Spring To-Do's

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Washing Machine Memos

A mom comes up with an easy way (magnets!) to let kids and husbands know how to treat the laundry.

Serving in the U.S. Navy with its "do more before 9 a.m. than most people do all day" work ethic has definitely had an effect on my husband's personality. Dishes stacking up in the sink? Roll up the sleeves and pass the Palmolive. Guests coming for dinner? Clear the path to the baking cupboard, and in 90 minutes, he'll produce an apple pie with a flaky crust that's to die for.

But when the laundry piles up in the laundry room — that's when we have problems. It's not that he won't do the laundry. But for some reason, this man, who ran nuclear power plants for the Navy and taught himself to remodel a house, has a mental block when it comes to fabric care.

No matter how hard I try to teach him, he can't tell 100% cotton from a Lycra blend, never mind rayon from washable linen. And forget about those fabric care labels. They seem to be printed in some kind of hieroglyphics that, at least in my house, only female eyes can read.

After two of my three brand-new ribbed cotton turtlenecks had been shrunk so much they could only be worn under vests, I banned him from doing my laundry.

"Don't wash my clothes anymore. If they're in the laundry room, just leave them. I'll do them myself," I urged and he agreed.

The following week, I segregated my clothes into their own separate laundry basket. When it was full, I put a load in the washer — cold water, delicate cycle. But when I returned to the laundry room to move my clothes from the washer to a drying rack, I found a load of denim and towels instead of my fine washables. With a sinking feeling, I opened the dryer. There they were — including the last of my three new turtlenecks.

To his credit, I had asked Mr. "Get-the-Job-Done" not to wash my clothes, but I'd never specifically said not to dry them. I didn't want my husband to ruin my entire wardrobe, but I didn't want to dampen his enthusiasm for household chores, either. Obviously, we needed a solution.

The next time I had to throw a load of delicates in the wash, I grabbed a magnet off the fridge and attached a note to the washing machine lid that read, "DO NOT DRY" in red letters.

The simple solution worked so well, we've carried it forward with reminders for our kids who are starting to do laundry, too. I even found Golden Retriever and Black Lab magnets that I place on top of the washer when the dogs' items are inside to remind the next person to come along to rinse out the fur from the machine before putting in another load.

Maybe next I'll add a magnetic poetry kit to our collection, so I can leave a message for the kids to inspire them to follow their Dad's great example around the house :

Hut, two, three, four
Now it's time to wash the floor!

How do you manage household chores? Click the comments link below to find and share ideas.

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