How I Finally Got My Kids to Put Their Dirty Clothes in the Hamper

Have you ever had that moment where you found a pair of pants in the middle of the stairs?  Or socks on the kitchen chair? Shirt in the coat closet?  Really, any used item of clothing thrown in the most random of places?  I have.  And if you’re a parent, I’m sure you have to.

The things is, I was having those moments a lot.  I was finding my kids’ clothes everywhere.  All day long.  For the most part, I would tell them each time I found something to take care of it themselves.  I kept thinking that if they had to pick up clothes around the house enough times that they would eventually learn to just put it in the hamper in the first place.

It didn’t work.

Surprised?

Me either.

But then I heard of another mom’s dirty clothes rule, tweaked it just a bit to fit my family, and introduced it to my kids.

For every article of clothing that I pick up and put away, you owe me a quarter.  I put away your shirt . . .  you owe me a quarter.  I put away one sock . . . you owe me a quarter. I put away your coat . . .  you owe me a quarter.  If I pick up a whole outfit-one pair of pants, one shirt, two socks, and a jacket . . . you owe me five quarters.  

It sounds a little harsh as I type that up.  A quarter?  For one tiny little sock?  But I know me, and I know my kids.  My kids (and myself) thrive when there are clear expectations.  I knew they were 100% capable of putting their clothes in the hamper.  I knew they loved their allowance and wouldn’t want to give any of it up.

As soon as I introduced “The Laundry Rule” (as we call it), I started enforcing it.  I made it fun though and said things like, “I sure hope you forget to put your socks in the hamper . . . I’m really hoping to get a couple quarters today.”  If I saw something that had been left out-especially when they were first learning-I’d loudly exclaim seemingly to myself, “Yes!  So-and-so forgot to put away her pants!  Now she’ll owe me a quarter!”  I would then very slowly move towards the item, while the offending child would rush in and swoop up the clothes before I could get them.  Then I would pretend to be upset or disappointed.  They loved it!  So many giggles!  And so much satisfaction that they “beat” me.  They even cleaned up for each other sometimes because they so badly didn’t want me to earn any quarters.

And now, I can honestly say that I NEVER find their clothes lying around the house.  They put their dirty clothes in the hamper, and I don’t have to say a word.  

I’m sure you are wondering how long it took us to get to this point and how many quarters I earned before they learned their lesson.  It took a couple of days of playfully enforcing the new rule and then a couple more days to solidify it, and they had it down.   In some ways it’s frustrating how easy they learned it because it means they were always capable of putting away their dirty clothes, they just needed the motivation.

As for the quarters, I never earned a single quarter.  Not.  One.