How I Got My Kids to Pay Me to Do Their Laundry

I have made a sad progression. I went from being an employer of paid (and therefore professional) domestic help to hiring the new free (and slightly less professional as well as reluctant) domestic help. And now, the final stage:

I AM the domestic help.

Remember the Zits cartoons? I feel an affinity to Jeremy’s dad. He, too, is the domestic help.

But in my case it’s not really as sad as it sounds. Because, everyone, I’m now getting paid! I have a regular income doing my kids’ laundry! Together with my book sales that pays for about two Starbucks runs a week.

So how do you get your kids to pay you for doing their laundry? Here is what I did:

I announced I would no longer provide laundry services. Surprisingly, this elicited no tortured wails whatsoever, not even the slightest complaints. They were probably all thinking “I can’t believe she hasn’t caught onto that before now.” Here is the letter my four kids got delivered to their doorstep one morning:

Dear Children:

This serves to notify you that I will no longer wash and pre-fold your laundry. Pre-folding suggests a follow-up act of actual folding and putting away in your closet, which I can see you have decided to give up on altogether, all my nagging notwithstanding.

I have decided to give up on the washing (as well as the nagging).

As of now, should you wish for clean clothes, you need to wash and dry them yourselves. The hours for the washer and dryer will be 7 am to 9 pm.

Whether you team up for your laundry or each do it on your own is up to you. And whether you end up folding your clothes or just dumping them back into your bin and living out of that (as you have been already, except that they were nice and pre-folded) is also up to you.

I will be available to teach you how to use the equipment.

Your very loving and housework-tired Mom

I can’t tell you how wonderful it felt to see kids scurrying around the house with laundry bins the following week. I’d walk by the laundry room and hear the washer spinning, and say to myself, “how nice that there is work being done in this house, by other people than me, without me having to tell them.”

They figured out pretty quickly that if you don’t fold your sh*t as soon as it comes out the dryer, it gets more wrinkly than elephant skin. So they each developed a routine:

Zax (18) – had to be reprimanded a couple of times for midnight use of the washer but now washes his laundry during daylight hours as needed (and often) and uses his bin as his portable closet, because God forbid, putting away clothes on closet shelves is just SO YESTERDAY!

Living out of – admittedly orderly – bins

Impatience (14) – being the most compulsive planner among the kids, immediately designated Saturday morning as laundry day and efficiently dispenses of the task. Washing, drying, folding, putting away, boom!

Sunshine (12) – as picky with her clothes as she is with eating, only ever uses about 2 shorts and 3 t-shirts out of her limitless assortment; her laundry pile is so tiny that Impatience, being the nice sister she is, most often just washes it along with her stuff. But Sunshine is our best (if also slowest) laundry folder. In painstaking labor she folds everything down to razor-crisp edges, even – especially – the underwear.

Sunshine’s closet. I suppose it’s easy if you only ever wear 2 of those t-shirts.

Jabulani (16) – hates, just HATES folding laundry. Mail-ordered a contraption once that he thought might help with the folding but realized the folding still had to be done. Then noticed Sunshine’s folding acumen and decided to hire her as laundry folder for $6 a load.

As these things go, Sunshine got through folding half of her first load after she was hired, then got called for a sleepover at a friend’s house, leaving behind a dryer-full of Jabulani’s stuff. You have to understand, Jabulani’s laundry loads are huge. Leaning once more on the Zits cartoons (I couldn’t find the exact one I was looking for), Jabulani’s room looks exactly like Jeremy’s:

Don’t you love the pants still in the shape of exactly how they were dropped?

So I casually inquired as to who would be folding the rest of the laundry now that Sunshine had left the premises, and would the payment by chance be transferable to a subcontractor? Yes, was the answer, it was. And thus I earned my first $$ folding my son’s laundry.

Now we have a routine: He leaves his laundry bin in front of our bedroom when it has become absolutely impossible to squeeze even one more piece of clothing into it. Again I refer to Zits for an illustration:

I then take his bin and pry out solid blocks of the sweat-soaked-then-dried-into-cement-like-substance out of it – this is by far the most labor-intensive part of the process – and proceed to wash, dry, and fold, then go up to him to collect my $6 payment for a 15-minute job.

Considering the state of the bookselling market and by extension my opportunity cost, I would have done it for less.

Pssst, don’t tell anyone.

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