason that clothing is not done, I hear about that, too. Because, even though our children have lots and lots of clothing, the one piece they desperately want at that moment is something they wore two days ago that has not been laundered in their desired time frame.

And so you ask (I hear you): Why don't you make them do their own laundry? To which I reply, we don't have three washing machines. There are only 24 hours in a day. When they go to school, and on those days when they sleep, there are only about six hours when they are home and able to fit laundry into their daily lives. The idea of them fighting for use of one washing machine makes me want to gnaw on my knuckles.

And I'm running out of knuckles.

• Kent McDill is a freelance writer. He and his wife, Janice, have four children, Haley, Dan, Lindsey and Kyle.