I Stopped Folding My Daughter’s Clothes, and Now They Actually Get Put Away

published Dec 21, 2022
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Wallpaper in Children’s Bedroom Closet
Credit: Chantal Lamers

When I was pregnant with my daughter, it was my great delight to spend hours sorting her tiny, unworn clothes into sizes, seasons, and types before putting them lovingly away into the vintage dresser I found at an antique store. 

You probably know where this is going.

Fast forward to the point where she is mobile, opinionated about what she wears, and loves to get messy (necessitating many clothing changes in a day) and you’ll have an image of my house, where my daughter happily “takes a bath” in the piles of clean laundry on our landing, occasionally jumping into them and making splashing sounds. 

I love that moment when all the laundry is put away and I have nothing sitting in this catch-all place to be stepped over or on or cannonballed into. I will admit that there are times that I have simply left a load of laundry in the dryer because I just couldn’t add to the pile—making a trip or two down per day for a pair of socks or underwear. 

Back in my single days, I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, along with the rest of the world. I go through times when I’m neater and times when I’m not, and this book didn’t change that. But it forever changed the way I thought about folding. 

For years, I folded in more or less the Kondo way, which worked pretty well for my single woman wardrobe. I liked that I could see where everything was at a glance and that I could fit more into the drawers than I had before. 

At first, I loved that about my daughter’s clothes, too. I had onesies sorted by long and short sleeves and pants in a rainbow of colors to make matching easy. But before I knew it, she was pulling everything out of the drawers at once, tossing everything on the floor and telling me she wanted pink sparkle pants, which we did not own. She’d look through every dress in her closet, dismissing them because they had buttons or were green. Sometimes, she’d wear something for an hour or two before realizing it was totally the wrong look, discarding it on the floor and asking to put on something else. There rarely seemed to be a moment when her room didn’t look like a clothing-only tornado had been through. 

I’d wait for a quiet, or relatively quiet, moment to sort through her clothes before rolling them and putting them away (it wasn’t quite the Kondo way, but it worked). The problem was, even those quieter moments are awfully hard to come by. Those piles just kept getting bigger and stressing me (and only me) out. 

A New Laundry Strategy

But one night as I was trying to sleep and thinking about laundry (the glamorous adulthood that I was promised), I had an epiphany—what if I stopped folding my three-year-old’s clothes? I am clearly the only one who cares, and now she’s the only one who needs to find what she’s looking for most of the time. 

In the morning, I put my new strategy into effect. I pulled everything out, drawer by drawer, made sure the sizes were current and nothing was there that didn’t belong, then I put it all in and closed the drawer. In the closet, I hung up as much as I could, dress-wise, but then I put any overflow into a basket in the bottom of the closet. I lured my daughter away from the TV with the promise that we could “do laundry” together. We went to the pile and dug in. 

She and I made small piles for each category or drawer and then I encouraged her to put each pile away herself. She beamed with pride as she shoved her pants and socks into their respective spots. I didn’t inwardly cringe at the haphazard way she managed to get everything in. She threw her dresses in the basket, put away the tops and underwear, and we were done. The huge pile of laundry had been vanquished in barely any time at all. 

I’ll admit that laundry still doesn’t get put away the moment it comes out of the dryer (and sometimes it still hangs out in there for a while—I’m still human). But now, either we make putting away each category a game, or it’s something I can do quickly on my own. Either way, I know my daughter is feeling the decrease in my stress about keeping all the drawers perfectly arranged. 

This way might not be pretty, but it gets everything off the floor and to the place it lives. In my book, that’s some pretty magical tidying up. 

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