This is a guest post from regular contributor Mandy Allender. Mandy infrequently blogs at 

The holidays.

They are quite wonderful, but also have the tendency to put us wonderfully off-schedule.

Last week, I found myself terribly behind in my laundry routine. We needed an emergency laundry intervention.

(Check out some unexpected laundry tips here!)

Our Emergency Laundry Catch-Up Game

I love to get laundry done as things get worn so I don’t get buried under unwashed clothes; also, there is something so therapeutic about having all of the clothes in my family of 6 sorted and put away.

Unfortunately, things don’t always go as I plan, especially around the holidays.

I had six (yes, SIX!) loads of laundry that had been washed and dried, and were waiting to be sorted, folded and put away. I don’t know if you’re like me at all, but the farther I fall behind in any given task, the more I procrastinate tackling the job.

As usual, the getting started was always the biggest hurdle for me. I know that if I can just get started, I usually enjoy the time and energy I put into it. I just need some sort of push.

So. Six baskets of unsorted laundry. Six people in my family.

And no desire to get going.

I had all sorts of reasons that I couldn’t do it. It would take too long. It shouldn’t be only my job. I want someone to help me. This can wait until the weekend! Just about any reason you could imagine to not sort and put laundry away, I was making them up on the fly.

I thought about forcing my kids to help me, and about how frustrated I would get because they wouldn’t be interested (no thanks.)

I had thought about throwing everything out and buying all new clothes (only that was a terrible idea.)

I imagined myself rebelling and leaving the laundry until my husband decided it needed to get done (which would be never.)

Finally, I got to where I was about to just buckle down and do it, yet I found myself resentful of the work.

Suddenly, inspiration hit.  What if, instead of asking or forcing my kids to help me, I wasn’t the person telling us to get the job done? What if I invited them to play a game with me and we used a timer instead?  And what if the prize for BEATING the timer was exciting enough to make it fun??

I really didn’t have anything to lose at this point, so I got started. I dumped out all six laundry baskets and made a giant mountain of clean laundry.

I set out the baskets in order by age, and labeled all of them clearly by name.

Then I grabbed my timer, called my kids into the room and excitedly explained the rules:

Laundry Beat-The-Clock Game:

  • There is one laundry basket per person, sorted and labeled.
  • The timer is set for five minutes – it can be more or less depending on your kids and laundry situation.
  • Get everyone excited! Pick a prize that works for your kids. We decided on five chocolate chips each, but it could be anything. Extra screen time? A trip to the park? Pizza night? The idea is that everyone works together and everyone wins.
  • Start the timer and get sorting!
  • If someone doesn’t know who something belongs to, they hold it up and everyone else shouts out which basket it goes in.

As soon as everyone understood the idea, we started the timer and began sorting. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun with a chore.

Everyone was excited, the kids did a great job, and the laundry got sorted in FIVE MINUTES. I think the throwing aspect of the laundry was a huge draw for the kids. It felt really wonderful to get the task started, finished, and to enjoy it with them.

The best part was, when the beeper went off and we still weren’t done, I shouted “FINISH IN ANOTHER TWO MINUTES, AND WE GET DOUBLE CHOCOLATE CHIPS!” The kids cheered, and we wrapped up the sorting in a matter of seconds.

After everything was sorted, the folding was quick and easy. True to form, getting the job started was the hardest part.

And as much as I love teaching my kids valuable skills, I haven’t yet taught them to fold their own laundry, so I did it myself. (I am still working on letting go of the control of having nicely folded clothes.) Anyhow, once I had everything folded into their own individual baskets, the kids helped me carry them to their closets and we put all of their clothes away together.

Each of my kids were immensely proud of their achievement, and enjoyed being involved. We cheerfully celebrated with our chocolate chips, and I am entirely certain that they will be willing to play the Emergency Laundry catch-up game again, even if I’m hoping that we never have to.

Hello!  I’m Mandy.
I’m the brutally honest mother of four sweet children, navigating the calms and storms of parenting, marriage and life.  I enjoy photography, story-telling, and yoga, all while learning as much as I can about gentle parenting, mindfulness and self-care.
I blog infrequently at

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  1. This is a great idea………..
    anything you can make fun for kids will get them involved for sure.

    My kids are all grown up now, but I used to have my kids
    take a basket and put away any of their things that were strewn around the house
    every evening, and if they didn’t their items were confiscated and then they would
    have to use some of their allowance money to buy them back……..this was not fun,
    but it worked like a charm. they only had to buy back something once or twice and
    they were real willing to clean up after themselves, which is a good life skill.
    Course, the kids need to be school age I would say.

    Blessings, Nellie

  2. This is a great idea, it’s about time I started making my 5 year old help with laundry more anyway! Thanks for linking up with The DIY Collective, come back and visit us again next week! xo! Cassie

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