21 June, 2013

Washing Wrangling

Half of our balcony on a sunny day.
Over the last ten days we've been working on a step-up in responsibility for our soon-to-be high schooler son. A few months ago we told him we thought it was time he started washing his own clothes. We targeted these summer holidays as the best time to begin, without the responsibilities of school weighing in on his time too.

So, we've all had some time to think about how this would work, but last week the rubber hit the road. He's been responsible for washing all our towels, bath and toilet mats, and face washers (other countries call this a flannel, or face cloth, I think) for a few years now, so the washing machine isn't a strange object to him.

But this still is a challenge, and not just for him, it's been a logistic challenge for us to think through too. Here's why:
  • we have limited hanging space
  • therefore we have a system of when and what we wash (e.g. half the sheets on Saturdays, towels on Wednesdays)
  • we use hangers that have specialist uses (see photos), and don't have many spare spaces on washing days
  • we usually wash clothes every two to three days, so our boys don't have an extensive wardrobe
A longer view of the balcony

The shirt hanger.

The silver hanger has no pegs in the middle, so it gets used
for pants and towels. The white and blue plastic one is the
multipurpose hanger, mostly small things get hung there.

A small multipurpose hanger and the other shirt hanger.

This room serves as the laundry, the bathroom room sink, and the change
room for the shower. See those little hooks, that's where we hang our
hangers when we're not using them. There isn't a lot of room.
Now we have a larger dwelling than many people here, but we also have more people in our house than many households do. But it still is a challenge. Our son would love it if it were super simple, but it isn't.

We've needed to buy him more clothes, especially underwear and socks. We've needed talk about when he can wash, to coach him as to what to do if it looks like it might rain, or is raining. We've asked, 
"So, how much underwear do you have left?" 
"You need to wash before you run out, especially if it is rainy weather." 
"You can hang clothes on hangers that are already outside, if there is room. You don't have to have a completely empty hanger to work with."
I've needed to keep reminding myself that I'm teaching him, that he's not going to get this straight off.

To complicate matters, our upcoming trip to Hokkaido is on our minds. The conference centre doesn't have laundry facilities, so I've been working on the premise that we'll have to have seven or eight days worth of clothes. My husband (who is in charge of washing clothes around here, I'm his humble assistant), says we'd best find a laundromat mid-week during the free-time. After conference finishes we'll be camping for over two weeks, and trying to get clothes washed as we go. It's going to be interesting indeed. I think we'll let the boys just change underwear a few times! 

But rest assured, we'll not be expecting our teenager to manage his own washing during our time away, we'll resume practising when we get back. At least when we return we'll face weather that will dry clothes in an hour or two. We shouldn't have the difficulties we've had this week of dark clouds that threaten to rain for days, and then do rain, so that we have washing hanging around the house constantly.

For those who wonder, we do own a clothes dryer. It isn't very common in Japan to own one and we take the Australian approach to it: use it as a last resort. It is far cheaper and more environmentally friendly to dry our clothes outside. But we do have it as a backup, if required.

I didn't wash my own clothes until I left home (though I knew how and periodically helped mum with the family washing), so this isn't something I've walked through before. Do you have children who wash their own clothes? How do you manage this as a family? When did you start washing your own clothes?


Hippomanic Jen said...

For me it was the Christmas break before going to Uni, but I had been helping out before that.

Caroline said...

I must admit I've only shown my sons how to use the washing machine when they need something washed and I'm not washing for everyone - I probably should be more deliberate about training them. I do, however, expect them to help hang washing on the line and bring it in.

They all have been known to iron shirts, though at the moment some can't be persuaded that the shirts need ironing even when they're covered in wrinkles!

I think I first used the washing machine, like my boys, when I was a teenager and wanted something washed at an unusual/inconvenient time.

SandyJ said...

Our oldest girls have started doing all their own washing now that they go to school (day school). We had been thinking about making the transition for a while, but starting school gave us the push we needed. It hasn't been all smooth sailing :-) They only have two uniforms each, so there's been a couple of late night loads, and who wants to hang washing when it's midnight?
Hopefully it's better to climb the learning curve while they're still at home (with Mum as a back up), than to do it after they leave.