The (wash)-IN basket to empty: doing laundry with kids the GTD way

David Allen starts the RoadMap seminar: “GTD is all about the lazy way of getting things done”.

That got me thinking. Getting things done – that means everything done. Yes even the wash. Done. Getting the wash-IN basket to empty can be done in 2 minutes. Each stage in the process need not take longer – be that collecting or processing, organizing, doing or reviewing.

Doing the wash, even big piles of it which comes with living with 3 kids, takes me (us) a couple of minutes at each stage.  The piles grow (quickly) everyday, especially with children. Mostly things just get dumped on the floor. I find things in the oddest places too, like a left sock under the car seat or a sweater next to the sofa and a hat on the kitchen table.

A visiting friend once pointed out “this house is lived in!”.

Collection is a continuous and daily task. Everything gets to the wash-in basket – and it never takes more than 2 minutes to get to done.

Process – organize and color code “What is this?” Processing the wash-in basket gets done quickly. Involving the children can make this a really fun task. It also takes the mystery out of what happens to my dirty trousers, and gives understanding to the question: “where is my favorite shirt?” Or a clean set of underwear.

  • COLLECT – all the socks and dirty stuff
  • PROCESS – sort and colour code, one at a time
  • ORGANIZE – machine or hand wash? Dryer or hang it up?
  • REVIEW – fold or iron, keep it or pass stuff on
  • DO – putting it back, one thing at a time!

Delegate it.  I delegate tasks for the children. In fact they organize their own lists of who does what each week (more on lists in another posting). Collecting and putting away the wash for example are great habits to foster.

Learning by doing: In a situation where learning by doing sometimes means  not doing anything, I recently shared the experience of not having any clean underwear with my son. This came came about when the collection step was missed. Puzzled as I had done all the wash, dried it and folded most things – I helped see where the problem was. Sure enough several discrete piles were discovered. None had been placed in the wash-IN basket. After reviewing this “awakening” together and agreeing who does what in the process of doing the wash my son had a better understanding of how “not doing” resulted in a result also – though not the desired result to be sure.

Having fun.  Of course with kids, making things fun – even something boring like the wash is key to engaging their minds and making the lessons stick.  By incorporating the principles of GTD into doing the wash with my kids  we see that this chore can be done 2 minutes at a time and we can even have fun in the process.

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1 Comment

  1. Recently at home the family and myself implemented a laundry system based on kanban. This involved 6 plastic tubs, each of which full is one laundry load. 6 feels about right for our family (2 adults and 2 kids). Essentially laundry is rotated through the system along with the tubs. Laundry can only come downstairs from bedrooms to the laundry room in one of these tubs, and then goes back upstairs with a tub. Having 6 tubs in the system is our families kanban limit i.e. is the amount of laundry we’re comfortable allowing to build up before it needs processing.

    Having the tubs tends to pull stuff through the system, since if there are no tubs upstairs clothes tend to pile up on the floor which is a visual queue that some ironing needs doing.

    Other benefits include a sense of completion e.g. I ironed 2 tubs, rather than I made a barely noticeable dent in the pile. You can also see at a glance how much stuff you have to process e.g. 4 tubs in laundry room.

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