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 “Mom, have you seen my jeans with the holes in them?”

“Hey Mom, is my soccer uniform clean?”

“Dad, when you are shopping, can you pick up some more socks for me? I’m running out.”

Back in the throes of potty training, most parents heard friends with older children say, “No one goes to college in diapers.” However, there are many students who leave for college without ever having run the washing machine. According to a study by Mulberry Garment Care, 48.6% of males and 32.4% of females have never done laundry until after their eighteenth birthday. Tell your teens since they want to be above average, you are going to teach them to do their own laundry. This is a chore each person in the family can do on their own, even starting at age nine or ten. With a family of seven, my life became exponentially simpler when I stopped worrying about doing full loads of laundry containing everyone’s clothes and let each person wash their own. With high efficiency washers, we no longer have to worry about wasting water doing this either.

Teaching teens how to do their own laundry will prove worthwhile both now and in the future. It just takes a few simple steps.  

First, when implementing any new idea, it is helpful to have a “why” discussion, pointing out the reasons you are transitioning this task from your plate to your teen’s.  You might mention they know best when they need items like sports uniforms or special apparel for work or school. Therefore, they can plan to have their clothes washed, dried, and ready to go better than you can.  They should know that you have always wanted them to be above average, and that learning this skill puts them in category for kids graduating high school. You might also remind them that your job is to teach them what they need to know to be a successful adult, and this is one important “adulting” step in that direction that they can learn and practice ahead of time. The other two steps are simple.  

Ask them to gather their laundry (I said simple, not easy) and meet you by the washer. Show them how to sort, read labels, and run the machine. The cardinal rule of laundry in our house is “towels by themselves.” This eliminates the dreaded lint ball problem. Point out any dark colored cotton items that might bleed, and mention a word or two about how mixing those with light-colored clothes can turn all their favorite T-shirts or underwear pink. It might be enough to keep them from washing lights and darks together. Then step aside and let them have at it.  

Resist the urge to take this responsibility back. You will be tempted to gather their clothes off the floor or grab their overflowing laundry basket and throw a load in while they are at school. This is counter-productive if your goals for them include independence and maturity. Close their door if you need to, but let them manage this on their own. You (and their future spouse) will be glad you did.