laundry room

About four years ago I made a brilliant decision.


Amazingly, wonderfully, incredibly brilliant.

One of those decisions where you’re not really sure how or why you made it or even what inspired you, but you pat yourself on the back every day that you did.

A decision that literally changed the course of my life and added hours to my day and made me want to write a book to tell others about it and put it on a billboard surrounded by twinkling lights and take out an ad on page two of the New York Times.

The decision?

Teaching my children to do their own laundry.

laundry room barn door

The whole laundry thing started kind of slowly.

First we did colors and discussed temperature and why we should watch out for the reds and pay special attention to new clothes where the color might not have set yet.

And then we introduced whites.

And then went all laundry PhD with towels and bedding.

laundry soap towels

Truthfully?  We had a few missteps along the way.

There were the socks that turned pink and the sweaters that shrunk and the lace on the bottom of the vest that wound itself around the entire inside of the washing machine.

And I still find piles of not-folded clean laundry that people treat like a dresser.  You know.  The one where you pick out what you’re wearing for the next day and it’s super wrinkled because it kind of froze in place after you piled it in your room and then you stealthily come downstairs holding your book bag carefully in front of the wrinkles hoping your mother is writing a blog post and doesn’t notice.

But slowly everyone started taking ownership of their laundry.

Leaving me extra time to read romance novels and eat bon bons with all my free time.

shelving in laundry room

Sometimes there are still occasions when they need laundry help, though.

Like last week when my son came to me with a laundry dilemma.

His baseball uniform.

His away uniform is red and gray and hides dirt amazingly well.

But his home uniform?  It’s white.  And covered with dirt from sliding and leaping and catching and running and diving and standing at the plate kicking at home base waiting for the walk-up song.


laundry room barn door

We attacked that dirt with a vengeance like it was public enemy number one.

I read about how to treat stains on Pinterest and asked my mother and talked to the other baseball moms and made homemade concoctions and let the uniform soak overnight.

And when all else failed, I tried to bleach it.

All to no avail.

The dirt had taken up permanent residence and wasn’t reading any of the eviction notices.

I sighed and hung my head and declared myself a laundry novice and told him to smile more and try to hit home runs to distract from his not-too-white uniform.

Zack at Bat

And then Monday….this walked up to plate.

A white uniform.

White and clean and telling the world that the dirt had left the building.

I almost fell out of my chair.

What happened to the ground-in dirt?  How did he do it?  How in the world did he get his uniform so white?

Patiently I waited until the last inning, until the game was over, until the last bat was put away and ball gloves stored and then (and I can’t believe I’m about to type this sentence)…..

…..I asked my sixteen-year-old son for his laundry tips.

Whitest Whites

He grinned from ear to ear.

“It’s easy Mom,” he said.  “Especially if you read the directions on the machine.”

“I just used extra stain remover directly on the dirt and then set the washing machine to whitest whites.”


Whitest whites?

I missed that setting in mom baseball class.

See what I mean?  Teaching your sons to do their own laundry.

Simply brilliant. 🙂

PS  This story was really for my future daughter-in-laws.  I’ll get the thank you cards ready. 🙂

PPS If one baseball story isn’t enough, here’s another.

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  1. Image for Rachel Rachel

    Love this story! As a former softball wife, I dreaded the white uniforms! I'm waiting for the day that my girls can do laundry on their own. We're working on folding, and setting the buttons on the washer, but since I have a top loader even my eldest can't get the stuff at the bottom without diving headfirst into the washer.

  2. Image for jennifer farnes jennifer farnes

    i have six children. when they turned 12, we took them on a special trip for a weekend all by themselves. wherever they wanted to go, within reason. when we returned...i taught them how to do their laundry. each had a day assigned to them. sunday was not an option. it was one of the best decisions i ever made as well. occasionally, when they were teenagers and their dirty clothes hampers (and floors and beds) were full of dirty laundry because of after-school practices, homework, jobs and the excuses that were a fact of life...i surprised them by doing all their laundry. i taught them all how to sew on buttons and iron their clothes. it made life so much simpler for me as well. and they are all married now and they do, in fact, still do the laundry at times. even iron their own shirts (i had 5 boys). and my daughters-in-law are all ecstatic. they know how to clean the bathrooms, too.

  3. Image for Beverly Beverly

    Kudos to you for teaching your children to do their own laundry. I taught my son, too, and he is a laundry whizdo. Now, he has taught his son.♥ I've even taught my husband how to do laundry since he retired. What can I say, we are both retired now. haha But, triple kudos to your son. He is the laundry king for reading the washer instructions. I just hate reading instructions, don't you?!

  4. Image for jae jae

    Isnt it amazing scary awesome when you realize how much your kids have grown up and how truly smart they are!? Congrats to your son! and mom and dad for raising him right!

  5. Image for paige paige

    Inspiring....maybe my boys could do their laundry too! Tip for baseball moms I've seen if you are desperate - take them to car wash (the kind where you pay with quarters) and hang them up like a floor mat and wash them. It is supposed to work well. I'm not a baseball mom but might be worth a try - never sure who ever decided white baseball pants are a good idea.

  6. Image for karen karen

    In our house (3 children) we had the 3rd grade rule. The kingdom of laundry was presented to each after passing 3rd grade.

  7. Image for Robin Stephens Robin Stephens

    Truly the best decision ever. Truly. You hit that one out of the park, Mom. Sounds like one cute twin may be ready for the super-advanced degree of "Here's how to put a wrinkled shirt in the dryer with a damp washcloth so you don't have to iron it" lesson. So much to learn, so little time..... ;-).

  8. Image for Nicole Nicole

    I have a couple of tips, some I gleaned prior to needing, but most I found out years after my boys were little. 1.Denatured alcohol takes out grass's truly amazing and fun to watch. You can find it in the paint section of any Big Box store. 2.Fels-Naptha Heavy Duty Laundry Bar Soap is awesome. It is a fantastic stain remover. Just dampen the soap and rub into stain, then scrub the area. 3.Pinterest has this recipe pinned over and over because it works. 2 Parts Hydrogen Peroxide, 1 Part Original Dawn Dish Soap. Combine ingredients in a spray bottle then spray on stains. I used this stuff on set-in Fruit Punch Kool-Aid (in my white carpet, nonetheless). Presto, out came the Kool-Aid.

  9. Image for Becky Becky

    All three of my children did their own laundry. I started it initially because I got tired of, "mom, do you know where ( insert article of clothing) ?" I started by teaching them to fold and put away the laundry so they could find their own things. That was followed by sorting, then as long as they sorted it they might as well put it in the machine, right? And it just kind of happened. By the way, our youngest is away at school and came home and told me that kids ask him, "how do you know how to do laundry? And he said he told them, "my mom taught me." I didn't know laundry could make you feel so proud.

  10. Image for Pinky Pinky

    I want to know what kind of machine has a "whitest whites" setting???? You are a fabulous Mom who has obviously raised BRILLIANT children!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Image for Anne-Marie Anne-Marie

    Well, my children left home some years ago and I'm still waiting for a brilliant idea to pop up .... in any domaine.... We don't have "whitest whites" on my side of the Atlantic ....

  12. Image for Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces

    It's so great to teach kids to do's a life skill that they need. I ran and checked my machine to see if I had that setting, but alas...not on mine. But I did see a soil level control that I never's always set on normal...I might need to switch it to high once in awhile!

  13. Image for Teresa Teresa

    Yep! As soon as my girls could reach, they were doing their own laundry. BEST decision ever :) I use the "whitest whites" setting all the time. Awesome for sheets and towels as well as hubby's undershirts and socks. Oh my, the socks (shakes head). As a side note, another thing I have seen done with white sports uniforms: pressure wash it before it goes in the wash. Mud, grass, blood, all of it comes out under warm, soapy pressure (that might be at home or in the car wash). Then launder as usual. I have done it with white ski pants, which is as close to a sport uniform as my girls have ever gotten! Black choir dresses? I am a pro at those!

  14. Image for Stephanie Stephanie

    Terrific!!! Another tip for white baseball pants I learned from my mother-in-law: wet the area and scrubwith a bar of Fels-Naptha. You should be able to find it a the grocery or big box store. It's over 100 years old made by Dial soap company--I've used the same bar years. It's great for other stubborn stains, too. GO TEAM!!

  15. Image for Kathy Witzel Kathy Witzel

    Karianne, I love your blog!! The stories you tell about your sweet family warm my heart! The talents you are blessed with inspire me! Thank you!

  16. Image for mary o mary o

    Ground in dirt and grass stains? No problem! Try soaking them in dish washer detergent (powdered type) before throwing them in the wash. My bro in law is equipment mgr for a major NFL team and that is what he does for the players uniforms. Works like a charm!

  17. Image for Linda Linda

    The good ole oldie Fels-Naptha bars. My mom used it all the time. I also use clear Dish soap like Dawn. I started that hwen we lived in China and laundry soap were often on the weak side and so were the extras even when I could find them. Time to get my girls on board. Do you still do the towels and sheets?

  18. Image for Sandy Sandy

    Where was the "whitest whites" dial on washers twenty-five years ago when my two sons began their many years of baseball? I will have to tell your story to my daughter and daughter-in-laws:)

  19. Image for Mary Crozier Mary Crozier

    Love your laundry story!!! Before I taught my 3 to do their laundry, I would find items in the wash that had been worn for only 5 minutes. Now that they are doing their own laundry, they wear something a few times before it gets tossed in the wash. When I was in school, we had Home Economics where you learned the basics of laundry, cooking, sewing, ironing, etc. Now so many people don't know how to do them. Teaching your children this skill makes them more independent...You are a great mom. I, too, have the whitest whites setting and it is fabulous. Smart young man you have!

  20. Image for Cindy Roth Cindy Roth

    Hi KariAnne, Your son's persistence is impressive! I have to ask you a question about the paint. I know it's Rice Grain. I've been thinking about painting my living room this color, because my husband doesn't like the greiges, and he didn't like the light blue almost white that I tested on the wall. The room is dark most of the day, unlike your laundry room. My question is... if you still have a paint chip... does Rice Grain seem darker on the paint chip than it does on the wall? It looks pretty light in your room, compared to my paint chip that is taped to the white mantel right now. I also stopped having each of my sons do their own laundry, due to the drought, but now I'm reconsidering after reading this. Have a great day! Cindy

  21. Image for kddomingue kddomingue

    Taught the boychild as well as the girlchild how to do laundry, basic cooking and baking and basic sewing skills. The boychild, who is the youngest, actually learned how to use a sewing machine before his sister did. If mom wasn't home and she split a seam, she'd holler for baby brudda to come and sew it up for her, lol! She got over her fear of machines when she wanted to make her best friend a wedding memory quilt.,...with photos printed on muslin no less! The boychild needed help to create a canvas shell for the coracle (small round boat, Scottish version of a canoe) that he wanted to build. At this stage of the game, I'm learning as much from them as they're learning from me!

  22. Image for Kris Kris

    Aww, what a good kid. I plan on teaching laundry skills to my kids this summer. Every summer I try to focus on teaching new "life skills" to my kids. When they grow up, I want to know that they can do basic cooking, cleaning, laundry, vehicle maintenance, yardwork, money management ... all the skills they will need to care for me in my senior years when I move in with them. ;)

  23. Image for Nancy @ slightly Coastal Nancy @ slightly Coastal

    That's brilliant! All of it. Teaching them laundry, your laundry room, the story, and your son's persistence in doing laundry. Aren't these fancy machines confusing? Mine plays me songs and has settings I've never even used. I'm going to go see what all those other things are right now. Maybe I'll need it someday. Happy day friend! Nancy

  24. Image for karen on Bainbridge Island karen on Bainbridge Island

    I've always said that teaching your children every life skill that is necessary....bed making, laundry, cleaning, cooking, home repair....will someday earn you a big fat thank you from their spouse. It's worth it.

  25. Image for Libby Libby

    This is great - I taught my kids laundry long ago and I remember what a huge difference it made in the demands on my time! I also did the same with my son and know how teenage boys are, they are always hungry, and they especially want to eat meat. So I would buy groceries and when he would come ask "what's for supper" I'd say "what would you like to cook?" He would cook the meat or main dish (with some supervision at first) and I'd take care of the sides. He is now a very adventurous cook and likes to try different types of foods! And it was fun to give him pots and pans and bakeware for Christmas after he left home! He's now a Marine with three roommates in a house, and I can guarantee they don't go hungry and they don't settle for cans of soup either! Next Christmas I'm getting him a crockpot!!

  26. Image for Patricia Patricia

    My mom made sure my sis and I learned how to run a washer and dryer. Certainly came in handy when we moved away to college. My husband does at least half the laundry at our house (thanks Maxine). And my four year old granddaughter loves helping me with the laundry. Since we have a top loader, I hang onto her ankles as she fishes the last items out of the washer.

  27. Image for Terri D Terri D

    okay... This kid has it ALLLL GOING ON!!!!!! Your future Daughter in Laws are going to love you!!!!!!!!!! :) ....... Have another Bon Bon!!!!! lolol

  28. Image for Chris Chris

    Which begs the question...why do they even make White Sports Uniforms?? I've never understood it. It's an oxymoron. I always hated ironing. I used to ask my mom over and over "could you show me how again?" And she would reply "this is where you ask me so you don't have to do it yourself?" I hated ironing so much I celebrated the day I bought a little steamer at the fair and never looked back. Haven't owned an iron in years. But mostly I buy low maintenance clothes (no linen fabric for me). If only they would make clothes that clean themselves completely. Next dream purchase - a steamer dryer.

  29. Image for Rebecca Turner Rebecca Turner

    My son-in-law does the laundry for his family, and he really stays on top of it! That's something I can appreciate because I like to do a load a day myself, in order to keep it from piling up and getting out of control. However, my son-in-law crams as much as he possibly can into the machine, which isn't good for it (a gift from us) and he washes EVERYTHING together. And I do mean everything. Red with white, delicates with towels and jeans, etc. He has ruined many things, in spite of being asked NOT to wash my daughter's clothes (by her, not me). She takes care of her own laundry. (Many of her things are dry cleaned.) She has tried to teach her children how to do laundry but they don't stick with it because they're so busy. And order is too important to their dad to allow them to learn the hard way, with piles of dirty clothes and nothing to wear. I wish you could take them in hand, KariAnne! Signed, Grammy (who helps out a lot) benched because she's struck out.

  30. Image for NormaJean NormaJean

    A male who reads instructions? Wow! No help for me though. My machine doesn't have a "whitest whites" button. I guess I will still have to search the internet when my clothes need whitening.

  31. Image for Pegg Pegg

    Laundry is a life skill that should be taught so they can be helpful around the house and take care of their own things. I have a friend who complimented me recently on how my kids had been doing laundry for such a long time. I was really happy to hear that compliment. It's nice to know you are doing something right as a parent. And laundry, that's an easy task to complete.

  32. Image for Brenda Nicholson Brenda Nicholson

    My son plays hockey and he had a laundry dilemma he couldn't solve: the white sleeve of his jersey was covered in blood. I mean, it had ALL turned red. I did a little googling and found out that peroxide takes blood out. I was so proud to present him with a perfectly white sleeved jersey! I felt like mom of the year!

  33. Image for janpartist janpartist

    My kids had few chores but they each did their own laundry at a fairly young age. And, since they weren't very good at catching it out of the dryer were frequently rumpled looking. But, I thought that teaching them the laundry lesson was more important than appearing to be a perfect mom with freshly pressed non-stained children. I also dropped them off at the grocery store with a list and several other types of life saving aids.

  34. Image for Sheila Irwin Sheila Irwin

    Oh my gosh, do I love this post:) I did teach my oldest son before he left for college, but only right before. And as on top of teaching independence as I may be, that is something that I should've taught earlier and WILL be teaching the other two soon! (your post has reminded me that it's time:)) And just as an aside, my son's both play baseball and for years I would bleach and bleach, and still the stains would kind of stay there. One day at a game another boy walked over in his brilliant white pants, and I asked his mom how she did it. Oxi-clean she said! Imagine that! And I have to say, it works WAY better than bleach. I combine a lot of Oxi-Clean with the whitest whites setting, and they come out pristine every time! Great post! And you have the CUTEST laundry room I've ever seen! So jealous as I do mine in the garage:(( Sheila

  35. Image for Leslie Watkins Leslie Watkins

    My compliments to you! Love when kids gain life skills that prepare them for the real world...and he won the first place trophy in laundry while on his way to the next baseball win! Applause!! Confetti!! Hurrahs!! I am still thanking my husband's family housekeeper for teaching him to iron!!

  36. Image for Jeanne @ I Dream of Jeanne Marie Jeanne @ I Dream of Jeanne Marie

    HI KariAnne, It's amazing how many comments you can get on the subject of "doing laundry!" :o) I'm one of the very blessed wives around, and I'm not sure if his momma taught him, but my hubby has been doing our laundry for 35 years! He gets up early and does a few loads before I even get up. My job is to put it away... I think I'll keep him... Yep, those kids these days can figure out everything from computer glitches to laundry! Gotta love 'em! Blessings, Jeanne

  37. Image for Mary Mary

    Zout is the all out best stain remover in my neck of the woods in case anyone wants my opinion. I learned it from my sister who is the mother of 3 boys and a girl :)

  38. Image for TwoPlusCute TwoPlusCute

    *Hugs her two year old* *Gives her the laundry manual* "Time to learn how to read little one." I am bummed over her, we don't have a "whitest whites" setting. For all I know we have a "grey all out " and a "keep all stains" settings... :/

  39. Image for Pamela Smith Pamela Smith

    When my oldest daughter was in third grade the kids had to invent something. Lauren wanted to make something to help get the laundry off the bottom of the washer, since she couldn't quite reach. We took 2 plastic kids shovels, screwed the handles together so she could grab the clothes with it. What did she call it? Lauren's panny plucker!!!

  40. Image for Mary Sherwood Mary Sherwood

    Taught both my boys to do laundry early on. Both of their wives are now thrilled they can share this responsibility with their husband. Its a long story about how we started the process. It was because the eldest was going to a month long summer camp and had to do his own laundry. Younger brother was jealous because he thought his big brother was getting to do something he wanted to do. The rest is history. These two young men are both happily married and share so much of the household duties with their wives. We raised them well! Kudos to your son!!! It's because he has such a good mom!

  41. Image for Susanne Susanne

    Love this1 I have four children, 1 girl & 3 boys, and will try to teach them as well, it would make my life so much easier :-) On another note, I absolutely LOVE the light and the knobs in the laundry room, can you tell me where you got them? Thanks

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